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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Ep. 86: Song “Make It Up To You” (Influenced by Wilco)

In this episode, I break apart a song called “Make It Up to You,” from my album Good Grief, which came out last December.

This one’s a piano ballad influenced by the Wilco song, Reservations. I love how murky and disjointed everything sounds so I tried to bring some of that atmosphere into my song.

I had the basic idea for the song kicking around for a few years but wrote most of the lyrics and finished the song a couple months before the album was released, on a weekend when my wife and kids were out of town. We didn’t have a fight or anything but I wrote the song from the perspective of someone who had been in a fight and was waiting in their empty house for their loved one to come home.

The instrumentation is fairly sparse so there’s not a lot to break apart. Besides the piano, vocal and bass, there are 4 guitar tracks in the background, which come in towards the end of the song. Three of them are played with an ebow and the other is played in a tremolo style with a delay pedal. I tried adding drums and some other things but I felt like the song stood better on it’s own with a sparser arrangement. Sometimes less is more.

Lyrics:

I was just guessing what you’re thinking
But I know I’m often wrong
My good intentions fall to pieces
When I’m wandering down that road

I need you here with me
Like you promised you would be
And as far as I can see
You’ll get through and I will
Make it up to you
I can make it up to you

Walking in circles I’m pretending
That these empty walls can talk
I keep on waiting for the moment
When I finally hear you knock

I need you here with me
Like you promised you would be
And as far as I can see
You’ll get through and I will
Make it up to you
I can make it up to you

I need you here with me
Like you promised you would be
And as far as I can see
You’ll get through and I will
Make it up to you
I can make it up to you
I can make it up to you
I can make it up to you

Download “Make It Up to You” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 85: Song “Only In Your Head” (Spacey Piano Rock)

This episode, I break apart a spacey piano rock song called “Only In Your Head,” which is from my recently released album, “Good Grief.” Influenced by The Walkmen and Radiohead.

The song began in 2014 as a little piano piece I was noodling around with. It’s really just three chords, two of which are Major 7 chords, which have kind of jazzy quality to them. The rhythm is also syncopated, meaning many of the notes fall on the off-beat. I recorded a lofi demo on my phone back in 2014.

A week later, I had a night where I had a hard time falling asleep, so I went down into the music room, probably around midnight and worked out another demo, this time with more of an electronica approach. There’s drum machines, a bass with distortion, tambourine, and lots of synths sounds, some of which came from an ipad. I gave it the working title of “works for me.” Here’s what that demo sounds like.

About year later (in 2015), I started putting together the songs for my album and I began to have a different idea in my head of what this song could sound like. I decided to lay down some drums and give it more of rock approach. That drums I recorded (along with a very rough scratch vocal and keyboard part) actually sat untouched for almost 3 years, as I got busy working on other songs and doing the other things I had going on in my day to day life.

In July of 2018, I got a little more serious about finishing the album up and got back to work on the song. I took that drum part I recorded and filled out the core parts to the song, which are the main piano part recorded on our upright piano, bass and some tamborine. To give it a little variety, I played the first part of the piano with just holding out the chords for two bars.

So, I was liking this direction but felt like more could be done to make the piano part more interesting. Maybe even a classical type of influence. So, I started playing the same two chords as the main piano part but at different octaves so each beat, I was kind of hitting a different part of piano with the same chord. Then, to give it sort of a spacey sound, I added a delay, echo effects along with some extra kind tickley sounding embellishments on the high part of the piano.

To give it even more texture, I layered a tremolo style clean guitar with an echoey delay effect to give it kind of a spacey sound. I kept that same sound going in the chorus, but with distortion added to it for more of a bite, as well as a second guitar playing the chords with distortion.

As if I didn’t have enough layers already, I added some synth parts to fill it out some more. First, there’s a harmonium, which is really kind of a carnival instruments. It supposed to sound something like an organ meets an accordion.

Then next, a synth with a sort futuristic sound.

