Week 9 - Santa Monica

Wow!  Our last week in the single digits.  Moving right along, aren’t we?  So, here’s the nitty gritty on Santa Monica

It all started last weekend with a little strumming pattern on the acoustic guitar.  I was using a capo set fairly high.  (For those of you who aren’t familiar with the guitar, a capo clips across the strings to raise the overall pitch of the instrument.  I had it at the 9th fret making the strings sound almost an octave higher than they otherwise would.  This can really change the feel and character of whatever you’re playing.)

While fiddling around with the simple two chords that open the song, I started humming the melody and after a short while, the first two lines popped out - ‘I went walking late last night…Down Montana, the moon was bright’.  Montana?!?  Where did that come from?  Our brains and their associations can be so funny and it’s never more evident to me than when I’m writing songs.  ‘Montana’ just popped out.  When I was in Santa Monica last year, we stayed in a neighborhood right off of Montana which is one of the city’s main roads leading up to the Pacific.  I guess something in this little chord/melody vibe I was playing with put me back there.

Once the Santa Monica connection came along, I ran with it.  I knew I had someone taking a late night walk to think about (of course) a relationship.  At that point, it became fun taking this virtual stroll in my mind and adding the various geographic references, including ‘Euclid’ in the third verse.  (It’s another street in Santa Monica.)  Who’d have ever thought I’d use ‘Euclid’ in a song?

Story wise, I imagined the couple as transplants to Santa Monica with her ready to leave California and go back home.  Early versions of the lyrics had him returning to the apartment and telling her he’d changed his mind and decided to go with her.  But in the end, I had the pull of the city and its connection to his following his dreams keeping him there.  As with all of these ’52 in 52’ songs, I wish I had had more time to tweak and play with the lyrics.  But alas, it wasn’t to be.

Musically, it was a fun week (even if a bit detrimental to my sleep).  I kept the song simple - drums, bass and electric guitar – but spent a lot of time playing with reverb and delays.  I learned quite a bit.  For those of you unfamiliar with recording technology, once you’ve recorded a sound, you can apply effects to it.  Each of these effects might have a dozen parameters that you can play around with and tweak.  As you start to layer multiple effects on a single sound, the possibilities truly become endless.  The danger in all of this is that it’s very easy to go too far and make mush.  I hope I didn’t do that here but I guess I have to accept that risk as part of the year’s learning process.  But again, it was fun trying on sounds much like a little kid in a costume shop.

In the end, this week was more about experimenting with sound and creating a mood with the music.  It was a little bit at the expense of the lyrics and structure of the song, but nonetheless (I think) an important part of the final result.  I’m sure I’ll hit a point soon where I’ll need to take a lo-fi break and you’ll have a few weeks of simple voice and guitar. 

That’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed Santa Monica.  We’re off to week 10.  As always, thanks for following!