Studio Sessions | Arsenio Archer details Summer Walker's introverted style of making 'Last Day Of Summer'
Few people outside of Summer Walker, herself, know what goes into the making of a Summer Walker song. Arsenio Archer is one of those few people.
For “Studios Sessions,” we delve into the stories behind the long hours in the studio and all that goes into making an album by talking with artists, producers, engineers, photographers, and more who are intimately connected to the recording process with some of the biggest artists in the world. These are the stories that rarely leave the booth.
Few people outside of Summer Walker, herself, know what goes into the making of a Summer Walker song. Arsenio Archer is one of those few people. He’s the 25-year-old Atlanta native who only started producing professionally six years before receiving his first platinum plaque for his work on Summer’s career-expanding song “Girls Need Love.”
“She’s very introverted. I would play something or lay something down, and we would have to leave the room so she could record herself,” Archer told REVOLT TV with a slight chuckle. “When she was done or was ready, then we’d have to go back in and hear what she got.”
On this edition of Studio Sessions, Archer invites us into those closed sessions by sharing his reaction to Drake remixing “Girls Need Love,” how much control Summer likes over her recording, and the magic she’s made from a voice note.
How did you link with Summer Walker?
Her manager at the time, in 2017, had seen me making beats and told me, ‘Hey, I have this artist. I think you both would be really dope together. She happens to have the same name as me.’ I was like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s interesting.’ I didn’t believe her. But, she really sold me. Sometime right after that, we had gone to [Summer’s] apartment in Marietta, Georgia.
What were those first sessions like?
Summer is definitely more to herself. She’s very introverted. I would play something or lay something down, and we would have to leave the room so she could record herself (laughs). When she was done or was ready, then we’d have to go back in and hear what she had. I left my computer at her house for a few days and she told us that she had recorded a bunch of songs to a couple of beats on the computer. When we came back, they were like little gifts.
Were any of those ‘gifts’ released?
Yeah, I would say ‘Girls Need Love,’ ‘BP’ and ‘Deep.’ We knew she was recording herself. Summer is just really to herself. So, literally, it’s like a surprise.
You produced or co-produced on nine of the twelve songs on the Last Day Of Summer album. How long did it take for that album to be made?
From probably late 2017 – summer 2018 for the actual songs to be recorded. But, the mixing and all of that took us a while to finish.
How did ‘Girls Need Love’ evolve?
She kind of had a rough arrangement of the song. She had the verse and we were trying to figure out what was going to be the chorus. Eventually, we decided to make two different choruses. We just extended one part. So, we had to leave the room and she added some more harmonies, and layers to it. It all happened in one afternoon. She records herself and would record herself at night.
So, you had ‘Girls Need Love’ for roughly a year before it came out in July 2018. Did you know it was going to be what it became?
We knew that we had something. We didn’t know it was going to be this smash, of course. We knew that we had something, for sure.
When did you know Drake was hopping on the remix?
My manager hit me up about a week or two before that and said it might happen or it might not. I totally forgot about it. Then, he hit me up on a Monday morning like, ‘Bro, it came.’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about? Did I get a package or something?’ Then, he said it a second time. He was like, ‘Bro, it came.’ I was like, ‘Oh shit.’ I lost my mind. My daughter and girlfriend were right next to me. I was flipping out. Jumping all over the house. That’s my first platinum plaque.
Have you and Summer talked about the remix?
Summer and I haven’t talked about the remix yet (laughs). It just kind of happened. We haven’t really had time to link up. It’s been tour stuff and working on a few things here or there. So, we really haven’t had time to sit down and talk about it.
Has her recording process changed at all?
Nah, it’s exactly the same. She still records herself at her place. I think she moved to Vegas and she has set up there. She emails or texts me little voice notes of what she’s recorded. Then, she sends me the session.
That sort of recording process is different from the traditional setup. How do you give her notes that way?
For the most part, there aren’t any notes. What Summer does the first time is usually it. Then, I’ll go behind her and add some post-production, and when she hears that, then she knows I have to go in and tweak these parts. But, more or less, the first demo is the vision of the song.
This was recorded in her house. Paint me a picture of what her studio setup is like.
Her studio was empty. She had a small desk and a chair. I had my little speakers, Yamaha HS5 on speaker stands, and my interface, and a computer. It was a big empty room. I think to help with the treatment, she would put a blanket over the window. She would also record under a blanket because it would be really echoey. You can hear the echo in ‘Deep’ for sure.
For a couple of songs, we had to take out the sound of her smoke detector beeping (laughs). It was beeping, for sure, in ‘I’m There.’ I’m sure there were a few others that I can’t remember.
How else did that DIY vibe effect the final version of the album?
It’s really like a tapestry. One of the singles she has, ‘Session 32,’ she recorded on a voice memo. It was just her and the guitarist. They had laid bass afterward. I had to sync it up to the recording. That was just voice memo. That just adds a whole ‘nother texture and side to it. If everything was well-produced and tightly recorded, it might have not resonated as well.
Did she redo the vocals of ‘Session 32’?
So, those vocals that we hear on that song now are from voice memos?
That’s impressive. When you were making beats for Last Day of Summer, what was your inspiration?
It was more playing off of each other. I would give her little ideas and she would bounce it back to me. It was that back and forth. It really wasn’t a precise, ‘Hey I want this sound.’ It was just, ‘Let’s explore and see what we got.’ I’d make the beats right in front of her.
How did you put the album together? You say Summer’s very introverted with the making of her music. What was the process of picking out the songs?
She already knew which songs she wanted and which songs she wanted to leave really rough, and sounding like a demo. We had the tracklisting already. So, we would just go in and clean it up. We would figure out how long a certain song should be or when a song should cut off. I think the tracklisting was one of the last things that we did. But, we had a general idea of the pace and flow of the album.
The fascinating thing about Summer is that she’s very introverted, yet, she’s also very transparent with her lyrics. When you listened to personal songs in sessions with her, what do you think you learned about her?
When she’s in the process of making a song, she definitely knows what she wants because she’s so personal in the song, she gets really married to the ideas really quickly. So, she’ll get demo-itis really quickly. So, it would be pretty tough to suggest something new. But, that’s a testament to Summer’s creative process and how she approaches her songwriting.
What song on the album was the quickest to make?
‘Deep.’ That was the quickest. She had recorded a little idea over a quick scratch beat that I had. But, I just quickly flipped it to something really bare and really minimal. That took 30 minutes.
When you look back at the tracklist of Last Day of Summer, what song has the most memories?
I would have to say ‘Karma.’ The process for that whole song was just different. To me, that’s the biggest song on there. It’s a really big ballad. It slows to a crawl at the end, but it still keeps your attention. The way we made it was so wild (laughs). We actually had it pitched up, crazy, changing her voice. I actually have that version. But, in the end, we ended up stripping it all back and keeping her natural voice.
**When the album was submitted to the label (LVRN), did it give you notes?
Nah, we just bought it to the label finished (laughs). We had the order, the tracklisting, everything. This is it.
The album came out October 19, 2018. How long before the album came out did you hand it in?
It wasn’t too far off from the actual release date. I want to say maybe within a month’s time.
Are y’all back to recording?
Yeah, we’ve been back in the studio. But, she’s in a comfort zone recording, herself, back in her crib. When she was moving to Vegas, she was at the LVRN studio here in Atlanta. So, we would link in the studio and make a few songs. Now, she’s back recording in Vegas.
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