For the ending, I had another idea for the piano. I took the chord and did what’s called arpeggiating, meaning I played each note of the chord one by one. I came up with the simple part that loops over and over and the same part on top of that but an octave higher.

Then I added a track of synthesizer which is set to play each note of the chord at random, given it a really spacey, sort of unpredictable sound.

There’s only one vocal track with no harmonies.

The lyrics are written from the perspective of someone wrestling with reality and with the what’s being told to us by the media in all it’s different forms. I tried to reflect some of that chaos with the denseness of the arrangement.

Here’s final mix of the song (download it for free):

Lyrics:
I know I’m dreaming but nobody’s sleeping this early in the morning
Public relations and my expectations are spinning round my head again
Your own existence don’t give you permission, your time is up, you’re out of here
The baggage we claim is the thing that remains there’s no way for us to fix this mess

I can’t believe what you’re telling to me
Yeah, it’s only in your head
I can’t agree, what you’re asking of me
Yeah, it’s only in your head

Fooling yourself with the cards you’ve been dealt you can only take it so long
This information and my situation are spinning round my head again
A matter of weeks they’ll be playing for keeps and they’re counting up the votes
It’s too close to call and I’m telling you all that it doesn’t matter anyways

I can’t believe what you’re telling to me
Yeah, it’s only in your head
I can’t agree, what you’re asking of me
Yeah, it’s only in your head

I can’t believe what you’re telling to me
Yeah, it’s only in your head
I can’t agree, what you’re selling to me
Yeah, it’s only in your head

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Ep. 84: Joshua Sohn (Film Composer) and Our Homage to Queen

In this episode, I’m joined by film composer Joshua Sohn. We talk about his career, play some of his compositions and create a song together, which ends up being a homage to Queen.

Be sure to visit Joshua’s website, Sohncompositions.com.

“You’re My Queen” Lyrics:

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
I never thought that you would be with someone like me

I’m just a poor boy, from a poor family
Scrimping and saving, trying my best to succeed

I don’t have much to give, but you can count on me
We’ll build our future however we want it to be

I must be dreaming, it’s too good to be true
And life is never quite what it seems
Can’t shake the feeling, I’m still thinking of you
But I’m forever stuck in between
In my dreams, I’m your king and you’re my queen

I saw you yesterday, at the city park
And now I’m stuck at home pacing around in the dark

I don’t know what to say, but in reality
Anyway the wind blows it doesn’t really matter to me

Why can’t we give love, just another chance
The night is getting late and this is our last dance

I must be dreaming, it’s too good to be true
And life is never quite what it seems
Can’t shake the feeling, I’m still thinking of you
But I’m forever stuck in between
In my dreams, I’m your king and you’re my queen

Credits:
Written, produced and recorded by Joshua Sohn and Jake Haws

Joshua Sohn: piano, bass, drums, handclaps, tamborine, guitars
Jake Haws: vocals

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Ep. 83: “True Grit” (Gritty Blues Rock Song for a Car Commercial)

Here’s a gritty blues rock song I recently submitted for a car commercial. It’s got stomps, claps, distorted guitar, bass, cymbals, hi-hats, and organ. Hopefully it has the type of tough attitude they are looking for.

Here’s the song by itself:

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Ep. 82: Song “Invisible” (Influenced by Ben Folds)

This song actually has a pretty long history. I wrote it back in 2003 while I was a missionary in New York City. I was volunteering weekly at the Bronx VA Hospital and I got to be friends with one of the patients. I showed up one week to find out he had passed away and wrote this song shortly after on one of my days off on the church piano. It’s about memories, death and the connection between this life and the next.

For the style of the piano line and melancholy lyrics, I was going for something along the lines of the  Ben Fold Five song, “Brick.”


After I returned home from being a missionary, I let the song kind of sit for a while, not knowing what to do with it. It didn’t seem to fit with any of the bands I was a part of. Eventually, nine years later, I dug it up for my “50 songs in 50 weeks” project. At that point, the production I heard in my head for the song was something along the lines of Coldplay’s song, “Paradise.”

