In the third installment of my vBlogs I’m rambling about new lyrical ideas, perfectionism, the design for the EP, wine, holidays and a kitten. It turned out rather long because I’m quite the chatterbox, I promise to keep it short and sweet from now on except when there’s new music to introduce. 🙂
I’m sitting on my balcony after a truly brilliant day. After being stuck in the stuffy and hot office for two and a half days I felt really restless and needed to get out of the house. So I went for a cycling trip to two lakes in Berlin today. 20 km total. Woohoo! I even went for the first swim this year. Cold at first, but so refreshing.
There are always people asking what sound is what somewhere in my songs. So how about a little making of blog post for each new song here? For now written, maybe later as little video blogs. Enough, let’s dive right in:
I don’t think I have to say anything about the subject matter. We’ve all been there and even though I don’t spell it out in the lyrics I think it’s quite obvious.
The piano part of In Time has been around for quite some time. Whenever I have time for it I just sit down and play and when something nice emerges I quickly record the idea (yes, I have quite lot of those sketches and hopefully some of them will turn into fully fleshed out songs in the (near) future). I also already had a vocal melody (they usually come all by themselves), but if I don’t have matching lyrics songs tend to be tough to work out. It’s synergetic thing for me.
The dark – or as a friend called them – psycho sounds at the beginning and end (in between as well) and the cello-like bits are me playing my Epiphone Les Paul (electric guitar) with a violin bow, partly pitched down an octave (don’t have a bass which would have been better). All the small ‘electronic’ sounds are actually made from array mbira or piano. Then of course there’s the mbira. I didn’t use it much on Minutia, because by the time I had the money together and got it, most songs were already more or less finished. You can expect quite a lot more mbira on the next EP or album from me though. I just adore this instrument. The darker sounding beats are made by stomping on my wooden floorboards. The ones that sound like brushes are eggbeaters on a canvas bag filled with paper strips, very closely micced.
So apart from the piano (I don’t own one yet) everything on In Time is made with real instruments or field recordings. I’m planning to re-record the piano parts once I have enough new songs with piano passages and found a good one to record them on. An idea I’m having for the next release is using no MIDI instruments on it as the real thing always sounds warmer. If a song asks for a full orchestra though I won’t be able to make that happen. We’ll see.
I don’t know when I’ll have the next release finished. If I do it the usual way – release it as one body of work – I seriously doubt it will come out this year. A possibility I’m toying with is to do a subsciption-based release. Different packages starting from 10€. Subscribers would get a new song each month. Even then I’d have to have a few finished before the whole thing could start as it takes me about 2 weeks from start to finish for a song and there’s always so much else to do as it’s just me. What do you think (comments here are welcome as are tweets or emails)?
As promised, here comes the sequel… So what else have I been up to lately…
Last Tuesday was the last hot day for a while and since I hadn’t had much time to enjoy the sun I’d decided to go to a lake to finish the lyrics for ‘The Tide’ there. Found a nice, secluded spot, went swimming – the water was still pretty cold, but lovely and refreshing – and then took out my notebook and pen. I got everything but the last verse. Not sure how to conclude the song, yet. I’ve got a couple of different scenarios and I guess I’m gonna leave that open until I’ve arranged the music. Very happy with what I’ve got so far.
After that I had another appointment with the music producer. I gave him the soul song I wrote for someone else in a rough outlined version so she can sing on top of it. He really liked it. Last time I’d been there he’d given me two songs that needed beats, but I disliked the songs so much that with each listening I felt more like getting sick. Sooo not my cup of tea. This time he’d considered my taste and given me a couple of songs that I really like and that inspired some ideas already during listening for the first time. Also I can try whatever I like. It seems to let me work to my strength means not to put me on a short leash. The music producer agreed that I do the radio edit for ‘Chaos & Order’. I understand that he wants to make the song interesting even to people who have the attention span of a mayfly. That’s fine, but I’d rather do it my way. There are supposed to be two songs on the compilation and I’m gonna write a new song specifically for it.
It’s funny how the music producer treats me now. In the beginning he found my music interesting, but he was slightly reserved. I reckon because he thought it too weird. He seems to play everyone’s music to all kinds of people to see how they react. Well, each time I go there I meet someone new. And the introduction goes like that most of the time: ‘Hi, I’m Madeleine.’ ‘Oh, hi. Love your music!’ This resulted in the music producer calling me his shooting star now, which seems a bit like piling it on too much. But it’s nice realising that you can do your own thing and people aren’t only interested in the same old, same old.
