No one writes songs with recitatives anymore.
For the non-music geeks out there, that crazy word up there basically means a free-form introduction.
Nobody does it. It was prominent in opera, and even as the artform made its way to America and became more and more popularized, the recitative remained. The Gershwin Brothers’ “Someone to Watch Over Me?” Had a recitative. Shirley Temple’s “Animal Crackers In My Soup?” Had a recitative.
When’s the last time you heard a recitative on the radio?
Oh, probably never. Unless you’re listening to satellite radio and you’ve got a great standards station.
So, over the past few days, I’ve been working on this song. Not probably one of my best, but I’ve been in a bit of a rut for the past few weeks. A little bit blocked. The fact that I finished a song at all was feeling pretty exciting to me. And just as I was throwing the finishing touches on what I thought would be the last piece of it, inspiration struck.
I can’t even really take credit for the idea. I started writing before I really knew what I was doing.
And before I knew it, my song– straight up, typical pop-country ballad that it is– had a recitative.
It put the whole song into a new perspective and all of a sudden it went from The Song That Transitioned Me Back Into A Writing Stage to ZOMG LOOK WHAT I JUST DID!!1!
I’m playing Artist for a friend’s recording project this semester. We’re going to have full production– an old friend from high school will likely be on drums, we’re going to have a full string section, harmony vocals, electric guitars. It’s going to be amazing.
And this song is going in.
I’ve listened through the Reba record once and I’m listening to Brad as I write this.
I always have to pick up the Reba records if only on principle. The Duets album had a few songs I really loved, and the original solo record that preceded that one I liked, but it took awhile to grow on me. This one, though, I loved from the very moment I heard the first note, and with each song (even the songs I’ve heard other artists do like Katrina Elam’s “I Want a Cowboy” and Melonie Cannon’s “Nothing to Lose”) I fell more and more in love. It’s simultaneously a step forward and a throwback to the classics. There’s a great murder mystery song in “Maggie Creek Road” a la “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” a great little country romp called “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” which reminds me a bit of “Have I Got a Deal for You,” some great stories, some really great lyrics, and the obligatory pop country radio friendly singles. It’s a great, well-rounded record that doesn’t fall short or try too hard — in fact, everything is just right.
A really good Reba album (even a rediscovered classic) always reminds me of the reason I fell in love with singing and performing. Reba is, to put it very simply, THE reason I learned to sing. Keep On Loving You doesn’t disappoint in the slightest.
This Brad CD.
But I say that about all the Brad Paisley albums, I think.
The thing about being primarily a singer, like Reba, is that you can play around with styles and instrumentations and appeal to all kinds of people. The albums still have a continuity to them, of course, but they never sound quite like a songwriter’s album. Brad co-wrote every. single. song (14 of them) on this album. Granted, some of his cowriters are the same songwriters who wrote Reba’s songs, but having a hand in all the music and the lyrics adds a golden sort of thread that just strings the entire album together effortlessly. The different cowriters bring in different flavors, but through it all, it’s Brad’s sweet sentimental side (have you heard the “Welcome to the Future” reprise? or “Anything Like Me?” If your heart doesn’t melt, you’re probably not human. You probably also hate puppies.), his playful wordsmith side (“American Saturday Night,” anybody?), and his downright tongue in cheek boys-will-be-boys side (“Catch All the Fish”) that make it, well, Brad Paisley. (Well, that, and the crazygood guitar licks. I mean, really.) Reba reminds me why I learned to sing, but Brad inspires me to keep writing. He consistently finds new perspectives and keeps things fresh and exciting, all while staying true to himself and country music. I don’t know if I’ll ever stay true to country music– every true country song I’ve ever tried to write has ended up cheesy and awful… but staying true to myself? It’s something I’m good at and he’s a great example of what a great thing that can be.
In the end… well, they’re both incredible albums. There were a few I was disappointed to see I hadn’t gotten from Santa (the latest Ingrid Michaelson and the latest Regina Spektor) but I couldn’t continue being disappointed after listening to these ones. The others can wait.
And as an added note, my dad passed off his copy of Sugarland’s Christmas album, Gold and Green, to me, and as far as Christmas albums go, this one fits my taste to a T. It’s wonderful. If you’re not sick of Christmas music yet, pick it up.
This blog was nominated for a 20SB Bootlegger Award. I’m floored and flattered and amazed. Thanks to all who sent in nominations!
I’ve been pretty quiet around here lately, but you can (and should) deduce that it only means I’ve been busy. Fun things are around the bend… a joint project with another blogger that is about to finish up quite nicely, recorders and flutophones (trust me, it’ll be cool), and of course, a renewed effort to get my butt into this game we call the music industry. Some of my predictions/goals for this year have been met… but not all of them. It’s okay. It gives me more to strive for in 2010.
