by guest blogger & singer Deborah Underwood
I’ve been a singer for even longer than I’ve been a writer. But when it became too hard to juggle rehearsals and concerts with my writing work, I regretfully resigned from the chamber choir I’d sung with for nearly two decades.
But I really missed making music. So I had an idea: I’d write and record a lullaby to go along with GOOD NIGHT, BADDIES, my new picture book about all the supposedly-bad fairy tale creatures clocking out and going home to spend a lovely evening together.
Here’s what I learned about the similarities between writing a picture book and recording a song.
They both seem simple at first, then completely impossible. But if you keep moving forward, they get done.
My first picture books were total messes. One had six main characters. One had nothing resembling a plot. It took a while for me to understand just how difficult it is to write a good picture book, because I didn’t know what I didn’t know!
Recording was the same way. I naively asked a recording artist friend what I needed to do, and learned I’d need a team of professionals, a recording studio, a bunch of knowledge I didn’t have, and a whole lot of money.
I almost threw in the towel, but decided to ask around first. Did anyone know a sound engineer? Did anyone know of a studio? Or a guitarist, since I’d cleverly written a guitar part I was unable to play?
Luckily, one of the folks I asked was Gunnar Madsen, founding member of The Bobs and a former critique group member. It turned out he has a home studio, he could do the engineering, and he knew a guitarist, Jules Leyhe, I could hire.
Ta-da! Most of the obstacles disappeared—after I did a bunch of research and reached out to people who might help. It was still a hefty expense, but not as much as my friend had predicted.
Both are learning experiences.
Every picture book I’ve written has been instructive—especially the ones I wrote in the beginning. (I don’t write books with six main characters anymore.)
Likewise, I learned a lot making this recording. For example: the guitarist and I were recording in the same room, so if either one of us made a mistake, we had to redo both our parts. A recording studio with separate booths for each musician could have made the process speedier.
It’s hard not to want to go back and change things in my published books. But I’ve come to realize that with every book, I do the best I can. If my present best is better than my past best, that’s only a good thing: it means I’ve grown.
That was a hard-won lesson for this recovering perfectionist, and I’m happy it transferred to this new venture. The recording isn’t perfect, but neither am I. We could have spent hours in post-production trying to make every note flawless, but Gunnar and I agreed that the result would be less appealing; I wanted to sound like a human being, not a robot. Who wants to be sung to sleep by a robot? (Hmm, I may have a new picture book idea…)
All in all, it was a great experience. I’d dreamed of recording a song for ages, and it was a thrill to combine, rather than need to choose between, my love of singing and my love of writing.
The song is a free download at deborahunderwood.bandcamp.com. Listen here:
I hope you enjoy it! And please look for GOOD NIGHT, BADDIES. Juli Kangas’s art for the book is gorgeous, rich, funny, and heartwarming—I am one lucky writer! You can get a sneak preview of some of the beautiful illustrations in the trailer, which you’ll find at DeborahUnderwoodBooks.com.
Thank you, Deborah, for sharing your beautiful voice and original composition. It’s BAD! (That’s Michael Jackson BAD, not bad BAD.)
GOOD NIGHT, BADDIES releases TOMORROW but you can win a copy TODAY! You have until MIDNIGHT PST tonight to enter by leaving a comment below.