My September Session for “Tinsel Heart” and Wrapping Up My New Album

My first studio day as an award-winning songwriter couldn’t have gone more perfectly. During my ten-hour session, I recorded everything I’d hoped to, which didn’t surprise me. Bob and I have become an unstoppable producer-songwriter duo. As always, it was a fun time.

Today, I finally recorded my fourth original Christmas song, “Tinsel Heart.” Also, I’m beyond excited to share that I finished recording all the songs for my new album, Hear Me Out. After working so hard on the project, it feels incredible to have rough studio recordings of all eight tracks.

I’m still on a musical high, so I’m bursting to give you a glimpse into my session.

My Introverted Bop

During my session in June, Bob and I started “I’m Introverted, So What?” Afterward, Luke recorded bass and guitar tracks from Nashville, and I can’t get over how amazing they sound. I sent him reference songs, and what he recorded for mine is exactly what I wanted.

Since this one was started, Bob and I kicked off the session by doing more production. The most magical thing about recording original music is hearing what I have in my head come to life more and more with each instrument that’s added. This song is very different from anything I’ve done before, having a super dancy, throwback feel, and Bob understood my vision for it perfectly.

I had a total blast recording vocals because the track we’d produced was so fun to sing over. I’m usually still half asleep at the beginning of my sessions, but this time, the dancy vibe of the song woke me up fast, even before I got my sugar rush from a cinnamon muffin. I wrote this song a while ago, so I loved getting the chance to finally sing it. The opening lyrics are, “I love butterflies, but I’m not the social kind,” which inspired the whole songwriting process when they popped into my head one day. From the authentic and sassy lyrics to tons of background vocals, this has quickly become one of my favorite songs.

I’m so glad I’ve finished “I’m Introverted, So What?” It’s such a fun and empowering one. I’ve always been an introvert, and writing this song has helped me embrace that part of myself. When I release it next year, I hope it empowers introverts all over the world and makes them feel seen.

My Tinsel Heart Feels Happy

Next, I recorded “Tinsel Heart.” If you’re wondering how I brought the festive vibes in September, my little gingerbread deserves all the credit.

Demi Michelle is sitting at the piano, smiling and wearing headphones. Her gingerbread is on the piano, bringing the festive magic.

After I wrote “Tinsel Heart,” I spent a lot of time composing a piano accompaniment. I always enjoy doing this because it allows my musicianship to shine. Growing up as a classical pianist has given me the skills to compose intricate accompaniments, and the one for “Tinsel Heart” is quite advanced, full of embellished, rolled, and four-note chords, syncopation, arpeggios, and more. Focusing on note accuracy and dynamic expression, while also playing to a metronome, was stressful, though I’ve had much experience with this during my classical days. Still, my performance anxiety struck me pretty hard. I’ve gotten nervous before, but not like this time. During my first few takes, I got so anxious, I had to stop in the middle of the song. This made me feel frustrated, since I rehearsed so much. Then, I reminded myself how it’s impossible to know when something like anxiety will hit out of nowhere. Despite all this, I eventually made it through the song and got a performance I loved.

Musicians, especially in the classical world, are constantly under pressure to deliver a flawless performance. I’ve experienced this myself through all the recitals and competitions I’ve done, not to mention the additional stressors from when I studied music in college, surrounded by other talented musicians. Even though classical music is no longer my primary focus, my experiences from when I was in that space have stuck with me. I think it’s important to be transparent about things like this because the psychological side of being a musician definitely plays a role in many situations, especially while recording.

Once I finished the piano, Bob and I did some string orchestration. This was so much fun. Rather than using string pads, we layered each instrument individually. Through doing this, we’ve created authentic and unique string parts. Also, the strings sound beautiful with the piano.

After we added the strings, I recorded vocals. I’ve had the melody for “Tinsel Heart” in my head long before I wrote the lyrics, so I loved singing it. Like the piano, the vocals are very dynamic. I really focused on emotional expression to capture the heart of the song. There aren’t many background vocals in this one, but just enough to give the vocals a special sparkle in places.

I’m very happy with how “Tinsel Heart” sounds so far. All that’s left is percussion. I can’t wait to hear what Sophia comes up with when she records soon.

“Tinsel Heart” is a special song to me, and I’m looking forward to sharing it this holiday season.

Wrapping Up the Session with “Kaleidoscope”

Finally, with about three hours left, Bob and I fully produced “Kaleidoscope.” This one has 2010s pop vibes, which I love. Also, it was the perfect song to tie the bow on recording for my new album, Hear Me Out.

I had a clear vision for “Kaleidoscope,” and Bob worked extremely hard on the production and sound design. In the end, he took what I recorded and turned it into exactly what I wanted. We both shared so many great ideas and came up with something incredible together.

I had a similar experience recording vocals for “Kaleidoscope” as I did during “I’m Introverted, So What?” Though the songs have totally different vibes, they both have such fun tracks to sing over, which got me in the right headspace. Also, “Kaleidoscope” has loads of background vocals, to. I couldn’t have picked a more perfect song to wrap up the album. With it’s feel-good instrumentation and uplifting message, “Kaleidoscope” resolves the album and reflects my emotional journey while creating it.

I still remember the days I finished recording Dear Diary and It Is What It Is. Wrapping up Hear Me Out was just as magical, if not more. I’ve grown so much as a songwriter and artist, and this project is my favorite collection of songs yet. I truly can’t wait to share Hear Me Out next year.

After the session, Bob and I took a photo with my ISSA Awards crystal, because obviously.

Demi Michelle and Bob McCutcheon with Demi’s ISSA Awards crystal after the session

What’s Next

Soon, I’ll get percussion recorded on “Tinsel Heart” and flute on “Kind Heart.” I’m looking forward to taking both these songs to the finish line with two talented musicians.

After that, Bob will start mixing. All the songs sound incredible in their rough forms, so I can’t wait to hear them once they’re mixed and mastered.

This was likely my last studio day of 2023, and it was a memorable one. While Bob works on “Tinsel Heart” and the songs on Hear Me Out, I’ll keep writing new music. Maybe I’ll write another country song next.

I’m so thankful for every day I spend at the Vault. If you’d like to discover more of my sessions, head over to my studio stories and enjoy.