Good Man Down (Take 2)

I’ve taken a break from SAC Challenge 2015 this week because of other commitments but today I took a shot at revising how the lyrics are set to “Good Man Down.”

Over the past few weeks I’ve also been taking Pat Pattison’s course on songwriting.  Among other things, he talks about “body language” and setting lyrics front-heavy or back-heavy.  Front-heavy is on the first beat of the bar, back-heavy is set back in the bar.  Pattison says that front-heavy lends itself to “stability” and back-heavy to “unstable”.

Following the general principle of prosody in songwriting, his approach is to think about and apply front/back heavy to lyric setting as a way to reinforce key ideas and themes in a unified way.  There’s more to it than I can describe here but it is a helpful set of guidelines.

This morning I re-recorded Good Man Down with a vocal performance that sets the lyrics quite a bit different from the original recording.  The verses are now more front-heavy, with selective back-heavy lines in various spots to give emphasis where it is needed.  It’s subtle but it makes a difference (at least I think so).

Here’s GMD, take 2:

The original recording of the song is available here.

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SAC Challenge 2015: Week 4 “Good Man Down”

The challenge this week came from Ron Irving who asked us to write an “edgy” country pop tune with some added criteria:

Male artist, early 20s, no mention of marriage or kids, no references to partying at the lake, and no “bro country” vibe (I’m not sure what that means).

I don’t listen to much country per se, so I spent a few days getting exposed.  Wow, the genre is really wide and there is plenty of room for crossover with pop/rock.   What makes it country?  The accent.  The content.  And, interestingly, almost every song I heard was written in first person POV.

So here it is.  It does include mention of (a) beer ; (b) a woman; (c) a truck;  And the guy loses his woman and his job.  But if you stay with it, there’s a moment redemption at the bridge and third verse of the song.

 

Enjoy!

Good Man Down

Friday night he gets home late
grabs a beer and sits and waits-
for that woman he loves so much
what would he do without her touch

He finds a note by the kitchen sink-
she wrote it fast, in lipstick pink
she’s going south to West Palm Beach-
for sun and sand, and another man
God, he’ll never understand

Why an honest guy can’t get a break
he keeps on losing ground
when a lover leaves him in misery
we got another good man down

Monday morning he shows up at work
grabs his tools from out of his truck
he does this job to pay the rent
but by the end of the week the money’s spent

The boss is shoutin’, callin’ his name
tells him business just ain’t the same
they’re closing down the shop today
the payout’s just a couple of grand
we hope that you’ll understand

That an honest Joe can’t get a break
he’ll keep on losing ground
and when the economy leaves him in misery-
we got another good man down

Oh, he could crawl into a hole and hide
or he could curl up and die
but something stirs in him deep down inside
and he gets back up on his feet again

This stretch of highway is all his own
he puts the pedal down and leaves his home
it’s time to make a change for good
he’s gonna get what he needs
to hell with what they might believe

An honest soul can get a break
he might even gain some ground
he’s had enough of dealing in misery
you can’t keep a good man down

We got a good man down
we got a good man down
we got a good man down
we got a good man down

SAC Challenge Week 3: “Wear Anything”

This week’s challenge was tough but I came up with a song early in the week.  I spent a day touching up the lyrics and recording a simple, quick demo of “Wear Anything”.

Kids love hats (so do grown ups) and idea is fairly obvious.  You can grow up to be who you want to be.  I will love you for who you are.

I’ve included two links to the demo.  The first is my original recording, the second features another SAC Challenge participant Mikalyn Hay.  I think the song is suited to a female vocal and she kindly agreed to sing a version of it for me.  Thanks Mikalyn and Michael!

Wear Anything

Who you gonna be-
Where you gonna go-
What kind of hat are you gonna wear?

A baseball cap-
A cowboy hat-
A pink beret or a derby

A panama-
A yamaka-
A black pork pie or a beanie

You can wear anything-
with that smile on your face

A tam o’shanter-
Just might be you-
Maybe a turban or a fez

A fruity hat-
Or a propeller cap-
Something crazy to make the news

You can wear anything-
with that smile on your face
You can wear what you want-
for me

Here’s the original demo.

 

Here’s the version in a different key featuring Mikalyn Hay.

 

SAC Challenge Week 3: Writing for Advertising

This week’s challenge comes from Heather Gardner, Music Supervisor for Vapour Music.  She wants us to write a 60 second spot that “captures the spirit of a child.”  She cautions us that it shouldn’t be emotional or “heart-stringy” but instead fun and quirky.  “Purely fun” is the exact phrase.  The lyrics need to speak to childhood (in a fun way).

A number of reference tracks are provided, including The White Stripes “We Are Gonna Be Friends“, “Mushaboom” by Feist, and Karen O’s “Where the Wild Things Are.”

We’ll also need to be able to slice the song into 15/30/60 second cutdowns.

