To wrap up the 14th week of production sessions, Mike Shinoda began a brand new track on Thursday, April 6. He finished production on it and the previous track, “Lithium” by Lenny, on Friday, April 30. This new song, “Cold” by singer and guitarist Steven Curtis (co-written with Abigail Neilson), is the 30th track for the #ShinodaProduceMe project that began back in January.
Listening to Curtis’s original submission, Shinoda described it as sounding like a ballad with its multiple vocal and instrument tracks, including the main vocals and harmonies, piano, guitar, and strings. After playing the song all the way through, Shinoda pulled out his guitar and played a riff based on Curtis’s melody, pointing out that it would be possible — even easy — to make the track much heavier, but that he was not going to.
“If I make a song like that I will not sleep. I will be so disappointed in myself that I made that song over this. I just want you to hear it … ’cause you guys that like that stuff, I want you to enjoy it real quick and then we’re not gonna do it … And 100 percent if somebody else wants to make that song, just hit up Steven … ”
Talking about the song, Shinoda was especially impressed by the strings Curtis included because they sounded like real strings, highlighting to viewers that he thought the string track was the best track in the song. Beginning to work on the production he did want to do, Shinoda took a sample of Curtis’s strings to chop up, comparing it to what he did on Linkin Park’s “Faint”. Experimenting with the string sample, the first thing he tried was reversing it. Deciding he didn’t like how it sounded, he reverted it to the original, chopping it up and adding a few extra sounds until it resembled a beat.
“Those are real strings, one hundred percent those are real strings. I don’t even have to ask. If Steven made those with a plugin, please tell me what plugin that is!”
He then focused on creating more beats for the other parts of the song, such as the pre-chorus, before looking at Curtis’s vocal. Deciding that it needed a compressor, Shinoda explained that there is a plugin called Vocal Rider you can use to set a volume range if you have a very dynamic vocal that gets very quiet and loud within the same song to make it more uniform. After a little more work on the string beats, Shinoda temporarily took the piano out of the song and put a tuner on the entire chain. Afterward, hearing the song with the production it had up until that point, Shinoda commented that he thought the song had an invisible cap to its energy, which he did not intend. To help offset this, he brought out his guitar from earlier in the stream to record another guitar piece, taking a quick detour to freeze the string track to help prevent technical issues within Ableton before finishing with the guitar and moving onto the harmonies.
“ … in the future, we gotta work some more on harmonies. You gotta listen to your most primary chord progression, which in this case would be the piano … listen to every single [note] soloed … and make sure you’re not hitting any dissonance … and you should be singing [harmonies] to the lead vocal and making them real tight … ”
Due to a few incorrect notes within the harmonies, Shinoda decided to mute one of the vocal tracks and wait on fixing the timing issues in the remaining harmony tracks, as it would take too long to do on this stream. However, Shinoda commented the song needed further work outside of that as well, specifically that it needed bass and other interesting sounds. Ending Thursday’s stream, Shinoda quickly added Juno bass before returning to the track the next day.
Steven Curtis is a singer, songwriter, and producer from the state of Washington. Acting as a one-man band while performing live, Curtis’s style of music can be compared to the likes of Jason Mraz and Ed Sheeran. Gaining the majority of attention from his live performances, he has a substantial following despite not having released a full album, although he is preparing to release original material sometime this year in 2021. Curtis does have a few recordings of his live performances available on Spotify and his YouTube channel, such as his songs “Sonic,” “I’ll Be Here,” and “Heartless.” He also has a TikTok account where he posts clips of cover songs, as well as his original songs. Speaking of original material, Curtis’s next song, titled “Overwhelmed,” is set to premiere on YouTube on Friday, May 14!
If you weren’t able to see Steven Curtis’s track “Cold” be produced live by Mike Shinoda, you can still watch the Twitch replay below! Make sure to check out Curtis’s music, as well as Shinoda’s previous production sessions. Stay tuned to Shinoda’s Twitch channel weekdays around 10 a.m. PT for more production live streams!
As a special announcement, another #ShinodaProduceMe track has a release date! “Lilith” by Plexxaglass will drop on Friday, May 7.