Recording More Myself, Alicia Keys audiobook, was incredible. While I knew for about a month in advance that the recording was going to happen in January 2020 at Signature Sound, it wasn’t for-sure until a few days before the session. We did a lot of prep work finding just the right spot for her to record in, but in the end we used Signature Sound Studio B, our regular spot for audiobook and voiceover productions. It just has the right sound and feel you’re looking for: close, intimate, and comfortable. Those are the most important aspects of capturing an audiobook. The space you record in should produce a sound that makes the listener feel like the reader is right next to them and that’s comfortable enough for a reader to feel at ease and relaxed. Audiobooks can be a grueling process for a reader, sitting (or standing!) for hours reading out loud while maintaining the same energy level and vocal quality throughout. So providing the right sort of space is a must.
Guy Oldfield, the producer/director from Macmillan Audio, did an amazing job coordinating everything so that Ms Keys could just walk in, sit down, and start reading. Guy was wonderful to work with. As the director, he had read through the whole book ahead of time, and requested I do so as well, which is not typically required for the engineer to do. But he wanted to make sure that everyone involved in the project was on the same page, so to speak. After all, reading your own book, especially a memoir, can be a very raw, emotional experience, and it can leave you feeling vulnerable and exposed. It was important that we all knew what was coming up in the text and that we supported Ms Keys in any way she needed.
Listening to Alicia Keys read was a treat – to me, her speaking voice is like fine whiskey and a spoonful of honey. And because I was working with a Grammy award winning artist, it was especially nerve-wracking to speak up and ask her to reread a section. But that’s my job, to say something whenever I hear a sound that can’t be edited out, a word that isn’t said clearly, or a change that’s been made that alters the meaning of a sentence. It’s never fun to do, and some authors take it better than others – and Alicia took it very well, a true professional through and through. But it’s important to keep the listener in mind while you’re working, because what is recorded in the studio could be heard by millions. Better to catch the clicks, pops, and bumps while the reader is in the studio than to leave it to the critics.
Working with Alicia wasn’t that different from working with anyone else on their audiobook: set up the studio, create an atmosphere, and be ready to hit record. It’s always a special experience working with an author reading their own book, watching as they become reacquainted with their writing. After all, reading a book out loud is so different from the act of writing it, and often by the time the audiobook is being made it’s been months since the author revisited it. It’s an honor to be a part of that process. And while I’m not the reason the audiobook “More Myself” is as successful as it is (an AudioFile Earphones Award-winning production), I know I played a part in it by maintaining a calm, comfortable, professional space. That’s my job, and I love it.