Jon Cohen Music

Producer Arranger Composer

wives

We did it!

chart
Well, the aliens didn’t arrive to buy up the competition.
We did it!
Not only Christmas number one, but also the biggest selling single for a few years (over 550,000 in one week).
This really is a fantastic achievement for the choir (especially given the fact that they didn’t exist a few months ago!)

I’ve been fortunate enough to experience successful records before, but never one quite like this.
The degree to which this has captured the hearts of the public is just amazing. It’s hard to think of a more worthy Christmas number one, ever (ok..Maybe LiveAid).

There are two interesting questions which now emerge:

1) How many will it go on to sell?
Getting the number one is totally amazing, but I’m hoping this will continue. I’m hoping that not everyone who buys a copy of Wherever You Are will already have done so.
It would be so amazing if we could get up to 750,000 or day I say it a million? The point is that every record sold, puts money into the hands of SSAFA and The Royal British Legion, both of whom make a real difference to the lives of those who serve or have served in the forces, and their families.
I’m really hoping that the publicity generated by achieving the top spot in the chart will propel the record on to further sales and more money for the two charities.

2) What next?
The obvious move now, would be for us to do an album. There would be sizeable logistical obstacles to overcome, but surely such a huge hit single demands a follow up album?
I’m sharpening my tools just in case the call comes.
Now wouldn’t that be fun?
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To count or not to count?....

Unknown
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Put another way; Don’t be premature in positively evaluating your assets.
Or,
Don’t
just assume you have a number one record at Christmas when the race is not yet fully run.

But seriously...
Three hundred thousand singles sold in two days...
That’s 1.74 singles every second.
It’s a tower of CDs one and half kilometres high.
Laid end to end, the CD singles would stretch for 42 kilometres.
If you tried to lift them all at once they would weigh around 18,000 kg (ok Smartie, the downloads weigh less and take up less room...)

The last time a single sold this quickly, Blair and Bush were in power, the economy was booming and Big Brother attracted audience figures in
actual double digits or more.

It’s looking pretty good.

Yes, I suppose it is conceivable that aliens from a distant world may land between now and the end of business on Saturday (the point up to which the weekly chart is calculated). They may be possessed of a love for TV game show winners.
I suppose if there are enough of them, and providing they remembered to buy some local currency before setting off, (Pounds by the way, NO EUROS) then maybe victory might be cruelly snatched from within our grasp, and Little Mix may retain their position at number one.

It ain’t over until the (perfectly normally sized and obviously not wanting to stigmatise those of any particular physical proportions) lady sings.

We can’t
really celebrate a number one until we actually have one.

Still, I’m seriously proud of Gareth, the wonderful wives and everything we’ve done together.


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And They're Off!...

AndTheyreOff

It’s a curious and slightly painful moment when you hand over a finished record to the record company. As a producer, you control every aspect of how a record is made, from putting the budget together at the start, to deciding on every nuance and detail of the mix at the end, and every creative detail in between. How loud should the lead vocal be? How much reverb (echo) should the piano have? Should the whole mix be louder, softer or more or less dynamic? Does that guitar part work after all, or shall we leave it off?

In the studio, the producer is like a director on a film set. The buck stops with you. If the record turns out rubbish, it’s your fault. If it turns out well, you take a degree of credit (not all, but some). But throughout the process, you’re in control, central to the recording’s existence.
Once the record is finished, the master is delivered to the record company and everything changes. Your work is now done, and the focus shifts to those who are responsible for promotion and marketing.

This transition from a central role to a largely irrelevant bystander, represents a loss of control and involvement which can be quite a wrench. For me, this is especially so in cases where the record has been more emotionally significant than usual. Perhaps it’s been a long and drawn out creative process, or a labour of love, or perhaps just an artist I care deeply about.

This next phase in the process is sometimes referred to as Setting the record up. This means creating a public buzz about the record through newspapers, radio, TV and the internet. No matter how good a record is, if nobody knows about it, it wont sell.
A successful release needs (a) LOADS of exposure and (b) to be good (or at least to have something about it that people like and connect with).

Only with both of these boxes ticked (and a fair wind) can any record become a hit.

The producer’s role in setting the record up is usually minimal. Possibly I’ll be called on to prepare a shortened version for a TV appearance. Sometimes I’ll go along to the TV studio to consult on the sound mix or some technical aspect. Occasionally I’ll board a newly returned naval sub.

Then finally, the day of release comes.

The record is unleashed into the wild to survive or die, like a new bird leaving the nest.

