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. 76: Song “Little Bird” (Influenced by The Dodos)

This week, I’m featuring a brand new song just recorded called “Little Bird,” which will be on my new album coming out this October.

This song was influenced by a San Francisco band called The Dodos. In particular, I like the fast picking patterns and the driving percussion they typically use so I tried to incorporate some of those sounds into my song. Here’s the Dodo’s tune, “Black Night.”

So with that influence in mind, let me break apart my song for you. It starts with the acoustic guitar playing a syncopated picking style, which basically means the accents are played on the off beats.

To ground the song, I played a real simple kick drum beat with a cajon. It’s just quarter notes – or as they would say in dance music “4 to the floor.” Here’s the bass guitar along with played the same rhythm. Basically, I’m trying to stay out of the way of the busy guitar part.

Next I used the cajon again to play something like a tom fill every couple of bars, just to add a little extra excitement to the beat.

So now with these basic parts down, we needed a little extra texture. So, I added a soft organ to go in the background. I also added two electric guitar parts. One of them copies doubles what the acoustic guitar is doing and the other is sort of an ebow drone sound.

For the last minute of the song, the acoustic guitar switches from picking to strumming and the energy picks up. To go along with that an add a little punch, there’s another electric guitar part with distortion. I also picked up the energy with the percussion. Instead of having a tom fill every couple bars, I turned it into a quick roll almost surf style like the song “Wipe Out.”

The lyrics tell the story of someone having some heavy social anxieties and trying to work through those issues about whether they are good enough and what other people think of them. They are able to persevere with the thought that there’s someone out there looking out for them. I wouldn’t really call it autobiographical but it certainly pulls from feelings I’ve had from time to time.

I wouldn’t want anyone to see
The little bird sitting next to me
Telling me what I’m doing
Even though I keep losing

I wouldn’t want anyone to know
I’ve really got nowhere else to go
I’m out on a Friday night
Nothing is feeling right

But I got a feeling that someone’s coming back for me

I wouldn’t want anyone to leave
They’ve really got no reason to agree
I’m standing here on my own
Thinking I should go home

I wouldn’t want anyone to hear
It’s really been quite a rocky year
I don’t know what went wrong
That’s making me sing this song

But I got a feeling that someone’s coming back for me

I wouldn’t want anyone to say
I’m mixed up in my head and lost my way
I don’t know what I’m doing
But something is keeping me moving

But I got a feeling that someone’s coming back for me

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