Archives for posts with tag: creativity
If you’re a podcast listener you’ll probably be familiar with the two podcasts whose names I’ve mashed up for the purposes of this series of posts. I thought it apt because what I’d like to do is to give you an idea of my creative process (à la Song Exploder) as I actually work through it over the next few weeks and months (à la Serial) on a new song called “Wrestle With Giants”. 

 

When trying to lay down bass tracks it’s not always that easy. Mainly because I don’t have a bass guitar. That hasn’t stopped me in the past but this time around I have a new secret alternative weapon: my sweet new used electric piano. It has a pretty decent sounding synthesized fingered acoustic bass. But despite this there’s one major flaw when trying to record a bass part using a keyboard: you can’t do slides. I think the musical term is glissando…or if you’re really cool: “gliss”. It’s a subtle but very effective technique by those who play stringed instruments to stick it to all other instruments who don’t have this ability (except tromboners and…slide whistle-eers). Seriously though, it’s one of those things that distinguishes a part from a performance.

So as you listen to this latest iteration of Wrestle With Giants…listen for the bass part. I’ll leave the bass performance for those who say “gliss”.

Blue Blue Satellite

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Before I hit my stride writing contemplative melancholia, there were three songs I was especially proud of: “The Fair’s in Town Tonight“, “Don’t Cry (Tonight)” and “Against the Northern Sky”. They’re also amongst my oldest songs and I used to call them the Trilogy of Sad Songs. Nowadays nary a song gets wrote that isn’t sad in some way.

Track 3 – “The Fair’s in Town Tonight”

Sometimes the genesis of a song will be a single freeze frame in my mind’s eye. Either one I make up or one I’ve experienced. In the case of “The Fair’s in Town Tonight” it was a sad one I had seen…..from The Simpsons:

simps

Lisa Simpson personifying melancholia. And poor pedestrian safety.

This poignant moment of cartoon gravity came after a scene at a carnival/fair thus planting the seed of a song whose theme was the deception of appearances: sad people can be at fair, adult males can watch cartoons…

simps2

Speaking of adult males, another frame from the same episode.

In the bridge, I wanted to achieve a certain sound with one of the instruments and we accomplished it by bouncing a screwdriver off electric guitar strings. We had first tried a highlighter but it just didn’t have the quality you get with a screwdriver. You can never be too picky when using work tools and stationery as instruments.

Track 4 – Don’t Cry (Tonight)

“Don’t Cry (Tonight)” is my oldest song with any songwriting worth. It was a mainstay of my early live shows and if memory serves, it was one of the songs that helped land me a spot on Toronto’s Free Times Cafe’s Best of Open Stage, which set the stage for the emergence of Blue Blue Satellite in the early 2000’s. Further validation came years later, when my #1 influence, Mojave 3, released a song that had echo’s of “Don’t Cry” in it. Very cool to see like-minded inspiration from different sources.

I fought with the arrangement of “Don’t Cry (Tonight)” for several weekends before we were due to start recording it. I finally drew on songs that do strings right, and based the arrangement around a violin ensemble part.

This may be a reward or it may be a punishment for you wonderful readers out there, but here’s the original DIY demo I did of the song if you want to contrast it with the final product.

Blue Blue Satellite

I’m a songwriter. I’m not a guitarist, I’m not a drummer, I’m not a keyboardist, I’m not a bassist.

The good news: As I head into the studio in September there are such things as “session musicians” who will play all those instruments for you on your record!

The bad news: I’m too cheap to pay for session musicians.

But that’s actually still good news because I’m something of a multi-instrumentalist which means I’m familiar with the mechanics of several instruments despite sucking at them individually. The good news being, for the tracks that will have a fuller production I’ll be forced to come up with creative ways to record these instruments without betraying the fact that I’m actually quite lousy at them. And the way I’ll do this is to use them in non-traditional ways(i.e. cheat) that can only give the songs a fresher, unique, less-is-more feel to them…

So it’s win-win: I save money and you, the potential listener, will get a feast for your ears! But be forewarned for what you’re in for…I emailed my producer today asking if his studio had an accordion, melodica or Moog I could tinker with…which should be extra interesting seeing as I don’t know what a Moog is…

Blue Blue Satellite