For my production, I tried to use a similar drum machine beat, a tambourine, some layers with the keyboards and some synth-style sounds with a guitar played with an ebow. Here is what that version of the song sounds like.

So that version was all fine and good but then 6 more years went by and I started working on my new album and thinking about which songs should be included. I had the feeling that this was a catchy song that deserved more attention with the production. I started to play around with some ideas based off of a few different songs I heard as inspiration.

I really like production of the song, “On That Day” by Slowreader. They really let the piano loose on a funky rhythm and combined with the percussion, it makes something really unique and catchy.

I changed the piano rhythm up on my song to sound a little more syncopated and rhythmic rather than the straight way I played it before.

Next, I recorded a few drum beats kind of similar in style to the Slowreader using using the kick, snare and toms but no hi hats or cymbals. I looped a few bars of one beat for the verses and another few bars for the chorus.

Again referring back to the Slowreader song, I played some additional percussion parts with a mason jar and spoon. I also added a similar part with a hi-hats, then added some tamborine to ground the whole thing.

Another song I drew inspiration from was the Flaming Lips song, “Fight Test.”

I like the funky, distorted synth bass sound they used so I came up with something kind of similar.

With the beat and basic parts down, I needed some additional elements to change the song up so it wasn’t the same thing the whole time and had distinct sections. There’s a simple two-string guitar part that comes in on the second verse, a retro organ sound, and handclaps.

For the solo section, I wanted it to sound pretty thick so there’s actually 4 guitars playing the same part in unison with different sound effects on each part.

This was a fun song to remake and put together with a fresh approach. I think it works well and is probably my favorite song on the album. Here’s the final mix.

Lyrics:

All at once the ghosts between the
Walls appear and fill the empty space
All and all it’s still the same
Plastic toys and roller coasters
Coney Island running in my brain
All and all it’s still the same

You won’t ever see me anymore
You won’t ever see me, cause I’m invisible

Images are flashing through my mind
Projecting bits of broken light
All and all it’s still the same
Hospitals and battle scars from
Wars we fought when we were still alive
All and All it’s still the same

You won’t ever see me anymore
And I hate to see you go
You won’t ever see me anymore
You won’t ever see me, cause I’m invisible


Listen to “Good Grief” on Spotify

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Ep. 81: Christmas Music 2018

Our family has a tradition of recording Christmas songs each year. This year, we did White Christmas, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and Auld Lang Syne.

I also recorded a version of Feliz Navidad entirely in Spanish with my collaborator, Mariadela.

Here’s all the songs we’ve recored over the years.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Ep. 80: Favorite Music of 2018 – Top Ten Albums

As this year wraps up, I’m sharing my favorite albums from 2018. There was a lot of great records that came out and I honestly had a hard time narrowing it down to just ten but I did, and here they are.


10. Pinegrove – Skylight

This is the third album from this New Jersey indie rock band. To me, they sound something like a cross between early Death Cab For Cutie and Band of Horses, which is to say it’s a sound that was popular a decade ago but you don’t hear as much now. At the same time, I really miss this style so it’s nice to hear someone keeping it alive and new. The whole album has a pretty cohesive sound; plenty of reverb and a little bit twangy (but not quite full on country) and some clean, chimey sounding electric guitars. The songs are generally pretty short, usually around the 2 minute mark, which I think helps keep the pace moving on so you don’t have a chance to get board.  Essential Songs: Darkness, Rings

Stream: Spotify


9. Lucy Dacus – Historian

This one is a recent discovery for me. She’s a 23 year-old singer/songwriter from Virginia and this is her second album. She has a beautiful voice that reminds me a bit of St. Vincent or PJ Harvey. For me what really carries this album is the songwriting. She writes really interesting, catchy melodies and her lyrics are really original and raw. The songs are also arranged and recorded really well. It’s mostly guitar based and she definitely rocks it out at moments, which you don’t hear as much now, but there is also some strings and horns at times. It’s almost a throwback to 90s grunge rock but with a fresh spin. But she sounds mature beyond her years. Essential Songs: The Shell, Night Shift, Body to Flame

Stream: Spotify


8. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!

