Ep. 95: Cody Butler – Interview, Performance and Song Collaboration

In this episode, I sit down with singer/songwriter Cody Butler (aka The Boy and His Dog aka Cody Francis). He plays some tunes and we talk about his musical endeavors and life. We also collaborate on a song together called “Moving Forward,” which is about a father watching his daughter grow up.

Visit Cody’s music pages:
The Boy and His Dog
Cody Francis

Lyrics:
Sitting in the backseat, 4 years old,
Watching the clouds go by,
Daddy’s in the front with the radio on,
Singing loud to every line,
Now she’s all grown with car of her own,
Singing loud to every tune,
Handed her the keys and waved goodbye,
They always grow up too soon

She’s moving forward,
Starting a brand new life,
I’m always here for her,
But I know she’ll be just fine,
She’s moving forward,
She’s moving forward

Used to be afraid of the boys at school,
Never gave them a chance,
Daddy always said take your time,
When it comes to romance,
Walking down the aisle dressed in white,
Waiting for a diamond ring,
Daddy’s letting go of his little girl,
She’s ready for anything

She’s moving forward,
Starting a brand new life,
I’m always here for her,
But I know she’ll be just fine,
She’s moving forward,
She’s moving forward

Ep. 93: Song “Reminders” (Influenced by Nirvana Unplugged)

Here’s a track from my “50 Song in 50 Weeks” series, influenced by Nirvana’s unplugged performance of “Something In The Way.”

I wrote this song very late at night several years back. In order to keep from waking my roommates, I had to play and sing very softly, which dictated the direction of the song. The inspiration was Nirvana’s “Something In The Way.” My song has a similar dissonant, dark but soft guitar part played with a picking stye. It also has a similar minimal type of melody.

Nirvana’s song talks about living under a bridge. Lyrically, I tried to evoke a similar sense in my song of someone who had hit rock bottom and struggling to get their life back on track.

The instruments are sparse: just an acoustic guitar, a voice, and one electric guitar with an ebow. The ebow acts as sort of drone. The eerie quality is supposed to reflect the haze of someone who is in a fragile state of mind.

It felt like it dragged a little so I programmed a kick drum into the song, which totally changes the feel of it. It almost makes it sound like an industrial electronica song to me but I liked it so I decided to keep it.

Lyrics:

Cold nights I lie awake
Underneath the remnants of nothing
Spend time, spend it all away
Go ahead and ride all the rides

Early bed, early to rise
Rise above it all
Never, never, never will I fall

Holding on to the iron
Holding on to my life
Holding, holding, hold on to your life

Don’t you think it’s past your bed time son
Just an hour too late,
I am getting tired and I am getting cold
But I still can’t sleep

Holding on to the iron
Holding on to my life
Holding, holding, hold on to your life
Hold on to your life
Hold on to your life
Hold on to your life

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Ep. 92: Mike McClellan and I Create “Man on the Moon” (Modern Dance Pop Song)

In this podcast episode, Mike McClellan and I get together and collaborate on a song. We use the “track and hook” method, which is an approach to songwriting and production used extensively in pop music. We came up with this catchy dance pop tune called “Man on the Moon.”

Learn more about  Mike McClellan at Velvet Echo Studios.

Lyrics:

Feels like we got lightyears
Between you and me
From my lonely corner
Working up my nerve
Do I dare
Do I make a move and come on over

Do you see me
Am I there in your stars
Am I there in the night
Do you want me
Am I there in your stars

Don’t leave me floating in space
I can’t get through to you
Gravity it keeps me in my place
I’m your man on the moon

Running down the clock
Weigh the cost
Missing out vs missing nothing
Only one way out past of the fear
Past the shaking hands and past the blushing

Do you know me?
I can see how you glow
Like the earth on the rise
Do you want me?
Am I somewhere in your skies

Do you see me
Am I there in your stars
Am I there in the night
Do you want me
Am I there in your stars

Don’t leave me floating in space
I can’t get through to you
Gravity it keeps me in my place
I’m your man on the moon

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Ep. 91: Song “Brand New Life” (influenced by The Lumineers)

This week, I break apart a love song called “Brand New Life,” which I released last December on my album, Good Grief.

So, when I was putting the track list for my album, I felt like there was lot of intense topics covered. I wanted to end the album on a positive, upbeat note to balance it out a bit so this is the last song I wrote for the record. It’s about being in love and proposing and specially written for my wife, Melissa. I actually wrote a different love song and played it at our wedding about 12 years ago but I didn’t really think it was that great of a song. I was a bit rushed. So, this is my attempt at writing a better wedding song and I think it definitely tops the first one, at least.

I also talk a lot about water in the lyrics. There’s lines about crossing the river and walking towards the sea and watching the boats float by. It’s all kind of in homage to growing up near the water in Washington state. It carries a bit of nostalgia for me and there’s also something about how the water is peaceful and simple and I want to have that type of feeling in a relationship.

