Once again, Lisa Casalino found herself in a recording studio, staring at a microphone, hoping to capture the musical magic that escaped her a decade ago.
In the NOLA Studios atop New York City's Steinway Building, a place where legends have recorded, she stood in a sound booth brimming with excitement.
In her efforts lies a primer for any aspiring musician who wants to take the complex step of producing a CD.
Casalino — a local singer who regularly performs at Love's Artifacts Bar & Grill, Timpano Italian Chophouse, GrillSmith and the Belleaire Country Club — had gone into the studio once before. Her effort 10 years ago left her less than happy.
"I really didn't know who I was musically," Casalino said. "I wasn't really proud of how it came out. I didn't shop it. It turned out to be a big waste of time and money."
This time would be sweeter, Casalino promised herself. This time, she's confident of having found her musical niche: jazz standards.
Four years ago, she walked away from her jobs teaching and selling real estate to become a jazz soloist.
The new approach brought attention and a growing number of gigs, beginning with small audiences at nursing homes and broadening to popular spots such as 717 South and the Venue.
As she gained fans, they began to ask for CDs. Casalino realized she needed a calling card to show her talents and open more doors.
So she invested $11,000 from her savings to cover studio time, talent, artwork and promotions.
"I wanted a real record with real musicians," she said. "I wanted to change things around and do my own arrangements. I just needed to have something that I could be proud of."
Casalino partnered with Nate Najar, a skilled local jazz guitarist who offered to help. The six-month process began in January with discussing the music, then selecting standards and penning originals.
Najar handled arrangements and found musicians for the two-day recording session. Casalino was effusive in her praise.
"It's important to work with people who enjoy working with you," Casalino said. "You need people who have your vision and people who care about you enough to steer you in the right direction.
The moment of truth came on June 6 in the studio. As she prepared to record the first of 12 songs, the engineer needed a sound check and asked her to sing a few bars. Anything.
"I couldn't think of a single song," said Casalino, whose real last name is Hertzner. "And then I started singing, You'll never know how much I miss you.
"The piano player started playing along, and then the bass player joined in. They all started playing with me in the key I was singing in."
At that moment, she knew this CD would be better.
That's all I'm saying.