At this point, nobody has any control over what happens. Everything has been done to ensure that the record sounds as good as possible. Everything has been done to ensure that it’s had the maximum possible exposure and promotion. The next stage is both decisive, and simple. Does the record connect with the public?

If not, then like the vast majority or releases, the record will have a brief life on the shelves before quietly disappearing.
This can be so heartbreaking after weeks or months of supreme effort and care.
But when it does connect, wonderful things can happen.
It’s the most exhilarating and incredible feeling to be involved with a hit record.
Knowing that you’ve played a part in creating something which moves people to want to own it, is like no other feeling.
It’s like riding a wave. You know it will eventually fade away, but those moments, held aloft by momentum are just amazing.

So, here we are.

The Military Wives single is in the shops from tomorrow. (It’s been available to download today and is currently no. 1 on iTunes, which is encouraging.)

This week will determine whether or not we secure the much coveted Christmas Number One spot.

It’s simply all about the numbers. If we sell enough, the number one is ours (to be announced on Christmas Day).
If not, then this year’s X- Factor winners (and current number one), Little Mix, will hold on for another week at the top to claim the prize.

I’m feeling quietly confident (William Hill just slashed the odds to 1/8), but we’re not there yet.

Every single copy of Wherever You Are sold, will make a difference to the lives of those helped by The Royal British Legion and SSAFA Forces Help
Think I’ll head to the shops tomorrow to buy some errrr.. nice sounding Xmas presents. : - )

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Guest blog


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Military Wives Choir member Claire Balneaves on what the choir has meant to her.



It was November, when the letterbox rattled. My 5 month old son was napping, husband was at work.
The leaflet stated that production company twentytwenty were looking to film a documentary with the Bafta award winning Gareth Malone, who would start up a choir to ‘show the world that the wives and girlfriends of Royal Marines Barracks Chivenor have the talent, character and community spirit to produce a truly fantastic choir; whilst their husbands and partners are serving on Operations in Afghanistan that we can all be proud of.’

My initial reaction was, “ A documentary here in sleepy North Devon? Wow but no thank you!”
Invasion of cameras in my family life was not for me, or so I thought. I slept on it and my longing to be able to sing started to take over. I had always been told I was tone deaf by my older brother, yet it was my dream to be able to sing. I had never sung in front of anyone, my audience was normally the shower head, bubbles in the bath or the car windscreen turning up the stereo to ensure my voice was drowned out even thought I was singing at the top of my voice. Could I do it? Would I ever get an opportunity to learn to sing like this ever again?

My husband is a Royal Navy Medical Assistant. This would be his second tour in Afghanistan. The first was very worrying and scary, but I had work to take my mind of it and thankfully apart from a very close shave with a bullet, he came home with only a small scar. Now, he was gearing up to go back out on Op Herrick 14. An uneasy silence descended on our house, the endless waiting for deployment day loomed, the inevitable delays and changes to dates happened. Then as quick as it was long, he was gone, off to work with random strangers, to have their lives in his hands and equally his in theirs.

When he left our son was 8 months old, had just started crawling, he wouldn’t know what was happening but I would. I would see his developments and curse this deployment, wondering if my husband knew what he was missing back home.

And then it started; rehearsals for the choir. I nervously went along to the first one with the view that I wouldn’t like it or I would be found to be tone deaf and sent home. It never happened, I loved it. Every week, twice a week I dutifully went along and had a good old sing song. It was hard work and quite often monotonous, but what was happening within the Choir far outweighed the negatives, and we actually sounded good!

Suddenly Chivenor was alight with new friendships being made, practices around each other’s houses, the occasional bottle of wine being shared, helping each other out when someone was in a pickle, a good old fashioned community had emerged.

The tour was still hard for those of us left behind. The constant worry, the wondering if he will manage to phone, the avoidance of the news in dreaded fear of hearing that someone was being given the worst news possible, and the guilt when someone was, that it wasn’t you. However, now I had people who were in the same boat as me, who I could ring up and say I’m having a bad day and they would understand, people I could share my highs and lows with on a daily basis and this was all down to the choir.

We had shared experiences that many people would not have understood, the nerves, standing waiting for your turn to go on stage, having a TV camera shoved in your faces when you have tears streaming because of a particular lyric or tune asking you for your thoughts. Time seemed to pass quickly when we were rehearsing and on the occasions when we were on a filming break the weeks dragged by, we started pinning for the normality of choir rehearsals.

Suddenly the Regiments and our loved ones started coming back, mucking up our routines, making the house untidy, taking over the remote control, and who could I tell that would understand? My other family, my choir ladies of course.

