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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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):

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

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.


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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