Ep. 58: Song “The Showdown” (Influenced by Tapes ‘n Tapes)

For this week’s episode, I’m sharing a song I wrote and recorded several years ago called “The Showdown”

The creation of this piece of music was originally inspired by the song “Insistor” by the band Tapes ‘n Tapes. When I first heard it, it was real different from what was happening with indie rock at the time. The sound borrowed from Johnny Cash and the rockabilly tradition but with kind of a darker twist. It was a little heavy but not quite punk. I liked the rolling beat, and off-kilter strumming and the type of story telling they used. All these elements played into the creation of my song.

I wrote the music and lyrics to my song around 2007. It’s fictional story about a kidnapping set in the desert. I tried something a little different this time by having a shifting point of view but mostly from the first person perspective. The first verse is the kidnapper leaving instructions to drop off ransom money.

Waiting at the truckstop of an old abandoned town
You better have the money when we get there
Leave it in a suitcase set it just behind a garage can
And walk away and never look back
Don’t you try and test us cuz you’ll push us to the limits
We will end this showdown in a minute
If you wanna see your son alive then follow our directions
And comply with our every request

The second verse if a conversation between the kidnappers and the hostage, who begs to be let go.

Left me on the street for nearly half a dozen weeks
It shows that this ain’t working something’s changing
You can keep your fingers crossed the county police have never lost
The sheriff’s gonna crack the case and
All the way to stateline you’ll be begging for you life
Unless we get the ransom from your father
If you let me go than I will make it worth your while
You can negotiate a higher price

The chorus is from the Sheriff’s perspective trying to convince the kidnapper to give up.

Hey, you know that this ain’t worth your time now
Hey, we’re gonna catch you any day now
Hey, you know that this ain’t worth your time now
Hey Hey

The third verse shifts between the mother, sheriff and hostage, where things are kind of at a standstill and the sheriff and his men are have their guns drawn, ready to fire at any moment.

Mother’s on the phone says if you got it in your soul than you will
Let my son walk free tonight but
Keep your pistols drawn because we’re gonna call his bluff
I got the suspect in my line of site
They’ve got the kid in ropes I think they’re gonna break his bones
Unless we get the ransom from your father
It’s kinda hard to talk when you got a pistol down your throat
And any minute they could set the trigger off

I decided to leave the ending unresolved so we never find out whether the hostage is set free or not. I think having that sort of uncertainly adds to the tension, which is what the song is about.

I recorded the song about a year later with my band, Declaration. For the instruments, we used electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums and organ. Here’s a clip of the original version, which was also featured in the film Scout Camp.

Not long after the release of this recording, two members of the band graduated college and moved away. The drummer, Dan Smock, and I started a new band with the intention of going for a more folk rock/alt-country kind of sound. We called ourselves Adding Machines. Most of the songs we played were new songs but The Showdown is a tune that we carried over from playing in Declaration.

We decided we would re-record it but this time with a different approach. We started with acoustic guitar and bass. We got a friend of ours, Matt Weidauer to play the mandolin part. He later joined the band as a permanent member and I continue to perform with him in my Beatles cover duo, The Fab Folk.

Next, we recruited a violin player who used to perform at Muse Music named Mike Wong to play the fiddle part. He played an electric violin, which I thought was kind of cool. Pretty much the whole thing was improvised. I remember the first take he played was too busy. I asked him to played it again but more simplified. He ended up over-compensating and it was too simple. So for the third take, I told him to split the difference and it ended up perfect so that what we used in the recording.

For the percussion, we used a suitcase as the kick drum and various pots and pans and random objects we had in the cafe for the extra rhythm parts. We also layered several handclaps to go along with the percussion. Last, we added several layers of group vocals on the chorus to really give it a hoe down type of feel.

I’m pretty happy with the overall results. I think we landed somewhere between bluegrass and gypsy music and it has a really good energy to it. It’s very different from anything else I’ve recorded to that point or even since. Here’s the final mix.

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Ep. 57: Bleachers “Don’t Take The Money” (Folk Rock Remix)

For this episode, I remixed a track by Bleachers called “Don’t Take The Money.” Bleachers is the project of Jack Antonoff. He is also a member of the band Fun and has written songs for some pretty big names in pop music including Lorde, Taylor Swift, and Carly Rae Jepsen. His new album, “Gone Now” came out earlier this year. Here’s what his original song sounds like.

The remix I did was for a contest put on by indabamusic.com. I was given 13 isolated tracks from the original recordings. The rules were that I had to use at least part of the vocal tracks and I couldn’t incorporate samples from other songs for copyright reasons.