This garage rock band hails from New York City and this is their 6th album. This time, they enlisted the production help of Danger Mouse, who is famous for his work with Gnarls Barkley, The Black Keys, Gorillaz, and Portugal. The Man, among others. Right from the bat, you can tell a big difference. Their sound channels late-70s/early-80s  punk and new wave in a really fun and new way. They take some of the weirdness, attitude and the angular guitar styles of CBGB’s bands like Talking Heads and Television or even The Clash and throw in some 60s psychedelic flourishes typical of Danger Mouse’s production style. But it’s all so punchy and catchy. It’s a great listen. Essential Song: Wide Awake, Total Football, Back to Earth

Stream: Spotify


7. Emily Brown – Bee Eater

Emily is a singer/songwriter I know from the Utah music scene, who has since moved to Oakland, California. She used to play piano in a group called “Book On Tape Worm” but now does her own thing. She has a very pretty, high voice along the lines of Joni Mitchell and sings these beautiful melodies that tend to drift and just sort of float along. Many of the songs have lush string arrangements and other little touches that give it a really distinct sound. She writes really deep and poetic lyrics. It’s a very ambitious album that can, at times, be both dense and sparse, or grand but also very personal. It’s a very moving listen. Essential Songs: Who Can Say, Giving Up, Unseen Girl

Stream: Spotify


6. Gorillaz – The Now Now

This is the sixth album of Damon Albarn’s hip hop/electronica project. Last year’s record, Humanz was over an hour long and featured collaborators on almost all 26 tracks, which I felt like was a bit of chore to listen to. This year’s album is relatively more scaled back with the number of collaborators and only 11 songs, clocking in at 40 minutes. To me, it feels like a much more focused and fun album. It reminds me of the sound of their third album, Plastic Beach, which I really liked. The production is really spacey and kind of psychedelic but also borrows from some 80s funk. But the songwriting is stronger this go around so it makes for much more solid record. Essential Songs: Kansas, Humility, Magic City

Stream: Spotify


5. Leon Bridges – Good Thing

This is the second album from this Texas-based soul singer. His debut was a throwback to early 60s soul and R&B, with that same type of vintage sound. This time, his influences are incorporated with more modern sounds. The percussion is much punchier, more along the lines of hip-hop. There’s also some jazz soloing, strings and even funk. It’s a bit closer to something Pharrell Williams might do. To be honest, I didn’t like it as first because I missed the vintage sound of his debut. But the more I listened, I grew to appreciate the songwriting. His melodies are really solid and his lyrics are clever and well thought-out. Plus his voice is very soulful and he’s able to still have a good amount of variety in this sound he’s carved out. Essential Songs: You Don’t Know, Shy, Forgive You

Stream: Spotify


4. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

This is the third studio album from this Texas-born country singer. She has a beautiful, crystal clear voice that fits these songs perfectly. It’s fairly mainstream country music but she downplays the honky-tonk, twangy side and instead it sounds a bit more breezy or even spacey, like occasionally they use this really funky vocal harmonizer. There’s also even a disco song. There’s still a bit of pedal steel and banjo but it’s much more subtle than most country music. The songwriting is really strong and avoids a lot of the typical lyrical cliches you hear in country music, like talking about whiskey and pick up trucks and instead gets real personal about relationships. It almost sound like a polished up Sufjan Stevens at times or even Fleetwood Mac. So basically, it’s country music for people who don’t like country music. Essential Songs: Slow Burn, Butterflies, Space Cowboy

Stream: Spotify


3. Matt Weidauer – Matt Weidauer

This is actually a good friend of mine, so I’m a little bit biased but I think it’s an amazing album. We’ve played music together for years with Adding Machines and The Fab Folk so if you’ve been listening to this podcast, you’ve heard some of his playing on past episodes. He put out an album called “Birds” that I mixed back in 2009 and also an album of George Harrison covers but this is his first album of original material in 9 years, which he wrote and recorded in his home studio. There’s lots of things I like about this record. I love his voice and I think his songwriting is really fresh and original. He writes songs about Elvis faking his own death or from the perspective of characters on the TV show LOST but it all sounds so natural and effortless. He’s a really good guitar player. He comes up with these interesting picking parts that I think sound amazing. He sort of reminds me of M. Ward or Lord Huron. He also has a nice variety of sounds with the production, which give the whole record a good flow. Essential Songs: Disgraceland, Wounded Man, Set Me On Fire

