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


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