Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac once said (paraphrasing), “Ask any songwriter how music comes to them, and they’ll probably say, ‘I don’t know.’” This tune came to me several years ago during one of the darkest and bleakest points in my life. The market collapsed and I was out of a job, and couldn’t find one; I had been bitten by a poisonous spider that left me bedridden for months; my relationship with my wife was tepid at best. Then on top of that, I had a bad case of sleep apnea that hadn’t been diagnosed at that point. The net effect was that I was suicidal; or short of that, wishing my life would end.
In a particularly bleak moment, where I was contemplating ending my life, this tune came into my head, accompanied by a mental slideshow of images from my entire life: Growing up, my own family. It was if someone out there was using the tune and the images to show me what really mattered in life. Since I first heard the song in my head, it has never left. It pops up now and then, though the pictures have changed as I have changed and my kids are getting older. It’s both a reminder of how bad it was for me, but also a reminder of how good my life has been and still is.
Putting this song down – and mind you, it’s pre-pre-production right now – was very difficult because of the emotions that came with it. But I thought I’d finally lay it down to share it. Someone suggested adding words, but I think the only thing I’ll add is a clean guitar solo on top. By the way, the background sounds you hear on this version are from my three-year-old playing floor hockey in my garage/studio. Without further ado, here’s the song:
Prestige Guitars Heritage Elite (sounds acoustic on this song!)
Fender Hot Rod Deluxe (left)
Aracom VRX22 (right)
Ever been in one of those situations where you have to face up to something you’d said or done, but avoid it all costs because it gives you this feeling of impending doom? I was recently in a situation like this, and it wasn’t at all comfortable going through the emotional and psychic turmoil leading up to the conversation the ultimately resulted in – nothing. No slap on the wrist, no punishment. Just a good conversation where everyone involved learned from the experience.
Anyway, last night I was noodling on my guitar; my eyes were closed, letting my emotions drive my playing. Then I remembered that situation, and came up with the rhythm track for the song. It’s all instrumental – it’s not something I would ever want to put to words, but I did want to convey the emotions. Give it a listen let me know what you think:
For the rhythm parts, the Strat/Hot Rod is panned to the left of the mix, and the Heritage/VRX22 (clean channel) is panned to the right. The lead part sits dead center.
I’m particularly pleased with the Hot Rod’s tone. The clean tone with that awesome spring reverb is to die for (though I had the reverb down pretty low on it to give the Strat more presence). I’m also diggin’ the Prestige Heritage Elite; especially after I set it up. In particular, I adjusted the pickup heights to smooth out the treble pickup, and to get less boom from the rhythm pickup. It’s now very balanced; and played through the VRX22, it sounds just awesome. I played the lead part through the drive channel of the amp, and set the volume so that it was just on the edge of breakup, so if I dug in a bit, I’d get just a touch of overdrive. I wanted to create an effect of subdued aggression, and the VRX22 is so dynamic, I can achieve that easily.
…to give up on a dream, or perhaps, maybe an illusion. I wrote a new song yesterday for Mass based on Psalm 32, called “I Turn to You.” Give it a listen:
Anyway, when I uploaded it to iCompositions, and wrote the song summary, I included that the song and lyrics were free for the taking. I was just going to put it out there, and let whatever church musicians who come across it use it to their hearts’ content. As I said, “This was a gift to me, and I want to pay it forward.”
Let me qualify about “giving it up.” It’s more like giving up an offering to the universe. I’m not going to stop putting my music out there to get it heard. It’s just that I’m not going to be attached to a particular style or genre of music as a vehicle. I’m going to write what I write, and if happens to be religous, fine. If it’s not, also fine. I’ll basically take whatever inspiration I can get, and let that inspiration dictate the direction I go in.
The new song is the result of just giving it up to the universe. I looked at the verses of the Psalm in the Bible, and suddenly the music came to me. Likewise, I was re-listening to an instrumental I came up with to demonstrate how “Goldie” the Saint Guitars Goldtop Benchmark sounds, and got the idea for an entire song built around that phrase. I’m writing this entry as a break from tracking right now.
I guess the point to all this is that I released my emotional attachments to the direction I’m taking my music, and letting it just be what it is: Music; irrespective of religion or philosophy. I’m just going to write about things I’m compelled to write about, and share the story.
As part of my five-year-plan to be on the road touring, I entered three of my songs into the Song Door International Songwriters Competition. This is a big step for me as I’m crossing into completely new territory. It’s one thing to get acclaim from your friends, it’s an entirely different matter to have your music put under the microscope. I’m both excited and nervous at the same time! Anyway, here are the numbers I chose:
Had another song idea, but thought I’d share the main riff as a Jam Track. It’s a slow ballad in A. I actually had a lot of fun with this, working between an A major scale and a F#m pentatonic then adding some diatonic runs as well. With this tempo (mm=84), you can play your solo fast or slow. It’s about 5 1/2 minutes long. Have fun!
