Episode #179: Can’t Sing You A Song (Song starts at 3:38)
I had a bit of fun with the demo on this episode. Earlier today, I was supposed to be recording some piano for a song. The session got cancelled at the last minute.
Turns out I was really in the mood to record, so what started out as a piano/vocal take ended up having the kitchen sink thrown in ( strings, guitars, bass, Rhodes - all done on the keyboards. Good fun.
Can’t Sing You A Song is a different style for me. Every now and then I write something left of field. I never block ‘the voice’.
Songs do come along that I can’t ever see myself singing - perhaps this is one of them (on the other hand, now the demo has been completed, maybe it could end up on a solo album of mine).
It was fun to compose in this sort of groove based song. It did write it on the piano, but after just a few bars,I realised the sort of song it was going to be.
So I kept the beat firmly in mind and I phrased the vocals accordingly, emphasising certain syllables. Also, I didn’t introduce any unusual chord changes, in fact I did some repetition 2 chords, three times in a row, this would generally suit a guitar/ band more than just the piano.
So I wrote this song with a certain intention - that was suggested very early on. I didn’t fight it.
I wrote the words first, then the music just flowed easily, around the feel and the chords that came through.
The gist of the lyrics is: I can’t sing you a song or paint a picture without the feeling being there in the first place.
And the song is saying: I can show you I’m having fun - and I hope you do, too - but it’s not my place to tell you how:
Can’t make you laugh, it’s not up to me
But I’ll show you a path where there’s loving free
Everyone’s on their own journey, so it’d be wrong of the lyricist to try and twist the listeners arm.
This song is about love, first and foremost - the idea that we’ve really just started on this next phase of humanity: connectedness as a species, to proceed.
We’ve analysed things so much over the centuries and as a result, we’ve dis - integrated.
So I think art and music are the key…laughter, connectedness and healing and that’s what this song is about. It’s a happy song.
As a songwriter There’s a real joy when the full circle happens and an audience responds positively .
On the episode, I didn’t end up talking about how I produced the demo too much. To create an arrangement like the demo (full band sort of sound), I started with a basic piano track and guide vocal, recorded to the drum beat. Then I added bass on the keys, muted the original piano and replayed a more precise simplified piano part, leaving room for the other instruments (recorded in this order):
Rhodes piano, guitar pad L, guitar pad R , nylon string guitar, lead vocal, 2 backing vocals and then the strings, which I added afterwards to bring it all together. I thought the strings would suit the song.
So this is the very first demo. Eventually, the parts would be recorded on real instruments, dropping elements in to give the arrangement some space.
Perhaps the tempo is a bit quick. If it were just a bit slower, there’d be more groove and that would also make it easier to get a few of those lyrics out.
I describe how I came to play the blues in a piano bar. Then it occurs to me this song might work in that sort of style , so I demonstrate that, on the spur of the moment.
Picking a style and arranging a song..it’s actually a big part of the process. But most often I think it helps to have the song finished in it’s own right. If you’re recording it, you’re going to be listening to it a lot.
Also, as this song says, there has to be feeling and message in my art and music. Our days are few, when also said and done - and we need to have fun along the way.