FIFTH TIME AROUND – by Rachel Hair

So it’s officially 12 days before Christmas, and well, my shopping and organising should have started by now… yeahhhhh not this year! I’ve had a major distraction this year and haven’t set foot in a shop other than my local co-op, why? I’m recording a new album woop woop!

I’ve been working with guitarist Ron Jappy for around 18 months now, having decided to move on from the Rachel Hair Trio, and we’ve been gagging to get into the studio having gigged lots of new material recently.

This is my 5th self-released album on my own record label, March Hair Records, which I set up in 2012 when releasing my first album. Back then folk either released on licensing or full record deals, where as I was one of the first to self-release on the folk scene. I like to have control over things so setting things up this way made sense to me. One of the downsides however is that you have to store the physical cds yourself which, combined with 4 self- published harp books and boxes of my other half’s band’s merchandise means we have stuff EVERYWHERE!

Ron and I have been UBER organised with preparing for this album. With previous recordings I’ve had a week of pre-production where we’ve really hammered out the arrangements of tunes, but this time round we’ve managed to pretty much rehearse weekly for several months, which is great! I love delving into old collections so we had a good few sessions trawling through the likes of the Simon Fraser Collection, the Skye Collection and the Atholl Collection, and I spent HOURS listening to old recordings on the Tobar an Dualchais website. Bit by bit we put new sets together with some of my own tunes and some tunes from friends.

We’ve kept track of where we are with things by using technology. We use dropbox and have a folder for each set. Each rehearsal we’d be sure to record the latest version of the arrangement then upload it to Dropbox so it was easily accessible and we were able to listen to it whenever we wanted. Technology has been a huge aid with this kind of thing, just having the ability to record what you do with your phone means that you don’t have to rely on writing out music and detailed notes / arrangements.

I must admit, In the lead up to the recording I got a bit geeky and started a spreadsheet with notes on all the tracks. We wanted a balanced album full of different types of tunes, tempos and feeling and I just find it way easier to know how that’s going if I can see all the details in front of me. I ended up using a traffic light system on the spreadsheet on how each set was going. Red for barely arranged, gradually getting towards amber, when it was halfway there and then bright green for when it was finished. It just really helped my stress levels to see how things were progressing and who doesn’t love a bit of colour…?

The week before the recording we had our final rehearsals where we finalised tempos and listened to recordings of everything and I also sorted out all the chord charts and notes into polly pockets in an ANCIENT ring binder covered in NBA stickers and love hearts that I’ve used since I was a wee girl for my music. I know that’s crazy organised, but I have this thing where for potentially stressful situations (playing music in a pressurised environment) I like everything to be as organised as possible, so as that nothing can get in the way of things. If everything else is organised that means I just have to concentrate on the challenging bit! We’re almost finished tracking!

Ron and I are finished and right now Adam Brown is in playing some bodhran for us then we’ll start mixing this afternoon. We made up a rough schedule before we went to the studio and managed to stick to it, in fact with time to spare! It took less than 4 days to record 10 tracks – our many rehearsals defo helped- I’ve never recorded an album so fast! Time is money in this situation so we’ve saved some much need £.

Scott Wood has been recording us in his new place Oak Ridge Studios. It’s such a great environment and only 15 minutes drive from home which is great. He’s such a chilled out, easy going engineer and one who loves the trad tunes which helps. A lot.

The fun of self-releasing hasn’t started yet though as I’ve the admin and licensing marathon to run. Oh the joys of PRS, MCPS, ISRC and PPL – all the acronyms! I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s the most tedious part of self-releasing but one that you HAVE to get right.

Licensing through MCPS, to make sure people are paid for their tunes, registering your tunes through PRS so as you get paid for when your tunes are played on the radio and ISRC codes so they can trace your cd tracks back to your tunes that are registered with PRS.

It’s a minefield! It’s not easy to find information though, I really worked it all out through asking people. Actually 4 years back I wrote a blog on the subject and I get monthly emails from folk thanking me for it as it helped them through the madness! If you want to read it here’s a link:

So aye, look out for the album which we’re planning to release in March. No idea what it’ll be called yet. That decision is for over Christmas..