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.

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.

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

Ep. 60: Christmas Song – Little Drummer Boy

When my wife and I first married, we started a tradition of recording Christmas songs every year. Sometimes it’s just one song and other years, we’ve recorded as many as five. We’ve kept it up for 11 years now, totaling 24 songs. This year, we recorded “Little Drummer Boy.” I sang lead vocals, played acoustic guitar, bass, mandolin, tamborine, and cajon. My wife, Melissa sang harmony vocals. Our three kids joined in and played cajon and sang backing vocals. It was a fun song to put together. I hope you enjoy it and have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Our Christmas Songs on Soundcloud

Ep. 59: Favorite Music of 2017 – Top Ten Albums

I’m back from taking a little bit of a break from the podcast. These last few months, I was in the thick of building our new house. We were doing a lot of the work ourselves and trying to get everything done so I was just too busy to record any episodes. But it’s now finished! We’re all moved in and I have my home studio setup again, which is where I’m recording this. I still need to do some acoustic treatment on the walls but here’s where it’s at so far:

jake haws studio

Here’s my favorite music that came out this year. There were a lot of albums I really liked but I’ve narrowed it down to top ten.

10. Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

Jason IsbellJason is known being a member of The Drive-By Truckers but he’s released several solo albums over the years. This is his sixth and this time, he’s recorded with his backing band, The 400 Unit. He’s got a very pleasant sound that falls somewhere between alt-country and maybe more traditional americana (somewhere along the lines of Ryan Adams). The songwriting is top-notch. It’s a great album. Essential Songs: Last Of My Kind, Tupelo, Molotov

Stream: Spotify

9. Spoon – Hot Thoughts

spoon hot thoughtsThis is their ninth album and they still manage to keep it interesting. This is one of the more experimental releases they’ve done. There are a lot of interesting sounds like distorted drums, vibraphones and synthesizers. It’s even a bit messy but I think works for what they are going for. There are song great, catchy tunes on here. Essential Songs: Do I Have To Talk You Into It, Hot Thoughts, Pink Up

Stream: Spotify

8. Morning Teleportation – Salivating for Symbiosis

R-10654833-1501776806-2976.jpegThis is a pysdeclic rock band from Kentucky, which are signed to Glacial Pace Recordings, a label owned and operated by Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse. This is their second album and they have come up with an adventurous batch of tunes. The arrangements are pretty complex; there’s a lot of guitar noodling recalling minus the bear and also brass hits and other interesting sounds. Despite the complexities, the melodies on several of the songs are great and stand on their own. Essential Songs: The Code, Rise and Fall, Calm Is Intention Devouring It’s Fraility

Stream: Spotify

7. Iron & Wine – Beast Epic

Iron_&_Wine_-_Beast_EpicSam Beam (AKA Iron & Wine) is back. This is his sixth Iron & Wine album (although he’s recorded several EPs and collaborative recordings with other artist). Over the years, his music went from being very sparse and whispery to increasingly complex, incorporating more and more instruments. For this record, he’s stripped it back down to a sound similar to his second album, Our Endless Numbered Days and maybe with more of an Americana twist. The songwriting is strong and it’s a great, relaxing album to listen to. Essential Songs: Call It Dreaming, Claim Your Ghost, Summer Clouds

Stream: Spotify

6. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

LCD_Soundsystem_-_American_DreamAfter calling it quits in 2011, James Murphy and company are back and sound as fresh as ever. He continues to do what he does best, which is finding inspiration from retro synth and rock sounds and putting his own modern spin on it. His songwriting is top notch and holds up with the best of any of his other records. Essential Songs: Oh Baby, I Used To, Call The Police

Stream: Spotify

5. Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog

This_Old_Dog_Mac_Demarco_coverOn his third album, Mac continues with the chilled out vibe he’s created on previous recordings but he’s gotten tighter with his songwriting and approach. He’s also added a few new elements like an occasional drum machine and some minimal synthesizer. It’s a great, consistent batch of songs. Essential Songs: For The First Time, My Old Man, This Old Dog

Stream: Spotify

4. Ásgeir – Afterglow

afterglow-webOne of my friends showed this artist to me. He’s from Iceland and this is his second album. He’s got a great voice and I love the atmospheric production. He reminds me a little bit of Bon Iver and James Blake, especially on this album. Essential Songs: Afterglow, Unbound, Stardust

Stream: Spotify

3. Jeff Tweedy – Together At Last

togetheratlast_jefftweedyThis album comes from the lead singer of Wilco. Now, he’s put out a solo album and done other side projects before but this one is a little different. This release is very stripped down, solo acoustic recordings of songs spanning his entire career so there’s not actually any new songs here. It’s the first of a series called the “Loft Acoustic Sessions” and recalls the same sort of sound and feeling from his solo live shows. It’s a nice, pleasant relaxing listen and proves that his songwriting really stands on it’s own without the full band productions. Essential Songs: Laminated Cat, I’m Always in Love, Muzzle of Bees

Stream: Spotify

2. Dan Auerback – Waiting on a Song

220px-Dan_Auerbach_Waiting_on_a_SongThis is the second solo album from the lead singer of the Black Keys. He trades in their trademark lofi, gritty blues rock sound for a mix of sounds inspired from 70s soul and breezy folk rock. He’s at the top of his songwriting game here, especially compared to the slow, psychedelic haze of the last Black Keys records. The songs are upbeat, catchy and joyful. He even produces the recording himself, which is all the more impressive. Essential Songs: Waiting on a Song, Shine on Me, Never in My Wildest Dreams

Stream: Spotify

1. Dr. Dog – Abandoned Mansion

220px-Dr.DogAbandonedMansionI got into Dr. Dog back when their classic album Fate came out in 2008. They’ve recorded several albums since then but this is the first one where I feel like the songwriting is back at the top of their game from stated to finish. On this album, they downplay their 60s psychedelic and classic rock influences and go for a more stripped down, straightforward folk rock approach will still retaining their warmth and humor. I keep returning to this album over and over because the songs are so relaxing and comforting to listen to. Essential Songs: Ladada, Jim Song, Could’ve Happened To Me

Stream: Spotify

Spotify Playlist of 25 Favorite Albums of 2016

Favorite Songs of 2017

Spotify Playlist of Favorite Songs of 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vote for my remix on Indaba Music

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

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

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

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

The Pslam of Nephi
2 Nephi 4:17-35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Micah’s website: micahdahl.com

Download “The Door” on Bandcamp

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