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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Ep. 49: Song “Friday Night” (Influenced By Dave Matthews Band)

Today’s episode is a song from my “50 songs in 50 weeks” series.

This is one of my first songs I ever wrote, written back when I was 14. It’s about a time when I went to a school dance and the girl I went with pretty much ignored me the whole time so I was pretty bummed. They said, write what you know, don’t they. Come I was I was 14.

I tried to copy a little bit the style of Dave Matthews Band, particularly the song, “Jimi Thing.”

I decided to just keep the production sparse and just do an acoustic guitar and a single vocal. Honestly, I’m a little embarrass by this one because it’s kind of corny song but I felt like sharing something the represented my early songwriting. Well, here it is.

Lyrics:
Asked a girl to a dance
She said sure, then things were quite alright
I brought her flowers and I dressed up nice
Took my luck and I rolled the dice

We were dancing, weren’t having much fun
She felt sick and her day was done
I got a drink and she went with her friends
Tried my hardest to tie the loose ends

Hey, don’t go away
Hey, don’t go away

Soon it came, the last dance of the night
Suddenly she’s out of sight
I went searching see was lost in the crowd
Should have seen my standing around

Hey, don’t go away
Hey, don’t go away

Now I know she didn’t want to go with me
Now I know she didn’t want it to show but I can see

It’s getting dark it’s time to go
I waited right outside of the door
We talked a little and said so long
I’m glad some came but now she’s gone

Hey, don’t go away
Hey, don’t go away

Download “Friday Night” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 48: Song “Elephant In The Room” (Influenced by Kelly Clarkson)

This week, I’m sharing a track called “Elephant In The Room” from my upcoming album, which should be out this fall.

Most of the time when I write songs, I start off by playing something on the guitar or piano, then come up with some sort of melody on top of it, then add lyrics. This song is a little different, in that I had the melody in my head and come up with lyrics before I even picked up a guitar. Then, I kind of figured out what the chords were gonna be after the fact. I think because of this, the melody is a little stronger than some of my other songs.

I always thought the phrase “elephant in the room” was sort of funny expression. The image I get in my head of an actual elephant is sort of cartoony like dumbo or something and I thought it made an interesting phrase for a song. I think most of us can relate to being in awkward situations where people sort of pretend things are normal when they aren’t. I also liked the idea of using other phrases that have both a literal image and metaphorical meaning so I say things like “sitting on my hands” and “holding my tongue” and “getting under my skin” – phrases that we say all the time but don’t really think about literally but they all kind of fit with the theme.

As I thought more about the arrangement for the studio recording, the Kelly Clarkson song “Since U Been Gone” came to mind. I specially like the guitar strums and drum machine at the beginning and how big and catchy the chorus is.

That was sort of the idolized type of pop arrangement I had in my head. I quickly realized I don’t really have the vocal power to pull it off plus the production was a bit outside my usual territory. As worked on it, it sort of morphed into sounding a bit more like Nada Surf.

With those two influences in mind, I think I was able to come up with something fairly catchy that both fit my vocals and stayed true to my sound.

Lyrics:
There’s an elephant in the room, nobody says a word
And when I say it now out loud it sounds so absurd
I’ve done everything that I can to try and let it go
And now it’s getting under my skin and starting to show

Well I’ve tried this a million different ways
It’s not like me to admit to my mistakes
But I just can’t get the words to come out right

Well I’m not gonna be here any more
Cause every time I take a step I fall to the floor
And I’m not hanging round here for the score
It’s just with everything that I give you’re asking for me

There’s an elephant in my head knocking at the door
And it’s getting much too loud for me to ignore
I keep sitting on my hands, trying to hold me tongue
I think I waited far too long but I could be wrong

Well I’ve tried this a million different ways
It’s not like me to admit to my mistakes
But I just can’t get the words to come out right

Well I’m not gonna be here any more
Cause every time I take a step I fall to the floor
And I’m not hanging round here for the score
It’s just with everything that I give you’re asking for me

Well I’ve tried this a million different ways
It’s not like me to admit to my mistakes
But I just can’t get the words to come out right

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Ep. 47: Song “Descent Into Madness” (Influenced by Sunny Day Real Estate)

For this week’s episode, I break apart a song from my “50 songs in 50 weeks” series. This one was written back in high school. I originally planned on playing it with my band at the time, Made in the Shade, but it didn’t quite come together when we jammed on it. When I wrote it, I was heavily into the band Sunny Day Real Estate. They came out of Seattle in the 90s and are considered one of the godfathers of emo. They’ve been an influence to hundreds of artists, including myself. Here’s their song, “Pillars” from the 1998 album, “How It Feels To Be Something On.”

