Ep. 24: Christmas Songs

Today’s episode is focused on Christmas music. Ever since my wife and I married, we’ve had a tradition of recording Christmas Songs every year. We haven’t recorded this year’s songs yet but I wanted to share with you some of the songs we’ve recorded in past years.

So, I’ll start things off with “O Holy Night,” which we recorded in 2012. As you’ll hear, this arrangement is sort of a rock doo-wop version. My wife, Melissa, sang lead vocals and I played all the instruments.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was recorded in 2011. We lived in an apartment at the time so we needed to record something a little quieter that year. We added our own little interlude to change the song up a bit.

“Still Still Still” was recorded back in 2009 at Muse Recording Studio, which we owned at the time. I’ve always loved the melody and feel of this one.

“The Christmas Song” also known as (Chestnuts Roasting) and is one of the first Christmas Songs we recorded back in 2007. We were going for an old-fashioned, jazzy feel. We recorded the vocals on an older microphone to get a warm, bassy tone. We even recorded some record crackle sounds to get even more of the vintage sound.

“I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day” was also record in 2007, the first year we started recording Christmas songs. I’ve always been struck by the story behind this one. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words on Christmas Day back in 1864. A few years before, his wife had died from a tragic fire caused by a strong gust of wind blowing their window open and knocking a candle over onto her dress. His son was later crippled in an injury while fighting in the Civil War. After a very rough couple years and with the war coming to a close, Longfellow was inspired to write the words that became this beloved song, that through despair, the Christmas season brings a feeling of hope for peace among men.

This last song, “Blue Christmas,” was recorded in 2013. This was originally made famous by Elvis when we recorded it back in 1957. We tried to keep some of that vintage, old-timey feel in our version.


All of the Christmas Songs (2007-2015)

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Ep. 23: Song “Dad” (Influenced by Drew Danburry)

I wrote and recorded a song about being a Dad, which I’ve appropriately titled, “Dad.” I first posted it online 4 years ago on Father’s Day .

It’s influenced by the style of my friend, Drew Danburry. One of my favorite songs of his is called “Memorial Day.” There’s a line where he talks about his mother so I tried to capture some of that same sentiment.

For the arrangement, I decided to I kept it super sparse: just one guitar, one vocal, no effects.

Lyrics:
I got one eye open while I’m trying to sleep
The baby keeps crying I can’t get a wink
So I’m waiting for you, love
It’s your turn to get up

Rocking this boy past quarter to three
The kid won’t rest he’s got somewhere to be
So I’m I’m rocking the night away
I can sleep it off in the day
At least I think so

Well if the chance I would do it again
Cause I ain’t gonna spend my life complainin’
Yes I won’t
It takes a lot work to let the children play
But I guess it’s just the price that you gotta pay to be a dad

The kid keeps crawling around the house
And has an accident on the wife’ favorite blouse
But it’s gonna be okay
I didn’t like that one anyway.

Keep wanting to go to the park
And won’t come home until it’s after dark
Well I’m calling out your name
I love you all the same but you’re still grounded

Well if the chance I would do it again
Are you really sure you wanna have another kid
Well I do
It takes a lot work to have the bills get paid
But I guess it’s just the price that you gotta pay to be a dad

Even though you’re cranky I still love you, dad
Your clothes are out of style and you aren’t half bad
well I need some advice to get me through this life

Your kids will get older before you know
Your skin will get wrinkly and your hair will show it
You’re approaching the grave
I’ll take of you just the same
I love you, dad.

Download “Dad” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 22: Adding Machines – Live Concert at Velour (6/24/2015)

For this week’s podcast episode, I’m sharing with you a live recording from a show I played over a year ago on June 24, 2015. This is the last show I did with Adding Machines and it took place at a Battle of the Bands at Velour in Provo, Utah. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the battle but it was still a lot of fun.

 

The lineup this time was Matt Weidauer on guitar, mandolin and vocals, along with a few friends who filled in; namely Micah Dahl Anderson on drums and vocals, and Andrew Dyer on bass. It had been a while since our last show so it was almost like starting from scratch to learn the songs together as a band. We threw in two brand new songs; “Eye to Eye” and “Elephant in the Room,” while the rest of the set were other tunes from our two albums, “Sweet Dreams” and “Death and Taxes,” which are available on Spotify, iTunes and where else you might stream or download music.

