1. Thinking About You
Jonathan Carr & Dino
A DYSTOPIAN COLLABORATION
When Dino played “Thinking About You” on his grand piano, I knew I had to co-produce it. I was spellbound by the lyrics and the chords. Then Dino looked at me and stopped singing, “I found someone who can sing this better than me”. “Really…”, I said trying not to sound too sarcastic. Dino was never my favorite vocalist, especially live. He somehow succeeds in sounding like a cheap Japanese Vocaloid, even when not using autotune.
He scrolled through an old smartphone with his big piano fingers and showed me a YouTube clip through the broken glass on the screen. John Mayer was in the studio playing guitar with a protégé at Berklee College of Music. We listened together to the angelic voice of Jonathan Carr, in the midst of making his track The Joke’s on Me – produced by John Mayer. We did not say a word but tried to imagine what the song would sound like with his voice.
Dino connected with Jonathan Carr and they were eager to proceed. The game was on, but we had a problem. No-one could travel due to the Covid-19 lockdown. No sweat, we thought. According to most science fiction classics, we should already be having sex with Martians and be able to travel through time in 2020.
Through a Steinberg based DAW system, we facilitated technology to link studios across three continents. The game was on. Jonathan Carr was singing the lead vocals in London. It sounded great, after a little back and forth guidance over the Internet. “He is like a Bruno Mars in kilt”, Dino joked. I think the reference to the kilt was more about the Scottish tonality in his voice, rather than Jonathan walking around in sexy skirts with a bagpipe. After all we only had a sound link and no video link. “It is not a skirt”, some reader from Glasgow probably mumbles. We agree, but it is sexy.
The command center and heart of the production was in Tallinn, Estonia. This little tech savvy nation had everything we needed. Brilliant programmers, fast Internet, and not at least our state-of-the-art recording studio, right at the spot where Robert Pattinson and John David Washington drove through space and time in Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, Tenet. What a juxtaposition that was to our project. With Covid-19 putting us more than 50 years back in time, we had been pushed to the edge of innovative music production.
The backing vocals came from Chicago, cellos from Kyoto and when we finally had mixed everything together, what was left? We needed a perfect mastering of the mix to glue it all together. After several trials we decided to work with Mark B Christensen (Trey Songz and 50 Cent), who was based in New York. When the audio files came back, Mark had baked them in butter and dipped them in cream sauce.
The track was ready. Disconnect! The Space Odyssey was over, “I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going”, we switched off the computers and watched Tenet again.