Ep. 70: Song Challenge with Severin Bozung “The Underdog (Swervy Courage)” – Music Podcast

seve and jake recording and episode of the making music podcast

This music podcast, I’m joined by Severin Bozung of Seve Vs. Evan. We challenged ourselves to write a song about being picked last in gym class. We ended up with a fun synth-pop tune called “The Underdog (Swervy Courage).”

For the recording, Severin played the synth parts and sang lead vocals. I programmed the drum machine, added harmony vocals, a tambourine, handclaps, and a synth noise pad.

Lyrics:
I just got picked last in gym class,
My crush was laughing from the stands,
Yesterday I asked her to the Valentine’s dance,
She claimed she already made plans

The swervy courage of the underdog,
Never saw it coming, never saw it coming,
Waiting in line til he’s number one,
His little heart is thumping, little heart is thumping

Captain sprained his ankle now I got my chance,
Laced up my kicks, “Coach put me in,”
Started a romance with my breakaway pants,
When I tried to rip them off everyone grinned

The hidden courage of the underdog,
Never saw it coming, never saw it coming,
Waiting in line til he’s number one,
His little heart is thumping, little heart is thumping

Clock is ticking, got the ball,
Crowd is cheering, show them all,
My crush was kissing the captain in my place,
Instead of shooting I threw it in his face

The swervy courage of the underdog,
Never saw it coming, never saw it coming,
Waiting in line til he’s number one,
His little heart is thumping, little heart is thumping

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Ep. 68: Song Challenge with Tom Brinton “The First Time I Heard The Strokes”

For this week’s episode, I’m joined by Tom Brinton. We challenged ourselves to “write a song about another band.” We ended writing a song about the first time Tom heard The Strokes and appropriately titled the song, “The First Time I Heard The Strokes.” Listen to our conversation writing the song and the process of recording it in this podcast.

For the recording, we started with the drum machine sound from a really old, cheesy keyboard. To give it a little punch and keep it in line with the Strokes sound, we added some light distortion to the recording. I added acoustic guitar and organ. Tom laid down two electric guitar parts, bass and tambourine.

Last came vocals. During the verses, Tom and I sung in unison and during the choruses, I sang an octave higher. We added distortion to once again pay homage to the sound of the Strokes.

I’m pretty excited with how it turned out. It’s one of the most fun and quirky songs I’ve ever recorded and I hope you like it.

Lyrics:
Morning bell, I hear it ringing and it’s time for school,
They got the TV on, it’s turned to channel one,
I turned my head around and heard a brand new sound,

I thought my life was going fine but I was wrong,
Thought it was perfect til I heard it in a song,
When something comes along to change your mind,
You’ve been missing something you can’t define,
You can make a bad day turn around,
Anytime you hear it, Tell me did you hear it?

Heading home, I cranked it up and now my speaker’s blown,
Back to my driveway and I’m pulling in,
I’m in my car and I’m still listening,
My mom’s banging on the door,
But I just want some more,

I thought my life was going fine but I was wrong,
Thought it was perfect til I heard it in a song,
When something comes along to change your mind,
You’ve been missing something you can’t define,
You can make a bad day turn around,
Anytime you hear it, Tell me did you hear it?

Visit Tom Brinton’s Website, Space Venture Coalition, and The Song Club.

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Ep. 67: Song “Flawed” (New Song)

For this week’s episode, I break apart a brand new song I just recorded called “Flawed,” which will be on my new album coming out later this year.

This is song I started writing a couple years ago. The chords and melody came pretty quick and I had the words for chorus and bridge down but had a hard time getting anything solid for the verses. So, it sat on the shelf for a while until I finally finished the words for the verses about a week ago.

The songs about coming to terms with being human and making mistakes. It’s understanding that we’re all here to learn and to try to be the best person we can be.

For the recording, I started the song with vocals and acoustic guitar. I added a slap back style reverb to my vocals similar to the effect Elvis used to use on his voice.

For the drums, I played what I call a train beat, which is sort of a steady rolling on the snare with brushes that sort of resembles the chugging on a train.

The next several parts for me were really about adding texture to the sound.

  • First, the mandolin, which basically doubles the guitar part.
  • Next, an organ with I played on my keyboard and using midi, I ran it through the DB-33 plugin set to the gospel fast vibrato setting.
  • I felt like it could use a little extra twang so I added this slide part played on the acoustic.
  • Next, a piano playing to chords to the song, which I played on a real upright piano. I think it has a really cool tone.

I felt between the verses it needed some sort of lead melody line, so I added another piano part. This time, I actually used the midi keyboard instead of the real piano because some of the higher notes were out of tune. I added a glockenspiel sound to help it pop and give it a little more of an upbeat element to sound.

I felt like the song was just about there but it could use a little something else to make it unique. Last Christmas, my wife bought me a musical saw so I ended up giving that a try. It’s played with a violin bow and It’s actually really to get it to sound good. I’m still just barely able to play a few notes but it was enough to have it in the right key and sort of act like a pad for the lead line. I added heavy reverb and I think it adds sort of a ghostly quality to the sound.

