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Becoming Authentic
By Henri Ferguson - 09/20/2003 - 06:24 PM EDT

It’s been a year since I released my CD and have had time to arrive at a more objective perspective on the whole DIY process. But perhaps more importantly I have gained some insight on those things that will determine, or at least influence, the outcome of my next CD. The selection and production of the material is always a very subjective process and more often than not there is a significant difference between what we had envisioned and what we actually end up with. None of this is a judgment, but like all else, simply lessons and opportunities to learn and grow from our experiences. In many of the songwriting workshops I have attended, a consistent theme promulgated by the pros for us the “wannabees”, was to simply write about what we know. I would extend this sentiment to include the actual recording and production in reflecting this. Hopefully in the writing and reading of articles such as this we can collectively refine this process and by sharing, raise the bar on DIY music industry.

Although I am generally pleased with the results of my first effort I have had many thoughts about where I would, and will take a different approach with respect to production, and generally the type of material I record on the next project. The major consideration here for me is the fact that more often than, not I perform solo or with another guitarist/back up singer. That being the case, I want to be able to present a “reasonable facsimile” of what is to be heard on the record when I perform live. Furthermore, here is where production can shape the overall feel of the tune that would make it difficult, if not impossible to convey faithfully in the “unplugged” mode. No doubt there are many great examples but someone who springs to mind for me is Jesse Winchester. Many of his tunes are well produced and embellished in the studio with instrumentation and backing vocals however, whenever I have seen him perform, which is mostly solo, his pared down presentation is every bit as great as his recorded version. Obviously the caliber of the live performer factors huge into this equation but essentially the tune has to lend itself to this as well.

For me, this distillation process has come out of a desire to be authentic and be able to present who and what I am musically in an accurate, and hopefully entertaining fashion. This viewpoint also recognizes that since we are not static beings, who we are today, on this CD, can, and will hopefully change and richly transform as we forge ahead in our recording career. Conversely I think we have seen examples of where a record label has created a musical personality who portrays an image of a performer who bears little if any resemblance to who that person really is. With copious quantities of marketing hype, this person or band becomes the classic flash in the pan, all too soon vanishing into oblivion. I’m sure that there are those out there who would opt for the moment of stardom, albeit a flash in the pan, however my humble opinion is that we as artists/songwriters are better served by the organic process of maturing and becoming authentic in what we do.

Musically yours,

Henri Ferguson

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