For my first attempt at the recording, I tired a really sparse approach with just acoustic guitar, piano, vocal and shaker. I was gonna go with just that but it sounded a little bit too serious or even contemplative to me. I started thinking about the Lumineers song, “Ho Hey” and like how it’s still pretty simple but there are some elements like the mandolins and percussion that give it a nice, upbeat and looser, folkier vibe.

I actually scrapped my first version and started over. This time I recorded a bit faster at 85 beats per minute instead of the original 80. The beginning starts with mandolin, acoustic guitar and a kick drum sound, which I played on a cajon.

I wanted the song to build so that with each section of the song, more instruments come in. So it would start spare but by the time you get to the end of the song, it sounds pretty full.

One of the first things that comes in is an organ, which just acts as a pad to fill out the sound and also provides some low end, since I chose to leave off a bass guitar.

There’s also the piano, which I pretty much played the same as the original version. I played really simple whole notes with the chords on the lower half of the piano, then played a simple solo about an octave higher right in the middle.

There’s also the percussion. By the end of the song, in addition to the kick, there are two tamborine track and two snare tracks played on cajon with almost sort of a horse trotting type of rhythm. It’s sort of a folkie sound that I think fits the vibe.

All and all, I think it came together nicely and I think it fulfills my goal of adding a positive, upbeat message to a somewhat serious album. Most importantly my wife enjoyed it so, mission accomplished.

Lyrics:

What if we got together
We could watch the boats float by
You could talk and I would listen
And I would understand your mind

Oh I long to be with you
Walking toward the sea
And the times when I’m lonely
You could be the one to comfort me

Everyday I am thankful that our
Separate paths have crossed
Every night I lay my head down
I know I’ll never feel so lost

What if we crossed the river
We could start a brand new life
With a house and a family
If you’d only be my wife

So I leave it you now
You can tell me what you think
We could step to the altar
And I could wake up to your face each day

And my promise to you now
Is you’ll always smile me
Blessed day when I come home
In your arms is where I’ll be

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Ep. 90: Song “Thinkin Bout You” (Frank Ocean Cover)

This week, I’m sharing an acoustic cover I recently recorded of the Frank Ocean song, “Thinkin Bout You.”

Frank Ocean first came on the scene as a songwriter for some pretty big artists including Beyonce, Justin Bieber, and John Legend. His big break through came in 2012 with his debut album, Channel Orange. My favorite song from that album is the atmospheric opening track.

So as it happened, I recently came across a listing of someone who wanted this song played acoustically at his wedding so I recorded this so he could hear what it would sound like with me performing. Hopefully he picks me and I get the gig.

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Ep. 89: Modern Disco Song “This Is Who We Are” (collaboration with Dawn Red Sun)

For this episode, I break apart a modern disco song I recently collaborated on with Dawn Red Sun.

So I’m part of a song licensing course with Cathy Heller and one of the assignments I was given was to make a song about friendship and have the production sound slick and modern. For this song, I collaborated with Dawn Charlott, who goes by the stage name Dawn Red Sun. She’s from Germany originally but now lives in Los Angeles. We worked on this song remotely from each of our home studios and communicated through email and texting. In fact, we never even spoke by voice, if you can believe that.

To begin, we started brainstorming what the song should sound like. I sent her a Spotify playlist of songs I had been digging lately and she picked out the Leon Bridges song, “You Don’t Know” as one that she liked.

With that in mind as our inspiration, I laid out a bass line and a similar drum machine beat with the same tempo and improvised some melody ideas using a wurlitzer organ sound.

I passed this basic idea on to Dawn. She listened to it and came up with a chord progression, wrote some words and expanded on my basic melody. She recorded a quick demo on her phone and sent it back over to me.

I structured out the rest of the song with those verse, pre-chorus, and chorus ideas. The first thing I did was lay down those chord changes with the same wurlitzer organ sound and on top of the same beat.

To liven things up, I added some guitar tracks. First is a trebly, clean rhythm guitar sound popular is disco. In the second half of the song, another guitar comes in strumming and holding out the chords with an extra trebly, chimney sound. There’s also a flanger effect that gives it a real washy, sort of psychedelic feel.The song needed a little more dynamics and punch so I added a third guitar playing distortion on certain parts of the song.

The beat was a little boring with just the drum loop so I added some extra percussion to liven it up –  snaps and claps, tamborine and cymbals.

Then I took the cymbal sound, copied it, reverse it, then put it right in from of the normal cymbal. It’s a pretty common sound you here in dance music that gives it a swelling quality in anticipation of the next section.

The final touch with the instruments were a few synthesizer parts to kind of keep the song interesting and evolving. First, here’s a buzzy sounding synth that comes in about half way through. At the ending of the song, there’s a synthesizer with an arpeggiator effect on it, which basically means it takes the notes of the chord and plays them individually in sort of a random style.