I wanted to try to capture the some mood as Pillars. I began this song with just the guitar riff. For the recording, I’ve doubled it up to it’s two guitars playing the same part, just to help it sound a little fuller.Next, it needed a beat. I didn’t have a drum set available so I opted to use drum machine loops from my computer. It almost gives it sort of an industrial quality, which I kinda liked so I went with it.The guitar part and the drum machine and played a bit mechanical so I added some groove with the bass line.

The song needed some more texture to it so I added some ebow parts. If you’ve been listening this podcast, you’ve probably heard me talk about the ebow, which I used a lot during this era. Basically, it’s a little device which you hold up to your guitar and it makes the strings vibrate without actually touching it and sounds a little bit like a cello. There 4 ebow parts, which played together make up the main chords of the song. It’s purposely played just a little messy because I like the swelling sounds it makes when you get too close to the pickup.

Next came the vocals. The melody lines kind of overlap so there are two tracks for that, plus another track for harmony. I added distortion to the vocals, which make a messy “static” sound during the parts where I am not singing. I liked the direction of the messiness so I look a few of these static moments and ebow parts, looped them in reverse and added some strange sounding effects. I think it gives a real sinister and creepy feel fitting for the song.

I think the whole thing came together in kind of an interesting and unique way. It’s sort of a different sound than my other songs but I like it.

Lyrics:
Hold me down, take away my pain
Let it go, show me your apathy
Washed right through, diseased soul to stay
Empty space, no one understands your place

Hold me down, release my consciousness
Think it out, concentrated thoughts remain
Sending me on my own
You’re sending me on my own

You’re so alive it’s killing me
You’re so alive it’s killing me
So unclear, so afraid
So unclear, and so diseased

Hold me down, take away my misery
Enter now, open doors you await
Sending me on my own
You’re sending me on my own

You’re so alive it’s killing me
You’re so alive it’s killing me
Able minds, Lost at sea
Endless ways, so diseased

Download “Descent Into Madness” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 46: Film Score for “The Tailypo”

This week, I’m sharing some music and sounds from a film project I recently worked on. This was a collaboration with my friend, Archie Crisanto. You long term listeners may remember Archie’s name from episode 37 when we collaborated on writing a song together and also from episode 20 when I shared some music I wrote for a play he directed called “The Woman in Black.”

This project was a short 11-minute film Archie directed called “The Tailypo.” It’s a suspense/horror film based on an old folk tale. Basically, a starving hunter shoots off the tale of a mythical beast and cooks it in a stew, only to have the beast return and demand it back. Archie and I came up with the music and sounds together. Most of it was even recorded while simultaneously watching the video in order to get the right timing and pacing.

So first, the opening theme is played on acoustic guitar by Archie. It happens during a scene when the hunter first shoots the creature. The theme is follow by a boom sound which I played on a cajon and heavily altered the EQ to emphasize the bass tones and added a long, sustained reverb effect.

For the next scene, we repeat the theme but this time played by myself on an electric guitar using an ebow, which is basically an electric device that vibrates the strings without actually touching them, making the guitar sound something like a cello. There are also little block hits played by myself on a cajon. Both parts have plenty of reverb added. This music happens after the man collects the tail and walks back to his cabin in the middle of a snowy wilderness.

The next part I played on electric guitar and is sort of another variation on the same theme but with a steady, quarter note strumming. The man leaves his cabin because it’s just too lonely of a place and so the music reflects his sense of isolation and despair. It’s played in a pattern of three instead of four so it doesn’t really seem to feel like it ever settles and resolves, which was done purposely to fit the mood of this scene. I took some inspiration from the post-rock band, Explosions in the Sky.

