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Finishing The Album

Mixing and mastering

After we finished recording, I left Brian alone to mix all the tracks. Mistake. I was not happy with any of this first round of mixes – it would have saved a lot of time and money if I had been there with him, or even if he had done a couple first and we had then reviewed them. As it was, I found myself a month later having to schedule new sessions to mix alongside Brian. It was not Brian’s fault – he had mixed them the way he thought, but I just wanted something different. It was my fault for not making this clear.

On the whole I do not really like the process of mixing. It always seems to take too long, and you feel like focus and momentum is being lost. Also, it is quite hard to get things to sounds as good as they did in your head… or as good as they initially did when you were recording. Some of this is to do with expectations – you don’t expect rough mixes to sound good so they exceed expectations; you expect final mixes to sound great so they disappoint. Occasionally the mix elevates a track and really surprises you though and that is great when it happens.

We started to remix the tracks. Unfortunately this now had to be done on odd evenings as I was back at work. So it felt like progress was slow, but I am very happy with the final results. It is not as ambitious as some of the things we have attempted with Spearmint, but that is deliberate. I wanted a more natural soulful feel to go with the content of the album, as it is mainly love songs, and I think we got this.

Once we had finished all the mixes, I lived with them for a couple of weeks, playing around with different running orders until I got one I was happy with. I then sent the tracks to Pete Twyman, who is a friend of Andy Lewis. Pete mastered the album at home for us. The alternative is to go into a mastering suite and pay for a few hours while an engineer who does not know your work pieces it all together. I have been to posh mastering suites like Abbey Road with Spearmint, but we got the best results by using Pete; he just does a really good job of it. Plus he was happy to have 3 or 4 goes at it until I was totally happy. So I was able to change the running order, because I kept changing my mind, remove a track at the last minute, change the sound of some songs, and play around with gaps between tracks.


While we were mixing, I got together with Jim and my girl Bridie one Sunday afternoon down at Hammersmith Bridge so that Jim could take some photos for the artwork. The idea was that we would shoot in the afternoon light, then go and have a coffee at Riverside and return to the bridge in dark to do some night-time shots. It worked a treat; Jim got some gorgeous photographs of us in a range of different lights. The shots are featured in the lyric booklet which goes with the album, and it looks as though they go from early morning, through a day, into the night.

Hammersmith is my favourite of London’s bridges – it is so romantic, and so beautiful. By coincidence, Bridie and I watched “Night And The City” the week before we did the shoot, and that film ends with Herbert Lom leaning out over the bridge (in black and white) from almost the same point I look out from in a couple of the snaps. James then worked up a draft for the sleeve, a kind of romantic Blue Note treatment, which I immediately warmed to. We decided on a blue tint and chose a shot of Bridie and I walking towards the camera across the bridge (which is reminiscent of the “Freewheelin Bob Dylan” sleeve). Jim came up with the block Shirley Lee lettering and suggested adding the song titles underneath. It all came together really smoothly.

With Spearmint we have never included the lyrics with the albums, as it seems to me to diminish them to read them out of the context of the music. Over the years I have relented on this though – I have been asked many times for us to include lyrics, often by people who do not have English as their first language, and have said it would make a real difference for them. Eventually I approved our friend Neil setting up a Spearmint lyrics website, and with the solo album we decided it would be nice to print them for a change.

This then meant that we were able to use a lot of Jim’s photos in the booklet. The two of us spent several coffee-fueled evenings piecing it together. We ended up with a lovely day through to night progression and I think it all looks great. Amazing what you can do now with a digital camera! Not to take anything away from James – he did a great job with it. the photos and art really suit the album and look distinctly different of any of the Spearmint sleeves he has designed.