One Great Mistake

This song resulted from a webinar with songwriting coach Alex Forbes. Alex presented a method for writing, and attendees were supposed to follow her step-by-step instructions to formulate their own song.

Her method centered around taking a stand on something you believe in, have a deep thought about, or a topic or phrase upon which you have something meaningful to say. For me, the idea I found compelling was that as we go through our lives, everything has to be right just to be content, but if you make one grave error, your life can change in an instant. An accident, a bad decision, or saying the wrong thing in a high-profile public context were some examples I wanted to use.

Alex’s next step was to formulate a title that encapsulated your central idea.  For me, it was “One Great Mistake.”

She then continued with tips on marrying the main lyric (chorus) with a melody that brings out the meaning of the words in the best way. Song form was discussed, as well as the idea of daring to suck as a songwriter. Meaning, write, write and write.  Be prolific.  Finish songs. Many of them will suck, and that’s OK – you’re learning something with each one.

Suffice to say, following a prescriptive method such as this tends to churn out fairly conventional song structures. Focusing on the clarity of expressing your idea makes for a very straight forward lyric and delivery. At least that’s what I found.

After writing the lyric, the music came to me fairly easily.  I knew I wanted to make the music just as straight forward as the lyric, which for me, meant a straight up the middle rocker. I also talked about this song on an episode of Song Talk Radio.

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Walk your whole damn life
Never give it a second thought
But take just one misstep
And you’re bedridden for months

It’s become second nature
You take the wheel most every day
But one distraction later
Twisted metal, body decay

One great mistake
That’s all it takes
You gotta be careful
To not bend, twist or break

Meet the girl of your dreams
Maybe your dreams were wrong
Spend your life in regret
It doesn’t have to be so long

It’s a game of subtle speech
Be careful what you say
You can fold under the pressure
And kiss your future away

But that’s the way we’re made
It’s a delicate precarious balance
Don’t take it for granted
Falter once and all will vanish

Cyberpunk

I wanted to write a song about society’s obsession with gadgets and technology. This is not a new idea, I realized.  A good lyric writing trick for me is to adopt the point of view of a made up character. That gives me the freedom to be silly and quirky, while at the same time being more specific than “seems like everyone is obsessed with gadgets and technology.” Creating a character makes it easier to be biased, and that makes for a more interesting lyric, in my opinion.

The structure is a play on the title Cyberpunk, in that there is a synth-driven “cyber” section, and a faster, guitar-driven “punk” section. A song with a tempo change and such a radical shift in tone and attitude didn’t really need a bridge section, so I left it with two verses and two choruses. Enjoy!

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Your profile pic a tiny abstraction
Instagram filtered grainy attraction
Honey are you lookin’ for some action?
Stoke my ego need some validation

Stalk my friends they don’t see it comin’
Go all week never talk to no one
Got my hi-speed DSL modem
I’m a cyberpunk hacker ninja-wan

And I will

Tweet about it
Hundred forty letters that’s fine
Post about it
If you like it and share it I’ll shine
Text about it
As my bride comes down the aisle
Talk about it?
Don’t bother it’s a waste of time!

Have a date she has new Samsung
Textin’ ‘cross the table it is fun
Is there an app called “i-condom”?
If not I think this date is done

Back online I’m a superhero
Shootin’ zombies post-apocalypto
New high score beat out coolguy-nine-oh
Time to gloat me all alone

But I will….

Hurting. Choosing. Learning.

The verse lyrics were actually written several years ago, after I was talking to a psychology student about the paradoxes that can exist in people’s internal thinking. As I decided to paint a few vignettes about different life scenarios, the use of haiku poetry seemed somehow fitting, as well an interesting lyrical and melodic challenge. My co-writer at the time wrote a chorus that departed from the abstract nature of the verses and became a catchy, melodic explanation of the song.

For my album release, I decided to scrap the original chorus and create another that encapsulated the essential feeling of the verses.

I also completely rewrote the music from the earlier version.  I looked once again to Trent Reznor for inspiration, in using a sparse, simple piano melody and various white and pink noise effects. The minimalist instrumentation also suggested I kept the chord structure quite simple, without too much movement.

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Bad touches feel good
Shame of pleasure brings silence
I am only five

Pity my poor life
Won’t someone take care of me
Help this adult child

Hurting. Choosing. Learning.

A slave to the high
Reduce my pain for me please
An addict less harm

Raise my family
Through my love and words and fists
Love this or leave it

Hurting. Choosing. Learning.

