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Notes From a Recording Studio in NYC

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jason Poole, recording session, accidental hawaiian crooner, nyc, musical theater

The recording studio. (3.20.12)

I am standing in a recording studio in Hellʻs Kitchen—a trendy neighborhood in midtown Manhattan.  Just blocks from the Broadway theater district and Times Square.  I hear the engineerʻs voice through the giant (but very cushiony!) headphones on my ears:

“Are you ready?  Let’s do this as a practice run.”

The music fills my head and heart and I take a deep breath and open my mouth and I sing!

It’s heaven.  Heaven!  I feel like I’m dreaming—a little boy dreaming about being in a recording studio, recording an album.

Except this isn’t a dream.  It’s real.  Very real.

I hear my voice coming back at me, cutting through the music.  I hear my mistakes.  I flub a lyric.  I hear myself starting to run out of air.  I tell myself, “Just stay with it, Jason.  You can do this.”  And then the trial run is over.

“Ok!” the engineer’s voice comes back over the speakers.  “That was great.   How did it feel?”  I can see him and the music director/composer through the thick glass that separates the recording booth from the control booth.   I smile and give them a thumbs up sign as I grab my water bottle and take a gulp.

I’m having flashbacks to another time in my life.

Before Hawaiian music became my world.  Before I’d visitied Molokai for the first time.  Back when singing musical theater songs was what I did daily.

Huh?

See, I’m not in the studio to record a Hawaiian album.  I’m there to record some vocals for a character in a new musical that’s being developed.  My friend, Don, is one of the composers/writers of the show and he’s asked me to be a part of the conceptualization of the project.

He is a major figure in the musical theater world.  I met him  years ago at an open call for a Broadway musical—he was the musical director.  We became fast friends and he booked me for a couple of workshops for new shows.  Shows being developed for the stage. And they were my favorite experiences in the theater.  Ever.

So when he called an asked me to be a part of this new project, to record the vocals of one of the characters for a demo/concept album to showcase what they’ve been working on, of course I said YES!  (Showing up and saying YES! Is easy to do when you trust the person who is asking!)

But now that I’m standing here with the incredible musical score in front of me, I’m wondering if I still have it in me.

And I’m kind of surprised.

Yes, I sing daily.  I mean multiple times a day.  In fact, I’m probably guitly to signing ALL DAY LONG while I go about doing my daily chores, while I’m out walking on the street, etc.

But I’m mostly signing Hawaiian music these days.  It’s the music that I’m most familiar with now.  Pops has been teaching me proper phrasing for Hawaiiain music—how to sing the lyrics so that they make sense.  And along with that, I’m learning how to breathe in order to sing those phrases, how much to inhale, how to conrol my diaphragm to execute the Hawaiian song well.

Yes, musical theater uses these same elements.  But musical theater requires that you do these things a little differently.  I’m still trying to determine what the differences are in my mind.  I just know that it feels different.  I breathe differently.  I use my voice differently in order to project the clear, bell-tones that are required. (Especially for this character.)  Fatigue sets in quickly.

I remember the first time I sang Hawaiian music with Pops.

I remember him telling me, “This isn’t New York music.  This is HAWAIIAN music.  You’re here now.  Let Hawai’i speak through you.”

And now, here I am: back in New York and singing Musical Theater music with an old friend.

I tell myself exactly the same thing I’d told myself when I’d sufferred from laryngitis in Hawai’iThis isn’t about YOU, Jason.  It’s about the song.  It’s about expressing the music.  Let go.  Let the music speak.

We do what feels like a million takes.

I try singing the lines/lyrics a million different ways.

And somewhere in the mix, there will be a version that allows Don to realize his vision of the character.  To hear the character’s voice come to life.  (At least I hope there’s a version that works for him!)

It is such an honor to be even a small part in this new show’s journey from an idea to a staged production.

And so much fun to sing like this, again!

And it’s exciting to see that even though Musical Theater and Hawaiian music have their differences, they are similar in one major way:

It’s about the music.  We singers are the lucky folks that help bring that music to life.

Right on.

6 Responses to “Notes From a Recording Studio in NYC”

  1. Karen Guerra says:

    Jason, this sounds exciting! Keep us posted.

  2. NoHo says:

    Oh Crooner!
    I miss you so terribly much <3

  3. Janine Ullyette says:

    Loved everything you said.

  4. Jason Poole says:

    Thanks, Janine! Big hugs to you.

  5. Jason Poole says:

    Right back atcha, NoHo. Hope to be able to see you sometime this summer… Fingers crossed…

  6. Jason Poole says:

    Thanks, Ms. Karen! Not sure if I’ll have anything else to do with the project. The character is supposed to be about 18 years old… and I out-age him by a mile! Ha! But it was so cool to do even this much with the show’s development. Will be exciting to see if it goes further, for sure.