Wednesday, 26 October 2011

So Much To Do, So Little Time

Sometimes writing things down helps set things in motion, so with this in mind, I thought I'd make an interim post about what I'm up to with tinkersong. I need to come back in due course and write a little about my most recent upload.

Wake Up: a song for our times - one of political, social and economic observations - which having had a little boost from the blogging community (Max Farquar*, Captain Ranty* and others) has done quite well, heading towards being my no. 2 most viewed video in less than a month.

I should also write about my experience of putting on a local music festival, but that is another story...

I embarked upon this music project 18 months or so ago, as much out of a frustration that, if it was to be, it would be up to me, as a need to purge the soul and set 'mes enfants' free. Though, in the process of progressing this project, it's been more about doing than outcomes. A pebble thrown into a lake... success and recognition would be a bonus.

Funnily enough, I've always felt a little unworthy when in the company of proper musicians – when I think of some of the original music I've heard that got nowhere, you wonder whether it's worth picking up the guitar. That said, I think I've surprised myself with what I could do with my limited home studio set-up and a little endeavour.

At the outset, I already had quite few demos recorded - some of better quality that others - my 'better' songs I’d intended keeping for the studio (or the album), so I've been mostly doing songs that were new recordings, apart from a few strategic songs like Mathew Street (Beatles connection) and Driven [below] (a relatively polished, studio recording that came from a music production course). So doing these 'new' songs has been a voyage of discovery.


In the pipeline, I've a song called Have You Tonight, which is about the lustful frisson of excitement of meeting someone. The Condom Song: a song about being prepared! The Spanish version of I Told You So. A twist on Happy Birthday about an estranged love. There is my Christmas song, which has been around for years, 'un peu triste' and not so jolly, but I think it's alright, and I really need to get cracking on with it or it won't be keeping the X Factor annual musical contribution to the world off the top! There are three or four others 'in progress' (Dreams, Ever Since, I Got No Bed, and a reworking of Boys Talk) which just need me to get on with it!!!

Then there are a couple of songs from my Boys Talk days where the decent quality; studio-recorded demos need something visual to accompany them. One an energetic cover of the Everly Brothers' song Temptation; one our observations on 'body language' which coming out quite funky was one of the best things we did. Again, having gone down the YouTube road, I need to come up with something visual. There being no duo any more, I have an idea of getting people to mime the lines whilst acting it out. How to organise…? For Temptation, images of temptresses, come-to-bed eyes, red lips and flashes of naked skin come to mind (all in the best possible taste of course).

And then there are the covers: a Beatles cover off their first album, recorded but needs something visual; I've a Smokey Robinson song I've been playing with, which has potential. Both quite different from the originals.

All of this against a backdrop of the maelstrom of life and other demands, and monkeys on backs. Hopefully, there will be enough time, and fruits of my endeavours will be worthwhile. Bear with me…

*Of the bloggers, Max Farquar stopped blogging, and dear old Captain Ranty (Colin Grainger) passed away in 2015.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Stop The World I Want To Get On

Summer seems to have come and gone with a whimper since the last posting; there have been 3 new songs, a mini-music festival organised… with other songs in the pipeline. The good thing about doing the music is that I am coming up with new ideas, which is pleasing; my initial thinking was that I would work through songs I already had.

The summer began with the completion of a brand new song, of which the spark came in June 2010. Born of frustration and being somewhat 'lost'. The idea and tune for what would become 'Stop The World' came to mind, which I recorded into a mobile phone - a few words which gave the song its direction and a tune for the verse. Always handy to have some recording device at hand for when the muse strikes. For me, the creative process could be me singing a few words when an idea arrives or strumming a few chords on a guitar and singing something over it.

I have boxes of cassette tapes with these snippets of ideas, some get developed into songs, others go nowhere ending up in a musical cul-de-sac; others, fragments, have the potential to become something - the tune staying with me a barometer of that. It's not always an easy process, and it's very rare that something comes in one go.

Having been picking up the guitar and working the idea, it wouldn't be until May that it I would begin working on 'Stop The World' in earnest; that moment being the arrival of the middle eight chord sequence. I had the tune, a verse and chorus, middle eight… firing up Cubase (music sequencing software), I would build up a structure (arrangement) in this case of intro, verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle 8, room for a solo, chorus, to the end. My initial tempo, would be sped up to something more natural, one that felt right.

A work in progress, having a song structure and basically playing it; I worked on the bass line, guitar parts and drums (with fills as a finishing touch)… added guide vocals and harmonies, developing the music whilst jotting down ideas for additional lyrics. By now I had in mind an idea of what I wanted to say, it was a matter of finding the words to express myself; on a couple of sheets of paper, I would scribble down lines as my subconscious sent them to me – no rush.

As the weeks progressed the second verse emerged, the middle 8 blanks were filled (with some good lines I thought). I wanted a more ‘positive’ ending to what is an angst-ridden song - an optimism that links a few of my songs.

Drawing on a country feel, which seemed to fit with the sentiment, at first I camped up a little on the harmony, which was fun if a little over the top, and was toned down considerably by the time Cubase version 5 arrived. In the interim, I had the idea for the a cappella section after the middle 8. I produced a little solo, as well as the riff in the outro.

It took a while but was a very pleasing creation all round. A Grammy Award, maybe a Granny Award, around the corner! Said what needed to be said, and had enough interesting bits to hang it together. And after some more endeavour, it came out like a proper song in the mix. Not bad for a song recorded in my living room. I think it is a little country in style - a youtuber commented 'Traveling Wilburys', which I can live with. Pleased that the tinkersong output so far is quite mixed.

Stop The World

For the video, perhaps in the excitement and rush to get it done, and due to gloomy weather outside, I shot a simple video of the 'recording' with a few cutaways, and edited with Sony Vegas.

Personally, I like it when songs resonate with me, which is perhaps the trick; for me, 'Stop The World' is quite a naked affair, each word, each line, a truth and, in that, a release. It’s done now.

I performed it live to a backing track for the first time at Howfenfest 2011 (24 July).