For almost a decade, Ben Braden has been busy with his band The Lower 48. When it came time to take a little space, he wanted to come up with a completely different creative process. The resulting album, his solo debut Leaves of Trash, was recorded, mixed, and mastered entirely from a tablet and iPhone. This indie songwriter made and distributed (worldwide) his music without ever leaving home.
Above is a short video where Ben shares his story about being DIY musician. Below is a quick interview with Ben about his process.
An interview with Ben Braden
It seems like your use of the iPad or iPhone as a recording device is about removing obstacles. What does a mobile device allow you to do creatively that you might not be able to do if you went into a studio or had a more elaborate home-recording setup?
Recording on an iPad and/or iPhone allows me to pace around the house, possibly in my underwear and do a vocal take. It allows me to press record as the creation and inspiration is happening, rather then trying to remember, six months later in a studio, why I care about what I’m singing. The microphone also has a pretty cool sound if you know how to use it. I call it iFi music. Pronounced eye-fie. Like iPhone fidelity.
What apps are you using to create, mix, and master your music?
I use DAW multitrack for live tracking, Master Record for mastering…but I can’t tell you allll my tricks because half the fun was figuring what worked and what didn’t.
How long do you spend on a single song? Have you kind of standardized your process, or does it differ depending on the track?
That’s kind of what’s so great about recording so simply at home. I’ve gotten to try several different processes. Sometimes I record vocals and guitar in the same take and then overdub on that, but I’ve also started with just a guitar or piano take. I’ve recorded in my closet, bathroom, kitchen and even once in the car, while driving. Most of the songs on my album were recorded very shortly after writing them, which can be a bit messy and unplanned at times but also allows you to capture that first initial inspiration that is hard to recreate sometimes.
How do you draw attention to your music? Are you active on SoundCloud, YouTube, etc.? Do you work with a publicist?
Yes I am on both those platforms. To be honest this whole project started as a way to take some creative space from my band, The Lower 48. I’ve been taking that project seriously for almost seven years and worked very closely with the other members for even longer. I love that process too, but it is much more of the typical 25 days in a recording studio type album process and this iFi thing sounded like a fun way to blow off some steam and to maybe get some decent demos along the way. I ended up with about 20 recorded songs that boiled down to the 9 that made my album, leaves of trash. So basically, to answer your question, I haven’t thought too much about a publicist for my own stuff because my band is full time at this point and I wanted this to be a musical vacation.
Any creative tips you can offer someone who might be bogged down in the middle of a long recording project?
Take a walk. Smoke some weed. Get laid. Read a book. Record your music in your bathroom. Call your mom/dad.
What’s the best decision you’ve ever made for your music?
Moving to Portland from Minneapolis when I was 18 and dedicating most of my time to playing music.
Have you recorded music on a tablet or smartphone? What are your favorite tricks and tools? Holler in the comments.
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