The other bands that played that night were Dry Erase Tracks, Jessica Frech and Jack Pines.

Here is the entire concert on video (6 separate videos on one playlist):

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Ep. 21: Song “The One I Love” (Influenced by The Beach Boys)

When I married my wife, Melissa, 10 years ago, I wrote this song and performed it on our wedding day at the reception. 6 years later, I recorded it for our anniversary.

The production elements, such as the thick harmonies with ohs and ahs, sleigh bells, vibraphone, and cello, are influenced by the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album.

For the lyrics and melody, I was trying to create something along the lines that the Swell Season would write (which are Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, famous from the movie “Once”).

Most of the lines of this songs are quite literally about events in our relationship. For example, “Valentine’s Day I was so anxious that I sighed” refers to the day that I proposed.

The line that says “Did you keep all the letters that I wrote while I was away?” refers to when we wrote each other while I was a missionary in New York.

“Do you remember the Rose Gardens at Thanksgiving Point?” refers a date we went on where the gardens were closed but we snuck in and it was just us alone.

It’s a special and personal song to me so I hope you enjoy it.

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Photo by: Ashley Beal Photography

Lyrics:
Valentine’s Day I was so anxious that I sighed
I’ve never seen a face so beautiful
It’s like the day that we first met
There’s not a chance that I’ll forgot the way
The way you had that look in your eyes

You are the one I love
I want to spend the rest of my life living by your side
You know that you are the one I love
And every single day I try to give my heart away to you

Did you keep all the letters that I wrote while I was away?
There are so many things for me to say
Do you remember the Rose Gardens at Thanksgiving Point?
Oh I never will forget that night

Don’t be afraid
I’ll keep you safe

You are the one I love
I want to spend the rest of my life living by your side
You know that you are the one I love
And every single day I try to give my heart away to you

I do

Download “The One I Love” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 20: Music from “The Woman in Black” (Scary Halloween Sounds)

Last year, a friend of mine named Archie Crisanto was directing a local stage production of The Woman in Black. He asked me to help him come up with some sound effects and write some original music for the play.

We talked about what kind of tone we wanted the music to have and the soundtrack for “There Will Be Blood,” composed by Radiohead member, Johnny Greenwood, came to mind. This really helped to inspire the tone and direction of the music I wrote.

There were 4 pieces of music I recorded for the play. For the first one, I tried to create something where you really felt a sense of despair and loneliness. The guitar line is repetitive, slow and heavily covered in reverb. For the eerie ringing in the background, I strummed by pick on the top of the guitar headstock, which is enough to make the open guitar strings vibrate and sound the way they do. I actually copied this technique from watching the guitar player from Radiohead do this during the opening of the song “Lucky.” We ended up actually not using this piece in favor of instead using the strings piece you will hear later. So, here’s the first piece, which I’ve appropriately titled, “Eerie Guitar”.

The second piece is an organ improvisation. This one actually was used in the play as background music during a scene where a funeral is taking place and a priest is giving a speech. I’ve entitled it “Spooky Organ Improvisation.”

This third piece of music is another improvisation but this time on piano. I used something called a “whole tone scale.” Most scales that we’re familiar with hearing, such as the major or minor scales, are a combination of half steps and whole steps. Because of this, there is a note called the “tonic” note that you brain wants the song to eventually resolve to. With the whole tone scale, there are no half steps and no tonic note to end on and so, the music just tends to drift without ever really getting resolved. This is something that the composer, Debussy started to use a little later in his career, which really gives it an other worldly sound, which is what we were going for with the play. I also took some of the notes I played and reversed them on the computer to give it even more of a supernatural sound. This one didn’t make it in the play but I think it’s still really interesting.

The last piece was used in a scene where the actor sees the woman in black for the first time. The string really add a chilling effect to the story. I wanted it to sound like a massive string orchestra but with this being a low budget project, we couldn’t really afford to record an orchestra. Luckily, I played violin from 4th grade through my high school years and even though I’m a little rusty, I thought I could pull something off.

