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).

Thursday, 14 April 2011

We've Got To Have Our Dreams

A year ago today I uploaded my first video to my YouTube channel tinkersong, just me with a guitar, a camcorder for both vision and sound (the intended overdubbing was thwarted by a dodgy camera mic lead!), singing a song, though written many years before in a room in Hounslow with Mike Meade, I’d never recorded before. 'You Make Me Feel Better' - a song about trying to move on - a bit rough and ready, but a start on this phase of my musical journey. The hits are steady and in due course it will hit 1000 views. Nothing exceptional but something...

In the meantime, with fits and starts, frustration and joy, doubt and elation, and some endeavour, I've added a further eight songs. There was the Boys Talk Lennon tribute, 'Mathew Street', with a video made from photos using Windows Movie Maker, put together with intricate care to match transitions to beat. I thought this would do a bit better than it has given its theme and the legions of Beatles fans; that said, it's from where most of my new online (Facebook) 'friends' have come.

The video shoot for 'Driven' came out well, editing for the first time with Sony Vegas; a video that matched the quality of the recording. So as I progress, I'm learning, surprising myself with what I can do with both the music and the video.

In choosing the songs to get done, a period when I lived in France, which was creatively prolific became a focus; these were songs I'd had written but had never recorded. In 'The Ballad of Christy Buck' - a tribute to my dad - I found a harmonising style; with a nod to the Talent Show machine, 'Danny (Superstar)', now with a newly added middle section came to life - I'm particularly pleased with how this came out. A pity about the problems with the YouTube upload conversions, which seem a bit hit and miss sometimes. An old favourite, 'Just In Case', has some nice harmonies on it… And still, there are probably another four or five songs from this period worthy of recording.

I snuck in 'Gillian' - an old 4-track recording made with Mike – significant personally, and will almost certainly be revisited.

Recently, two songs: 'Festooned With Love' and 'It's Alright With Me' have been added. 'Festooned' is a song I've lived with for many years, about a love that wasn't to be, the acoustic works quite well on it; its recording took me back to the moment of its inception. Love, hope and despair in 3½ minutes! As for the girl, reconciled a few years ago, we remain in touch, good friends. It must be quite cool to have a song written about you!

'It's Alright With Me' is quite a deep and philosophical song, optimistic (a bit like the first song), again from my French stay. (The room at Paul Langevin school should have a blue plaque on it!) It' a song that I've attempted to record a few times; this version sounds like it does in my head, and I'm very pleased with the result. The video I shot around a local lodge, with a degree of self-consciousness filming myself and singing along to the track being played on CD - it's tough not being a superstar! There is a certain irony about me singing a song called 'It’s Alright With Me' at this moment in life… there is a lot of turmoil around and music is providing a lift and some succour.

So, a journey has begun. It's fun. It feels as if I've achieved something. In the end it was down to me to get on with it. There have been a few disappointments along the way, some surprises, and progress is slower than I’d hoped. Nonetheless, there is momentum, and the songs are getting done. There is some good stuff in the wings (it says here), with many more original compositions and a few covers to come. The itch has been scratched, now we’ll see where this leads.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Inspiration and the Online Democracy

It’s been a while (oops!). In the interim I've managed to finish off a new song 'Just In Case' and do a little home-made video for it – this is now live on my YouTube site. There is another song recorded that needs a video to go with it… it's that cover of an obscure Beatles song (I'll say no more…).

Just In Case

'Just In Case' is my seventh video/song upload; it feels like progress… I set myself a goal of doing something with these songs that I have conjured up over the years. It feels like 'unfinished business', the need to be involved and to do something with my music has always been there, I suppose as the years race by, I regard these creations as part of me and my life, a sort of legacy. After all I'm not a working musician, just someone who is musical and can express himself through song. I have no idea where this journey will take me, I just feel I have to make it.

I think YouTube and the internet are fantastic, as tools and opportunities to showcase yourself. It's great that talent in whatever guise can put something out there and find an audience. I discovered Stevie Riks doing Beatles impressions through a 'word-of-mouse' link: there was a video of 'The White Album in 10 Minutes,' two blokes with a guitar and mic (a sheet behind them) running through these songs. I couldn't believe that 'John' and 'Paul' were the same, very talented guy, not only a first rate musician, but original and funny too. The videos are many, replete with humour and love, sometimes serious but always engaging.

It was that 'it doesn't matter if it's in the living room' aspect of this world that I found inspiring. If you think about it, YouTube and its world is democracy and people-power in action. Known for his home-made videos, I'm sure John Lennon would have loved it.