I began by trying to program a new beat using a drum machine application in Pro Tools but I wan’t satisfied with anything I was coming up with. Typically most remixes are electronic but I decided it was better to play to my strengths and take it different direction by going with a folk rock sound. I ended up keeping the keyboard track and 4 vocals tracks I was given and adding 2 acoustic guitar tracks, 3 electric guitar tracks, bass, organ, 3 cajon tracks, tambourine, and handclaps.

I’m pretty happy with the results. I think the existing vocals fit surprisingly well with the sound and the new instruments keep the song upbeat and high energy.

Vote for my remix on Indaba Music

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Ep. 56: Song “I Love The Lord” (BYU Men’s Chorus)

Today in Utah, we are celebrating Pioneer Day, which marks the day when Brigham Young and Mormon pioneers first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. To commemorate the occasion, I’m going to share with you a performance from when I was a part of the Men’s Chorus at Brigham Young University. This performance took place April 2007 at the LDS General Conference, which is a meeting the church hosts twice a year. The live audience in the building would have been around 21,000 but it’s estimated the worldwide audience watching on TV, streaming on the internet and listening on the radio would have been around 2 million so, this is by far the largest audience I’ve ever performed for.

The name of this piece is “I Love the Lord.” It shares the same music as the hymn, “Be Still My Soul.” The music was originally written in 1899 by the Finish composer Jean Sibelious as the Finlandia Hymn and has been adapted for many uses including a national anthem and a school song. Our version was arranged by the BYU choral instructor, Ronald Staheli. The words for “I Love the Lord” where written by John Tanner and are adapted from a passage of Mormon scripture known as “The Pslam of Nephi.”

I think it’s a beautiful piece and sums up my feelings about the gospel better than I ever could.

The Pslam of Nephi
2 Nephi 4:17-35

17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.

23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.

24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.

25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.

26 O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

29 Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

31 O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?

32 May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!

33 O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.

34 O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

35 Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

Ep. 55: Song Challenge with Micah Dahl Anderson “The Door”

For this week’s episode, I’m joined by a guest collaborator and good friend of mine, Micah Dahl Anderson. Micah’s a professional film composer and an all-around good dude. The topic we randomly drew was “write a song about a movie that doesn’t exist.” What you’ll hear in this podcast is our conversation while writing the song (with the boring parts edited out), the process of recording it, and the finished song at the end.

For the recording, Micah sang lead vocals, played acoustic guitar and drums. I sang harmonies, played bass, organ, and electric guitars.

I’m pretty happy with the results. I think it’s a really epic sounding song and collaborating made it better than it would have been on it’s own.

Lyrics:
The door I see leads me to a familiar room
That I’ve never been to before and I open the door

And I can’t see what’s been chasing me
But it’s catching up to me
Find the thing that’s escaping me
Before my enemies

Break through the door, into another room
Hiding behind antique furniture cloth
Fall through the floor, just like it’s another door
Into a room that I’ve been to before

I can see people watching me
Watching me on a screen
See the way they’re reacting
Showing me which way to go

Inch to the door, feel their anxiety
And as I pull away feel their relief
I know this show, I’ve seen this one before
The only thing ending this noir is….

The door I see leads me to a familiar room
That I’ve never been to before and I open the door

Micah’s website: micahdahl.com

Download “The Door” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 54: Declaration – Live Concert at Muse Music (4/11/2006)

This week, I’m sharing a live recording from my old band, Declaration. This is from 11 years ago recorded at a club I owned at the time called Muse Music. For this show, we were opening for Neon Trees, who were just starting out at the time and have since gone on to have huge success with several hit records and have toured the world. Listening to again really brings me back. It was a fun show to play. I hope you enjoy it.

Download the studio album, “Panic Button” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 53: Song “You Only Live A Day” (Influenced by REM)

This one is an oldie written when I was around 15 years old. I was going for an R.E.M. feel and I think I achieved that with the guitar part, which mimics Peter Buck’s picking style.

The intro kind of has a spaghetti western vibe with the tambourine, shakers retro organ and overdrive guitar. The lyrics are about feeling like your life is passing by.

Lyrics:
Everybody knows but only time can tell
I still have left to show the cure for all my ails

All your dreams were made from children’s lemonade
Wrapped up in the cold, have stories left untold

You only live a day, she never came my way
I try so hard to remember, try so hard to remember

Everything’s so strange, ignoring all the pain
Ask me what you way, you’re wasting time away

You only live a day, she never came my way
I try so hard to remember, try so hard to remember

Download “You Only Live A Day” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 52: “Life Support” (Song Exploder / Splice Contest)

Here’s a brand new song I recently submitted to a contest put on by the podcast Song Exploder and a website called Splice. Basically, Splice is a subscription site which contains a large library of samples you can use for your songs. For this contest, I was given a collection of 50 samples and tasked with creating a song using at least 4 of them. If my song is selected, I’ll win a one year subscription to Splice, a Song Exploder t-shirt, and have my song featured on both the Song Exploder and Splice websites.

