A glimpse inside Neil Finn's ambitious live stream project

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Pizza, beer, Jimmy Barnes, and a hip hop version of 'Weather With You'.

Each Friday this month, Neil Finn has opened the doors to his Roundhead Studios in Auckland to host an intimate gathering of musical mates.

Recording an album is serious business. To record it live, in full, with minimal re-takes raises the stakes somewhat.

Together, they’ve been jamming, recording, trading barbs, Skyping friends and drinking wine. Sounds like fun, and looks that way too, since we’ve been invited along to watch – preferably with our own beverage of choice at hand – as he streams each of these gatherings live on his Facebook page.

But recording an album is serious business. To record it live, in full, with minimal re-takes raises the stakes somewhat. And when you do it over the internet to a passionate, global, multi-generational audience, well, as they say, no pressure.

Neil Finn is live streaming the recording of his new album Out of Silence this evening to a global audience.

For the past few weeks, Finn has road tested several new songs. We’ve heard old favourites and some songs we haven’t heard for years. That’s what’s made it so joyous, each gathering has brought surprises for everyone.

He has already recorded two new songs, ‘More Than One of You’ and ‘Second Nature’. Each song was mixed, mastered and released in a week – a rapid turnaround. They will join the eight new songs to be recorded this Friday and released as new album Out of Silence just a week later, on Friday 1 September.

So why am I telling you all this?

I was lucky enough to be at Roundhead Studios for the recording of last week’s session. Pizza and beer on arrival is my kind of a welcome. A hundred excited competition winners also mingled in the basement as we awaited the call up the stairs.

 

An old upright piano here, a giant gong there, past the open kitchen, perfect for mid recording session munchies, we trickled through the narrow doorway to the studio itself.

The first thing we noticed entering the dimly lit studio are the large ornate light fittings hanging low and subtly commanding the space. They were designed and handmade by Neil’s wife Sharon, her shop Sharondelier is next door and (thankfully) closed. Chandeliers and carry on don’t mix.

There was portable seating at both ends of the room, though most of us stood so everyone could fit in. The countdown to the live stream was, as usual, gently led by Pablo Vasquez; not a man, but the cult classical guitar duo of Elroy Finn and Jolyon Mulholland.

Within Finn’s posse are some of New Zealand’s brightest young things and well respected names. Hollie Fullbrook (Tiny Ruins), James Milne (Lawrence Arabia), Amelia Murray (Fazerdaze), Sam Scott (The Phoenix Foundation), son Elroy and nephew Harper. Even ring-in EJ Barnes (Jimmy’s daughter), a long-time collaborator with eldest son Liam.

The stand out performer and my personal MVP was composer/arranger Victoria Kelly for her ability to lead the string section and isolate, rearrange and re-record sections at a moment’s notice.

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Neil Finn at Roundhead Studios in week three of his month of streamed performances.

While Neil and brother Tim performed a few stripped back songs the week before, last Friday’s special guest couldn’t be more different. Two rappers from local crew SWIDT (See What I Did There?”) were given centre stage (i.e. rug) to perform their own song, later adding a couple of verses to the most unique ‘Weather With You’ I’ve heard.

Contrasting beautifully with the studio’s sophisticated multi camera set up, old mate Jimmy Barnes showed the strain, squinting endearingly as he grappled with his three screen Skype set up.

The 90 minutes passed by all too quickly. We felt very lucky to be part of that intimate gathering. Smiling the whole time, singing like a fool, though mighty parched, I felt the most perfect kind of squished.

There’ll be no in-person audience this Friday as Neil Finn and his trusted band of singers and musicians record his new solo album, each song played no more than twice.

Whatever happens this Friday, we’re in for a unique and fascinating experience. I cannot wait.

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