Stream: Spotify


2. First Aid Kit – Ruins

This artist is a pair of sisters from Sweden. It’s their fourth album and it’s filled with heart-felt folk rock tunes with tight vocal harmonies. The songwriting is absolutely top-notch, particularly their melodies. The melodies are original but sound so effortless with the way they rise and fall. They wear their passion on their sleeves. The production is fairly straightforward but with occasional string flourishes and pedal steel. It’s great sound that fits them well. This album is very relaxing listen start to finish and one of my favorites this year. Essential Songs: Shame, Fireworks, Rebel Heart

Stream: Spotify


1. Glen Hansard – Between Two Shores

Glen is an Irish song/songwriter probably most famous for starring and writing the music for the 2007 indie film, Once, which featured his song, “Falling Slowly.” This led to his collaboration with Czech singer and pianist, Markéta Irglová, which became known as The Swell Season. They put out a few albums together before Glen went solo but he’s also been creating music with another band called The Frames since 1991, so he’s been around a long time. For this album, Glen expanded his indie folk rock sound to include more of a soul/R&B influence. Many of the songs have horns and retro organ sounds and strings, which I love. I think the adjustment suites him well, as he’s also been a very passionate, soulful singer. Some of the songs remind of Wilco’s early sound like on the album Being There. The songwriting is also really solid this time. It’s nice to hear one of my favorite artists continuing to hone in his craft while also trying new things. Essential Songs: Roll On Slow, Wheels on Fire, Setting Forth

Stream: Spotify


Favorite Albums of 2018 – Spotify Playlist


Favorite Songs of 2018

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Ep. 79: Good Grief – Album Listening Party

So you may have noticed it’s been a few months since I’ve put an episode out and there’s good reason for that: I’ve been finishing my album! And now the long awaited day has come that I’m sharing it with you. This album is many years in the making and one of the most difficult projects I’ve worked on. I started recording some of the songs back in 2014 and other songs were written and recorded as recently as a few months ago.

There have been many starts and stops stops along at the way as I’ve tried to figured out what I want to say and what this thing should sound like. There’s rock songs, folk songs, piano songs, electronica songs and everything in between. There’s songs about death, grief, disagreement and anxiety, but also hope, patience and love.

As I thought about what it should be called, I came up with the title, “Good Grief,” which references Charlie Brown, a character I’ve come to relate with more and more as time has gone on; someone who wears his heart on his sleeve as he experiences many of the themes I write about. It’s also an inside joke to myself about what someone might say when I tell them it took me 4 years to make an album!

The artwork was done by a local artist, Travis Braun.

Besides the artwork, I did everything on this album myself. I wrote the songs, played all the parts, and recorded and mixed everything in my home studio (which is partly why this took so long).

Most of these songs I’ve already shared on this podcast (at least work-in-progress versions) so I encourage you to go back and listen to those episodes if you want all the details about how each one was made. And also stay tune for future episodes on some of the other songs.

