The clock is ticking. As I mentioned in this week’s email, the end of the year is so close I can taste it. And the irony for me has been that these last few weeks have been really tough from a creative standpoint. All year long, I’ve thought that if I could just make it to the final ten songs, I’d breeze my way to the finish. Not quite.
This week brings us one of the year’s longest songs. It started - as they most often do – early Sunday morning at the acoustic guitar. The first parts to come were the opening chords and lyrics, ‘I ain’t all that old now, but I know that I ain’t young’. I think that first session ended with the first two verses roughed together and a melody idea for the chorus. Over the next few days and writing sessions, I worked out the rest of the music and began focusing on lyrics. I settled on the theme of a searching of sorts and of not finding what it is you’re seeking in the places you might have expected.
Lyrically, the biggest challenge turned out to be the chorus. I played with a number of ideas, but really wasn’t until Wednesday evening that that got settled. At that point, I needed to figure out how to end the song and after some playing around (I believe it was early Thursday) I wrote the whole schoolyard thing in the final verse.
With the lyrics in place, I actually started recording Thursday night. I thought I’d keep the production simple, so I figured I could get a good jump and maybe even come close to finishing. (Remember, I’m a hopeful guy.) Well that’s when the fun started. My voice just wasn’t cooperating and after a while I realized I needed to transpose the song down if there was to be any hope of getting it finished. In the end, I dropped it a whole step from where I’d been playing it all week.
Thursday night’s recording ended with several passes on the acoustic guitar (in the lower key) and two takes on the vocals. Two takes was all I could get. Aside from losing the high end of my range, I’ve been getting a scratchiness that is most apparent as I’m trailing off a note. Generally the first take is passable but after that it gets bad fast. By the third take or so, it’s almost unusable (I think). This is sad considering I’ve done eight or nine takes in a single session for some of this year’s songs. Thankfully, the night left me with something to listen to while coming and going in the car on Friday which did result in a few additional tweaks to the lyrics.
I settled in late Friday to try to wrap it up and focused primarily on additional instruments. Thursday had been limited to acoustic guitars and I knew it needed more. I played around with some ideas. The most significant addition to the song for me was the drum track. It was significant because it changed the feel. Thursday night’s scratch vocal had been recorded with a simple click track banging out quarter notes. Having the drums in there now meant my singing would need (or want) to be a little different.
Now you must be wondering why I’m sharing all of this silly detail? Well, when I went to record the final vocal track Saturday morning (I was too tired Friday night), my voice just wouldn’t hold up. And so in the end, I was in a position of needing to use some of Thursday night’s recordings and some of Saturday morning’s. Unfortunately, a couple of the parts I needed to use from Thursday night (particularly from the chorus) didn’t quite feel right. I think it was mostly because (as I said) I didn’t have that drum track going as I recorded. In the end, I slipped, slid and did just about everything else I could to comp together a passable vocal. I had no other options with my looming deadline.
And that was it. I hope you enjoyed Returning. Once I figured out what it was about, it turned out to be a meaningful song to me. It’s funny how that happens.
And with that, we move on. Just seven songs left. Can you believe it? What I believe is that I will be calling a doctor this week. I just need to get on top of this vocal thing. Thanks so much for following along and for going the extra mile of reading this blog with its often excruciating detail. Have a great week!