song sketchbook

Additional Thoughts on “You Never Really Saw Me Anyway”

Right off the bat, I think the most nagging thought I have about “You Never Really Saw Me Anyway” is it needs a banjo and mandolin. Two instruments I do not own (but would definitely like to own). To fill that void, I ended up using a capo and playing a C major chord structure in G major (which is the key of the song). I think it was largely successful in this instance (although I mixed it way down to mask it), but if this song makes the cut for the album, I’ll definitely want to do it up right.

Another interesting thing about this song is the tone. I believe I would want to add more spite to the vocals, but the bluegrass feel almost makes it seem MORE spiteful due to the fact it’s an angry song with an upbeat sound. I can’t quite put my finger on WHY, but that’s what I’m getting.

Finally, the length of the song is noteworthy. When I embarked on this weekly song sketch project (which, yay me, I’ve maintained for one whole month without missing a week) I decided to actively work towards shorter, punchier songs. The shortest song on Hold Still is under two minutes, with the rest clocking in at three plus minutes. While I like Tiny Crab > Big World, six minutes is a long time for a song to last. So, when writing these songs I’ve been looking at the structure and thinking what it actually needs. Does the song NEED three verses? Does that solo REALLY have to be there? When I wrote the songs for Hold Still, I was very much stuck on the standard song structure because I was learning how to write songs. Since then I’ve become more comfortable with writing and can (at least I think) better say just as much in fewer words/musical phrases.

As an artist it’s important to continually grow/learn and actively work towards self improvement. If you STOP trying to grow you’ll stagnate and eventually wither as innovation is the lifeblood of art. Don’t worry about what your fans will think. If they’re truly fans the’ll appreciate your work regardless of how different it is from everything else you’ve done. So keep moving, keep changing and keep innovating.

Song Sketchbook #4: You Never Really Saw Me Anyway

song sketchbook 4 you never really saw me anyway

This week’s song sketch… It kind of came out of nowhere when I was processing the Black Lives Matter movement that has (rightfully) been brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention. It’s a breakup song, and the euphemism of black Americans being in a toxic relationship with white Americans clicked when I heard an analogy made between an impromptu song sung by the artist/national treasure Jean Grae from the perspective of her cat and the centuries-old struggle of the black American population. Her line “why isn’t anybody looking at me” as a euphemism for the struggle is very apt. Just look. They are your friends, neighbors and loved ones. SEE them and SEE their daily struggle against the systematic racism that is so ingrained in this country. As a white dude I can’t even pretend to begin to begin to begin to understand. But I, and I hope you too, can SEE and ACT. Everyday. Because white America never really LOOKED at the struggle until it was thrust onto the national stage. And it’s long past due we did.

I do have notes on the song, but I will hold off on posting those so the above can sink in. In the meantime, check out the song below then feel free to go here and do some good.

Song Sketchbook #3: One Wasted Day

song sketchbook 3 one wasted day

This week’s sketch is an interesting one for me because it would not have been possible without some of the recent upgrades to my recording setup (specifically the drums). It’s also interesting (again to me) because of how I wrote it. I started on bass where I figured out a few lines for the chorus and verse. I then wrote the lyrics and THEN wrote the chords (which were only somewhat matching up to the original bass lines I wrote since the song had mutated by then). Usually it’s chords > lyrics with the bass as an afterthought. I should really make a point to give the bass more love in my song writing…

The subject matter of the song is pretty straightforward and is something I feel is quite relatable. You have stuff to do, but there’s a world of distractions tempting you away, and when you finally DO get around to your task it’s too late. I wrote it because I really didn’t feel like writing about anything. I have a bunch of ideas, but at the time I needed to start writing the next song I wasn’t really feeling up to tackling any of them. Something clicked in my brain and this song emerged. Maybe it was the backwards approach to writing I mentioned above. Who knows? The muse works in mysterious ways.

Anyway, here’s One Wasted Day.

Song Sketchbook #2: It’s All Been Done

song sketchbook 2 its all been done

Before you ask, no this isn’t a cover of a song by a certain Canadian band. What it is, however, is a good example of what this project embodies. It’s is definitely a “sketch” of a song. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is a full song that can be listened to, but I don’t believe the concept of the song is fully formed yet. There are bits I like, for instance the dirty, drunk electric guitar and the chug of “it’s all been done” in the chorus, but overall I believe that if this song makes the cut for the album, it will mutate quite a bit both sonically and lyrically. 

This song also incorporates some new tricks as well as a few technological advancements. For starters it changes key not once, but twice (A major > G major in the chorus, then to E major for the bridge). I also experimented with the song structure to make it shorter. Finally, incorporates a new drum program as well as a new mic for the electric and bass. 

That’s all for now. See you next week!

Song Sketchbook #1: Tattoo

song sketchbook 1 tattoo

With the release of my first EP two weeks ago (titled Hold Still, available most everywhere digital music is sold/streamed), I was thinking on what to do next. I want to keep the content coming and not just release performance videos (which, admittedly, are not easy to make) or acoustic demos on Bandcamp. After a lot of thought I decided to do this experiment I’m calling a Song Sketchbook. The idea is that I’ll write and record a song in a short amount of time. I’m not saying how short so I don’t over promise anything, but that will hopefully be apparent soon. These will effectively be glorified demos, but hopefully more than just me and an acoustic. (No promises!) I want them to be listenable as stand alone songs. Anyway, I’ll do this for, say, 12 or 14 songs. Then, when I feel I have enough content, I’ll take the best of the bunch and fully work them up for my next album. At that stage they could end up completely different from their Sketchbook versions. Who knows?! After that, I’ll possibly do it again (hence the “season” descriptor). I’ll also be releasing these in a blog format as a way to engage as well as offer insight into the process. That idea isn’t anything original, but I believe it is effective, so I’m stealing it!

The first song in this little experiment is called Tattoo. It’s about a person trying to come up with a really good idea for their first tattoo. Enjoy!