An Iowa artist recorded an entire album ... using his iPad
In June 2014, Dan Tedesco ran over his laptop.
The machine was instantly destroyed. And so was Tedesco’s means of demoing his new release — what would eventually become his self-titled record.
What do you do when you're an artist and an entire body of work is crushed under the weight of a Honda Pilot? You figure out a different way to get things done. For Tedesco, this meant recording on differently: On his iPad.
He utilized four different applications on the iPad — Voice Recorder, GarageBand, Final Touch and Audio Mastering — to harness a sound he enjoyed and wanted to release. Having no professional training in recording, he spent almost 8 months recording the 10-song release, which dropped Oct. 6.
When talking to Tedesco, he makes it clear that he didn't record his record using iPad applications because it was easy or cheap. He did it because it captured the sonic aesthetic of the songs he was writing.
The record’s stripped down and breathes naturally; it’s like Tedesco’s in the corner of the room with the listener, strumming his melodies and playing the guitar.
“It wasn’t something that was premeditated, it was something that I definitely stumbled into,” Tedesco said on the phone, while traveling on tour between Ohio and Rhode Island. “I like to experiment.”
“I like to do things coming from different angles than people typically would, but I don’t set out to do that in a way that’s ‘tried.’"
Chris Busby, a 10-year friend of Tedesco’s who assists him with web design and social media, said he’s always been brutally honest with Tedesco on his projects.
“My response to him was ‘you gotta go with your gut,’” Busby said. “At one point I thought he was going to go a little too lo-fi. He was very committed to having it be a stripped-down experience.”
How'd he do it?
It began with the Voice Recorder app. Tedesco tracked demos using the app — experimenting with the settings — until he found a sound he thought fit the songs he was recording.
He worked through different positions to sit and sing into the mic, as well as trying different rooms in his house to record takes. He toyed with using amplifiers and external microphones to record the tracks, but ultimately decided the microphone built into his Apple device gave him the sound he wanted.
Hear the natural ambiance of using that mic on a track like “The Outlier.”
“I was trying to imagine how a lot of old blues recordings were made … like Robert Johnson,” Tedesco said. “The old recordings that had a raw sound were all recorded (in a live setting), so why couldn’t I just do that with this format?”
And that’s what he did. He moved from the Voice Recorder app to GarageBand, a stock recording application found on Apple products. GarageBand allowed him to multi-track the songs in stereo and add different layers and effects on the songs — like reverb, panning and EQ.
Each song was recorded live with guitar playing and singing, usually in one to three takes.
Tedesco described his process as ‘almost’ capturing an analog sound through the stripped down, digital recording.
Hear “Maybe I Should Do More Drugs,” a song he recorded on GarageBand.
“Despite being this thing made in a digital way, it has a very organic, live feel,” Tedesco said. “There’s no click track (note: click track is a type of metronome used in recording) being used. It really feels like you’re sitting in the room where this is being played … much like those old recordings that inspired this process.”
Tedesco used a third app, Final Touch, to mix the audio and finalize the tracks. He took the audio recorded in GarageBand and Voice Recorded, imported it into this app and polished all the loose ends of the track to get the sound where he wanted it.
Overcoming the challenge
Tedesco’s a 33-year-old from Illinois, but has been calling Des Moines home for more than a year. He’s been touring as a solo artist for almost four years, playing around 175 shows a year and releasing four full-length records.
He finished the original seven songs — he went on to record 10 total for the record — and sat on it for three months. He said he didn’t know if he wanted to release it or not. He showed it to friends, like Busby, who encouraged him to finish the project. The songs grew on him with time -- he said as he listened to the songs more he found the sonic presentation to be refreshing.
“Dan is a perfectionist,” Busby said. “At the same time, he wanted this record to sound true.”
The project didn’t come without its challenges. Tedesco said one of the hardest things through the whole process was learning the ins-and-outs of mixing a record. He said he spent many nights scouring YouTube and blog posts for guidance and inspiration.
“There’s no doubt the reason it took as long as it did was because I had to figure that out as I went along,” Tedesco said.
For the entirety of the album, he never used a desktop or laptop computer … and that’s part of the point.
“The record’s about where we are these days with technology and what kind of role it’s playing amongst our society and the way we connect with each other,” Tedesco said.
“It asks that question of is there a line where technology could possibly overrun us and stop being something that’s actually helpful and becomes something that starts to define life.”