And so the countdown begins. The final ten songs of 52 in 52. Hard to believe the end is so close, especially considering the way it’s felt these last few weeks. I don’t know if it’s the busyness of family life, the emotion spent on the Red Sox post-season or simply the shorter days, but I’ve been worn out. It’s been a tough month of songwriting. I guess it’s just been a long year.
This week’s song started at what has become Old Faithful for me - my acoustic guitar. In strumming around for ideas, I soon settled into what would become the chorus melody and chord progression. And as best as I can remember, those first lines of the chorus popped out with the music - ‘Red, blue, black, white, the bullshit on the air tonight’. The subject matter doesn’t surprise me given the shenanigans in Washington over the last month and the 24/7 attention given to it by news and talks shows that just seems to fuel it all. It really bothered me (and most people I know) quite a bit. So I happily latched onto the lyric idea and ran with it.
It didn’t take too long to develop chord progressions and melodies that seemed to work and from that point, as happened last week, it became all about the lyrics. There was a good deal of wordsmithing as the week went on (the lyrics of this year’s songs rarely feel finished) but the biggest struggle for me turned out to be whether to include ‘bullshit’ in the chorus. I’m not opposed to using swears in my songs and this one certainly was fun to sing, because it was exactly what I felt. But I was hesitant. I have some young followers. I went back and forth in my mind for a few days and in the end, changed it to ‘the crap that’s on the air tonight’. Was it the right decision? Does it water down the emotion of the song? I’m not sure. And if I’d had another day, the pendulum might have swung back and I might have left it in.
There were a couple of other challenges aside from wrestling with curse words. The biggest turned out to be settling on a key. I’ve have some sort of throat issue going on and it’s messing up my upper vocal range. It could be a mild cold or an allergy but I’m not sure because otherwise I don’t have any symptoms. We’ll have to keep an eye on it. What this meant for me was that I worked on Twenty Four Seven in one key the entire week only to realize at some point on Friday that I was going to have trouble hitting the high notes in the bridge when it came time to record it. In the end, I dropped the song’s key a whole step which – after days of working in the higher key – felt funny. But I guess that’s par for the chorus in the world of songwriting.
I also had fun technical scare. I use Pro Tools software. I’ve been running version 9 (v9) all year. Although I purchased the upgrade to v10 last spring (and v11 too but that’s another story), I’ve been nervous about upgrading. I just didn’t want to mess with a system that was working and create any sort of hardware/software interface problems. Well as it so happens, I have a backup copy of Pro Tools on my laptop (in addition to the more powerful workstation that I use). I’ve been thinking for a while that I could do the initial upgrade to v10 on my laptop (since I’ve purchased it) and start playing with it. In doing so, I could keep my workstation going with v9 until this year is complete. It seemed like a reasonable plan and so this week I made the leap.
Without getting into too many technical details around how Pro Tools software is authorized with the iLok USB key, let me just say that by authorizing Pro Tools 10 on my laptop, I essentially deauthorized Pro Tools 9 on my workstation. I suddenly had zero functionality on the system I’ve been using all year. Yikes! I had assumed that (like most of the professional video editing software I use) authorizing a new version of the software allows you to continue running any older versions of it. This is often the case to ensure that you can open old projects. Not so with Pro Tools.
In the end, I spent a few panic stricken hours as I uninstalled Pro Tools 9 from my computer workstation, installed Pro Tools 10 and began checking some of this year’s 43 projects to be sure they would open. With a little trial and error (mostly involving some of my third party plugins) I got it all working. And I have to say, Pro Tools 10 behaved like a champ the rest of the week as I finished up Twenty Four Seven. The clip gain function alone made the awful stress worth it.
As for the actual recording of this week’s track, it was going to be kept simple but I found myself with a few extra hours late in the week (a cancelled video edit job). I took advantage of the extra time to flesh things out a bit early 52 in 52 style with drums, bass, multiple guitars and vocal harmonies. It was actually enjoyable having some weekday hours to play around with it. I can’t really say that the midnight and 5am sessions with looming deadlines are all that fun.
And that brings us to the end of week 43. I hope you enjoyed Twenty Four Seven. Thanks again for following and have a great week!