Last Friday my album called Long Drive released. I was beyond excited to have it finally out for everyone to listen to after years of struggling to understand for myself where each song was going to go, and in the midst of all of the excitement of having successfully released my first album, I couldn’t help but think back to those times when each song was just a bunch of jumbled, disconnected thoughts that I was trying to mold into a cohesive unit. So, with that on my mind, I hunted for a while and found the early demos of each song that I had recorded on my laptop. It was really intriguing going back and listening to myself struggle to find what I can now see so clearly. While listening, the demos jogged my memory of the creation process for each song. In this post, I’m going to talk about the creation process of my song Need Each Other specifically.
Normally when I come up with a song, I just turn on GarageBand and record myself for a long time just messing around. Usually I come up with the form of the basic guitar part first and then I just kind of mumble nonsensical sentences until I come up with a melody that seems to feel right. I’m sure it can be awkward for someone if they happened to be sitting in the room while I was stringing together random words and sounds, but hey, it works for me, so I do it. Oftentimes though, in the midst of these unintelligible lyrics, basic ideas will arise or a word or even a phrase will come out of it that I repeat and hold on to. Most times, however, this phrase will be completely erased or, less drastically, the line will change a bit in the final song. Basically, it acts as a prompt that guides me in the earliest stages of the song.
In this very early demo of what would become Need Each Other, I was stuck in that place where I didn’t exactly know where the song was going, and I was just kind of mumbling random, out-of-tune nonsense, but as you can hear, this is the first time that I came up with the line “We all need each other.” Throughout the rest of the demos, this is the line that I would hold on to and use as a prompt to guide me.
After several days, I remember messing around on the guitar and coming up with what would become the central guitar lick between each verse. I hurried and grabbed my computer and recorded this before I forgot:
Every time I picked up my guitar, I kept messing with this song and mumbling nonsensical lyrics trying to come up with a melody for the verses, all the while holding on to “We all need each other.” In this next clip, however, I randomly come up with the idea of a phone not being able to call by itself. This idea would eventually make it into the final version. Also, in this next clip, I’m practicing how to incorporate that guitar lick into the actual song:
After several days of recording myself trying to come up with something more for this song, I one time made up a part on guitar that I liked where the strumming was more aggressive than the rest of the song. I liked how it added a sense of urgency to that part, even if I didn’t know what the lyrics were going to be yet. At this point, even without lyrics, I kind of was beginning to realize the shape of the song musically:
After coming to the realization of how the structure of the song was going to be, I worked on lyrics a lot and had an epiphany on the direction of the song. The next demo that I recorded on my laptop was leaps and bonds more developed than anything else I had previously recorded for the song. It was the full song, from start to finish, lyrically exactly what was going to be in the final version. Here’s a snippet of the first time the full song was recorded on my laptop:
After I knew that I had the full song, I started to try to figure out what key I wanted to play it in. So I recorded it in a lower key that I thought I liked a lot better than the higher key of the previous demo, but what’s funny is that after months of recording demos in the lower key, when it came time to record the final version at the studio, I changed the key to the original higher version. Gut feeling I guess.
One thing I knew I wanted to add after I had the main guitar figured out was back-up acoustic. To figure out what I wanted to play for that part, I just listened to the demo of the full song and recorded myself making stuff up over top of it. I was surprised how fast I came up with stuff for that part. I went through the song just one time and then deleted parts I didn’t like and redid parts I liked but knew I could do better. Here’s a demo of the full song after I had just recorded back-up guitar. It’s exactly what I played in the final version of the song at the studio.
All this time I had been trying to make my vocals stronger. I was always very self-conscious about singing in front of others, and I knew it was something that I was going to have to get over if I wanted this album to be any good. So I practiced as much as I could and then I eventually started to get vocal lessons from a friend of mine in the area. He was extremely helpful to me. This is a demo of me trying to practice my vocals. I’m pretty sure this was before I started getting vocal lessons and was just trying to teach myself. Still, I was trying to be more intentional in the notes that I hit instead of just trying to get the idea of the song onto the recording:
After I decided I needed to go ahead and get vocal lessons if I really wanted my songs to improve, I could really tell a difference in my voice after having properly practiced meticulously for months. To practice this song specifically though, I stripped the vocals from the recording I had done on my laptop and listened to it in the car and in my room as much as I possibly could and practiced singing along to it as if I was in the studio singing it for the final version. That helped so much and really prepared me to sing in the studio.
I sent the previous demo to my buddy Jeff Martin who’s in the band Pompton Lakes, and he suggested that I add harmonies to the choruses as well as to various parts throughout the song. He also suggested that some piano might be nice here and there. So when I got to the studio to record this song with my producer, Chris Folsom, at The Underground Treehouse Recording Studio, I told him what Jeff had said, and we implemented those two ideas. It was really fun to get Chris’s perspective on the song and mess around with different ideas for percussion. His son, Jonah, ended up using some brushes on a snare for the entire track. I didn’t want anything that was going to be too overwhelming but that was still there enough to propel the song along. I thought the brushes worked perfectly for that. Then my brother Josh, Chris, and I all added gang vocals to the final chorus at the very end of the song to really lift that part up and make it more impactful. Chris really helped to make this song into something special. Here’s the final version of the song that you can also download for free:
And if you enjoy that song, you can go on over to iTunes, AmazonMP3, or GooglePlay and pick up a copy of the full album, Long Drive. Thank you so much for reading! And I hope you enjoy the album!