Chris Buckley and Mike Meade - Boys TalkSo, inspired by Steve, I made my first foray into the online world with a video of a song co-written with my 'Boys Talk' bandmate Mike Meade, 'You Make Me Feel Better' filmed a little self-consciously in the house and sung live to camera. As they say, journey of a thousand leagues begins with the first step… [This song since updated with a more polished version and video.]

I'm a big fan of blogs and the online community; to go all 1960s for a minute - 'it's where it's at!' The shared knowledge and discourse is great. And often puts the Main Stream Media (MSM) to shame, I'm attuned because probably, I'm a lot more cynical and questioning than in the past. You can search for the facts and make up your own mind, whether it's music, politics, economic issues, 'climate change', or just entertainment or a hobby - I have to laugh, as a young boy, living on the Mersey, I had a fascination with boats, and lo and behold, there are people out there who marvel at such things. Sort of reassuring in an 'I'm not so mad kind of way!'

Back to the music, the new song, for me goes back to my student days, and that whole 'boy-meets-girl' thing, and the trials and tribulations of 'fancying someone' but being too shy/scared/lacking in confidence to take the plunge; or maybe this love interest was somebody else's love interest. The human condition is such that once an obsession takes hold it's hard to shake off, and this is a song about that… feelings and longings shared I'm sure by more than share my slightly anoraky interest in ferries!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Scratching That Itch

I'm beavering away on some songs at the moment – probably too many on the go to be honest. Though I've had a bit of cold – not great for getting down vocals (ahh!). Hopefully should have something new soon, so long as I focus! There are a couple of covers, including an obscure Beatles song amongst them, very different from how they did it (it's pointless trying to copy them).

I must admit if a little slow, I'm enjoying the process, and there is a certain sound emerging in part due to the harmonies I do. Always loved the richness of harmonies – The Everly Brothers, The Beatles of course, The Beach Boys… it takes a bit of practice, though once you get the hang of it or get that understanding with your singing partner it’s pretty natural. I think it really makes a difference to a song.

My recent YouTube upload 'Danny (Superstar)' hasn't had that many views as yet, though I've changed the uploaded video a couple of times – other uploads seem to have a bit of momentum. It has a story to it: one of talent, endeavour, fame and then it becoming too much. Whilst it is a critique of the modern talent show, they serve a purpose and give people a chance to make a career in the business – I'm just not sure if they are a vehicle for people who have a bit more to offer than singing. Some of it is very Roman Circus like. There is a sense of the conveyor belt. It will be interesting to see what happens to Matt who clearly has talent and a great voice, just hope he gets the chance to 'be himself' and to be original. I really was impressed that he brought his guitar to those performances.

The nice thing about the internet for musicians (frustrated or otherwise) is that instead of songs being confined to tapes in boxes in the corners of bedrooms, they can be liberated. I've always felt that I should be doing music, and I'm grateful to the new medium for access to a possible audience. It means I'm more motivated to do something. Some of the songs will be old to me – like Danny (Superstar) written as a student, even if it does have newly added bits making it more contemporary – but of course, they will be new to those who come across them.

Danny (Superstar)

The themes I write about – love found, love lost, hope, insecurity, wonder - are pretty universal. How people make a living out of it is another matter... that would be something!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

In The Key Of Chris

I first started making up songs when I was a lad in Lidipool on the banks of the Mercy; I was always singing... to pass the time on the way to school I would sing to myself and find that I could do it...

Luckily I wasn't sectioned, and soon I got a cheap guitar and started to learn a few chords. At first I was embarrassed at my audacity, though amongst the repertoire of Beatles and Elvis tunes, I wrote my first songs - they had verses and a chorus and sometimes a middle bit.

On Walton Road, in a pub called the Fountains Abbey where my dad was singing (he was a guitar vocalist who did the pubs and clubs of Liverpool and summer seasons in the Isle of Man...), I performed a song called 'It's Only Love I'm After', nothing of any consequence except it had a riff that both pre-dated and was reminiscent of Bryan Adams' 'Run to You'. I can remember getting a cousin and a friend up to sing it with me to assuage the nerves, to a bemused though supportive audience.

There was another song about that time called 'Stood Up' aching with teenage angst and the turmoil that young girls bring to the life of a shy boy. Whilst at a push I could still remember these two songs, they wouldn't feature long as party pieces.

 Though I was always a bit player in the hierarchy of great singers in the family, fortunately, I would get better as a singer, a musician... would go on to record, and would be able to create some decent music in time to come.

A journey that began some years ago, is starting in earnest - or is that Bolton?