during the final stages of recording our "keep no score" record, i made a little idea demo out of an idea i had on the piano. i added a little rhythm guitar and although it seemed unfitting stylistically for "keep no score," (and was written too late in the game) i kept it on the back burner until recently (over 4 years later), when that tiny seed of an idea turned into "bright & early," the opening track of our "november" EP. although the song has since taken a very, very different shape than it was originally demoed, it still resembles the original concept pretty closely and i'm very glad that it finally got completed! i suppose songs just have different clocks built inside them.
of all of the yearbook songs so far, "bright & early" is most certainly our problem child. now that it's said and done, we are very, very proud of how it turned out, but in terms of being a difficult song to complete, this one takes the cake. nearly every step of it's creation was a large, complicated challenge.. from the arrangement of it's parts... recording the piano (which was accidentally tuned a bit sharp by our piano tuner)... finding a drum beat that compliments, rather than overwhelms... to the lyrics being just downright challenging to finish! clearly, it had some behavioral issues and goes down in the books as one of our most troublesome songs in our entire catalog of music! in fact, it got so difficult on so many occasions that we contemplated throwing it out altogether, or at least putting it back on the back burner yet again. BUT once it was completed and sent to mixing and mastering, it has become a favorite of ours. all of that hard work makes the completion of it that much more rewarding, i suppose!
i will forever remember working out the vocal melodies for this song right before dan's wedding over the summer. after wrestling with it for days, i had the chorus section drilled into my head, so when my wife and i headed downtown chicago for dan's big day, it was on loop in my mind. and downtown is where i came up with a few melody variations in my head that are what you hear in the song today. so it was a good weekend - dan got married and i won a wrestling match with the vocal melody. :) i think dan's wedding might trump that though...
our pal (who has been a part of our recent tour lineup) aaron mortenson came over and played drums for this one... just as dumbfounded as we were with the right direction of the song, we worked out the arrangement of drum parts and just blindly recorded it, hoping to make sense of it all later. he played incredibly well as usual (he's truly a gifted drummer) after a couple weeks of living with the recordings, we became concerned that perhaps the parts we requested that he played weren't a right fit for the song. we questioned our original direction. so, we moved onto something else to give it some space. in that time, we wrapped up our "october" EP and then came back to this song, hoping for clarity.
eventually, after i finished lyrics.. and piling musical ideas high upon the track - dan came over and showed me a bass part that he had worked out, and that was apparently the missing piece. and from then on, it all just worked and felt right. we made some quick edits throughout the song, added a few more final touches musically and it all just came together without trouble. we wrapped the whole song up within a day or two after, feeling overjoyed by such a victory over this formally bratty song!
the bass part is actually not real bass. dan tried out something new for this song and recorded a keyboard "upright bass" sound, which is what gives it that more percussive feel. we would have never imagined that an keyboard upright bass patch would be something that we'd ever like or use, but it fit like a glove.
the lyrics for this song are part 1 of a story. (the second part, is our more recent song "from the ground up") i've noticed that when life becomes challenging, those who love us gather around us and do their very best to offer up encouraging words. things like "in the end, it'll all be for the best"... "everything happens for a reason" and it's nearly always said with the best intentions! but to the person facing the struggle, those words can be very small and sometimes confusing. sometimes it's not about worrying that things won't turn out okay, it's more about questioning why the difficult things happen to us in the first place. this song was written from that perspective... it's the thought process behind that arch of conflicting feelings. more specifically, it's a fictional story about someone losing their home to a fire and dealing with the aftermath of losing something so personal and dear. suddenly things that are known to comfort become destructive reminders of loss. (ie: warmth)
our recent song "from the ground up" (part 2 of this particular story) focuses on the rebuilding and relearning that "bright & early" concludes with. (will write more about that in the "from the ground up"'s "how it was made" post)
although i wouldn't call it a main instrument in this song, i was finally able to dust off my electric guitar a bit! it was fun to play it again and experiment. (made me want to write a little more with it) i used my reverend guitar and it felt great! the rhythmic strums that happen early on in the song were originally influenced by the old jazz guitars that happen in a lot billie holiday's songs... unfortunately and fortunately that was a failed experiment. it's "unfortunate" because it sounded nothing like the jazz guitarist style i was aiming for, but was totally "fortunate" because i like how it accidentally turned out!
so that is the epic and dramatic tale of how "bright & early" was made... we're in talks now with several movie companies who want to buy the rights to this future blockbuster. (sarcasm aplenty)
thanks for reading! will continue the "how it was made" posts real soon! "emphasis" is up next.
sleeping at last