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In total, there were 24 different string tracks. To start, I began with a minor chord played across 4 different tracks and with the same note held it out for about two minutes. I did a lot of different copying and pitch shifting with those parts so that there were some lower parts the sounded like cellos and violas and higher parts that sounded like very high violins. All together, it sounds like a massive group of strings playing a drawn out chord. I then added several tracks of myself gradually sliding the notes upwards.

Played against the drone of the minor chord, the effect is a very harsh, clashing sound with everything all together. I also added reverb and reversed some of the string parts to give them even more of an eerie quality.

I wish I could say I was innovative here but this atonal technique is actually a pretty common sound used a lot now in film scoring. Johnny Greenwood frequently uses it. One of the first people to use it is the polish composer, Krzysztof Penderecki, in his piece “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” composed back in 1960. You’ve probably also heard this type of sound at the end of each episode of the TV show, LOST.

I’ve collected these tracks and made them available on Spotify, iTunes and my Bandcamp page. Enjoy!

Download these songs from Bandcamp

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Ep. 19: Song “I’ll Sit Here and Wait” (Influenced by The Beatles)

This is one of my early songs written back in junior high school. The style didn’t really fit with my band at the time so it sat on the shelf for a while. When I started my 50 Songs in 50 Weeks project, it seemed a like a good opportunity to finally get it recorded. I was just starting to into the Beatles at the time so this was influenced by the song “It’s Only Love” from the album “Help.”

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It was also influenced little bit from the Goo Goo Dolls. Take a Listen.

Lyrics:
The days pass and I’ve gone nowhere
I sit and let you talk to me
When will I get to know you
You said I guess we’ll see

The days keep getting longer
The sun keeps shinning in your eyes
Stay, stay with me tonight.

We can’t walk away from this today
I don’t know where I’ll go tomorrow
Til I know I’m go and ready
I’ll sit here and wait
I’ll sit here and wait

I should have seen it coming
I thought that everything was alright
Stay, stay with me tonight.

We can’t walk away from this today
I don’t know where I’ll go tomorrow
Til I know I’m go and ready
I’ll sit here and wait
I’ll sit here and wait

Download “I’ll Sit Here and Wait” on Bandcamp

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Ep. 18: Song “No Wall” (Influenced by The Beta Band)

brassed-off-640x434This song is influenced by the group the Beta Band. My first exposure to this group was a scene from the movie High Fidelity where one of their songs in played in the record store. I later witnessed the group open for Radiohead, which really got me into them. Their album, Hot Shots II is one of my all time favorite albums. But their song “Dry the Rain” (off their also excellent Three EPs album and the one featured in High Fidelity) is probably my favorite track of theirs.

So, as you will probably notice, my song heavily borrows on several of the production elements from “Dry the Rain”:

  • The strumming pattern of the acoustic guitar.
  • Layered drum machines and tambourines for the beat
  • Double tracked vocals to imitate the sound and mood of “Dry the Rain.”
  • Electric guitars for texture (one has a cool tremolo sound and another has more of light overdrive).
  • A big, epic ending theme that eventually fades out (along the lines of “Hey Jude”).
  • 8 vocal tracks that sing the ending theme with Ohs (As you can hear, I didn’t have pop filter so there’s a lot of wind from my mouth blowing against the microphone but since the song has so many layers, it kind gets buried in the mix so you don’t hear it).
  • For some extra punch at the end, I added to some handclaps and sleigh bells to the rest of percussion.
  • Each time ending theme is played, more instruments are added: organ, strings, brass and a heavily distorted guitar

This is one of my favorites in the project so far. I think the dense layers make it sound really interesting.

Lyrics:
Give me one more try to make things right,
I’ll make it up to you
And I will be right where I belong,
For a night or two, yeah

How far we go depends on you
Whether I’m right or wrong
How far we go depends on you
And I’m standing by

There’s no wall to walk behind
There’s no place for me to hide
When I’m away from you
There’s no wall to walk behind
There’s no place for me to hide
When I’m away from you

Turn me inside out define the flaws
and pinpoint the lies,
And you’ll never doubt that I was wrong
Never wonder why, yeah

How far we go depends on you
Whether I’m right or wrong
How far we go depends on you
And I’m standing by

There’s no wall to walk behind
There’s no place for me to hide
When I’m away from you
There’s no wall to walk behind
There’s no place for me to hide
When I’m away from you

We always dreamed that there was more
But we’d never find the door,
To escape from here
There’s no wall to walk behind
There’s no place for me to hide
When I’m away from you

Download “No Wall” from Bandcamp.


