First, I want to thank all my readers for reading this blog, when they had a myriad of choices of other blogs to read from. Even if there are only ten of you, I’m stoked. It means a lot to me to have a small, genuine readership. I’ll take that over 20,000 Twitter followers.
Second, I want to thank everyone who listened to my EP – hopefully your experience was a good one. Recording this little demo was an exciting, exhausting experience for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
I’ve been meaning to put up some track notes for a while, so now that I have a somewhat free day, I’m going to do so. Being a music geek myself, I am enthralled by the writing process and sources of influence of other songwriters and musicians. Hopefully you’re interested in that sort of thing, too. If not, you can safely skip this post, because here it comes.
These are some of my thoughts about writing and recording The Scale HousEP.
1. Loving Her, Loving Whim
This was one of those songs where, as I sat on my bed and struck a chord, the melody fell into my lap. I revisited the song a month or two later while in Pennsylvania and finished it there (which was a surprise to me, because although it began well, I was struggling to give it resolution). The chorus was probably the biggest surprise of all – I had to acquire satisfaction with its simple “pop” nature. But as I played it back to myself, I saw visions of a small chorus of other vocalists singing with the song in a sort of doo-wop style, and I was won over. So it stayed.
I wanted this song also to have a 50’s pop, surf-pop kind of sound. I’ve been listening to a lot of The Drums and wanting to capture a cross between them and the Beach Boys. The sound of these bands resonates with me somehow – I love their use of the guitar and the simple, vintage sound. I’ve always wanted to capture a lo-fi, old school guitar sound ever since I began listening to the Beach Boys and The Shins. Thanks to the dusty Ibanez guitar in Sam’s studio, this dream was realized at last and the harmonic electric guitar part practically wrote itself. It was one of those lines I heard in my mental orchestra chamber before it became an entity on mp3.
This song is about being surprised by love or genuine interest and essentially telling yourself to slow down so that you don’t ruin it. I think the length and rhythm of the song reflects that well.
2. Fathers & Sons
This song was written from a whirling washing machine of emotions. I was preparing to graduate college and suddenly realized I had no clue what came next. I didn’t have a sense of purpose or career, my family had moved around so much that I felt homeless, with nowhere to return to, and I struggled with my dad’s more practical ideas and my dreams. I was wondering what sort of legacy I was coming from, and what sort of legacy would I leave.
This was another one of those songs that developed on its own. I wanted the production on this song, like that of the entire EP, to be simple. Lo-fi, truthful, even rough.
I think the single Tachiok drum provides a nice impact, a plumbing of the depths beneath the song’s current. Sam added the seagull-like guitar line, creating a sense of wandering and loss, which I think fits the tone and character of the piece nicely. And I like how the guitars are just a little off – it lends a disturbed, disonnant quality.
3. The Riverbed
This song is about appearances vs. interiors – about the smooth river’s surface vs. the darkness and the murkiness beneath. We often display polished and carefully prepared exteriors, but there’s frequently a lot of hurt and decay underneath. I wanted the song to be primal – something acoustic, a spiritual relationship between the physical strings and the vocals. I think the swelling harmonies and even their scattered flatness create a nice sense of space.
4. Sailors have St. Elmo, We have the Sea
This song is about a long distance relationship that was based primarily on digital media – the friendship was there as a foundation, but I wanted to convey a buoyancy because there was nothing to really ground it. When relationships are too digital, the result can be distance and strained communication. This recording of this song was inspired – we began piling on melodic layers: chimes, organ, upright bass, mandolin. The atmosphere suits it perfectly.
5. Up, Arlington Break
I wanted this song to have an indie/rock sound with a handful of sand and shells thrown against it; a sort of surf-board shadow over the piece. It’s an edgy post-break up piece and the title is supposed to have a Dewey-Decimal system-type name – a library book feel. The song is reminiscent of moving on, so the title seemed apt. Like a phase of life that you categorize and put away – it’s still there, but it’s also been shelved. I wrote this song about three and a half years ago following a breakup, and during the time I was living on Arlington Avenue in Steubenville, so that’s how the song got its name. I think I wanted to leave the event with the place, a desire which proved harder than I thought, but did eventually happen.
I think Arlington sets a good tone for the EP and for my music in general because of its rough quality – I didn’t want something too produced or too polished. I wanted a few mistakes because its honest – it shows listeners where I am as a musician, but also lends the songs an earthy, more intimate quality.
Sometimes, learning happens outside of the classroom.
I learned a lot while recording this EP. I learned how rough I am as a musician, but I learned to respect that and to work hard and anticipate growth. I learned that my music stands on its own and that, even within the noisy, distracted scene of a simple open mic, it can reach people. I’ve given out two CD’s since performing here in Jacksonville to people who were moved by one of my songs and asked for a copy.
I learned to have faith in myself, in my music. Not everyone will like it, but many will, and music is a way of serving them, a way of reaching them. And thanks to the inspiration of artists like Grizzly Bear, Freelance Whales, my friends Shane Dabney and Peter Lee and Mandy Sloan, Gerard Manley Hopkins and so many other greats, I’ve been inspired to put myself out there, to not be afraid of stepping into the world with my gifts. God has given them to me – I ought to use them. I am confident that if I work hard, write well and but put myself into a playing space, He will do all the rest.
Okay. Thanks for listening.
Now back to the cool stuff.