October 5, and not yet 12 hours after Zara McFarlane has returned from her most recent trip to Jamaica, we’re in studio 1A at RAK Studios in London, England – getting ready for a very special 30-minute live set being broadcast in real time – in studio master quality – to multiple locations around the world. This is history in the making and a technological first.
It’s an unusually warm and sunny day for early October – especially in London. It feels a lot more like early summer than the middle of fall – but we’ll take it. We hop off the tube at St. John’s Wood station and walk towards RAK studios. As we arrive, the history of the place immediately begins to set in.
The walls are covered with awards for recordings by some of music’s biggest names. Even a quick trip to the ‘loo’ finds any available hallway space covered with mementoes of iconic songs that are burned into our collective memories. There’s even a vintage Wurlitzer Americana sitting in a corner – just begging to be played.
As Spencer Chrislu – MQA’s content director – checks mic’s and begins fine tuning the massive mixing board’s sea of knobs and dials – Zara and her bandmates begin arriving, catching up and unpacking their gear. Wearing a long and bright mustard yellow coat, the sun, it seems has definitely followed Zara back from Jamaica.
To warm themselves up, Zara and the band run through the entire set, giving Spencer and his team the chance to finesse the recording and broadcasting equipment just perfectly for the main event. As the sound check wraps up, we go for a short break before taking places.
It’s one thing to witness a live performance up close. It’s another altogether to be one of a handful of people inside one of the worlds best-recording studios, getting a near 1:1 performance sitting 10 feet from the band.
The set kicks off with ‘Peace Begins Within’ – a fresh cover of Nora Dean’s 1971 Jamaican original and then moves through the majestic and harmonic ‘Pride,’ the funk-and-ska vibe of ‘Freedom Chain,’ the smooth and rich feel of ‘In Between Worlds,’ and the solo bass and vocal scatting exchange of ‘Allies and Enemies.’ The set then wraps up with the reggae-fueled ‘Fussin’ and Fightin’ – giving us an intimate tour of the deep range of sounds and emotions Zara’s explored in her new album Arise.
To read Zara's full interview with Bluesound visit: here