Recording an Album: 4 Life-Changing Lessons I’ve Learned So Far

Tory has long been a part of the iCadenza community. Recently, we asked her to share what she’s learned during the making of her first recording. In today’s blog post, she shares the challenges she faced and the ways she’s grown throughout this intense process.

I love singing. I’ve been singing as far back as my memories take me. And I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I couldn’t express myself through music.

For the majority of my career I’ve been afraid to put myself out into the world. I realized I was irrationally fearful of being heard and yet, at the same time, desperate to be heard. I was obviously conflicted when confronted with my own career path in music.

I put tremendous effort into uncovering the root cause of my inner conflict. I dedicated myself to weekly therapy sessions with a spiritual psychologist who used a combination of guided meditation and hypnotherapy, and gently offered me healthier habits to help me change the way I had been perceiving my relationship with myself.

This personal work has been the hardest work I have ever done, but I can clearly see the benefit in my life. Especially as I pursue my dreams.

One of my dreams? Recording my first album, which is a compilation of lullabies. I have two children (four and two years old). And people warned me that once I had kids, my life would no longer be about what I wanted. My only job would be to give my children what I could no longer give myself.

What a terrifying prospect that was! I knew I simply couldn’t show up fully as a parent for my children if I did not allow myself to show up for me.

So this album of lullabies fulfills my dream as an artist, while also allowing me to give a beautiful gift to my children. I chose 17 art songs, almost all of which I had never sung before.

The experience has been incredible so far; every step, every misstep, each gain and failure brings a new lesson and pushes my growth as a musician, a mother, an artist, a partner, a business woman—and a human.

Here are four big lessons I’ve learned so far on my journey.

Lesson #1: I Will Never be Ready

There will never be a time in my life that I feel “ready” to follow my heart’s desire. I will always have some reason to put off pursuing the most important thing I could ever do for myself.

Life only gets more complicated as I invite more experiences in.

If you feel stuck with the fear that you’ll never be ready, do it anyway. Look past the excuses. Trust that the work has been done and the potential complications and stress for the love of the journey will be manageable. I’ve learned that prospective chaos has the potential for great beauty if I can change my perception of it.

Ironically, I find that creating The Lullabye Project somehow gives more purpose and meaning to my schedule. My full-time job is necessary to support the project and my family financially; I don’t resent the time I spend there because I associate this value with it.

I’m better able to structure my time efficiently and, once the daily musical task is complete, I’m a more engaged and articulate parent because I feel uniquely fulfilled artistically and creatively.

Lesson #2: Due Diligence. Do It up Front

No matter whom you’ll be working with, how long you have known them, or how much you trust them, be sure you do your research.

If you find yourself presented with prices for a service or a promised outcome, find out what the going rate is for that service.

I agreed to hire a producer whom I had known as a musician in grade school. He was an incredible talent at that time and I idolized him. I lost touch with him soon after that, so I didn’t know him as an adult.

Assuming he was the person I remembered from long ago, I failed to research what a healthy working relationship with a producer looks like. After 6 months of interaction with this person, I could tell we weren’t on the same page.

I finally did some research about what the artist-producer relationship should look like. Based on what I learned, I made the decision to part ways with him.

Looking back, I wish I had more knowledge about what a traditional payment structure looks like and what I was paying for. (For instance, if a down payment is required, is it refundable?)

I also wish I had a better understanding of the overall process of creating, recording, and marketing an album. Who does what?

Before you enter into a working relationships with someone, it’s helpful to think of it as the start of a serious relationship or a marriage. If you’re initiating your career in the music business you’ll likely rely on these people throughout your professional life to help you. You definitely want to start out on the right foot.

Lesson #3 Be Flexible with My Expectations

This album is a completely different experience than I was expecting. I don’t know why I thought that it would be simple and easy, but there it is. That’s what I thought.

Doesn’t everyone just get up off their couch, walk into a studio, record some songs, and then resume sitting on the couch?

The people who started this project with me will not be the people who complete this with me.

Of course, my original producer is no longer with me. But I also lost my beloved accompanist along the way. I’m still unsure about the exact “why” behind his decision to leave the project, but I suspect it was a combination of things. The unprofessional behavior of my former producer didn’t help.

But in all fairness, I sensed hesitation from my accompanist early on in the process. His passion resides mostly in opera repertoire, so he was not shy about expressing his relative lack of satisfaction with Art Song Lullabies.

My rigid ideal of having him record these songs with me was so exclusive, I decided to ignore his gentle resistance.

If you get ANY sense of hesitation— even a whiff from a person on your team—address it immediately. Don’t downplay it or pretend it didn’t happen. You will need a strong team who loves your album as much as, if not more than, you do. It’s imperative that you have mutual trust and respect within your group.

Also, trust your instinct. If for some reason something doesn’t seem to add up or something is “off,” pay attention to that. Explore that feeling and honor it. Find out why you are feeling that way and put it in words. First and foremost, you must establish trust in yourself. You will need self-confidence in order to complete the making of your album at your highest level.

Lesson #4: Think Outside the Box

Don’t underestimate the potential for network connections outside your music world.

If you find yourself in need of information or services and Google just isn’t cutting it, put it out to your network of friends, colleagues, and relatives. Regardless of their involvement in the music business or the album-making process, your “unconnected” acquaintances might have a scope of depth and talent that you’d be shocked to discover.

For instance at one point during my journey, I found myself searching for information on recording studios. I casually mentioned it to the receptionist at a doctor’s office who I had known for years.

It turned out that she had a close friend who was nominated for several Grammy Awards as a music producer. She offered to put me in touch with this person and did so immediately.

You have more connections than you realize!

The Journey Continues

This album is changing me as a person. When I began this journey, I didn’t anticipate this experience would be so rich.

My intention at the start was to change my life. I wanted to create an album from which I could launch my career as a vocal artist or at least to take the first step on a new path. Even at this stage of album creation, I can say that I am on target with staying true to that intention. And there will be more to come…


American soprano, Tory is an artist with an unconventional path in music. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Performance and continues her education through her own unique path.

In 2005, Tory began studying with Nina Hinson; her first session with Nina resulted in the discovery of her true voice and the experience changed her life. Tory’s honors include being the featured soprano soloist in St. Alban’s music concert series from 2007-2010.

She participated as an Advanced Artist in the OperaWorks program in July 2009. In April 2010, she performed in the Los Angeles Opera Chorus for the production of Die Gezeichneten. Tory is a recipient of the 2010 Stern Fellowship at SongFest. In 2012, Tory was invited to be the guest soprano soloist featured in the Concert for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Tricentennial in conjunction with the Mendelssohn Club of Albany, NY. Tory resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

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