Breaking the Record with Roan Yellowthorn, Part 6: Premastering

Breaking The Record 2020
Breaking The Record 2020
Jackie McLean of the indie band Roan Yellowthorn grants us an inside look at the making of an album from start to finish in her ‘Breaking The Record’ column.
Stream: “I Started a Joke” – Roan Yellowthorn

I know I said that this installment would be all about mastering, but we’re not quite there yet.

The mastering is scheduled to happen next week and, before then, I have to figure out an album sequence. I didn’t realize this had to be done before mastering but it makes sense because, this way, the album can be mastered with the sequence flow in mind. Flow is very important.

Coming up with a track order is slightly complicated by the fact that we’re talking about, as an alternative to releasing a 12 track album, releasing a 10 track album and holding back the two remaining songs until after the album is officially released. There’s only a brief window of time when a record is considered ‘new’ and this is the time when most of the stuff (reviews etc) happens. Drawing out the release gives everyone more time to hear it. And I want that. Because this record is really good.

Just jumping into the Breaking The Record series documenting the making of our album from start to finish? Read part 1 here!

The album is being mastered by Greg Calbi. Our producer, John Agnello, has a fantastic podcast called Gear Club that features luminaries in the music industry talking about what they do. It’s one of my favorite podcasts. In one episode, John says that Greg’s mastering process makes any album 30% better. I can’t wait to hear what it does to mine.

Since we got our final mixes back, I’ve been in touch a lot with my record label. Happily, everyone seems really excited about what they’ve heard! We’re also talking about PR and design ideas for the physical and digital album artwork. I have a photo I want to use for the cover. I have strong ideas about the ambience and mood of the whole album. The entire world of the album exists in my head – themes, colors, emotions – and much of the process moving forward centers around translating and transforming these intangible ideas into physical forms.

Along with thinking about the artwork and concepts, we’re planning a tour and making a timeline plan for the next few months.

Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean

PR agents, manufacturers, radio stations, press outlets, streaming services and venues all have different timelines that they work from. There is a certain amount of lead time that each area generally requires. In addition to delivering assets, materials, and information to all of these sectors at the right time, it’s important to have a master schedule that lays out all of the necessary tasks on a timeline.

Planning is not my strong suit. Space and time mess with my brain. But this is something I have to get my head around. Sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed by this part of things – making plans. Looking into the future. There’s a cloud of to-dos around me and, most often, I just pluck one after the other from the ether and work until I’m exhausted. I am not good at planning. I either do nothing or I do things obsessively until they’re done.

Roan Yellowthorn
Roan Yellowthorn’s Shawn Strack & Jackie McLean

One thing at a time, I remind myself. You’ve made it this far. Make a track list. That’s all you have to do right now. After that, the mastering is next. And then that part will be out of your hands. Before long, the whole thing will be out of your hands. Your child, so lovingly raised, will be set free into the world. And your plans will turn into prayers.

Next week – Mastering!

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