Wasn't even in Atlanta for 24 hours and yet it was a HUGE learning experience! I was nervous while taking off from the airport on my way to Atlanta to record a song that Chris Willis and I wrote. After all, it's Chris Willis!!! Don't know who he is, I dare you to google him. I landed and called him as he had instructed me to. Chris picked me up and had the best aura around him. Sometimes when you are around a person, you just know they possess so much positivity - and he's got it! Before we went to the studio, he took me to check into the hotel. Originally, when Chris & I discussed my visit to record with him, I assumed I'd pay for the trip - because that's what I do; take responsibility and claim it on my taxes, haha.
Then I suddenly get an email from Chris & all arrangement were made in advance. I simply thought that when I saw Chris, I would reimburse him for costs. When we got to the front desk to check in, I was given my key and told it was "taken care of." I looked at Mr. Willis with suspicion:
"Chris, um, I thought I'd be paying for this."
"Well, maybe we can barter later or something."
I would like to add that this was not some Holiday Inn (no offense, Holiday Inn, I've had many nice stays at your fine establishment). This was a 5 star, luxury - even-Oprah Winfrey-would-have-you-stay-there kind of hotel. AND...there's more! It was on the top floor, balcony, GORGEOUS room...you know the kind that leaves fluffy robes and shee-shee-foo-foo toiletries!! I put my bag down and was off to the studio.
It was at his studio that I confessed my anxiety about recording with him. I explained how when I see him perform I simply hear a star! His vocal range and what he does with his voice exceeds my expectations. His stage presence is commanding, and I told him that I have just been so stupidly happy to see him rise to the top!! He thanked me, and proceeded to tell me that after seeing me perform at Beatstock he wondered why I wasn't more famous! Ha! He wondered? LOL..I wonder too! That's the question! Anyway, truth is I imagine that when he's in the studio he's a perfectionist and probably records everything on one take. There are a few, a small elite group of people who can record a whole song on one take...Chris laughed when I told him that and told me not to worry.
We got started around 2:30pm. It felt good - I felt good. I felt supported. And for once, because he was doing the engineering, I felt someone spoke my language. In the past, whenever I've recorded, it's frustrating sometimes to work with people who do not sing. I mean no offense to any past producers, but singers, in a way, have a different language in the studio. Sometimes it is difficult for a producer to convey to a singer what they are looking to hear. But not only did Chris speak my language but he had like an advanced vocabulary!!! I was very happy - the song is different than anything I've ever recorded. It has hints of R&B, Gospel, dance, pop...and it's a really happy song about believing you've finally found love - something you know I am secretly hoping for!! About four hours later, we went to dinner.
Hanging out with Chris Willis was a great experience. It was just me and him...and I picked his brain like crazy. I wanted to know what is his secret? How did he find this success? What does he tell himself when the "powers that be" in the music industry try to discourage him? How does it feel to have two top 40 songs? Every single question I asked he answered, and he answered with an honesty and a humility that I couldn't have received any better. We also discussed things like family, matters of the heart, and spirituality and religion...Not to mention that dinner was GREAT!! LOL. He asked me questions too...and I felt I made a friend. I realized right there and then, as the sun slowly went down in Atlanta, that God rewarded me a blessing, far beyond what I could have hoped for: a new friend in the business and a deeper discussion about musical aspirations and dreaming for a higher level in life.
We reconvened the recording about 8pm or so. I had recorded 2 verses, a bridge and background vocals had to be done. Okay, there are background vocals that usually consist of two part harmony...and then there's Chris Willis harmony - four parts, and layers and layers of other vocals overlapping over others...in essence it's genius, but to record it...a whole new story, people! Not only did I have to do those layers, but also had to record all of it (probably about 40 or so), in addition, I had to do it four times over so it sounds "fuller" ; choir like! It was 11:30 when my throat began to hurt. But I mentioned nothing to him, even though he persisted to ask intermittently if my throat was ok....only a true singer would know the threshold for the throat before it begins to tire. And then I learned something I had not known...Chris would be flying in the morning to film his video for his new song!!! How could he still be with me, when he has less than eight hours before he flies!! He finally admitted that he thought we both did not have the energy to finish and have the best result....and he drove me back to my room & I wished him a safe flight and gave him the advice my mom leaves me with before every show: "Go and kick butt!"
I was on such an adrenaline high from recording with Chris Willis, that I didn't realize what my body was going through. Aunt Flo made a cameo appearance, (I know, I know...too much information) my back was killing me, I had a migraine, and my legs were swollen! I walked into my hotel room, was just about to surrender to my gorgeous king size bed, when I suddenly realized something was in the room that hadn't been there when I first checked in: a huge gorgeous, flower arrangement of pure white lillies!!! The whole roomed smelled GORGEOUS! I looked at the card: "Judy, welcome to Atlanta! Sing pretty! Love, Chris."
And this morning, I treated myself to breakfast in bed, and even with my throat sore, I managed to enjoy it. I checked out, and as I walked outside, there was a black town car, there was a man holding a sign that read, "Ms. Judy Torres." Yep. Chris, the gentleman he is, sent a car to take me to the airport!! And as the plane took off, I realize there is still a chorus to be recorded, but we arranged a future date to finish what we started. This experience will stay in my heart for as long as I live and I will definitely pay it forward!!! But that, my friends...is what it felt like to be in the company of a STAR!!!