This last chunk I’ll share are a series of guitar squeals and fast strumming along with an acoustic guitar chimey-sound played at the headstock where the tuning pegs are (which kind of reminded up of the string hits from Psycho). This was played by Archie and done more for sound effect purposes to build tension during the various times we see the creature.

The Tailypo: A Folktale from Archelaus Bombadil Crisanto on Vimeo.

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Ep. 45: Song “Ocean” (Influenced by Pedro the Lion)

Today’s episode is about the title track from one of my albums called Ocean recorded back in 2002.

At the time, I was into a Seattle indie band called Pedro The Lion. One of my favorite tracks of theirs was “Of Up And Coming Monarchs” off their 1998 album, “It’s Hard To Find A Friend.”

When I wrote my song, there are several elements from the Pedro The Lion song that I borrow. First, I liked the 6/8 time signature. Most pop/rock songs are 4/4 time, which means each measure is made up of 4 quarter notes. With 6/8 time, each measure is made up of 6 eighth notes, which gives it a sort of waltzy, drifty quality so I wanted my song to have similar quality. I also liked the way the chords progress. The notes added between the main chord changes gives it a better melodic flow than just playing the chords straight so I tried to incorporate that as well into my song. I also liked how the lyrics mention things like like the ocean floor and swimming. I think it’s interesting imagery for a song.

I actually wrote it in 2001. I had recently graduated high school and my family was moving from Washington State to Utah and I wrote this the night before we moved. It was definitely the close of one chapter of my life and the opening of a new one. The first verse talks about returning home to an empty house and talking to the walls. That’s me sort of imagining what it will be like in the future to look back at this moment. The other verses talk about swimming in an ocean and building sandcastles and flying, which are all childhood memories having to do with growing up in Washington for me. I was thinking a lot at the time about the way a location can shape the way you might turn out as a person and how you view the world. So, I would say this song is kind of a farewell letter to both Washington and to my childhood.

I recorded this about a year later. Unlike the Pedro the Lion song, I used an acoustic guitar instead of an electric. I played a pretty straightforward and simple beat on the drums using brushes. I also invited a friend of mine, Robin Jolley, to play cello, which I think added an interesting quality. She’s great at improvising so there’s actually a cello solo on the second half of the song.

Download “Ocean” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 44: Song “The Lord Is My Shepard” (Religious)

Since Easter was this last Sunday, I thought I would share something I dug up from my time as a missionary. This is a recording of my mission companion, Elder Brad Chaston, and myself singing “The Lord is My Shepard” recorded onto mini-disc. We were in Manhattan and this would have been sometime between January and April of 2004.

This is one of my favorite hymns. We’re not perfectly in tune with our performance but for me, it has the significance of documenting an important time in my life so I wanted to share.

Download “The Lord is My Shepard” for free on Bandcamp

Ep. 43: The Fab Folk – Live Concert at ABGs (7/29/2016)

For this week’s episode, I’m sharing live recordings from a concert I played last year at ABGs in Provo, Utah with my Beatles cover duo, The Fab Folk. All together, it was a really long set. We played 50 songs (including the album “Revolver” in it’s entirety) and we had several guest performers join us. For purposes of this podcast, I picked my favorite 8 songs from the night. I’m joined as always by Matt Weidauer on vocals, guitar, mandolin and cajon. You will also hear a few guests on “Hey Jude”: Eric Robertson on keyboard, John-Ross Boyce on vocals, and Kathleen Freewin on tamborine and vocals.

Fab Folk Revolver Poster

If you are you interested in hearing studio recordings and keeping up with our latest from The Fab Folk, head over to thefabfolk.com. Currently, we are scheduled to play at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi on April 22nd and 28th, as well as returning to ABGs in Provo on June 9th. Also, the Freedom Festival in Provo July 1st, Fiesta Days in Spanish Fork July 24th and the American Fork Outdoor Concert Series August 7th. We have even more shows in the works so check back periodically at thefabfolk.com for the latest details.

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