Week 25 - Long Walk Home

This was an interesting week.  I thought I had something good going but it wasn’t meant to be.  At least not for Week 25.  I can’t say I won’t revisit it at a later date.  Songs and song ideas have a way of stewing in the subconscious and then bubbling up when they’re ready.  I won’t be surprised if that happens in this case.

In order to give you a complete snapshot of the past week, I’ll go back to the start, before Long Walk Home.  I sat down last Sunday with the acoustic guitar, hoping to get a bead on a new song idea.  I had sent out #24 in the wee hours of Sunday morning (technically late for the third week in a row) and I didn’t want to do it again.  I was determined to get a jump on #25.

It didn’t take long to find a chord progression that I liked and a melody to go with it.  It seemed like it would work well as a verse and I soon had pre-chorus and chorus progressions and melodies to go with it.  That was all well and good and not an uncommon way for me to start a song. 

The next step involves playing those chords and humming the melody lines and trying to find some words that sound and feel right.  I’ll also (as I think I’ve mentioned) play back rough recordings on my iPhone’s voice recorder while I’m driving, cooking dinner, getting ready in the morning, whatever… just hoping some worthwhile little nugget or starting point will appear.  But in this case, it was like pulling teeth.  Two days passed with very little to show.  I finally decided to take the one lyrical ‘lead’ I had and run with it.  I also decided to get going on some of the time consuming recording tasks.  This song was feeling a little stubborn but it’s not unusual for it to take a little while before the lyrics come into focus. 

Tuesday night, I spent time programming a drum track, a bass track and a piano track.  I recorded an acoustic guitar part.  All the while, hoping the mysterious lyrical clue would reveal itself.  But nothing.  I drove to work Wednesday morning playing back what I had recorded.  Still nothing. 

Meanwhile, the subconscious was at work with its own agenda.  As I was packing up to head home later that day, anticipating another night of trying to crack open this song, the line and melody ‘It’s gonna be a long walk home’ bubbled up.  I have no doubt where it came from.  The pinched nerve in my neck had been giving me grief all day.  It was one of the ‘step back’ days in the ‘two steps forward, one step back’ healing process. I had begun thinking about how it took years of poor ergonomics, ignoring my bad computer habits, etc. to get to this point and so it was going to take quite some time to make things right again.  Basically, I was resigning myself to the idea that there were no quick fixes out there for me.  I was feeling a bit defeated.

I paused in my packing up, pulled out the voice recorder, sang the phrase into my phone and headed home.  By some sweet good fortune, I came hope to an empty house and was able to go right to the guitar.  An hour later, I had Long Walk Home.  (I know that’s nothing special for the Hank Williams types who can write a song in fifteen minutes but it’s one of the quickest for me this year.) 

One thing I was most appreciative of about the new song was that I felt it could work in a simple style – voice and guitar – which has been my aim lately.  I’m trying to minimize the time hunched over the guitar and computer.  Feeling like the song was fairly complete, I shifted gears and moved over to the audio workstation.  I figured why procrastinate on this one.  (I still had in mind my not wanting to deliver late for a fourth week in a row.) 

I laid down a quick acoustic guitar part and a rough vocal.  The vocal was extra rough because the song was so new that I was having trouble remembering the melody.  Also, the lyrics were in need of some wordsmithing for rhythm’s sake.  I ended the evening’s work by uploading an mp3 to Dropbox so that I could listen to it the next morning.  I also left my system powered up in case I wanted to try anything else the next morning.  (Believe it or not, just having to wait for my recording system to power up will be enough reason to put off doing some recording work.  It’s that procrastination thing, seeking any excuse to put something off.)  I’ve been up early these last few weeks because of the nerve pain.  If I’m careful with my posture, I can work without it hurting.

That was the case Thursday morning, so I took some time to explore fleshing out the song a bit adding simple bass and organ parts.  Similar to the night before, I uploaded the work in progress to Dropbox so I could listen back on my iPhone while driving to and from work.  (This is probably the most I’ve revealed to date of the 52 in 52 workflow.)

Next session, I developed the parts out a bit more, doubling the organ and guitar.  I also rerecorded the vocal after a few rhythm-friendly tweaks to the lyrics.  I added in some vocal oohs for the bridge and light harmonies for the chorus, mixed it all together and called it a week.

And that has brought us to the end of Week 25.  I hope you enjoyed Long Walk Home.  As always, thanks for following along.  Having a commitment to send a song to a mailing list full of people every week has been the best antidote to my procrastination.  I really couldn’t do this without you.  Have a great week!