Artist Name: Gretch Title: Break Me Genre: Indie-Rock Rating:
Tracking: Computer – M2 MacBook Pro; DAW – Ableton Live; Interface – Antelope Audio Zen Go; Mic – Telefunken TF51; Vocal Booth – ISOVOX 2; Software – Native Instruments KOMPLETE 14; Guitar – Gretsch Streamliner; Monitoring – Audio-Technica headphones.
Mixing: Computer – M2 Mac Pro rack; DAW – Pro Tools 2023.6; Interface – Avid HDX I/O; Mixer – Neve 8816 summing mixer; Processors – Rupert Neve Portico ll MBP, Manley Variable Mu and Crane Song HEDD; Plugins – FabFilter, Soundtoys and UAD-2 plugins; Monitors – JBL 708.
“Break Me” is an indie-rock song written and performed by Gretch mixed with a bit of help from her dad. All tracks were recorded in a noisy college apartment. Gretch is currently attending San Diego State University. She is in her senior year working on a Bachelor of Music degree.
Regular readers may remember another Readers’ Tracks Spotlight tune, “Hi, My Name Is”, submitted by Gretchen Calder (Spotlight 158— recordingmag.com/readers-tracks/spotlight-158-hi-my-name-is). This is the same artist, new name, and a slightly different approach to the composition.
Reviewed By Dave Martin
“Break Me” has a lot going for it; the song itself makes sense, both lyrically and the way each section fits together.
Side note: I realize that I mention song structure regularly in this space, but that’s because it makes a difference, all of us grew up with music based either on the blues or the Verse/Chorus/Bridge form that likely goes back to the 19th Century and the songs of Stephen Foster. Those two structures are ingrained in Western pop music, so ignoring them can make a song surprisingly hard to listen to.
Gretch is an excellent singer with a well-developed sense of how and when to use harmony vocals in a rock setting. The microphone used on this track, a Telefunken TF51, suits Gretch’s voice well, and the reverb and delay help the vocals sit well in the track.
I also like the guitar sounds. I would not have thought to use a Gretsch Streamliner in that setting, but it works, and that’s what matters.
Though I think that Gretch achieved precisely what she wanted to accomplish with this song, I would ask that she consider a couple of philosophical ideas for her next project.
The first idea is that music is a collaborative art; it happens when people play together. If Gretch were to perform her songs with an ensemble—whether by starting a band or simply gathering with like-minded musicians to jam—I believe it would change her recordings. The drum programming on “Break Me” is interesting, but I suspect a live drummer would approach the tune differently.
The second thing I remembered as I listened to “Break Me” is that there are many, many kinds of shuffles in music, with almost every possible subdivision of the beat from the straight triplet we usually think of as a ‘shuffle’ through the dotted 8th and 16th. Dr. John used the later on his great recording of “Goodnight Irene.” Also, reference the wonderfully uncomfortable almost straight 8th groove that nevertheless swings a bit, that John Hiatt used on “Thing Called Love.” My point is that having everyone playing more or less the same feel enhances the recording, and I feel a disconnect between the different feels of Gretch’s guitar and the drum track.
I like Gretch’s voice, the way she uses harmonies and her guitar skills. I also like the song. None of the above suggestions were intended to denigrate what she’s accomplished in any way. My goal is to point out some things that might have been overlooked and to suggest that becoming more familiar with the way that other musicians play might help with future recordings, even if she continues to do her own programming.
I think this recording (and her earlier contribution, “Hi, My Name Is”) feels more like a band song than those presented by a singer/songwriter—the two require different approaches.
As Marty Peters said in his comments on her earlier song, I wish Gretch much success in her future, and I look forward to hearing her next recording!
Dave Martin is a producer, engineer and bassist. Dave owned Nashville’s Java Jive Studio for close to 25 years. Dave has recorded, produced and/or played with symphony orchestras, rock and roll icons and country music legends ranging from the Old Crow Medicine Show, The Dead Pickers Society, Porter Wagoner, Robben Ford, Billy Cobham, The Box Tops, Carl Verheyen, Richie Faulkner (Judas Priest), Adrian Belew, Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), Eric Johnson, Robbie Fulks, Steve Vai, The Coasters and others. Dave is also a member of the Western Swing Hall of Fame.