Kingfisher Live CD Process

May 5th, 2023
cd, music
Our live album is out today! We'll have physical CDs around the end of May, and it should be on streaming services at some point. If you backed the Kickstarter and haven't heard from us about your rewards, let me know!

Some background on the album if you're interested:

In late January I wrote to Cecilia to ask what she'd think of making a live album. I'd been making good quality multi-track recordings at most of our gigs, and we had a lot to work with. I sent her the first email at 5:38pm and by 8:06pm we had not only agreed we wanted to do this but also agreed we both wanted Dana Billings for editing and mixing. I wrote to Dana, he liked the idea, and we told him we'd get back to him once we'd listened back over our tracks to figure out which ones were our favorites.

This was a long and painful process: we had recordings from 146 sets across 11 gigs, for a total of ~20hr of music. I went through and made scratch mixes of everything, and made a giant spreadsheet for collecting ratings. The initial idea was that we'd both rate each track, but since I had more time (I could listen while watching kids [1]) for many of them I did an initial rating and Cecilia only rated the ones I'd marked as potentially good enough.

By early March we were pretty far along and I wrote something up to gauge interest and ask how people usually funded albums these days. Several people recommended Kickstarter, so we decided we'd probably do that. A few days later we had agreement on three tracks, Griffin Road, Trip to Moscow, and Salt River, and we sent Dana what he needed to get started with mixing. This included both the raw multitrack recordings, and edit notes. For example, on Griffin Road the initial edit notes were:

  • cut the second time through since the fiddle delay didn't work
  • could cut the fourth time through for length
  • the timing is off going into the eighth time through; could cut this time through or fix?
  • the timing is off eight beats into what I think is the beginning of the 13th time through (~6:45) -- fix or cut?
  • probably find 2-4 other times through to cut for length and interest?

A week later Dana got back to us with the first mix, for Griffin Road, and we were really happy. Even having listened to the scratch mix repeatedly I couldn't tell where the edits were: it just sounded good. Over the next few days he got back to use with additional mixes, and we kept sending him additional tracks as we got agreement on which ones we wanted to include.

In late March we started a Kickstarter (blog post) to raise funds to cover the mixing and editing, and a few days later Dana finished his rough mixes. We had been accumulating a big doc of touchups, things like "fiddle is very slightly too quiet when things come up around 3:45" or "drums could be slightly quieter around 5:03 when things come down and ramp back up during the build around 5:30", and by the end of the month he had incorporated these and made versions we were happy with.

We could have gone right to mastering at this stage, but instead we wanted to run mixes by friends first. A lot of people thought they'd have time to review but didn't end up being able to, but Chris and Nathan ended up giving us detailed feedback. One more round of touchups and we went into mastering in mid-April, finishing around the end of April.

In mid-March, sick with covid, Cecilia had painted the cover picture:

I was going to put together the CD jacket, but we wanted to include photos, which meant waiting for good weather. We were lucky with the weather on the afternoon of May Day, and Mira Whiting took some great pictures of us at Carver Hill. After that things came together quickly, we sent the CD to manufacturing on the 3rd. Here are the CD proofs:

There was a little more messing around with getting the digital distribution set up, including a lot of iteration where CD Baby has very confusing handling of traditional tunes, and the digital version is out today!

Very excited and relieved to have this finished, and I hope you enjoy it!

[1] Every time a track stopped Nora would sign "more" intently until I started another one.

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