Who would have imagined 8 months ago that I would have been part of a choir who have sung at Sandhurst Officer Training Academy, or performed at the Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall in front of the Queen and Royal Family. Not only that, as I sit here and write this The Choir are releasing a single, which has a very good chance of reaching Christmas number 1, with a song composed especially for us.

More importantly for me, this choir has given me that ‘old fashioned’ sense of community. It’s brought me together with other women I can rely on, and who I can honestly say, will be friends for life, whether they want to or not. It has also given us the platform at last to stand up and declare to the whole world that ‘We are Military families and we are proud to support our loved ones, wherever they are,’ something that we don’t often get the chance to do.






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Sub-Sonics

subPic

In my line of work, sonic integrity is everything. The essence of a good recording is to capture the nuances and details of the performer in a way that brings them to life before a listener.
This is generally achieved with the use of very expensive recording equipment and a well chosen recording space. The Military Wives Choir record was made at Air Studios in London (which I believe to be the best sounding room anywhere in the world) and literally hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of high end microphones, preamps and recording equipment were deployed in the process.

Yesterday, I was privileged to lead a small contingent from the Military Wives Choir onto the submarine HMS Turbulent to welcome home the crew after a nine month deployment. The task, to welcome home the crew (including the final husband of a choir member to return) by performing Wherever You Are in the control room of the sub.
On boarding the boat (note: “boat” and not “ship”) I learned that our musical accompaniment was to be played on an ipod connected to....the cheapest lowest quality set of iPod speakers I’ve ever come across. You know, the sort which is a brand name you’ve never heard of, is worryingly light and probably comes free with tokens from two boxes of Rice Krispies. This was the first hurdle.
To appreciate the second hurdle, consider that millions of pounds have been spent in order to create the acoustic environment in a submarine which is least likely to betray their position to any potential foes listening for their presence.
Sophisticated sonic damping and and the sheer density of material and people in the space made for a very uninspiring acoustic
In short, this was the worst sounding performance venue known to mankind.

As the music issued from the horrible, tinny and distorted iPod speakers, the ladies began singing. By half way through the song, we had switched off the music (so horrible and inadequate was it’s timbre). I’m proud to say that even in these most challenging of conditions, (and singing a capella with only about ten percent of the choir present!) the women did themselves and their choir-mates proud. They stayed perfectly in key (often unaccompanied singers will drift gradually out of tune) and the performance was heartfelt and engaging (even more so for the fact that Victoria Forth (front left above) was singing directly to her husband Tim after not seeing him for so long).

It was a fantastic day and the subsequent media coverage of the event has also been very gratifying.

We now have just over three days until the single is released. If we can keep up this momentum, we might just have a real chance at getting that Christmas number one!
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Record Breaking Record

broken_recordOk..So we’re a week before releasing and today Amazon issued a press release saying that Wherever You Are by The Military Wives Choir is “..the most pre-ordered music product of all time at Amazon.co.uk”
This record has had three times as many pre-orders as the previous record-holder ‘Progress’ by Take That.
This is already the best selling single of all time on Amazon.co.uk, and the record hasn’t even been released yet.
We’re setting our sights on No.1 for Christmas and with a fair wind we might just get there!
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Public and Media reaction to the record

Paper
Now who would have thought it?
I mean, a bunch of amazing, inspiring women from a successful TV series, singing a beautifully crafted song with words straight from the heart , recorded in the best studio in the world (by a half decent producer of course) and championed by the most influential radio DJ in the country seems to have gained some traction with the public.

But seriously, the reaction to Wherever You Are is unlike anything I’ve seen before.
I really think this says something about the public: People know something genuine when they see it.
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Producing the Military Wives Choir

military wives choirRecording Paul Mealor’s touching song Wherever You Are, was one of the most rewarding and moving projects of my career so far. Those who followed the BBC series The Choir Military Wives will know that the song was composed using actual letters from the choir members to their partners and husbands who were serving abroad (mainly in Afghanistan).
This added a poignancy and depth to the song rarely found in music nowadays, whilst still remaining on the safe side of schmaltzy or over-sentimental.

This profound connection between lyrics and those singing them was palpable in the room whilst we recorded, and even more evident when we all gathered at the end of the recording session to listen to what we’d done. Not that many in the room could remain dry-eyed (me included!) The hugely talented Gareth Malone has done an amazing job of moulding these women into a really lovely sounding ensemble with a well blended sound and accessible tone.
I know I’m biased, but I think the record sounds great!
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