Producing a Developing Musician

I’m going to take a break from writing about art, and talk about music for a bit. I’ll probably go back to art next week, as I’m working on something new… for now I want to talk about a developing artist that I am working with as producer and creative consultant (those are music biz terms).

christi 4

Singer-songwriter/keyboardist Christi Swing.

A little background: when my amazing GF showed up in my life, she came with a gaggle of rowdy drunk pirates. Actually, in fact, it was the rowdy drunk pirates who brought my amazing GF into my life (for which I am eternally grateful). Anyway, the littlest pirate has been contemplating a career as a singer-songwriter since her teen years, and after finishing school, looking at her choices in life, decided music was something she wanted to pursue. So, like a lot of people starting out in music, she wondered, how does one begin?

Christi has a lot going for her. She plays keyboards really well, has a great and very versatile voice, and comes up with some really good song ideas. But in her early 20s, and living in a rural midwest area, she’s also pretty much starting from scratch in the music biz.

So I was coaxed into stepping in. Originally Christi was going to go on tour with me, but life happened and that fell through. Instead, we got together to create some recordings and video—what the music biz refers to as ‘product.’

We live in an age when recording and technology are both a blessing and a curse for new musicians. There are millions of new performers creating a presence on the Internet every day. That’s the curse: how do you find the musicians you like? But if you know how to market yourself, the Internet can be your friend. What required a huge record company to do twenty years ago, reach out to potential fans, can be done nearly for free today. All you need is an Internet connection and some software. The first thing Christi did was create an Internet presence by setting up a Facebook page:

Now she needed product, meaning songs.

Like I said, Christi already had some really good song ideas. One job of a producer is to take a new songwriter past good ideas to good songs. I listened to everything she had, and honed in on three songs: two because I really liked them, and one because she really wanted to develop it.

We started with a song that came to be called The Devil Thinks I’m Pretty. That opening line caught me right away, as did the chorus, “Never was a nice boy/but he was my boy.” Really the song could have ended right there. Those two sets of lyrics really resonated with me, and seemed to be the perfect lyric to express the relationships that young women sometimes find themselves in.

Our first step was to flesh out the lyrics. The verse and chorus seemed musically very similar, so I suggested a bridge, the “mama take what’s left of me to bury” section. That gave the song a little melodic diversity, and briefly changed the focus from the interaction of the two characters to the singer’s introspective self-loathing over her mistakes.

Time to record. Christie played keys and sang, and I added guitar, slide guitar, fiddle (on an old student fiddle her room mate had) and percussion (banging pots and pans). Here is the final product:

By the way, the room mate cried when she heard her fiddle played on the recording. Oh those sentimental pirates…

The next song was Run Red, a very catchy tune that evoked the fairy tale Red Riding Hood, yet seemed very current. Again, we needed to diversify the melody a bit, and add lyrics. I suggested the bridge, “red runs down my cheeks, oh what did I do?” which created some melodic change. I also helped her break up verses and choruses into uniform patterns.

A great thing about Christi is that she is very versatile musically. She can play a slow folky ballad, and jump into a rock tune. This will get her far in the music biz! (I was also really impressed with how quickly she worked in the studio—some pros don’t even work that quickly!) So we decided to record the song in an electric rock style. She played keys and sang (beautifully) while I played bass, guitars and used a programmed drum.

We also worked on a song called Never Go, a pretty ballad with an emphasis on Christi’s piano. This is the one we recorded because she was very attached to the song:

You can hear all of Christi’s recordings here:

One of the most important elements to gaining audience at this moment is a music video: fans connect strongly through the sensory appeal of both the song, and the images the song evokes (or the images that the musician or film maker associate with the song). So we began shooting footage. I chose The Devil Thinks I’m Pretty because I could easily visualize the images I wanted to use: a very arty Southern Gothic montage that, in my mind, matched the feel of the song. So I chose that song, and Christi’s brother-in-law (one of the rowdy pirates, and my good friend) took Run Red as his video subject (which he still hasn’t finished…that’s pirates for ya’).

We spent an afternoon shooting on Christi’s fairly large rural property, which was the perfect setting.

Our next step will be to get the Run Red video up, and then finish some new songs. The goal will be to do a 12 song CD, which can be sold on iTunes, Amazon, etc. and command some Internet radio play. Once that’s done, Christi can begin booking gigs with product to sell at her live shows.

Look for more from Christi Swing, and follow her on Facebook!

And follow her blog here:

I’ll see you here next time with some more art stuff. Thanks for looking and listening!




  1. Noviah · December 10, 2015

    Man, Run Red is really pretty catchy. Looking forward to seeing the music videos most though (you’re spot on about them being a great audience catcher)


  2. KillTheHero Studios · December 10, 2015

    Thanks. I like Run Red a lot also. Interesting fact: I didn’t have an electric guitar with me when we recorded (a stratocaster magically showed up the following day, but alas, a day too late) so I used my acoustic guitar run through a bunch of effects to records that song. I was really happy with the way it came out.
    And since you are a Youtube maven, I assumed you’d appreciate the videos.


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