A taste of life as a pop star

Reporter:

Rhian Waller

I’M really nervous as I stand in front of the microphone. My stomach keeps flipping as I tell myself not to be so daft.

I know the words, I know the song. I’ve heard it a hundred times before and sung it a hundred times more. There is nothing to worry about.

“Here comes the track,” says the man at the mix desk. The opening chords of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by the Eurythmics come through the headphones. I count myself in, miss the cue and giggle helplessly as I lose my place. “Never mind,” I’m told. “We’ll have another go.”

My one-man audience is Ian Lewis, the softly spoken owner of the Whitby Recording Studio in Ellesmere Port. I’m here to taste the Songmaker Experience, an initiative designed to enable anyone to feel like a pop star for a few hours.

However, not many of us actually get to experience – that is, until now.

“I’d like to do a few takes,” says Ian. “That way we can splice the best bits together into the finished track.”

Songmaker Ltd originated in Ascot, but the business swiftly expanded, and there are now more than 50 associated studios including one in Ellesmere Port and one in Wrexham.

When I booked the experience, I spoke to Chloe Ballis, a Songmaker employee.

She said: “Our products allow young hopefuls to sing, get their voices out there and produce a track in a professional manner.”

Ian Lewis’s studio is packed full of technology. A keyboard sits next to top-of-the-range computer consoles and the mixing desk looks insanely complicated.

“This is my own studio and I’ve been here since 1994, but I work with Songmaker as part of their packages,” he says. “The equipment I have means the recordings are very high quality.

“For instance, the people at the top of the music business use pitch correction and I can do that here.”

He shows me a monitor of a computer. Two jagged lines, one red, one green, zig-zag up and down the screen. The red one shows all the notes I hadn’t quite hit, and the green one shows where they could be corrected.

Ian plays the track back to me. I wince every time I hear a dropped note. There’s something very odd about hearing your voice when it isn’t coming out of your own mouth.

“It’s pretty good,” says Ian encouragingly. “The tone isn’t bad at all. As he edits the track, Ian tells me a bit about himself. The 46-year old worked for some time as a professional keyboard player, owned a record shop and painstakingly taught himself to sing. His life revolves around his love for music.

“It was easy for me to pinpoint the day I decided what I wanted to do. I was 12, it was Boxing Day and the Beatles film Let It Be was on. I saw it and thought: I wanna do that.”

Much as changed since The Beatles. In the post-Pop Idol age of reality TV, recording is part of a multi-million pound pop industry. It’s no surprise that with the TV slots, radio waves and gossip columns filling up with the latest from the talent show of the moment, many of us are having similar ‘I wanna do that’ moments.

Inspired, I go back to the microphone to re-take the opening. This time I am more confident, and I hit the right notes. The track is duly adjusted, remastered and burned on to disc for me to take home.

Songmaker pop stars can be as young as five or as old as 80, but they all have two things in common: a love of music and a sense of adventure. As Alley from Songmaker told me, just go along and have some fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed my two hours of pop star life, although I don’t think I’ll be quitting the day job.

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