I’ll keep playing if you’ll keep listening, and of course, I’ll keep writing if you keep reading. Thank you for your support, from the bottom of my heart.
I’m heading into the studio tonight at midnight to record a song called “When the Sun Shines,” a song written probably a year ago. I’ve got the date written down somewhere but I haven’t looked at it in months. I do know, however, that it was written in a bedroom in Minnesota, so it would have had to have been at least a year. Still a good song, though.
I’m doing a friend, who is in school for recording technology, a bit of a favor, so I let him pick the song. I probably wouldn’t have chose this one, honestly. However, I do love it and I’m really looking forward to it. It is a favor, but it works out for me in the end, as well. No complaints here.
The crummy part is that it’s a midnight-4am session, and I get to be at the retail/survival job at 8am tomorrow. Good times. Good times.
Best part is that, like I said, I’ll be singing “When the Sun Shines.” The sun won’t be shining. Ha. I crack myself up.
I’ve never been a particularly big Wynonna fan for a few very specific reasons and a few more fickle reasons. It’s the specific ones, though, that make a few of her remarks really sit uncomfortably with me.
I’ve been known to say and write things about artists or production or other aspects of the artistry of the music industry in general. Good, bad, and in between. But more and more, I find that when others say these things, it sounds petty and oftentimes foolish. We (all of us) have a opinions, and when it comes to music, we think we’re RIGHT. The fact is, though, that there are usually a million factors that go into an artist’s product and an artist’s image that even people in the industry who know how things generally happen are going to have no clue about. Who are we to judge? I’ve got friends who hate on Kenny Chesney, and generally I don’t fight with it, because I’ve never been a big KC supporter. But when they start hating on Taylor Swift I have to stop them and say, “Hey, maybe that’s not how it is.” It’s always impossible to change a person’s mind once s/he’s got it made up, though. Opinions on music are fact to those who hold them. I know. I’m guilty too.
And sometimes our gripes with artists or the way their music has been recorded or WHATEVER are legitimate… but that doesn’t mean they haven’t earned what they have. Maybe they haven’t. But we don’t know that.
Anyway, reading the things Wynonna said made me realize I need to learn to keep my mouth shut. Talk up the stuff I love (Hi Taylor!) and remain silent on the rest. I’d hate to look a fool because I’ve got an opinion on something I know nothing about… or worse, am bitter about. That’s just not flattering.
Does this post itself make me a hypocrite, calling Wynonna out like this? I hope not. Notice I didn’t say one thing about my opinion on her music (I’ve got opinions). I just think her words were reprehensible. Really.
Okay. Am done.
Do you have any thoughts?
I’m working on a super awesome documentary project, and by that I mean I’m writing the music for it. And by that, I mean I’ve already written the music, but now I’m working on recording it and all the fun that comes with that. And by “I,” I mean my dear friend Preston and I. Mostly Preston. He’s awesome.
So, Preston has been working his little tail off on this project for me, and today he sent me an mp3 of what was supposed to be the final mix of a song called “Epiphany,” until he changed his mind and decided to change three or 85 more things. I think at some point I’m just gonna have to stop him and be like, PRESTON. It’s PERFECT, I PROMISE.
Music is never finished. That’s just the truth. There’s always something to change or add or another direction to take it. At some point you’ve got to decide you’re satisfied, or you’ll never have anything for anyone to listen to.
But for now I’m letting him tweak a little more.
Until then, I burned the mp3 to a CD and took it out to my car to listen on the way to work… because I don’t have any decent speakers in the house.
Is it narcissistic to yourself sing the same song about 10 times in one day?
Don’t answer that.
Any songwriters out there?
Do you ever write a song, exert a respectable amount of effort getting it done, and then look at the finished product and think, “Eh, I guess it’s okay?”
I do it all the time. Nothing’s ever good enough, really. Well… not nothing. But definitely not everything.
But every once in awhile I flip through my notebooks and I play one of those songs I thought was “just okay” and find I was just too close to it at the time to make a really sound judgment about it. Sometimes I come back to one of those songs and think OH MY GOODNESS WHY HAVEN’T I BEEN PLAYING THIS FOR PEOPLE?!
Just happened, actually.
One line in one verse does need a tiny little rewrite, which I think is what was frustrating me in the first place, but other than that, it’s really quite wonderful.
I love rediscovering stuff like that. Or maybe it’s really discovering it for the first time.
How about all of you other creative, lovely people? Is it the same with paintings? With short stories or novels? Films? Is it easier to appreciate a piece of your own work after some time has gone by and you’ve separated yourself from it?
What are your thoughts?