A couple of days ago I sat down and made a plan what’s left to do to finish the album. Time’s running out, it’s coming to a close that I can blissfully make music and nothing else. By the end of July I probably have to seriously start looking for a part time job. The good thing is it appears feasible that I’ll be finished with my 12 songs, preparing all songs for the stage and writing another one for the compilation till then. So the timing is right, but I’ll have to work quite a bit in these weeks. I tried to apply proper time management methods where you calculate how long you think things will take and then multiply that by two for unexpected and unknowable delays. Still I’d love to continue just making music, because the learning curve in the last couple of months has been so steep for me and there are so many more songs left in me. That’s why I only want a part time job. At least then I’ll have quite some time left each week for music. I might even have something already. The music producer asked me if I was interested in doing the event management for the huge gig at the end of the year. If the hourly rate is right, gladly. Well, we’ll see.
Thursday night I took my MD recorder and my new Sony stereo mic and went around Berlin recording all kinds of sounds for my song ‘Euphoria’. I’m really happy with the quality of the recordings I got. The next day I edited all of it and replaced the old sounds with the new ones. The basic rhythm is made of a woman walking in high heels and the clicking noise of a traffic light near where I live. The song starts with an S-Bahn arriving and the amazing thing is when I put the sound in I discovered that the rumbling on the tracks is completely in sync with the tempo of the song. In the refrain there’s gonna be more sounds of the S- and U-Bahn. I still have to refine the sound of the beats and put little details in.
On Saturday I packed up my Mac, my little keyboard and some clothes and went to visit family and friends in my hometown. The first few days I was busy catching up with all of them. I hadn’t seen most of them for months. Especially my brother including his little family. My nephew is very musical and we already played a bit together and we’ll continue this afternoon when he’s coming from kindergarten. It’s a lot of fun seeing him eyes aglow when he tried out playing a keyboard for the first time. And it’s great to get a change of scenery from time to time. I felt like a holiday, but I’ve got no time for it and neither the money – I’m buying the array mbira instead. I feel much more relaxed and ready to keep working and pulling all bits together to get the album finished.
One more thing… lately I’ve worked till early in the morning quite often and ended up being too tired to write the blog. So I thought I’d join twitter, because that way I can keep you posted about what I’m up to in no time. So if you want to know what I’m working on and there’s no update in this blog, you can check here.
Phew, what a writing marathon. Guess I’ve mentioned everything. And now back to rehearsing.
It’s already been a week again…
After I last wrote, Tuesday night, I couldn’t sleep. I was quite worried what the music producer had done to my song. So after a chat with my best friend that lasted till five in the morning I decided just to stay up. I played on my keyboard with headphones and had a lot of new ideas that I instantly recorded in Live. Around midday I had a little break and fell asleep on my armchair, went to bed and slept for four hours. When I woke up I got right back to playing and came up with an idea for a song. I don’t know if I’d mentioned that I was asked to write a soul song for someone else. I’d been listening to soul a lot to research chord structures etc. The following day I continued fleshing out the idea and it’s not bad at all. The music producer really liked it and will probably use it. He also played me what he’d done with ‘Chaos & Order’ which is basically just a radio edit. Not sure if I like it. It’s got a fad in. Yuck! I’m starting to think I’d rather write two new songs only for this compilation. That way I can see the whole thing as something like a collaboration. My friends to whom I talked to about it agree. They even said that no one would want their children messed up by someone else after bringing them up all on one’s own. Funny they used this allegory. Spot on, I guess!
On Thursday I also went for a long cycling trip through a nearby park and an adjoining forest, offroading and all. Very enjoyable! I’d completely forgotten how exhiliarating it can be. On the way back I paused by a lake and started assembling ideas for lyrics. Basically jutting down everything that came into my mind, without any particular order. That seems to work best for me these days. Make sense of them later after collecting thoughts.
While working on the soul song I already came up with a little bass line that I thought has loads of potential. I sorta forgot about it until I was about to turn off the computer and go to bed. So I opened up Ableton Live again an quickly recorded it and all of a sudden all the arrangement ideas came flooding out of me and I ended up staying up till five in the morning. It’s the song I’m working on at the moment. It’s called ‘The Tide’, at least for now and it’s pretty dramatic with pizzicato strings, harpsichord, big drum sounds and in waltz time. I only have the lyrics for the first verse and the refrain so far, but since the weather’s supposed to be very summerly in the next couple of days I’m gonna go to the park and finish them in the sun. Maybe even write some more. The metaphor for the chorus came to me in the shower. Being relaxed seems to be the way to go to get in the mode. The vocal lines are there. When I sent a rough sketch to my dad today via Skype he said it rocked. Ha!