  1. Eye to Eye – This first track is one of the rockers on the album. I thought it would be good to kick things off with some high energy. It’s about desperately wanting people to see things from your point of view.
  2. Invisible – This next one is the oldest song on the album. I wrote it back in 2003 when I was a missionary in New York City. We used to volunteer at the VA Hospital and got to know some of the patients who would come in regularly. When one of the patients we became friends with stopped showing up, I learned he had passed away so it inspired the words for this song. I recorded a version of this for my 50 Songs in 50 Weeks series but I thought I could do it better so this is a sort of reworked version with a different arrangement.
  3. Elephant In The Room – This next one is another rock song. I think it might have my favorite guitar solo I’ve ever done. Even though guitar solos aren’t cool anymore, I love it anyways. It’s about how we sometimes don’t talk about the things that bother us and it turned into passive aggressive anxiety.
  4. Moving On – This next one I wrote and recorded a few months ago for a music making course that I recently became a part of. We were supposed to write a song from a list of topics and “Moving On” was the one I chose, which became the song title. It’s about keeping a positive attitude, even when the world is dragging you down. I wasn’t originally planning on having it on the album but I felt like it added a nice upbeat, positive vibe, which balances out some of the darker songs.
  5. Flawed – This next one is a folk rock song. It’s along the lines of what my old band, Adding Machines used to play. There’s mandolin and I even play the saw with a violin bow. It’s kind of low in the mix but see if you can hear it. It’s about sin and reconciliation and coming to terms with your flaws.
  6. Make It Up To You – This next one’s a piano ballad. It’s the only song on the record without any percussion. I had the basic idea kicking around for a few years but wrote most of the lyrics and finished the song a couple months ago on a weekend when my wife and kids were out of town. We didn’t have a fight or anything but I wrote the song from the perspective of someone who had been in a fight and was waiting in their empty house for their loved one to come home.
  7. Life Support – This next song is an electronica based song. I entered a contest a couple years ago put on by the podcast Song Exploder and the website Splice, where I was given a series of recorded samples or audio clips and tasked with building a song around it. This is what I came up with. It’s written from the perspective of someone with cancer who is about to die. I wasn’t going to put it on the album originally because the sound is so different from everything else but when I listened to it in sequence with the other songs, I liked having the variety in there so it made the cut.
  8. Little Bird – This next one is another folk rock song. It’s built on kind of an off beat picking pattern, which is grounded with the kick drum playing constant quarter notes. The lyrics are from the perspective of someone having heavy social anxieties and trying to work through those issues about whether they are good enough and what other people think of them and finding hope.
  9. Only In Your Head – This next song is built around a piano part I came up with a few years ago. It’s gone through a few different iterations but where I’ve landed, there’s quite a few layers of piano parts and synthesizers, adding lots of texture to the overall sound. It gets pretty dense.  It’s written from the perspective of someone wrestling with reality and with the what’s being told to us by the media in all it’s different forms.
  10. I Get By – This next one is a really old song I wrote back in 2005. My band at the time, Declaration, played it a few times but then it sort of got abandoned. Probably because I couldn’t hit the high notes very well. In 2012, I dusted it off for my 50 Songs in 50 Weeks in project and recorded a soft version with drum loops and synthesizers. When I got to thinking about what songs should belong on this album, I took a stab and making a rock version like the way I used to play it with the band. It’s kind of a dated 90s rock sound but at this point, I don’t really care. I think it’s pretty catchy. It’s about working through your problems and staying optimistic.
  11. The Last Waltz – This next song is a waltz written in 6/8 time. For this one, I dusted off my old violin I hadn’t played in several years and created a simple string arrangement but I layered so many parts it sounds like a full string orchestra. It’s written about a former classmate of mine who committed suicide. The title is borrowed from The Band’s concert film of their final live performance called, “The Last Waltz.”
  12. Brand New Life – For this last song, I decided after so many intense songs that I wanted to end the album on a positive, upbeat note. It’s also probably the most recently written song. It’s about being in love and proposing. I 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. So, this is my attempt at writing a better wedding song and I think it definitely tops the first one, at least.

If you happen to be a filmmaker or music supervisor, I’d love to have one or more of these songs in your projects. I have instrumental mixes available. Contact me to licensing details.

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Stay tuned next week where I’ll share my top ten favorite albums of 2018. Bye for now.

Ep. 78: Song “Moving On” (Influenced by Justin Timberlake)

This week on the podcast, I break apart a brand new song I recently wrote and recorded called “Moving On.” This is my best attempt at making a radio friendly pop song, influenced by Justin Timberlake.

