Strings and piano on "Happiest of Days"

BlogJune 18, 2013AbsoluteGoo

Hi everyone :)

This is Richie English, and I just wanted to introduce myself (I've been following the message board for a long time now and took the plunge and got an account finally!)...

I was SO blessed to be asked to compose the strings and play piano on Robby's gem, Happiest of Days. We recorded it at GCR Audio in Buffalo. Completely by accident last year (while working on a project for the band Reign of Kindo) I met Justin Rose, chief engineer and manager of the studio. He ran the session I was asked to compose strings for, and a few months later (after a few projects together) we realized we really had something, and we formed a team we call "English Rose Orchestrations".

We work with a string quartet comprised of Gretchen, Kiersten, and Claire Fisher (all three, sisters!), and cellist Katie Weissman. Robby heard an arrangement and the Lord blessed me with him asking me to keep working there. GCR is my home and Robby is SUCH a mentor and brother to me, what an absolutely amazing musician and person!

He finally wrote a ballad (I harassed him about it, as did Gregg Wattenberg) and as a surprise present for him, I wrote a string orchestration for it, brought The Ladies (as I call my beloved quartet) in with Justin, and we tracked it in about 40 minutes. It was done just to thank him, and to give him a special version of the song.

I NEVER thought that Gregg and the band would find it worthy enough to include on Magnetic, but apparently they really thought it was nice and we were so blessed to be part of it! We did three passes, back-to-back-to-back, layered them (Justin did, he's the genius behind that side of it), and we were asked two days later for the files!

As if that weren't enough of a reality-smasher, Robby had sent Justin and I out to scout a piano for the studio. I played every piano at the Buffalo Music School and right before leaving, I found a 1912 Steinway upright grand piano tucked away in the back. It was The One, and the studio purchased it.

Robby got home from NYC (this was after the hurricane) and while lazing around on a Sunday afternoon, out of nowhere, I heard the following words in classic Robby-Voice: "So I'm thinkin' maybe it'd be cool to have the piano's first session be for the band... Cool?"

And so Robby and Justin guided me from the control room as I played through take after take. I started getting a little frustrated: I'm a concert pianist by training and it's entirely by accident that I found my way into working where I'm blessed to work, and by training I ALWAYS want to resolve my 7ths and chromatic notes properly.

This, of course, meant I'd overplay and clash with my own string score, and Robby would chime in (mid-take) with "RICHIE! Keep your hands RIGHT THERE! Don't mo-RICHIE! DON'T MOVE THEM YET!" My fingertips would itch as I let certain notes ring out without moving. After an hour or so, Robby taught me how to play rock, and the beauty, maturity, and DIFFICULTY of simplicity. I wanted to share this with you all, introduce myself, and personally tell you, on behalf of myself and my team, what a blessing your support of this legendary band is.

My final anecdote (if you're still reading!) is about the score itself: I'd gotten into a fight with the love of my life, Grace, a few nights before I set about writing the score. I did a lot of soul-searching and praying, and then Robby called me down to hear this song. The lyrics hit me so hard, and I spelled her name in the track (minus the "R"), hidden long-range in a certain pattern, as a gift to her. Robby's friendship, this band's music, and your support of what I was so honored to be a part of means the world to me. God bless you all, and I hope that the song touches you and brightens your day. Goo Goo Dolls forever <3

_Richie English_


Thank you to everyone for your kind words; sometimes you slave over something and are insulated from the feedback, so reading comments like these is what keeps me going and reminds me why I do this and what a blessing it is.

In response to the post above: Kindo just released their second single off their upcoming album Play With Fire, which I was SOOOOO blessed to compose seven string arrangements for. One of those is on the single, released a few hours ago. If you're a fan you'll want to get it.

My team recorded every string orchestration at Robby's studio (my home base forever and ever) GCR Audio, in Buffalo. We did it over the summer and the preparation and execution of composing and recording that album stretched me and prepared me shortly thereafter to work on Happiest of Days. Without Reign of Kindo, who I've toured as pianist with, and written nearly a dozen string arrangements for, I wouldn't have found GCR Audio, and I wouldn't be where I am blessed to be today.

And I should also say this: GCR Audio puts every other studio I have ever been in to utter shame. I'm a terrible liar so I would've just avoided including that sentence if it weren't incontrovertibly true. Robby and the guys built it, Robby took over ownership, and my partner, the GENIUS, Justin Rose (now chief engineer and manager) have turned it into literally a world-class facility. Anyway, I wanted to say God bless you all for your feedback- I'm really blessed to hear from you all what you think, and to (finally) be a member here :)

Check out that Kindo single. My beloved team recorded those at GCR; same players, same facility, and same composer (I still cannot get over working with bands of this caliber, I learn so much from every session). This wasn't an intentional "submit-my-CV" situation: it happened accidentally. It's NOT impossible for people to "make it" in music (no matter how you define that phrase). Anybody that says it's competitive is right.

So is every single job on the face of this Earth. There are so many things a person can do, and so many people who will be willing to listen. I don't know what "making it" is, but I get to write music that people listen to and that is all I ever wanted to do. Whether it's a handful, or something on the scale of the GGD's who are legends. Everything is competitive. But there are people who will listen. God bless you all for your feedback thus far!