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Ep. 17: Song “I Feel My Savior’s Love” (Religious)

This week, I’m breaking a bit from the usual format by posting a cover song. This one is actually a religious children’s song from the LDS Church’s Primary songbook. I remember singing it as a kid and it’s always stayed one of my favorites.

When I got a little older, I served as a missionary in New York City. We weren’t allowed to have a guitar in our own apartment but occasionally when I would visit a member’s house, there would be one sitting around and this would be one of the songs I played.

Later on when I attended BYU, I found out the music was actually written by one of my music professors, Newell Dayley. Getting to know the person behind the song added another level of appreciation for me.

In the back of my head, I’ve thought to myself, “I need to record this song someday.” With the current state of the world, it seems like there is a lot of friction and frustration and I felt like there were things I wanted to say but this was the best way to say it. I think the message of the lyrics is very simplistic and powerful. It’s about loving the savior and trusting that he’s looking out for you.

Lyrics:

I feel my Savior’s love
In all the world around me.
His Spirit warms my soul
Through everything I see.

He knows I will follow him,
Give all my life to him.
I feel my Savior’s love,
The love he freely gives me.

I feel my Savior’s love;
Its gentleness enfolds me,
And when I kneel to pray,
My heart is filled with peace.

Chorus

I feel my Savior’s love
And know that he will bless me.
I offer him my heart;
My shepherd he will be.

Chorus

I’ll share my Savior’s love
By serving others freely.
In serving I am blessed.
In giving I receive.

Chorus

Words: Ralph Rodgers Jr., K. Newell Dayley, and Laurie Huffman
Music: K. Newell Dayley

Free Download of “I Feel My Savior’s Love” from Bandcamp.

Ep. 16: Song “Over Me” (Influenced by The Beatles)

With this song, I initially had something in mind close to the Beatles song “Across the Universe” when I started recording it.

I planned on putting bongos but I didn’t have one handy and I couldn’t get any of the midi bongo sounds to sound right. So, I started to drift in a little different direction by layering on the harmonies with heavy reverb and adding multiple organ sounds layered. I think the result ended up more along the lines of Panda Bear’s album “Tom Boy” with the repetitive lines and drones.

I’m think it turned out pretty cool. Take a listen.

Lyrics:
Watching the sun rise
Nothing’s quite the same
Shadows fade away
The light dries up the rain
You wonder who you are
You seem to be alright

Tell me now, how is the sky over me
How are the stars over me
How are the birds over me
How are the clouds over me

Everywhere you go
You stop and say hello
Just wanted to belong
A place to call your home
You wonder who you are
You seem to be alright

Tell me now, how is the sky over me
How are the stars over me
How are the birds over me
How is this love over me

Anything you want
Anything you want
Anything you want
Anything you want is yours

Download “Over Me” on Bandcamp.


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Ep. 15: Song “Anonymous” (Influenced by Mazzy Star)

This week’s song is influenced by the atmospheric Mazzy Star song, “Fade Into You,” which is one of my favorite tunes of all time. I could listen to it over and over again and not get sick of it. For those of you not acquainted with this song, it was minor hit in the early 90s and it’s been on a handful of movies and TV shows since then.

I tried to capture the same atmosphere that “Fade Into You” has by having a similar strumming pattern with the acoustic guitar, the same sort of tambourine part, a fair amount of reverb throughout, and a 6/8 time signature. I used the drum set sound on the keyboard for the kick, snare and cymbal.

Lyrics:
Hello to me, to say I know
To want and dream, your need to fall

For you I die, the tears we cry
I know your face all too well

You never know why we came
You never know what to say
I finally found that I was much more than
I can be alone

To speak and sign
Your heart will try
I wanted nothing but the best for you

I am so in love with you
And I don’t think it will ever pass
I want you so bad but I don’t know what to say
Well I can’t be with you

You never know why we came
You never know what to say
I finally found that I was much more than
I can be alone alone alone

In space you hide, the dark your guide
The pain it brings to end with goodbye

Download “Anonymous” on Bandcamp.

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