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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Ep. 40: 5-10-15-20 (Music That’s Inspired Me Over The Years)


Pitchfork.com does a feature on their website called “5-10-15-20” where an artist talks about what they were listening to and influenced by during different ages in their life starting with age 5, than age 10 and so on. I thought it would be fun to do it myself.

Age 5 – Miami Vice Theme Song
imagesMy parents used to have a cassette tape to the soundtrack of Miami Vice, the TV show. It was very 80s – synthesizers, heavy reverb on the drums, epic guitar solos, etc. Very cheesy. It sounded like video game music, which is probably why I liked it.

Age 10 – Beethoven: “Ode to Joy”
I was really into classical music at this point. The first CD I bought was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which I was mostly interested because of the big “Ode to Joy” section (which I had heard in cartoons and advertisements). I used to pretend I was Beethoven conducting a big orchestra. By now, I had taken a few years of piano lessons and started playing violin in the school orchestra.

Age 15 – Radiohead: “Karma Police”
By this time, I had been into alternative rock music for a few years. Around 12, I watched the “Beatles Anthology” special on TV, which started my Beatles obsession (which continues to this day). I bought a cheap guitar for the sole purpose of learning Beatles songs. Later, I got into Oasis (because they sounded like the Beatles) and being from the Seattle area, I couldn’t help being influenced by the aftermath of grunge (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden). At age 14, I started writing my first songs on piano and guitar and started my first band. By age 15, I was into Radiohead, especially the album “OK Computer.” It was rock music but it was smart and artsy. It was new and fresh but also had a hint of Pink Floyd and the Beatles. I loved the song “Karma Police.” Later in high school, I was introduced to emo and indie rock music (Sunny Day Real Estate, Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, Pedro the Lion, and Death Cab For Cutie), which had a huge influence on the type of music my band wrote and played.

Age 20 – Debussy: “Clair De Lune”
When I was 20, I was in the middle of serving for 2 years as a missionary in New York City. We weren’t allowed to listen to rock music so I got re-acquainted with lots of classical music, particularly Debussy (I love “Clair De Lune”), Chopin, Schubert and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. On our days off, I still played piano and wrote my songs. Occasionally, we’d have dinner with a member of the congregation that had a guitar so I got jam.

Age 25 – Fleet Foxes: “White Winter Hymnal” After my mission, I continued playing music influenced by the indie rock bands I was into during high school, as well as discovering some new artists: Arcade Fire, Memomena, The Decemberists and Vampire Weekend. By age 25, my band mates from Declaration had graduated college and moved away so we called it quits. I was looking for some new sounds and came across the Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal,” which reminded me of my parents CSNY record. I loved harmonies and simplicity. It was upbeat without feeling fake. I was also digging deeper into Wilco, particularly their album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. Inspired by these sounds and wanting to do something interesting with all the acoustic songs I had kicking around, Adding Machines was born.

Age 30 – The Dodos: “Black Night”
A few years ago, I turned 30. I’ve been a heavy Spotify user the last couple years and find myself listening to a greater variety than I ever have. I pay more attention to new releases coming out and also dig through entire catalogs of classic artists. Some of my recent favorites are Elvis Costello, Beach House, The Dodos, Father John Misty, Kishi Bashi, and Ben Sollee. In many ways, I’m rediscovering what I want to do musically and the possibilities are exciting.

Spotify Playlist

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