Equipment: PRS SE Soapbar II, plugged into Fender Champ 600 amp. I used a Nady RSM-200 ribbon mic set about 8 inches away from the center of the speaker. It’s amazing how big the sound is!
This is the first kind of risque song that I’ve ever written. The back story is that I went dancing last weekend and ended up dancing with this super-sexy 22 year old girl that danced like she was pole dancing. It was amazing to behold. Funny thing was that I sort of beside myself – I’m old enough to be her father – and observing what a 22 year self would do and think. This song is about that observation.
Guitars: Gibson ES-333, PRS SE Soapbar I
Amp: Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
For mics, I used a Nady RSM-2 ribbon mic on the guitars, and a Senheiser 835 stage mic for the vocal (love that mic).
Just wrote this one today. While a love song, I wanted to be careful about the lyrics because it’s easy to get cheesy. But at the same time, I didn’t want to get really cerebral like Sting because I can’t do it as well – sounds way too formal and contrived, whereas Sting can almost always pull that stuff off.
For equipment I used:
Fender Stratocaster for main rhythm riff (set to middle/bridge position)
PRS SE Soapbar II for the solo (used the bridge pickup and ran it through my vibe pedal).
Mic’d my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. I just love that amp!
It’s funny how the inspiration for a song comes. I started out writing out the idea of a song that evolved into a jam track that evolved into a completed song structure that finally evolved into a finished piece, replete with vocals and a guitar solo. For this piece, “You’re Stuck With Me” I was really struggling to find words for the song, when I remembered a conversation – more like a heated argument – I had with my wife a few weeks ago. She was PMS’ing, and she can be downright evil when she’s in this state.
For years, I’d just taken the abuse or yelled right back at her, but this time, I decided that I was going to stand up to her rants and foul tongue, and use a different tact. While she was getting all huffy for something I said, I stopped what I was doing, walked right up to her, put my arms around her, told her to look at me, and said, “Whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with me… I’m not going to let you push me away.”
This song is about standing up to your life partner, but doing it in such a way that assures them that despite all that they may do to put you down and push you away during their time of discomfort, you’ll always be there.
This is kind of new territory for me musically. I’d done some blues in the past, but I wanted to do something different than a regular I-IV-V progression. In other words, I wanted to be a bit unpredictable, but by the same token, retain some familiarity with the sound. This song has elements of blues and country and rock, that I wanted sort of meld together. I think it works…
Just finished the complete song structure for what’s tentatively known as “Mr. Chunky” for the chunky twang rhythm part in the song. I’m looking for drums and bass for the song as I kind of “faked” it with audio loops for the drums and input the bass with MIDI. I posted a Jam Track earlier that was based on this song. If anything else, if you just want to jam, jam to this:
Anyway, here’s the completed song:
Guitars: PRS SE Soapbar II and Fender Stratocaster
Amp: Roland Cube 60 set to Tweed, gain about halfway up to provide some chunk without going over the top.
This is an instrumental that evolved out of an acoustic guitar groove I came up with years ago. Recently, a friend of mine shared what he was going through with me, and how he came to resolution with what he was facing. It inspired me to put this instrumental-only song together called, RESOLUTION. Give it a listen:
It’s interesting how this song finally came about. It was a really organic process. As I mentioned, I came up with the acoustic guitar groove years ago, and had it sitting in my head until a few weeks ago, when I decided to lay down some tracks. About a week ago, I was playing around with my ES-335, just jamming along with the groove, when out of the blue I started playing the arpeggios on top of the groove. So I layered those on top of the groove. Then when my friend told me what he was going through, I got the idea of doing the song as an instrumental-only song as he had expressed awhile ago that he’d like to hear me do an instrumental song featuring my guitar playing.
After he told me his story, I came home, sparked up my amp, strapped on my Strat, and started experimenting with different melody lines. In the end, I want to do harmonizing guitars with some free-form improv between. The result is RESOLUTION. It’s both sad and hopeful. Hope you like it!
Ovation Elite Acoustic – recorded live through a Nady RSM-200 and a Sennheiser e835 stage mic : Gibson ES-335 – provides the arpeggios Fender Strat – voicing for all leads.
Absolutely no pedals were used to record the electric guitars. I added some gentle reverb on the guitar tracks and that was it. They sounded so good just by themselves, I didn’t feel the need to add any compression or chorus – that might’ve ruined their tone.
Amp: Fender Champ 600 15W – close-mic’d using the Nady RSM-200 to provide some depth. I just love the natural tone from this amp. When close-mic’d it sounds so much bigger than its little 6″ speaker!