In the spirit of Song Exploder and the Making Music podcast, I thought it would be fun to break down the song a bit and talk about how it was made. I ended using 13 samples for this song but I’ll just point out a few of them.

Most of the song revolves around this bassy synth line which I think sounds really cool. Reminds me a little of a Moog synth. The beat I choose was the wrong tempo so I had to speed it up to match the bassy synth. I also added other samples like a piano line, strings, ambient sounds and a buzzy synth.

After I started piecing together some of these basic elements, I came up with a melody and some lyrics. At first, I couldn’t decide what the song should be about. I went to website with a song idea generator, clicked the submit button, and got the response “Write a song about your physical condition.” This spurred the idea to write a song from the perspective of someone with cancer who is about to die and some of the feelings they might be going through, including trying to find hope in a dismal situation.

I’m please with how the whole thing turned. I’ll keep you posted about the contest and let you know if I won.

Lyrics:
Waiting in the lobby for the test results I keep breathing
Knowing that the prognosis isn’t looking good

Doctor says I only have a month to live
This might be the last you ever see of me

Hooking up my body up to life support I keep breathing
Wishing I could tackle this disease

My hair is falling out and my skin is pale I feel weaker
Having all the life sucked out of me

I’m still alive (Don’t write me off yet)

I’m still alive (Don’t write me off yet)

Free download of “Life Support” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 51: “Turned Away” (Instrumental Piano Song)

For this week’s episode, I was was digging through some of my old tapes and found this instrumental piano piece I wrote back when I was around 14. I believe it might even be the very first thing I ever wrote. I submitted this tape for a school contest called “reflections” and won for my age category. It’s not the best quality recording but I think it still captures the mood nicely. I’d love to see it in a movie. I think it would make a great film score. Maybe one of these days, I’ll get around to re-recording it on a nice piano with quality microphones but for now, here it is.

Also, I was recently interviewed in the Daily Herald about the anniversary of Sgt. Pepper.

Download “Turned Away” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 50: “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” (Acoustic Beatles Cover from Sgt. Peppers)

This week marks the 50th Episode of doing this podcast. I started it about a year and a half ago and It’s been a lot of fun so I’m excited for the many more episodes to come.

This week also happens to be the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles classic album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which is regarded by many as one of the greatest albums of all time. I bought the box set so I’ve been listening to all the new mixes (which sound fantastic) as well as listening to the dozens of outtakes and reading from the book the comes with the box set about how the album was made. It’s all real interesting stuff and it’s been fun to soak it all in.

To commemorate this anniversary, I recorded a stripped down acoustic version of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” which is one of my favorites from the album. I hope you like it.

Also, one of the nerdy things I’ve been thinking about is what if hypothetically, the Beatles took all their psychedelic material recorded around 1967 (which would be Sgt. Peppers, Magical Mystery Tour, and the Yellow Submarine Soundtrack) and made a double album? What would that look like? Here’s what my picks are:

Side A
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
With A Little Help From My Friends
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
You’re Mother Should Know
Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Penny Lane

Side B
Magical Mystery Tour
Good Morning, Good Morning
Blue Jay Way
Getting Better
Lovely Rita
All You Need Is Love

Side C
Strawberry Fields Forever
Hello, Goodbye
Fixing A Hole
Hey Bulldog
It’s All Too Much
All Together Now

Side D
I Am The Walrus
Flying
Only A Northern Song
Baby, You’re a Rich Man
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Reprise
A Day In The Life

I made a playlist of Spotify called “Sgt. Peppers as a Double Album” where you an listen to this and see what you think. I think it’s a pretty cool listen and elevates the whole thing to a much grander scale than just Sgt. Pepper’s by itself.

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Sgt. Peppers as a Double Album

Here’s a hypothetical: What if the Beatles took all their psychedelic material recorded around 1967 (Sgt. Peppers, Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine Soundtrack) and made a double album? What would that look like? Here are my picks:

Side A

  1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  2. With A Little Help From My Friends
  3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
  4. You’re Mother Should Know
  5. Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!
  6. Penny Lane

Side B

  1. Magical Mystery Tour
  2. Good Morning, Good Morning
  3. Blue Jay Way
  4. Getting Better
  5. Lovely Rita
  6. All You Need Is Love

Side C

  1. Strawberry Fields Forever
  2. Hello, Goodbye
  3. Fixing A Hole
  4. Hey Bulldog
  5. It’s All Too Much
  6. All Together Now

Side D

  1. I Am The Walrus
  2. Flying
  3. Only A Northern Song
  4. Baby, You’re a Rich Man
  5. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Reprise
  6. A Day In The Life

Spotify Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/…/playlist/0Ru0DrUplhinDQ1CtF936g