I got my new phone yesterday. Installing the stuff onto the computer took a bit, it kept cutting out, but it works now so I can upload pictures from now on. One of the first ones I took (my orchid):
Phew… I did it. Finally finished the lyrics for ‘Zero Tolerance’. Feels pretty satisfying, probably because there’s been a lot of sweating involved over those darn words – figuratively speaking. So apart from laying down some brass that’s all I managed to do. Who’d think that 10 lines could be so much work. Not that I only wrote 10 lines, wrote about 100 I guess. But since the song is pretty fast and the vocal line is pretty tight and rhythmic I didn’t just have to find the right ones to express what I want to say. No, they also had to fit the melody like a glove. So I spend my day writing down something, trying to sing it, crossing out words, scribbling other ones in, testing a new version of a line and so on and so forth. Well, at least I already know the new verse by heart. By the time I’d finished it, it was a bit late to lay down the vocals (I don’t want to annoy my neighbours too much and so far they surprisingly haven’t complained, yet.). Tomorrow’s another day.
I must admit I also spent some time researching good camera mobiles phones. My old one is pretty close to biting the dust. Actually it already might have, but I’m trying to think positive, because otherwise how am I ever get all the phone numbers back trapped in there? So I’m hoping to be able to recharge it at least one last time to save all the numbers tomorrow. It’s been in bad shape for quite a while now. Should have seen it coming. It’s just that I really like gadgets and I didn’t want to spend loads of money on a new mobile… don’t like them too much, to be honest. The new ones have all those nice features though and I could get carried away. Nice little toys! So I felt I was in a pickle… ended up hunting down one supposedly good second hand Nokia 6670 on Ebay. That’s off the list then. Bla bla, sorry about the last part. Been rambling again.
A movie and then off to bed.
Today has been an amazing day. Early on I had to run a few errands and it was such great weather outside. I all of a sudden felt really inspired. Saturday I was in such a strange mood. Everything seemed to go wrong. I got completely stuck with ‘Celeste’. It’s never a good thing too feel defeated creatively so I always make it a point to end the day with a good feeling. I trailed through my song ideas and kinda rediscovered ‘Endless’. Before I thought I had messed up the song, but I figured out pretty quickly what was wrong. And on Sunday and today I’ve been working on this song and trying to get my voice into shape again.
Today I finally sat down and finished the lyrics for it. It’s called ‘Euphoria’ now. The title came to me a couple of days ago when I walked through my quarter and saw the sign for a bar named ‘Euphoria’ and thought what a great title it would make. I already sorta had lyrics for the song formerly called ‘Endless’, but I wasn’t too happy with them overall. Now I am though. The rough idea for verse and refrain are all there, chords, vocals, bass, beats. The main sound is the glass harp. When cut up and made into a loop played as an instrument it makes a nice upbeat skeleton. The kalimba and the bass round the whole thing off. Sounds almost caribbean, especially the refrain. A very happy song (as could be expected from the title). Very fitting to the season.
Yesterday I got a call from a music producer that I met up with about three weeks ago. He’s trying to put together a project of promising Berlin-based musicians. If things go right there’s gonna be one or two compilation CDs and a huge event in autumn… and this might prove to be exactly what I still need. Loads of media coverage and therefore attention from hopefully the right people. When I was contacted I was at first pretty sceptical and didn’t expect much, but it does sound great. Anyway, let’s not get too far ahead. Next week I’m gonna go to his studio and play him my own favourite songs… I’ll keep you posted.
Off to bed now. So excited about continuing work on ‘Euphoria’.
OK, so I’ve been absent for quite some time. Unfortunately I had a relapse and spent my days feverishly in bed. I don’t know what my body has against me or if it was just sheer bad luck. And remarkably bad timing since my voice is sufficiently messed up.
While I was sick and bored on my couch I listened closely to all my songs and took notes of things missing or not sounding good enough. And in the last week I slowly went through all of them. I spent some time working on a song called ‘Paperheart’. This song is a bit older already and for a while I didn’t feel that excited about it anymore and so didn’t know what it still needed. The beats are all made of paper apart from a little bell I recorded. I had the idea to make this sound into an ‘instrument’ that I could then play on the keyboard. I added some nice little melodic fills with it and it sounds really good. I also completed the string arrangement, adjusted the overall sound and finished the rough mix.
