Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Greatest Hits (2)

"The Making of Tonight I Confess"

I had been planning for a while to write up some extra information on my new album. When it is released I want to give anyone who listens to it some background on how I wrote the songs, my inspirations, how the songs were recorded and ultimately came out in the form that they did. Then I thought to myself, "Why didn't I do this for my first album?" Well, there are probably a lot of reasons, but I've decided to do it now. Some of this information may be pretty personal and some of it is just fun, but I felt like it might add to the listening pleasure. Especially since we are on the one year anniversary if it being released.

The first thing that must be noted, is that most of the songs were written after I graduated college. I was suffering from a broken heart, but I needed time to collect my thoughts. I've found that my most successful songs tap into extreme emotions after the fact. I typically am too depressed to actually write a song right after a severe event in my life happens. I have to take note of the emotions, and document them in a song later. Once I begin writing a song, I take liberties with the situation. Not every detail of a song relates exactly to the situation that originally inspired it. Sometimes I'll take an emotion from a different experience that completes the idea of the song, but isn't necessarily true to the actual events that I write about.

I also draw strong influences from other artists. I know that Wilco, Jackie Greene, John Mayer, and Neil Finn were all major influences on the writing of "Tonight I Confess." In fact, the truth of the matter is that I began learning to play harmonica after seeing Jackie Greene play a few years ago. Soon after I started learning, I wrote "Last Train," "Perfect For Me," and a number of other songs that didn't end up on the record (some of which will be on the new one.) There is also a small influence based on what music you are listening to during the recording sessions. If I'm not mistaken, I was listening to Death Cab for Cutie, Better Than Ezra, Bright Eyes, Jason Mraz, and Wilco a lot during the sessions. Being that this record is more acoustic than not, these influences did not impact the record as much as they could have.

As for the recording sessions, "Second Rate Song," "Love For Me," and "Things She Said" were all recorded together. "Things She Said" almost didn't get recorded (in its place would've been a song called "Sweet Side") but my friend told me she liked "Things" a lot and that it was pretty catchy. I decided to go with that as an endorsement for the song. I feel like this was a great decision in the long run because it fits the mood of the record far better than its conterpart. I physically made about 40 or 50 copies of these songs as an EP. Once those were gone, I decided that I needed more songs. I went back to recording with my friend Karl (who has recorded everything I've put out so far.) We recorded "Last Train," "Forever & Again," "A Girl I Know," and "Box of Photographs" in one session. I then listened to the rough cuts and went back in later to re-do some vocals and lay down keyboards. During that session, I also recorded "Perfect for Me." "Perfect for Me" was done pretty quickly in the grand scheme of things, but I think it is one of the strongest songs on the record. It is also one of the few songs that I've ever written for someone else, but I'll get into that in a bit.

"Last Train" - clearly written about my ex-girlfriend. I was so excited when I wrote this song I started calling people to play it for them over the phone. It was one of the first songs I wrote using the harmonica. It also uses a funkier chord structure than a standard 4 chord verse. I had written so many songs on the subject of my ex, that this one marked a statement in my own head that said, "Alright, here's a really, really good one, but after this I'm done." I don't know if I've totally stuck to that rule because that life experience comes in handy when writing songs, but I'll never stop being proud of this one.

"Second Rate Song" - This song was inspired by someone I didn't even date. I liked her, but the feelings were not mutual (though I think it had a lot to do with my poor timing.) There was an acutal event where I expressed my feelings for her (yes, it was during the night hours) and she shot me down. The next day, I felt a little disappointed, but more relieved. I was happy to have put myself out there and also was happy that I could move forward. The situation showed me a lot about myself and I wanted to write a good song about it.

"A Girl I Know" - By far the oldest song I ever play. I wrote this song in high school. It was inspired by my friend whose parents had a strict curfew. The rest of the song flowed out of that. My band in high school played the song people typically liked it due to it's poppy nature. This is the exact reason it was included on the record. I needed something poppy and decided this was the song. I like the addition of the harmonica and the subtraction of everything else but vocals and acoustic guitar.

"Box of Photographs" - inspired by an actual box that sits underneathe my bed. There are photos, concert tickets, birthday cards and other memoribilia in it. I'm proud of this song due to it's switch in keys. It goes from a funky A major to a funky A minor. The bridge vocal layering was semi-inspired by Beck and I love the organ in the background. I would probably do this song a bit differently now, but overall I'm pleased with it. Also, I never would've written this song without hearing Death Cab for Cutie's "Title and Registration."

"Love For Me" - written years ago when I went to a concert with my then-girlfriend. She got a beer dumped on her due to me mouthing off (I've learned my lesson on this one) and I felt horrible. I wrote the song out of guilt and love and have liked it ever since. It has a fairly catchy and the rhythmic chorus that usually keeps an audience's attention. I usually add in extra lyrics when I play this live, or I mix in the chorus from "Love Song For No One" by John Mayer.

"Forever & Again" - Very creepy song. I originally wrote this song about a man from my old high school who was a great friend and he ended up committing suicide. The lyrics didn't work and re-did the lyrics many times. Eventually, the sense of longing for a broken relationship served the music the best and I kept it. This song was recorded over a drum track that I eventually deleted because it didn't sound right. I love the bass in this song and the electric rhythm guitar. They enhance the mood of the song a lot.

"Things She Said" - inspired by a Christmas card that was written by an ex-girlfriend to my mom, this basically is about someone breaking up with you and telling you to move on. It is hard to let go because of how much emotion and maturity take place during a relationship. I think this song also points to how you should not take a relationship for granted because as it begins to end, emotions spill out that you forgot were there. This is also the only song I ever play that is written in drop-D tuning. The chorus is layered with a soft guitar riff that was originally distorted and delayed. I chose the acoustic route because it sounded better in the context of the song and album.

"Perfect For Me" - written for my friends Kevin and Lydia for their wedding. I actually played it during the reception and was very proud to have done so. I thought it was too simple when I first wrote it, but the song grew more and more as I played it. A lot of the lyrics were based on conversations I had had with Kevin before he even met Lydia. He was having problems with other girls and we would take about it often. When he met Lydia it was a lot different. They clicked on a different level and I tried to convey that as well in the song. I recorded the song partially because I thought it was good, and also to make sure that Kevin and Lydia had a copy of it that they could keep and listen to whenever they wanted. It was an honor to be in their wedding and write this song for them.

That's it for this album. Hopefully that gives you some further insight into my music and makes you want to listen to it again (or for the first time possibly.) I'm always striving to write better songs find different arrangements for them. I look forward to releasing the next album, so stay tuned to that. Until next time...

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