Lyrics:
I’ve never been the best at words but
it keeps running through my head that
I should try and make amends but I keep

Following the devil’s trap
I got this itching in my bones to leave this place I call my home and yet I

Couldn’t take a single step
She would never understand the way I’m
Filled with these demands

Because I’m flawed from the start
And it’s keeping me apart
From the ones I love and adore
They expected so much more
I’m a better man and it seems
That I’m living in the dream you know
The devil gets the best of us
And I ain’t gonna rest because I’m flawed

Could have lost my only chance and never
Admit that I was wrong
And yet I knew it all along you know it

It doesn’t have to be this way
I tried to keep it to myself
And yet I know I needed help and now

Its hard to put it on the line
You know that something wasn’t clear
And now I’ve gotta end it here

Because I’m flawed from the start
And it’s keeping me apart
From the ones I love and adore
They expected so much more
I’m a better man and it seems
That I’m living in the dream you know
The devil gets the best of us
And I ain’t gonna rest because I’m flawed

Lonely as it seems this moment’s insignificant in the grand scheme of things
Take me for my word,
I’m trying to harder everyday
To shed the weaker man way
Because a man is only as good as his word

Because I’m flawed from the start
And it’s keeping me apart
From the ones I love and adore
They expected so much more
I’m a better man and it seems
That I’m living in the dream you know
The devil gets the best of us
And I ain’t gonna rest because I’m flawed

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Ep. 66: Song “Based On A True Story” (Influenced by Radiohead)

Today’s episode is about a song I wrote back in high school called “Based On a True Story.” It’s influenced by a Radiohead tune, “Bulletproof… I Wish I Was” from their album, The Bends.

My goal was to create the same type of atmosphere with the acoustic guitar strumming and a softly plucked electric guitar part. Here’s a clip of my high school band, Made In The Shade playing the song at one of our early shows in 1999.

After a while, we wrote other songs and phased this one out so it sat on the shelf for several years. I finally recorded it in 2012 for my 50 songs in 50 weeks project. I kept it pretty true to my original vision. In addition to acoustic guitar and vocals, I added an electric guitar part with a “flange” effect to give it a washy sound. There’s also an electric guitar part played with an ebow, organ and tamborine.

Lyrics:
Never thought I wanted you so much
And every wish I’m longing for your touch
There’s else for me to see, yeah

Never thought I’d run and jump the gun
Now I’m left and staring at the sun
What else is there for me to be, yeah

I must pretend in spite of who we are
I must pretend and go about in my own way

I am not here, how can this be
I wish you’d all go away from me
I am not here, how can this be, yeah

Any moment I have felt the pain
Seeing you with only me to blame
There’s nothing left for me to be, yeah

Never thought I’d run and jump the gun
Now I’m left and staring at the sun
What else is there for me to be, yeah

I must defend in spite of who we are
I must defend and go about in my own way

I am not here, how can this be
I wish you’d all go away from me
I am not here, how can this be, yeah

Nobody knows the pain

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Ep. 65: Song Challenge with Mike Fjerstad “Be Right Back (The Time Warp Blues)”

I’m joined by professional guitarist and friend, Mike Fjerstad. We challenged ourselves to “write a song based on an abbreviation.” We chose “BRB” and came up with an epic story about a sci-fi romance involving a time warp. Hear our conversation writing the song and process of recording it in this week’s episode.

Full disclosure: Our entire conversation was actually over 3 hours but I edited it down to an hour because no one wants to hear a 3 hour podcast.

For the recording, since we both have home studios with Pro Tools, we decided it made sense to track our parts separately on our own and transfer the files to each other as we worked on it. Mike started with acoustic guitar and lead vocals.

After hearing what Mike did, I recorded a percussion part, which includes cajon, hi hats, ride and crash cymbals and a tamborine. I also added a harmony part.

After I added those parts, I passed it back to Mike and he recorded some a bass line to go with the beat I laid down. He also added a couple electric guitar parts, including the lead line he came up with while we were writing. He also added a vocal adlib at the end, with some additional harmonies.

With those parts added, Mike passed it back to me and I added an organ part to fill out the sound a little bit.

With everything tracked, Mike and I got back together and edited and mixed the song to get it sounding just how we wanted it. I think it turned out really awesome and I’m excited to share it with you.