With all the instruments done, I passed it back to Dawn to work on the vocals from her home studio. She layered quite a few harmony parts that sort weave together in interesting ways. At one point, there are 10 vocals at once. That’s a lot but I think it really helps add some interest to the song and give it depth.

The song is basically about having good friends in your life that get you and allow you to be yourself. This was a fun one to put together. I don’t normally do a lot of dance music so this was pushing my skills a bit but I’m happy with the results. I think it’s a cool song.

Lyrics

When I’m with you my world starts to explode,
I get to be the freak I am,
We’ve known each other for years now, and I know,
You’ll stand with me until I’m old,

You free me, just get me,
You free me, my remedy,

This is who we are
This is who we are

Remember all the secrets that we share,
One day we’ll publish them in a book,
And all the rules we broke, I have to say,
I really miss those times,

You free me, just get me,
You free me, my remedy,

This is who we are
This is who we are


Resources

Ep. 88: Song “Humans” (Mellow Indie Rock Instrumental)

For this episode, I share a mellow indie rock instrumental I made for someone else’s podcast for their theme song. He wanted something that sounded mellow but also inspiring. I took an old guitar lick I had laying around and put some structure to it. There’s electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, bass, and percussion played with brushes.

If you happen to be a music supervisor and are interested in using this song or some of my other music for your project, reach out to me through my website and let’s talk.

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Ep. 87: Song “The Last Waltz” (Influenced by Arcade Fire)

For this week’s episode, I break apart a song called, “The Last Waltz,” which was released last December on my album, Good Grief, and influenced by Arcade Fire.

I started writing this song back in 2013. This is one of the few song I’ve written in a 6/8 waltz time.

I was inspired by the Arcade Fire song, “Crown of Love” from their album Funeral. It’s also in waltz time and there’s strings and a sort of doo-wap piano so I was really going for something with a similar sound.

I start recording the song on September of 2015 and the arrangement kind morphed as I worked on the song off and on for a couple more years. I went back and counted and there’s actually 49 tracks of instruments on this song.

Instruments include drums, bass, 9 guitar tracks (3 of which are played with an ebow), tambourine, sleigh bells, piano, and organ.

The final touch is the strings. I had the part in my head from the begging but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off. I first started with trying to do midi strings but it just didn’t sound right. I had actually played violin growing up in middle school and stuck with it through high school but even so, my violin skills aren’t the best. But I knew how I wanted it to sound so I dusted off my old violin I hadn’t played in years and give a shot.

Luckily the parts aren’t all the complex to play, even though there’s lots of layers. At some points, there are 7 different parts playing all the notes of the chords, along with some melodies. But each part is actually played three times and stacked up so you really hear about 21 violins playing together, so it gives the illusion of sounding a like a full orchestra and I should also add that I shifted the pitch of some of the violin parts down to sound like a cello.

The lyrics of this song are written about a former classmate of mine who committed suicide. The perspective kind of shifts so it’s a little confusing to follow but the first verse is an imaginary conversation of talking to the grief stricken parents about what happened. The second verse is kind of like imagining going back in time and having a conversation with the person before they commit suicide. Kind of the conversation I wish I could have had. And the final version is them expressing how they feel. So the whole song is basically looking back at what happened and understanding what I maybe could have done to show more empathy and be the available to help.

The title is borrowed from The Band’s concert film of their final live performance called, “The Last Waltz.” I felt it was fitting.

I’m super proud of this song. I’m happy I was able to pull out all these ideas I had in my head and create something meaningful out of it.

One of the things I’ve found in life is that we’re all going through something. And it helps if we can talk to each other and be there to listen. So, if you need someone talk to, reach out to me through social media and I’d be more than happy to have a conversation.

Lyrics:

I read in the papers about the sad news of your son, my condolences
The world lost a great soul and now all the rumors you heard have been put to rest
He struggled to find a good reason to keep moving on in this broken world
The future looked bright but somehow he lost sight of the goal, least that’s what I heard

It’s one, two, three steps away and he’s back again
I keep lying awake up all night again
Up all night again.

Everyone told him you’re gonna get through this somehow, they’ll be brighter skies
And all of the voices that went on inside of his head told him otherwise
Now I can’t describe what you’re feeling inside but I know they’ll be better days
There’s nothing exciting so it’s no surprise that I keep these thoughts out of play

It’s one, two, three steps away and you’re back again
I keep feeling the weight of the world again
All the weight pulls down again

It’s been a while since I’ve really been true with myself or with anyone
I struggled to find a good reason to keep moving on, so does everyone
And it goes on and on and on

It’s one, two, three steps away and I’m back again
I am feeling this more I ever have
But it’s more than I can do or you can say


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