Ana Morales – Lullaby jam session

Last Sunday, myself with my partners from Song Talk Radio, guitarist and singer Alon Rodovinski, got together to jam on Ana Morales’ beautiful song, Lullaby. Ana presented the song on an episode of Song Talk Radio in January, and we decided to record a jam of the song. Phil and Bruce took on bass and rhythm guitar, while I played drums. Alon joined us to play lead guitar and backup singing. He also had the wonderful idea to introduce a modulation in the last verse, making it sound more a bridge,  with a different arrangement from my drumming and Bruce resting.

All in all, it was a fun day and we hope to do more jams!

Star Wars in a Winter Wonderland

Michael Gee is a musical chum I met at the Songwriter’s Cafe meetup group. He had an idea for a parody of Walking in a Winter Wonderland, entitled Working With a Wookie on a Plan.  He brought along a karaoke track where the only singing present was the part starting “Later on, we’ll conspire…” which, because of the pick-up on the first line, I couldn’t edit out. This was fortunate, as Michael’s revised lyric also had the line “Later on, we’ll conspire,” only he followed it up with “Against the evil empire.” So, after quite a bit of cutting and pasting, we had a base track to record his vocals too. I suggested he not sing over the “Later on, we’ll conspire” vocals of the original. Then I added a virtual sleigh bell shaker sample to the track, and we had a complete song.

By the next morning, Michael had created a video to go along with his song:

Snake Oil

snake-oilFor this piece, I had started with the guitar part (played on my keyboard), and wrote pretty much the entire music bed with the one sound.  Then I added other musical parts, wrote lyrics and melody, and presented it at a songwriter’s circle.  Many group members were impressed that I could tackle an interesting topic like the foibles of the advertising industry in clever ways. Using Snake Oil as a central lyric certainly seemed fitting. Feedback from the circle also prompted me to revise the musical idea for the chorus sections.

Months later, I got my friend Kira Braun to sing the chorus part along with my own. Thanks Kira for the wonderful job!

Download the full album for free.

Four outta five dentists agree
We’ll make your smile yellow-stain-free

Drive away ‘till your dreams come true
But it’s a closed road and pro driver, not you

Spray your body with our magic mist
Then watch beauty goddesses turn and twist

We’re selling snake oil
The kind that you need
To live the life that you lead

We’re selling snake oil
To fill all the cracks
Of the joys that you lack

We’re selling snake oil
You’ll gain confidence
After you spend
Your dollars and sense

Buy that new gadget whether you need it or not
(Check out my fancy phone)
We’ll invent a new problem, solved after you’ve bought (Tweet my peeps on the go)
Purchase our scent, you’ll smell like a peach
(New fragrance from J.Lo)
Then frolic and flirt with that hunk on a beach
(You’re sexy don’t you know)

We’re selling snake oil
The kind that you need
To live the life that you lead

We’re selling snake oil
The kind that won’t leak
But you’ll buy more
On special next week
We’re selling snake oil

It’s all fat-free, just a disguise
For all the sugar that goes right to your thighs

Just be careful before you buy
As some conditions may apply

Hayley Stewart-Moran

hayley-stewart-moranI’ve been working for a few weeks now with a local singer-songwriter named Hayley.  This work is quite unique in that Hayley has written lyrics and melodies, but no music, even though she plays ukulele and cello.  So as she repeatedly sings her melodies, I hammer out some piano parts, with the help of a tuner to know for sure what notes she’s singing.

Her songs have a laid back, jazzy feel, with big-band choruses and lyrics reflecting her experiences from a recent trip overseas.  Hayley is planning on releasing an EP with 12 songs in total.

For some of the songs, she’ll be adding some cello, and I will be adding some percussion and horns on keyboard.

So far it’s been a pleasure working with Hayley!

I Am

It’s been more than 25 years since I started writing music, and over 10 that I’ve been writing songs with my own lyrics. This is my very first published song for which I did my own singing (thank goodness for pitch correction).

I Am started out as the lyrics to accompany the music I had written for Brand New Door.  After mulling over feedback I received at a songwriter’s meetup group, I decided to rip apart the lyrics and music and create two new songs instead.

I took a different approach to writing the melody for I Am.  Normally, I would develop a melody on keyboard, then hand it off to a singer to finish off the track. This time, I laid down the music bed and developed a melody by simply singing whatever came to me. I intended to provide a “real” singer with my scratch track to base their performance on. However, my friend Sunny (who song Brand New Door for me) convinced me that my phrasing and tenor fit the song better than his, and more importantly, that he could pitch correct my performance for me.

So I gave the vocal another shot, and as it turned out, my new track required fewer corrections than my scratch track. Kudos to me! Sunny sent me the corrected version, and I added a touch of vocoding and synthesized harmony.

The lyric is a critical take on religion and spirituality, with a west vs. east structure.  I figure if I’m going to sing my own songs, may as well start off with something light ;).

Download the full album for free.

I am ethereal
Without matter and formless
At once essential
And vague omnipresence

I’m all the unknown
And all false certainty
A captor to your thoughts
A source of fear and doubt

Between subject and object
Between matter and form
Between the earth and sky
Should we accept the norm?

I am the observer
To all your bias
I’m the divider
To body and mind

I am the passion and the poet
I convey all breath and being
I perceive and I conceive
A world of emptiness

Between something and nothing
Between the ego and id
Between nature and nurture
Is your self well hid?

Brand New Door

This is my latest original song, although it has been a long time coming. This song started as a piano part over 5 years ago, for which I fully intended to add lyrics, so I wrote it with a verse/chorus structure. I then wrote lyrics and a melody, but didn’t have anyone perform the vocal track for me.

So it sat for a few years until I presented it at a Songwriter’s Cafe meetup, with the melody played on a synth and me reading the lyrics to the group. The group feedback was fairly unanimous in that the reflective, introspective lyrics and the poppy, up-beat music didn’t really jive well together. Upon some reflection, I decided to tear the two apart, and write new lyrics for the music and new music for the lyrics.

I tackled the new lyrics first, and wrote a more straight-forward, positive lyric. The new lyrics made me want to include a new introduction that was darker, both lyrically and musically. I also wrote a new bridge.

I had a couple of people try to sing it with limited success. Finally my friend, singer-songwriter Sunny Zaman, took a crack at the vocals and did a fantastic job! So here is the final version. Enjoy and thanks Sunny!

I had wandered in the darkness
Drifted from the shores of self-assurance
Been beat into submission of my soul
But climbed my way back

I’ve hung up my hang ups
My shell’s been cracked
Re-imagined my image
And got my back back

I’ve scared off my fears
Showed off my show
Voiced my inner voice
Owned up to all I owe

It’s a new life
Like I had before
But this new life
Opens up a brand new door

Seen eleven fingers
from the front row
Looks like the pieces fit
Baby it’s a whole new show

I’m singin’ my new song
With some help from friends
Seeing my world get bigger
Got me a brand new lens

Looking back now
It’s all so clear
Listen to your heart
Even when your brain won’t hear

It’s a new life
Like I had before
But this new life
Opens up a brand new door