I don’t mind admitting when I first got the invitation to take my daughter along to record a song in a professional music studio, I baulked at the price tag for such an experience . “$799 to record my tone-deaf child to rock out in a studio when I can just film her on my iPhone?” I asked a friend in the school yard, incredulous at the mere suggestion. “I’d do it in a heartbeat,” she replied. “Think about it – you pay in excess of $1000 – $2000 for professional photos when you could just take a few shots on the home camera, right?” Ah, she is like Yoda that one. Yes, the professional shots are infinitely better than anything I could ever manage at home because obviously, I am not a trained photographer.
And so this is how I found myself ushering Cella through the doors of LittleSings, a studio in Sydney’s Glebe, specialising in what must be a world-first concept – capturing a high-quality recording of a child’s voice within a ‘grown-up’ song (Ok, Let It Go from Frozen is available and hiiiiighly popular, although I recommend recording something you’d actually like to hear again). Ken Francis, the brains of the business (who has worked with everyone from Air Supply to Queen’s Roger Taylor) had emailed me earlier in the week asking me for my daughter’s favourite songs so he might have the backing tracks organised for our visit. “Smack my Bitch Up” I emailed back. “She can’t get enough of that one.”
Ok, I didn’t do that, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t cross my mind. Instead I emailed the following response:
– Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams
– There is a light that never goes out by The Smiths
– Us by Regina Spektor
– Mediterranea by Duran Duran.
“I’m really sorry if you don’t have these tracks,” I explained in the email. “My daughter has some out-there tastes for her age and she doesn’t know anything you would class as ‘top 40′”. “No problem,” responded Ken. I think he was just happy it wasn’t Let it go. We were ready to roll.
Alex, a ‘Smile Producer’ greets us once we arrive and as luck would have it, she’s also a certified nanny as well as a graduate of the Australian Institute of Music, so right away Cella takes a shine to her. She spends a bit of time getting to know us (poor lass) before leading us up to the recording studio to play some warm-up games to bring out Cella’s inner Rock God. Meanwhile, I just stand there like a tool gaping at my surroundings which they have decorated like something out of Play School Interiors magazine.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d always imagined a studio as the sort of place where you stumbled around in the dark, clutching a mike stand for strength, and occasionally slumping to the floor to snort up whatever dregs of cocaine you had left over from between the fibres of the carpet. Parents will be pleased to know that this isn’t that kind of place. What we find instead is a studio filled with jungle-themed stuffed toys, a vine-covered microphone, and what could be the world’s largest lucky dip basket “For encouragement,” I am told. Directly outside the studio is an arts and crafts table where mums and bored siblings can sit, and where our rock star will later come out and design her cover art.
Cella is shy initially, so Alex plays a few warm-up games with her, asking her to talk into the microphone to watch the visuals of her voice onscreen. This seems to work and before long, she’s howling about how she got her first real six string – oh! – at the five and dime (and seriously, she’s singing like she’s feeling it) and I’m shown the door.
For the next thirty minutes or so I listen to her voice get louder and louder as she sings about the best days of her life (they really are but of course, she doesn’t really know that to be true yet). Meanwhile, Ivy takes a shine to Ken, and insists on calling him ‘Dadda’ while she sits in his lap. He doesn’t seem to mind and I can’t help but think this is a man who is clearly cut-out to work with children.
Recording session over, Cella comes out triumphant and swaggers over to the art table to design the artwork for her CD cover. “OK Cella,” I say. “What do you think of when you think of the words ‘Summer of 69’?” She thinks for a moment and I figure she’s going to say palm trees, the beach or the sun, but instead she says. “I think of a swarm of bees”. But of course! And suddenly our cover jacket is a swarm of angry bees.
To finish off, she is taken across the other side of the studio to have her photograph taken with a prop mike and cool backdrop, and without much prompting, she gets into an Axl Rose-esque character with fierce moves and aggressive face. I silently thank the Gods there are no amps for her to kick and make a note in my head to hide all sharp instruments from the kitchen drawer back home.
The rather impressive-looking box-set arrives a few days later and we stare at it in wonder. It has Cella’s image printed on the inside, a USB loaded with images from her shoot, as well as a disc featuring both the song she sang and the karaoke version should we ever want to rock out as a family.
And the result? AMAZING! Normally my daughter is so tone-deaf listening to her sing is like throwing a cat down a chalkboard (she makes up for it with her cuteness) but the CD is autotuned like nobody’s business so that she sounds like a real chart-topper.
Prices start from $129 for a Studio Experience package which includes a song sample, $499 for a LittleSings Online Package featuring a complete song on USB and digital file online, and $799 for the premium package which includes all of the above.
With Mother’s Day around the corner, it might time to start dropping those hints by handily leaving your browser open on this page