Assembling a holiday album from scratch involves a lot more than having people sing about Santa Claus, Rudolph, eggnog and frigid temperatures and hitting the record button.
Especially when the artists are as varied as Jamie Farr, a jazz orchestra, a swing band, acoustic singer-songwriters, TV news personalities and former “American Idol” stars, and the tracks are recorded in studios around the country.
“The most challenging part would be getting everything to sound good from track to track,” said recording engineer Matt Feher, who had his hand on all 25 tracks of the Make-A-Wish Foundation benefit CD “Holiday Wishes.”
“We had so many different sources of material. Some of it came off CDs, some of it was recorded live, some of the stuff sounded like people were talking in boxes, some of it had room noise in it,” Feher said. “Getting everything homogenized was probably the toughest part.”
Feher, a Toledo Free Press Star writer under the moniker Mighty Wyte, was approached in August by Toledo Free Press Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller about being involved with the holiday album.
Feher has worked as a composer of music used in TV shows, movies and video games for the past 12 years. He works out of his home studio in Point Place.
“I volunteered right off the bat to master the whole thing,” Feher said. “That’s a critical part of any kind of album production, and it’s really one of the things that gets overlooked the most. For an album on this scale, you didn’t want anyone picking up this album at Panera Bread and putting it on in their car and going, ‘What the …? Somebody do this in their basement?’”
Christopher Stoll, co-owner of Zeta Recording in Holland, also played a significant role in making sure there were no “basement” comments from listeners.
Stoll, who has been recording music since 1986 and now teaches music recording at Owens Community College, was in charge of recording, mixing and mastering eight tracks for the album.
Although Stoll has recorded everything from avant-garde bands to classical concerts to Crystal Bowersox’s demo before she headed to Hollywood for “American Idol,” the Make-A-Wish album proved a unique challenge.
“These kind of things are hard because you have all these different styles of music — how do you get them to sound consistent — and it comes down to the mastering,” Stoll said. “All of the songs are just so different, so it is tricky. There’s a million variables. Usually I mix some stuff and I let the band hear it, and we make a decision.”
Feher was impressed with what Stoll was able to do in the studio. Though the two musical engineers have been doing much of the same work in a relatively small market, they had never met.
“Chris Stoll, all the stuff he recorded, he delivered mastered, which was amazing,” Feher said. “He did a fantastic job.”
Both Stoll and Feher said they were honored to be involved with the philanthropic musical effort.
“I was definitely honored to be a part of the whole thing,” Stoll said. “Once you get into these things, you’re never sure what to expect. Everyone I got to work with was totally awesome and people that I’d never worked with. It was pretty exciting.”
“I feel exceptionally blessed that [Miller] asked me to do it. It turned out to be so amazing,” Feher said. “The quality is amazing; the work that everyone put in is just stunning. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of in the 12 years I’ve been in this business. I’m excited to see how well it does, and how much we can help Make-A-Wish.”
For Stoll, one of the most endearing parts of the process was seeing the children from Make-A-Wish come to his studio and help Jeff Stewart sing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
“They bring all the kids in, and you see the impact the music has on the kids, you get that lump in your throat,” he said. “It was pretty powerful stuff.”