The next on the list was ‘Breathing underwater’. Another song that’s been around for a bit. For this one I again finally completed the string arrangement, also fixed some sound issues and mixed it. Most of the other songs just needed some tiny tweakings in the mix. Just ‘Chaos & Order’ needed more work done. Before I couldn’t figure out a fitting brass arrangement for the refrain, but I’m happy to report I cracked the puzzle now. Boy, that was a tough one – especially since the song has so many separate tracks it’s given my computer massive CPU troubles – but so worth the effort. And again I made the sounds sparkle and sit nicely in the mix.
Now I have 8 songs only waiting for my voice to be fit so I can record loads of warblings and do the final mixes. Then there’s this one still untitled song I admittedly have been avoiding because it’s such a pain in the bum and ‘Hearts first’.Worked on the latter today. Perfected the string arrangement, some beat refinements…I still have the nagging feeling that something’s missing though. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve been trapped in my place for too long and crave for being out in the world, meeting people and listening to new exciting music. Anyway… When I got a bit frustrated with my progress today I ended up recording and extending a new idea that I had about a month ago. I’m gonna call it ‘Celeste’ for now for lack of lyrics. It might even stay an instrumental. Speaking of lyrics, I seriously have to go the park equipped with notebook and pen the next day it’s warm and sunny. Spring really put a spring in my step yesterday. Seems so much more inspiring than being shut in a room. Been there, done that for months now. It’s time to go outside again, experience things to have something to write about. And soak up some sun and see the trees in bloom.
So for anyone who wants to know what beats made of paper and a bell ‘instrument’ can sound like. Here’s a little preview of ‘Paperheart’:
Sorry for staying away without any further notice… I had a horrible experience last friday and it took me a while to regain my footing. Hence no music making and no blogging. It wasn’t my intention to vanish like that, but I needed the time.
I’m happy to say though that I’m back making music. Still working on ‘Hearts first’. Things are starting to fall into place. I always had the feeling that something was not quite right and whenever I played the final part I did it faster than the rest. Slowing it down seemed wrong somehow so I tried adjusting everything else. And voilà, much better. So the song is a bit faster now. Also I finally have the string arrangement for the beginning and the end. There are still a few kinks to be straightened out, but I’m getting there. Once I’ve recorded the piano the mixing and checking if anything else is missing will be much easier. A real piano sounds way better and I reckon the sound can carry a lot more than the fake one now which sounds a bit thin.
I also rehearsed playing the piano part to a click track with headphones on today. I arranged to record the piano on thursday at a friend’s and till then I have to be used to it. It’s probably gonna take enough time to set up the mics already. I’m not used to playing various pianos and they can feel quite different from each other. Also starting writing lyrics for a new song. Just fragments so far, but no pressure yet.
Last, but not least another long awaited sound snippet of said ‘Hearts first’. It’s the very beginning of the song and just a teensy appetiser:
In the last two days I’ve continued working on ‘Webs’ although it might end up with a different title. I thought I had a refrain already, but it turned out to be much better suited as a bridge. So today I wrote lyrics and music for the chorus and recorded it. I also laid down some vocals. The rough structure of the song is all there and in the next days I will work on the refinements.
Yesterday I rummaged through my sound library of all the field recordings I made and was amazed to actually find a folder labelled ‘clocks’. So now I not only have a great sounding grandfather clock ticking away underneath but also a frantic little alarm clock that ticks twice as fast for bridge and refrain. I had to readjust the grandfather clock rhythm a bit. It was creating an odd limping rhythm that didn’t work. Did some EQing to get rid of some backgroud noise that I found distracting in the more quiet parts. The clock ticking is just perfect for this song. I absolutely love it. In the sound library I found sounds of toast popping and coffee brewing to be included as sounds for beats, too. It’s so good to actually realise that I didn’t spend a whole month for nothing when I recorded everything onto my computer, edited and filed it. Because quite often I end up recording sounds specifically for the song at hand.
Two nights ago I had the idea that some flageolet tones and other guitar bits could be fitting which were originally intended for ‘Chaos & Order’ but simply didn’t sound right and were therefore discarded. And they are. Gonna record some more though on my old battered classical guitar (the one I started with at the age of six, so we’ve got quite a history).
I really can’t complain at the moment. Things are going so well, I’m just sailing through the writing and recording of ‘Webs’. So much so that I haven’t started rehearsing for the little gig on Saturday. Definitely tomorrow however!