Unceremoniously

There’s nothing like devastating emotions to spur on a new song. After going through some recent hard times, the lyrics for the bridge came to me several days after the incident, and certainly they reflect the exact state of my inner experience at the time.

From there, the title came to me, and then the verses and chorus upon some objective reflection of the incident. I made the conscious choice to create lyrics that are open enough to interpretation, that really could be meaningful to any relationship.

The music began with simple piano chords to accompany the melody. I then produced it with the synth and guitar driven sounds. Feedback from the Songwriter’s Cafe meetup group resulted in only a small tempo increase. Hope you enjoy it!

Download the full album for free.

Has it been too long?
Maybe this can’t be sustained
Though I feel so strong
I can sense the change

Now the warmth is gone
No more time for small talk
The path you put me on
I can’t bear the shock

Unceremoniously
Oh what a travesty
To let me go, so
Unceremoniously

So you’ve left me crying
This needs to be explained
Can’t see a silver lining
At least not yet, anyway
Thoughts swarming
Fear forming
Sleep lacking
Nerves cracking

How insane the timing
Now I gotta take stock
Soon you’ll see me smiling
As I begin my new walk

Unceremoniously
Oh what a travesty
To let me go, so
Unceremoniously

Unceremoniously
Oh why the brutality?
No need to treat me
Unceremoniously

Song Talk Radio Interview

As part of our “hosts as guests” series on Song Talk Radio, I had my turn to present one of my own songs and get some feedback from my co-hosts Phil and Bruce.  I presented Telepathic Androids, and we talked about odd time signatures (9/4 in this case), changing up your rhyme scheme, and how to pull off a bridge that plunges your song into a sci-fi inspired apocalyptic nightmare – if that’s your thing :).

Hello Time Travel – Yearbook

I completed the graphic layout for an independent singer-songwriter’s album release, including disc sticker and folding lyric insert. All work was completed on a tight deadline for a Valentine’s Day release. I made use of Adobe Photoshop and InDesign and delivered press-ready files to the printer.

 

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!

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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

Songwriter’s Showcase Event

I hosted a showcase event for our Songwriter’s Cafe meetup group today at the Central Bar. It was a great experience, and I got to see many great performances. In addition to announcing the performers, I also photographed and sound recorded the event to share with the individual performers.

Live mixing was handled by Phil, and Bruce helped out with some stage management. Belinda (our lead organizer) brought members from her other groups to populate the audience, and took some great photos too.

This event was unique in that almost all the songs performed were originals.

The Orange Purple Yellow Song

This is my latest song, about a guy and a girl, and another guy, with rather colourful names.  I wrote this song in one evening, music, melody and lyrics.  That hasn’t happened in a very long time.  Enjoy!

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Burn yellow train inside
Look blind and hide

Orange say you bite
French fry
Overnight if the sunrise

Purple mane on high
Red light
Orange with plight

Yellow ball of white
Stay dry
Tie the magenta kite right
Flip under weight and die
Tear sheet safe flight

Orange leave your sight
And sigh
Watercrest with the moonrise

Purple taking flight
They cry
Carpet stain pile

Yellow being like
They lied
Keep the hurricane mile high

Brave Daughters

I had a strong reaction to the 2012 gang rape case in India, which made international headlines in December. Revolted as I was from the crime, equally unsettling was the call from the Indian public for violent retribution upon the accused (not yet tried or convicted) men. I read several articles from different sources, and found one piece of news very compelling.  The father of the victim told the media to stop referring to her as a “rape victim” and rather as a “brave daughter.”

I first wrote the lyrics, taking the viewpoint of the friend who was also victimized in this case. I knew I wanted the words to come across with anger and passion, and I looked to Nine Inch Nails for sonic inspiration. I don’t think I got quite to the level of intensity of Mr. Self Destruct, but hey, I’m not Trent Reznor, nor do I really want to be. But it’s nice to have a reference to work to.

Have a listen below, and see the lyrics below the player.

Download the full album for free.

We went out for the night
We’re not looking to fight
A violation on our ride
A crime you don’t care to hide

What harm do you see?
In the freedom that we
In a brand new milieu
We choose to pursue

Brave daughters
Victims of sons
Fathers in tears
What have we DONE!?

They are blind and mute
No voices to refute
The power you yield
Impossible to shield

Anger in the streets
Calls for your defeat
An eye for an eye
Makes us all blind

Brave daughters
Did you no wrong
Why punish them all
For what you have DONE!?