In this exclusive journal extract, we get to see what it’s like to record at the fabled Abbey Road Studios
Since the release of her 2017 debut EP, Heavy Prayers, Birmingham-based singer-songwriter and glockenspiel player Rosie Tee has created music which is as innovative as it is atmospheric. Alongside her bandmates, Tom Harris (keys and backing vocals), Dan Cippico (bass) and Kai Chareunsy (drums), Rosie combines elements of jazz, electro, classical and pop in order to create a truly original sound.
Rosie and the gang were recently invited by RecordProduction.com to record a session at the legendary Abbey Road studios (rather than just pose on the famous crossing like the rest of us have to make do with). Thankfully, she was able to write a diary about the experience and provide us with a rare glimpse inside the fabled musical home of the Beatles and many others…
The week of Abbey Road is at last upon us – only four days to go! My band and I have been asked by RecordProduction.com to pick one song to record, which is such a tricky decision to make. At first, we wanted to record our track Siren, a Björk-esque ode to D&B – a real powerhouse at our live shows, but after much deliberation of which track to choose, Chambers (our debut single) has made the cut.
We have the fantastic RIOT string quartet with us in the studio on Friday, so it only seems right that we relish the song’s swells and climatic ending by scoring up some luscious string parts to go with it! Today has mostly been spent rehearsing with the band; Tom, Kai and Dan. We want to be so tight for this live session – so a lot of energy has gone into bringing out the nuances of the song, ironing-out rhythms and just ensuring we’re all really confident with our performance.
I’ve had a checklist of preparation tasks to work through today; booking train tickets for Friday’s eight-piece lineup, leasing with the studio engineers as to what amps/instruments are provided and what gear we need to try and scurry down on the train from Birmingham. The live session is being filmed too so it’s important we all look the part – I’ve told my band and RIOT quartet to wear autumnal colours (I’ve even sent them a colour palette haha!).
Trying to be Ms Organised, though I bet I’m going to forget something! Also managed to squeeze a quick meeting in with LAITO – the director for my music video. We’re filming an official video for the single version of Chambers next month with bespoke lights and projections.
Today I’ve been cleaning up the parts I’ve arranged for the string quartet ready for our rehearsal tomorrow. I use Sibelius, so I just make sure all the dynamics are in place and that the harmony definitely makes sense with Toms keyboard part. I don’t want to double the strings with the keys too much, so they have space to sing out in the high register. The final minute of Chambers is hopefully going to sound very lush with all those portamentos I’ve popped in – can’t wait to hear it all together with the band tomorrow.
It’s been tricky to keep this amazing opportunity a secret. I chose not to post on social media or make a big fuss because it seemed too good to be true. I’ve decided to let people know about this session on the day – when I’m standing on those legendary steps!
This evening we rehearsed the whole eight-piece line-up and now everything has become very real. I suppose the nerves are kicking in, after all, I never expected to be doing my first live session with my band at Abbey Road. At least they are excited nerves?! The band have really stepped up to this opportunity and having the extra sonic luxury of strings just brings this song of mine to life, the swells that blossom and fade… everything is coming together. I’m beyond grateful for their support – now just to pack the gear and get a healthy nights sleep before our 8am train in the morning.
8am: Today is the day. Hot coffee has been sipped and we’re on the train to London. It’s nice to have a bit of downtime as a band before we get there.
11am: So we’ve arrived at the renowned Abbey Road Studios. Crazy! We’ve had the obligatory photographs on the steps and set up our gear in Studio 3 (the same studio in which Pink Floyd recorded Dark Side Of The Moon!) We’ve been shown our green room which was beautiful, but totally ridiculous – it had its own shower. A studio with a shower?! This is definitely a glimpse into the other half of the music scene we don’t see! I found walking down the corridor incredibly intimidating, all these artists I know and admire photographed on the wall. If I thought it felt real last night in rehearsal – it definitely feels real now… and breathe.
12pm: I’ve been introduced to the engineering team and wow do I feel lucky. Andrew Dudman, the studio’s senior engineer will be running our session, he’s noted for his work with film scores (Mary Poppins Returns, The Kings Speech). We’ve just had a quick soundcheck – I am tucked away in a vocal booth and Kai is in the drum booth adjacent, so the only way I can see him is through a little TV monitor. Even though I can’t see the RIOT quartet ladies, I do have eye contact with Tom and Dan and we can all hear each other really well so I’m feeling positive – just ready to get on with it!
1pm: Panic has set in a little bit. I went into the control room just to check how everything was going before we start only to be surprised by 40-50 people in on the session. I knew I was expecting a few studio engineers and music-tech students to be there to learn from the session and the vintage microphones we were using, but not that many. It suddenly became the most high-profile gig we’ve ever done, rather than the intimate recording session I might have hoped for. Let’s just see it as character building… we couldn’t have expected today to go along without a hiccup or two!
2pm: Well, it’s time to start the session! I’m trying to block out the fact that so many people are listening to us completely exposed from the control room. We managed to get six takes, some with a click, some without. The whole session was totally a blur if I’m honest – over and done within a flash! We got to listen back to our best take afterwards and WOW, it sounded unbelievable. The bass and drums were so tight, I was happy with my vocal and the combination of the strings and the Hammond with the overall warmth of the track was super luscious. The intense rehearsals and preparation paid off.
4pm: Everyone was so exhausted after the build-up of adrenaline, so what better to do than go for some post-recording pizza. It was great to be able to de-brief as a band afterwards, there were a ton of mixed-emotions flying around. Personally, I felt quite disconcerted by the lack of female representation in the control room, there were studio engineers and students from all over the UK and I think only two were female. That was something quite difficult for me to come to terms with and in retrospect, maybe contributed to my nervousness during the session.
8pm: With our time at Abbey Road over and some welcomed London hospitality, it was good to reflect on the day’s occurrences. This experience had really stoked the fire in my belly to address the inequality the music industry is facilitating – especially in music technology. Young females need role models in music in order for there to be an influx and growth of representation in the future, and I’m going to find my own way of ensuring that.
It was such an honour to make our noise in a place of great music and technological history. Our excitement and nervousness prevailed throughout the session but we ended up producing a fantastic recording that we’re all proud of and it was definitely humbling to work with the highly skilled technicians. Overall, as a band finding our feet in this crazy musical landscape, we could relax now knowing we gave it our all…
Rosie’s new EP comes out on 29 March. To find out more, head over to rosietee.uk