Unlike most of my newsfeed, one recent Facebook post was concise and simple: “Songwriters wanting to record a demonstration, demo, or CD should contact SG Studios owner Greg White.”
In his post, White explained that his plan was to bring in a crack team of musicians to his Fort Worth studio and schedule a bunch of local songwriters to come in that same day to crank out numerous demos in assembly-line fashion using top-notch recording equipment at a reduced rate.
Demo Day, he called it.
“If I can get enough interest,” his post went on, “I think this can work to help you guys get a great demo without breaking the bank.”
Songwriters would share the cost of the musicians and studio time.
“Demo Day sounds interesting,” I texted to White a few hours after seeing his notice. “Let me know if you get any takers, and I might come write a story about it.”
“You better get your writing fingers limbered up,” he immediately replied. “My phone is blowing up.”
A couple of weeks later on a recent Monday, White welcomed a half-dozen local songwriters to record a total of 15 songs in one long session that began at 10 a.m. and went well into the evening.
In the days leading up to the session, White met with each songwriter individually, listened to his or her songs, discussed arrangements, and created music charts. Then, on the big day, White relied on his version of The Wrecking Crew, that group of Los Angeles-based studio musicians who played on just about every pop record made in the 1960s. White’s crew included a drummer, bassist, guitarist, and a handful of multi-instrumentalists, along with a stable of singers. Most have been White’s session players for years.
“I love it,” said bassist Rich Stanmyre, who has been working with White for 10 years. “We get in there, get the charts, wing it, and see what happens. And when you are playing with such good musicians, it comes together pretty quickly.”
The songwriters were a disparate bunch, including a rapper looking to record his first attempt at writing and singing an original pop song, a Christian country singer there to record a few Christmas songs, and a solo piano player wanting to hear his instrumental ode to a friend’s black Labrador retriever produced with a full band.
“It’s cool that [White] has given this offer to us,” said Mike Conner, who wrote “Ali’s Song” about the deceased dog. “This brings the cost down.”
“Ali’s Song” was fleshed out with bass, drum, guitar, and violin on top of Conner’s piano work. Afterward, White mixed and mastered the tune. Conner’s cost was about $350, whereas a solo session on any other day might have cost him closer to $1,000, he said.
He wasn’t worried that the speedy nature of Demo Day might result in a diminished product. White has developed a reputation as an enthusiastic, quality-conscious studio owner and recording engineer, said Conner, a board member of the Fort Worth Songwriters Association.
Earlier this year, Christian country singer Heather Van Deren spent weeks working with White to record her first full-length album, Just in Time. She saw firsthand what she described to me as White’s work ethic and attention to detail. She decided to jump in on Demo Day and record a Christmas EP at a reduced price knowing that White would do it right.
“It’s still going to be Greg White-quality because that’s just who he is,” she said. “He always strives for perfection whether it’s a small or huge project. I couldn’t resist it.”
White, an excellent multi-instrumentalists himself, has been performing and recording music for 22 years. He bought SG Studios in 2005, and his clients include Randy Brown, The Deluxe, Jake Hooker, Sons of Fannin, and Amos Staggs.
White was tired but thrilled after Demo Day came to a close.
“The day came out great!” he said. “The musicians did a fantastic job. Everyone worked well together.”
He came up with the idea to address “a need in the songwriting community to get demos done more affordably,” he said. “One song is more expensive to track per song than tracking 15. It’s the whole buying-in-bulk thing.”
He expects to host another Demo Day soon, he said, and will make announcements on his Facebook page.