Archive for August, 2009

Insongnia

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

I’m curious to know what sort of things keep people up at night or what keeps them from sleeping in the morning? I, personally, have what I like to call “insongnia” because at 6am, on most mornings, a switch goes on in my head and it starts to fill up with lyrics and melodies. Maybe something Rob and I are working on, maybe something that’s been on my mind, but all of a sudden, it’s there and I can’t stop it and I can’t silence it until I get it out. Sometimes, it’s not ready yet, and I’ll just stay in bed and keep mulling it over until the answer hits me, and other times it’s fully-formed and I’ll go right for my digital recorder and get it down quickly before it vanishes. But it doesn’t end there…as those of you with similar afflictions (gifts?) know, we carry our idea around with us and let it gestate. So, after I’ve quietly wheezed something into my digital recorder with mock lyrics that I know will have to be changed, my insongnia usually finds voice in a songwriting journal or, in most cases, in the shower…Yes, the shower is my songwriting sanctuary, where for some reason everything seems to come together. I don’t know why, but something about the water and the steam helps me block out the world and just let my right brain and my left brain meet up and riff on an idea until it is truly mature and ready to be born (despite my pro-environment stance, I have to say I am quite guilty of overextending my showers just so I can work on songs! No finger-pointing from the peanut gallery, please, I know some of you do the same thing and I am not alone in this behavior…It is the best, and you all know it, so just ‘fess up). But, of course, the journey doesn’t end there, a lengthy shower can often lead to a verse or two and even a chorus, so, of course I can’t stop myself at that point. I keep developing the chorus as I boil the water for my morning soft-boiled egg, and more verses come to me as I dispose of the peel from my daily banana, and, if the song isn’t done by then, it will travel with me right on to the subway, where I will continue hum it quietly to myself all the way to work, courtesy of in-ear headphones, which magnify the sound in your own head and can make humming on the train, a very possible, and even pleasurable experience…The point is, I look at this behavior as a bit obsessive, but for me it’s something that (I think?) keeps me sane, otherwise all this stuff would just be stuck inside me, probably driving me even more crazy, I would guess? So, I want to know… do any of you share this with me? Ideas, that get your brain going and don’t let go of it until they’ve been exorcised? I want to know it’s not just me at 6am every morning, who can’t sleep because the thought train is burning at 100 miles an hour through his head. I want to know who else will admit to banging out an idea so hard that it feels like it has totally possessed you and held you captive for hours and sometimes even days on end? There’s got to be at least one or two of you out there who go through it, so be honest, be blunt…, but most of all, get it out! :-)

Small Steps

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

It does sometimes feel like all these songs are living creatures. Some are born in a matter of hours. Some take years to arrive. They all mature through performance and recording. Some are the favorites. Others are the problem children. There is always a love for all of them, even those that move away at an early age, not to be heard from for years.

If I had to pick the song we have written that means the most to me, it may be Small Steps, which we have just posted to the fanpage. It is a song that is very close to my heart for so many reasons. For one, it is the first song I wrote that I really felt proud of in terms of the guitar part. Secondly, it is a song of hope that was written at a tough time in my life. Thirdly, it contains my J.T. influence very clearly and I love that guy!

The song was written after having seen the movie “Touching the Void”, the true story of survival after a horrible mountain climbing accident. It is absolutely one of the most gripping movies I have ever seen. One of the two people involved in the accident states at one point in the film that the only way he could survive his ordeal of having to walk six miles over a tundra of ice and rocks with a shattered leg and no food or water was to make small goals for himself. Rather than imagine the six mile journey, he found a smaller goal…maybe a rock an eighth of a mile away. He felt that if he could just make it to that rock, then maybe he could make it further and further and so on. This notion of small goals was very helpful and inspirational to me in the tough time I was going through.

Since the songs birth it has been meaningful to many people including my Aunt Karen, who has had to undergo treatments for breast cancer. She has shared the song with the people she knows who are in similar circumstances and has reported back to me that it has helped them as well. I think that if I never write another song, I can be happy in just knowing that one of my songs helped people in the midst of that ordeal. However I AM planning to write more songs.

Last year my wife and I did the Avon Breast Cancer walk in NYC. It was a 2-day 42 mile walk all around NYC. I recorded this version of the song for that event. I hope you enjoy the song and who knows…maybe it will help you through a tough time!

Rewriting a chorus

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

We have recently been faced with an interesting task. There is a new song on our upcoming CD “Note to Self” that we really like. It’s (tentatively) called “A Little Time”. We love the verses. We LOVE the pre-chorus. We LOVE the bridge. We have not been feeling so good about the chorus, however, which happens once in the middle and twice at the end. We struggled for hours and hours to come up with lyrics to this chorus section and were divided on how well what we ended up with was working. Due to time pressure, we recorded it regardless. Now, months later, we have this song that we think could be great but it’s just not working due to the melody & lyrics on that chorus.

The first decision we made was that the pre-chorus which we were loving should actually be the chorus. It had been feeling that way for awhile. In order to turn that into a reality, we had to replace the 2 end choruses with the pre-chorus using a little musical cut and paste action. However, the pre-chorus has a bit more of a mellow vibe than what was previously there. That meant we were gonna have to create a transition, using only bits of music we already had recorded, to get down to the mellow vibe of those pre-choruses and it was gonna have to be a transition that dealt with the change in vibe in a smooth and musical way. We worked for HOURS on that one and finally got it (I think…ended up just being the way that the b3 organ faded out). Now we were faced with the bigger and stranger task: to keep the music from the original chorus but we rewrite the melody and lyrics.

Here’s what our lyrics were: “Yeah, it’s gonna take a little time for us, for us to break the walls that make us to and see us from above, to speak our hearts and see this through, to find our way through love”.

Here’s what we are working with now: “Yeah, it’s gonna take a little time for us, for us if we want it, wanna break the wall, if we want it all. Gotta let go, let the moments fall, if we want it all”.

So there you have it. These are the strange things that one goes through to make a song be the best version of itself. If only I put the same effort towards my personal hygiene.

Rob

P.S. Feel free to give us your feedback on which version you like better.