Lyrics:
Ferris wheels swirling and cotton candy twirling at the county fair
Holding her hand and watching as the fireworks explode in the air
Well the night was getting cold and they didn’t want the moment to end
So he ran to the car to grab her coat and no one ever saw him again

Til the day he stumbled up the steps to her door
He said, “I came back with your coat but the rides and fireworks aren’t there anymore”
She said, “Don’t you tell me that,
It’s been 25 years and you told me that you’d be right back”

It’s quarter past midnight, the kids are asleep and I thought you were dead
You look like a fool in your letterman’s jacket, gray hairs on your head
He said, “I know you won’t believe this and honestly neither can I,
I was gone for five minutes and suddenly now time has left me behind”

On this day where I’ve stumbled up the steps to your door
We can have a second chance to pick up where we left off before
She said, “I don’t know about that,
It’s been 25 years and you told me that you’d be right back”

Since then I’ve lived my life
I found a lover, for a while I was a wife
But things didn’t turn out like I planned
And I’m scared to begin this again
But I’ll try, but I’ll try

Cause this day you’ve stumbled up the steps to my door
We’ve been given this chance to pick up where we left off before
He said, “I’ll believe in that”
She said, “Whatever you do just don’t tell me that you’ll be right back”

I’ll Be Right Back

Visit mikefjerstad.com to learn more about Mike.

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Ep. 64: Song “Night Sky” (Influenced by R.E.M.)

This one is another oldie written during high school. At the time, I was digging the mandolin sounds on R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” It’s kind of surprising to look back and think that a song with a mandolin was such a big radio hit in the era of grunge.

As I started writing my song, I didn’t have a mandolin but I tried to approximate the sound of one by playing my acoustic guitar with the capo on the 4th fret.

Several years later when it came time to record, I added mandolin to supplement the two acoustic guitar tracks. I also recorded one vocal track, two tambourine tracks, and a shaker.

The lyrics tell the story of someone lost in the woods and being chased by wolves while a search crew attempts to find them before it’s too late.

Lyrics:
Night sky approaches on the horizon
Fading underneath the hill
I know the temperatures are dropping
You know the wolves are out to kill

Deep in the woods you find a shelter
Deep in the woods you try to hide
You hear the thunder and the lightning
I don’t wanna die, I’d much rather hide

Be gone and then appear to you
I’m sending out the search crews
I finally found what I need
Now bring’em back to me

Night sky approaches on the horizon
Fading underneath the hill
You hear the footsteps and they’re coming
I don’t wanna die, I’d much rather hide

Be gone and then appear to you
I’m sending out the search crews
I finally found what I need
Now bring’em back to me

Download “Night Sky” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 63: Song “Somebody” (Depeche Mode Cover in the Style of Blake Shelton)

This week’s episode is kind of a unique project. Someone approached me about recording a cover of a Depeche Mode song for him to sing at his wedding. The song is called Somebody and here’s the video.

The twist is that he wanted it recorded in the style of the country artist, Blake Shelton. As a reference, he sent me a link to the song “Mine Would Be You” so I could hear more specifically what he had in mind.

Before this project, I had never heard any of Black Shelton’s music. I tried to copy the style of drumming and guitar playing from the reference track and I think I landed somewhere in the ballpark. As I mentioned, he’s planning on singing this song at his wedding with this recording as a backing track so there won’t be any vocals in his version but he had me record a version with myself singing so that he could practice along to it.

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Ep. 62: Song “Lounging Around” (Influenced by Bossa Nova Music)

This song was written several years ago during my college days. At the time, I thought it would be fun to create a song in a Bossa Nova style. Probably the most famous song in this style is The Girl From Ipanema, which was made popular in 1964 by Astrud Gilberto & Stan Getz.

Over the years, the song has a developed a reputation for being sort of the default for cheesy elevator music. So I decieded to give myself a little liberty and try some ideas in the mix that are sort of considered cheesy.

First, I started with my old keyboard on the “bossa nova beat” setting. Super cheesy. The sound of the drum machine by itself was lacking so I added some real percussion to fill out the sound and give it a little groove: a wood scrapper block, some maracas and a jembe.

To fit the jazzy, bossa nova sound, the guitar tone is much warmer and bassy then I normally would play.

Next, I added a cheesy organ sound to tie it back to the elevator music sound.

The ending has a series of “ohs” for the harmonies. With each time the phrase a repeated, a new layer of harmonies is added so that by the end there are 10 voices singing.

This song was a lot of fun to put together. It’s a style I’d never really done before so it was an interesting challenge to try something new.

Lyrics:
I can’t celebrate when I know that your heart aches,
But we can turn it around,
I know that it’s late but there’s no time to debate,
Cause every minute counts.

Thinking of you like I do every year,
Just lounging around wishing that you were near,
So many obstacles stand in our way,
Just wishing that you would stay.

The promise that we made I am never gonna break,
When you are out of town,
I’m picturing a scene staring you right next to me,
And we are lounging around.

Thinking of you like I do every year,
Just lounging around wishing that you were near,
So many obstacles stand in our way,
Just wishing that you would stay.

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Ep. 61: Guest Camille Nelson (Fingerstyle Acoustic Guitarist)

For this episode, I’m joined by a special guest, acoustic guitarist and violinist Camille Nelson. We talked about how she got started making music and she shares some of the stories behind the songs on her new album, Lead Me Home. She also performs three tunes: Nearer My God To Thee, Patterns of Light, and Silent Night.

Check out her video for “Be Thou My Vision,” her collaboration with Alex Sharpe which we discussed during this episode.

For more on Camille, visit camillenelson.com

camille nelson and jake haws small