I was in the TV studio all day yesterday producing and playing on a demo project for my friend Robert Moore. It was a quintet with Carlton Jackson, Eli Reisman and Glen Moore. There is nothing that saps your creative energy more than having six TV cameras in your face and a bunch of studio lighting baking your head. I've done it quite a bit by now and I still hate it. Robert had never done a full-on TV shoot before. He said that he's had some good times in the recording studio (obviously since he has some very nice recordings out) but this time wasn't one of them. The guy who put up the bread for the session came down and brought a case of wine from his winery, so we had a fully lubricated live studio audience. I really don't know how anyone ever feels fully comfortable in a studio environment. Of course a TV studio is even worse than a sound studio, as far as technical issues slowing down the creative process. All told there were nine people on the crew. Everything went fairly smooth as far as the studio was concerned, but Robert just couldn't relax. I pretty felt bad for him, but I also felt bad for myself because I felt the same way about my playing.
It's hard to be thinking about technical issues like lighting, camera angles, and sound quality one minute and then all of a sudden switch gears and have to be relaxed and creative. I have always have this problem every time I go into the studio. Because of this I never have had a really good recording of myself that I'm happy with.
My philosophy now is this; I just assume that I am going to play my absolute worst every time I get into the studio. I just have to get prepared enough so that my worst playing will be adequate for the recording. When I got a digital studio set up in my basement I was finally able to relax more because I knew that I could record a track two hundred times and not be paying through the nose for it. Most musicians play best on the first or second takes of something. Not me, I'm usually just getting warmed up by the tenth take. Not so good if you're paying fifty bucks or more an hour.
How you deal with this problem?