This is a good challenge and I think I get the gist of it, having listened to the reference tracks.  My first impulse is to go minimalist, with a Jack Johnson vibe.  I have a riff and a few lyrics for a song about “hats”.  Yep, headgear.  Let’s see what happens.

SAC Challenge 2015: “Choose” now at demo stage!

I’ve been writing about the progress of my song “Choose” for the 2015 SAC Challenge.  Rob Wells has challenged us to write a pop song for a female vocalist and aimed at the teen market.  Oh, and keep it under 3:30.

This is outside my comfort zone but I’ve managed to cobble something together.  Thematically the lyrics centre on the idea of having “choices” and the girl wanting the boy to commit to choosing her.

I’m singing on the demo but clearly it would be better to have a female vocalist doing it (if anyone is interested I can provide the music bed).

The melody could be a bit stronger in my opinion but I’m happy with the overall results, especially given that at the beginning of the week I wasn’t sure if I was going to have anything at all to share.

It’s a simple chord progression all the way through (D/G/B/A) and relies on changes in the lyric phrasing to give it a sense of movement.  The song doesn’t have a bridge per se, although I stuck in a short break before returning to the chorus.

Apple loops are used for the rhythm tracks but I played the other synth parts that embellish it.  I also snuck a little bit of distorted guitar in the final section to give it some grit.

Here are the revised lyrics as sung on the demo.  A link to the song is below the lyrics.

Choose

When it comes to music-
you have to make a choice
do you like it straight or swing-
do you want to dance or sing

When it comes to movies-
you’ve got to make a choice
do you want to laugh or cry-
or do you like a thrill ride

When it comes to a lover’s test-
it’s multiple choice
it’s your voice
so what’s it gonna be boy-
A, B, C, or D

I know love is strong-
but if you wait too long
I’ll be gone before you know it

So you can make your move-
you know I will approve
and I’ll love you over and over again

Let’s not wait forever-
to be together
you don’t want to lose me-
it’s time to choose

When it comes to candy-
you have to make a choice
do you like it sticky sweet-
do you like to trick or treat

When it comes to fashion-
you’ve got to make a choice
do you go for Calvin Klein-
or any old design

When it comes to a lover’s test ….

[repeat chorus]

SAC Challenge: “Choose” verse development

Okay, so “choice” is the unifying theme that I’ve decided to use for the song “Choose”.  The chorus lyrics were shared in a previous post and in my last post I wrote about unifying themes for songs that use simple titles.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far with the verses and a pre-chorus included.  I chopped it into short phrases because I can hear the lines being sung quickly with a 1/16 note pickup on the opening lines followed by 1/8 note rhythm.   I’m a bit uncertain with the pre-chorus, even though I like the reference to a multiple choice test.  Here we go…

“Choose”

Verse

When it comes to music-
you have to
make a choice
do you want it
straight or swing
do you want to
dance or sing

When it comes to movies-
you have to
make a choice
do you want to
laugh or cry-
or do you wanna
real thrill ride

Prechorus

When it comes to a lover’s test-
it’s multiple choice
it’s your voice
so what’s it gonna be boy?
A, B, C, or D

Chorus

It’s time to choose me-
you don’t want to lose me
not this time around

Our love is strong-
but if you wait too long-
I’ll be gone before you know it

You can make your move-
you know I’ll approve
I’ll love you over and over again

I can’t wait forever-
to be together
you don’t want to lose me-
it’s time to choose.

Verse

When it comes to candy-
you have to
make a choice
do you like it
sour or sweet-
do you like to
trick or treat

When it comes to fashion-
you gotta
make a choice
do you go for
Calvin Klein
or any old design

Prechorus

When it comes to a lover’s test-
it’s multiple choice
it’s your voice
so what’s it gonna be boy?
A, B, C, or D

Chorus

 

 

 

 

SAC Challenge: finding a unifying theme for the song

In my last post I shared the chorus for a song called “Choose.”  One thing I admire about the pop formula is how songwriters will establish a unified theme around a simple concept and play with it in the verse development.

Echosmith’s “Bright” is a love song that uses astronomical imagery as a unifying theme:

Did you see that shooting star tonight?
Were you dazzled by the same constellation?
Did you and Jupiter conspire to get me?
I think you and the Moon and Neptune got it right
I think you and the Moon and Neptune got it right
I think you and the Moon and Neptune got it right
‘Cause now I’m shining bright, so bright
Bright, so bright
Bright, so bright
And I get lost in your eyes tonight

This kind of writing takes a simple, everyday word or cliche and puts a new spin on it.  I love the ingenuity in it.

So, for “Choose” I’m working on the idea of choice as a thematic motif.  I’ve started to develop some verse ideas. I’ll share them in my next post.

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SAC Challenge Week 2: “Choose”

I’ve started work on this week’s challenge from Rob Wells.  It’s a doozy for a songwriter like me who has been targeting middle-aged listeners with lyrics that deal with the complexity of relationships later in life.