I started creating this song when I heard about an opportunity where a song placement agency was accepting song submissions for tv, film and advertisement. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to make something that was really upbeat and catchy and danceable along the lines of Justin Timberlake’s song, “Can’t Stop The Feeling.”

I started off messing around with a few ideas on my acoustic guitar and cajon. Normally, I would finish writing a song before I start recording it but this time, I went ahead and put down some instruments in Protools without a lot of structure planned out yet.

Basically, I had a rough sketch of an “A” part and “B” part. I started with the guitar part played to a click track. I actually ended up shifting to the key down half a step to make it a little easier to sing.

Next, I used a Protools plug-in to program a very basic kick and snare drum loop. To get the drums to sound closer to a real drum set, I added some real hi-hats, along with a cymbal and tambourine.

Next came the bass guitar to give it some groove. To have it sound a little more dancey, I added a synthesizer part during the choruses. It’s hard to hear this in the mix but I did a technique with compression called “side-chaining” where the kick drum triggers a decrease in volume on the synth part, giving it a throbbing sound. This is a pretty popular technique used in a lot of electronic music. You can kind of hear the same sort of thing on the piano intro of “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”

Next I used another type of synthesizer for the ending called an arpeggiator just so to add a different flavor and sort of take the song to another place.

I felt like the guitar by itself was a little weak so I added two acoustic guitar parts to fill it out a bit more. There’s also a heavy distortion part at the end but it’s pretty low in the mix.

So I had all these different parts recorded and I did a lot of cutting and pasting and swapping things around until I was ready for the lyrics.

As part of the submission process, the agency I was working with provided a list of song topics they frequently get asked for. “Moving On” was one of the themes on the list so it wrote the lyrics about that topic. Originally, one of the lines I improvised was “I should have known” but with this new topic in mind, I changed it to “I’m moving on.”

I thought it would be cool to have it sound like a big group singing this line so I recorded myself singing it 6 times: 3 of parts at sort of normal range and 3 of them an octave lower. Here’s what it sounds like. I also took this group vocal idea and did some “whoahs” as part of the chorus hook.

To come up with lyrics, I played the my instrumental recording of the song over and over and improvised and bunch of different words on top of the beat. I wrote them all out and made some tweaks to so they fit the right number of syllables. I had a hard time figuring out which line belonged where so I cut the paper into strips so eat line was it’s strip and them moved the strips into different orders until I felt like the train of thought in the lyrics made logical sense and flowed off the tongue the right way.

Moving On Cut Up Lyrics

The lyrics talk about not letting the words or the things that other people do get to you. The line that ends the chorus says, “I won’t let anything stand in my way again” and that sort of sums it up. I tried to keep the wording fairly universal so it could work as a break up song or maybe even someone leaving a job or someone fed up with something political or just generally discouraged about how their life it going. I’m hoping people can connect with the positive outlook.

I submitted the song a few days ago so fingers-crossed that it gets picked up.

Lyrics:

I’ll tell you something that you might not like,
Your words can’t get to me, I hold my head of height,
You keep on talking like there’s something wrong,
I gotta tell you now, those feelings do belong,
Life’s too short for me to fret and worry,
Nothing gets me down and I’m not in a hurry,
I’m flying higher like you wouldn’t believe,
Oh yeah, I’m standing tall, I got my whole like ahead of me,

I’m moving on from all the pain that you put me through,
I’m back up on my feet I’m one step ahead of you, yeah,
I’ve had enough of all the things that you said,
I don’t need anything to stand in my way again, yeah,

It’s 7:30 on a friday night,
And when my feet start moving, yeah I feel alright,
I’ve had enough of staring at the phone,
I’ve got this restless feeling down in my bones,
I never understood the reason why,
You wanna rip my heart out and hurt my pride,
I’m finally free to step into the light,
Oh yeah, I’m feeling confident and my future’s bright

I’m moving on from all the pain that you put me through,
I’m back up on my feet I’m one step ahead of you, yeah,
I’ve had enough of all the things that you said,
I don’t need anything to stand in my way again, yeah,

I’m moving on

 

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