Week 20 - Good to Grow

Wow!  This week we roar into the twenties.  We’re getting there people.  One week at a time, we are getting there… 

This week is another one of those special occasion weeks, where - since I’m going to be writing a song - I might as well try to incorporate that special occasion into it.  I did this in week 10 with Two (my wife’s birthday) and this week brings another– my daughter Julia’s.  In general, I find it tough setting out to write a song about something specific.  Almost as if it messes with the openness and spontaneity that I like to sit down with when fishing for ideas. 

The song started last Sunday with the acoustic guitar in hand.  (I promise I’ll try some other techniques including electronic samples and loops, just not yet...)  And to be honest, looking back now almost a week later, I don’t remember how it came out.  Maybe that’s just as well.  You’re probably tired of hearing those details.  I’ve said this blog was intended to be a diary or record of sorts of how each song came to be but alas, I just can’t remember.  What I do know is that the week raised several production challenges.  In fact, every week has at least one or two problems that I need to work out or through and that of course, is where most of the learning comes.  Maybe I can talk a bit about this one’s challenges.  

As I settled into the early part of the week, writing lyrics to go with my quick melody and chord progression, I knew that I wanted the song to have a ‘bouncy’ feel.  I just wasn’t sure how to go about it.  I had gotten as far as having a simple bass line programmed and some thumb strummed guitar.  (The pick seemed too ‘attacky’ for the feel of the song, although I know strumming with the thumb sounds muddy.)  Later in the week, it was really hitting me that I wasn’t getting this ‘bouncy’ feel.  So I did what everyone does when they’re trying to solve this problem.  I listened to ‘Come on, Eileen’.  (That song just kept bubbling up as I’d think about what I was missing.) 

‘Come on Eileen’ led to the inspiration to reprogram the bass into its more jumpy pattern.  I added a kick drum with the identical pattern and then going further, a piano with the same pattern playing chord roots.  It was starting to work but still not quite there.  The next step was playing with the delay.  After some experimentation, I arrived at a setting that felt right.  I’m not sure if it gets monotonous to the listener (and given more time I might try to find a way to vary it some more) but it worked for me.  First problem solved. 

The other challenge involved the chorus and bridge sections.  In those parts, I’m singing these long, loud sustained notes.  Now, part of this might be the fact that it’s my own voice, but listening back to some of the early mixes, it just wasn’t working for me.  It sounded naked, raw, exposed and not good.  I was even questioning the entire melody.  This is not a good place to be moving into the later part of the week. 

I often add harmonies as a last step.   I never sang in a choir, so they don’t come naturally. It’s basically trial and error.  I’ll simply sing along to the main melody starting on a different note and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  I hadn’t decided if I’d use harmonies on this song, but I figured it might help the ‘naked’ voice syndrome. 

I gave it a go and lo and behold, the texture of multiple voices blending together seemed to take care of a lot of my concern.  I’m not saying it will sound good to everyone, but it was an improvement and something for me to keep in mind going forward when the ‘naked’ voice syndrome rises again (as it has several times this year). 

One last observation for the week seems to be a recurring phenomenon.  I think I’ve touched on this before but there’s this cycle to each week that I’m noticing.  A song starts with an idea and during the early efforts of fleshing it out, I generally feel good about it.  I then hit a point (which has sometimes happened as late as Friday night) where I think the song’s a dud and I try very hard to convince myself that there are going to be a few of them this year.  Just accept it.  Well that happened with this one.  It just wasn’t falling together.  But I persevered and in the end, I really like this one.  It’s quirky but I keep playing it back.  I suppose the lesson learned is to stick with the song, not feel like it’s hopeless.  Interestingly, if it weren’t for the weekly deadline, I would have given up on many of these songs upon hitting that ‘this stinks’ point in the process.

Lastly, this was a fun song for me lyrically.  Given the subject of my daughter’s birthday, I make a lot of obscure references that won’t make sense outside of the immediate family.  But it’s part of the pleasure I get in listening back to it.

That’s it for now.  Thanks for being here again this week.  You all keep me going.  Have a great one!