Rob wants us to write an explosive pop hit aimed at a much younger audience with a female vocalist in mind, so I’ve spent time on Songza listening to selections from the “Teen Pop” genre.  It’s such formulaic music but it’s impressive for how the songwriters can come up such interesting hooks and themes within such tight constraints.

I noticed quite a few songs are simple one-word titles, like “Shower” or “Bright” or “Style“.  It’s always interesting leading up to the chorus to discover what approach the songwriter has taken with the word.  “Shower” by Becky G., for instance, is a smitten girl so happy about the guy that she’s sings in the shower when she thinks about him.  It’s a great image and one that will resonate with the audience.

For my part, I’m going with the flow.  A one-word title: “Choose”  as in “choose me.”  It won’t win any Grammys but it’s a start.  And I’ve got a draft chorus for it too based on a series of rhyming couplets:

Baby, it’s time to choose me-
you don’t want to lose me
not this time around

Our love is strong-
but if you wait too long-
I’ll be gone before you know it

You can make your move-
you know I’ll approve
I’ll love you over and over again

I can’t wait forever-
to be together
you don’t want to lose me-
it’s time to choose.

It’s simple but if I can come up with a decent melody and hook, then it might work as a chorus.  The verses will need to add detail and colour but I’m thinking it needs to revolve around the theme of choice.  Maybe something along the lines of having so many choices to make, or something like that.  Any ideas, suggestions for my list of choices, are all welcome!

It turns out (of course) that David Guetta has a song of the same title which actually takes an opposite perspective to the lyrics I’ve written.  I could imagine the two songs setting up a counterpoint between two opposing perspectives.

Reflecting on SAC Challenge Week 1

The SAC Challenge opened with Matt Dusk’s pitch request.  I have to confess that it’s outside the style of writing I’ve been cultivating for the past year and therefore a bit out of my comfort zone.  I have listened to the reference tracks he offered and I began to play around with a title idea, with great input from some other songwriters participating in the challenge.

“Beautiful Freeze” is full of possibilities but if I’m going to develop it, I need to find a musical angle for it.  I’ve got the seed of an idea but not quite ready to record and share it yet.  I usually write with guitar, so working with piano puts me in a different zone, both musically and technically (i.e., not a strength).  However, I like the “icy” quality of a simple piano track and I’m playing with the chord progression

C … Csus4/F …  Am7 … G

C … Csus4/F … Gsus4 … C

And I’m going down tempo rather than up.  I’m working with the a phrase “Like the frost in the trees/it’s a beautiful freeze”. The image and phrasing needs to be stronger but I have to start somewhere.

I’m going to sit with it as the challenge continues and see where it might go.  I’m started to explore some collaborations with it too but that’s a challenge too when working online.  I hope to be able to continue to work on that as well.

 

SAC Challenge 2015

Okay, the SAC Challenge kicked off today with what looks like 110 or so songwriters on the Facebook site.  Six weeks of focussed writing.  It should be interesting. Matt Dusk has opened the challenge with a pitch request.  He’s a crooner by trade but wants to expand things for his new record.  He says he likes a lot groove based things and “to get the excitement of the band and the audience all together.” The stuff that really works for him includes Rock Mafia’s “The Big Bang“,  “Pumped up Kicks” by Foster the People, the cool groove of “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk.  OR, we can take it down tempo, like “All of Me” by John Legend or Lana Del Rey. Not only is that quite a wide range to work with, it could encompass quite different approaches to writing itself.  Jason Blume writes about some of these differences, noting that

In pop, urban, hip-hop, and dance music, a musical backing track is typically created first. This track (sometimes called the musical bed) consists of the accompaniment—the chord progressions and all instrumentation, such as the keyboard, bass, guitar, and percussion parts—but it does not include a melody or lyric for the vocalist to sing. The melody and lyric that is sung “on top” of the music track is referred to as the topline. … In many cases, the musical track is sent to a topliner who writes the melody and lyric long-distance. 

Contrast that with folk or roots music where, according to Blume,

… songs typically evolve organically as writers strum guitars or play keyboards while composing melodies and lyrics. In Nashville, the majority of successful songs are the result of collaborations, but unlike some other genres, cowriters are typically in the same room, with all writers contributing to both the melody and the lyric. 

Perhaps the medium is the method? In any case, I don’t think the next step in the process has been set out for us yet.  It’s just been Matt’s pitch request.   But perhaps writing method is one of the considerations as we go forward with the Challenge.  Try experimenting with both techniques and see what happens. I’m more of the organic type of songwriter but it would be interesting to try my hand as a topliner.

Actually, I’ve done it a couple times for fun, like this song “Bumpercars” I wrote for my young son a few years ago.  It’s a canned Garageband track but I added the topline to it.  Ha!  I never thought I’d rap a song, but hey I’ll do almost anything for my kid 🙂

Anyone have a music bed to share?  Want to try a collaboration?