Archive for the ‘My Original Music’ category

Dances With Ducks [The Writing of When I Found You I Found Me]

August 16, 2010

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Well my second offering of tunes for my new CD entitled “Hardrock Acoustics” is now out there and starting to get legs of its own. Hardrock, by the way, denotes the name of the company that built the headframe depicted on the cover and not the style of music. Happy to say I’m getting good feedback, so I’ll take that as endorsement to press on and start work toward my third offering. Incidentally, I have four tunes I left off this offering and have a good part written for the remaining six tunes for my third offering which I plan to release Summer 2013. Thereafter, I am looking to get in the studio to get back to full production mode for my songs with the intent of publishing. In the meantime, I’ve been working on the performance aspect of career to compliment my songwriting efforts. Given all my demos are live off the floor with guitar and vocals only, it had not been a big stretch. That being said, I’d still like to explore producing the tunes with a full band. In any event, if you are so inclined, have a listen to When I Found You,I Found Me – the results of my songwriting endeavor that I will be focusing on in this post.

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DANCES WITH DUCKS – The Writing of When I Found You. I Found Me

Just a little snippet of some insight into writing ” When I Found You, I Found Me” – one of tunes available on Hardrock Acoustics. I had been struggling to finish this song. Although I had a good part of it written, I still needed an additional verse and was thinking about adding a bridge. It was a nice sunny day and I was sitting at the computer trying to write. It just wasn’t happening, and given it was such a beautiful day, I felt some distraction to get out of the house and get to the beach. I guess it wasn’t too long, but soon found myself thinking about head out to the beach – and so I did. However, it also occurred to me that I might strap on my guitar and take along the song and have a go at it there. I was thinking a change of scenery might enable me better to take on the task at hand. With that I headed out to the “office” a.k.a. the park. The park is about a fifteen minute bike ride away, so I ventured out there on my trusty 18 speed Schwinn. Immediately upon arrival, I noted a couple nice picnic tables that would be appropriate to serve as an executive desk. With that, I placed my work essentials on the desk and went to work. Though I had no pesky office cubicle neighbors, I did have to contend with a family of ducks. Quack!

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Well after all was assembled and I adjusted to my surroundings I felt with the refreshing breeze blowing off the lake and a host of birds chirping, I was ready to tackle writing. Funny thing though, it seems everyone is a critic these days. It seems moments after laying the paperwork for the song, I bird perched above my desk thought it be nice to send me a subtle message. Yep! A damn bird crapped on my sheet music. My immediate response was to shake my fist toward the treetop and quip. “Bird! you don’t know shit from shinola” After having said that, I realized that bird would have to be like 70 years old to get that reference. In any event, I carried on now with a vengeance to complete the song.

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Happy to report the family of ducks nearby were no disturbed by my presence. The male of the species on occasion ventured right up to me seeking treats. Sadly, though I had none to offer, but have since gone back to return with treats. The mother of the species had seven ducklings in tow, but was neither distressed by my presence, however, she did keep her brood a distance from the shore. They happily swam around until about a half hour after me being there and decided to take up a mid-afternoon nap under a nearby cedar by the shore.

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Well with all this inspiring scenery that Northwestern Ontario has to offer, I was able to successfully complete the remaining verse and bridge to my satisfaction. I was there for about an hour writing and rewriting. Only at one point the beach was visited by a group of youth who docked nearby and were playing on the playground equipment about 50 yards away. Their visit was short and their joyous laughter was shield somewhat by a band shell between me and them. However, the brief interlude was welcome as I took a break and waded in the water, all the while strumming my guitar with my flip flops on. It seemed to be shaping up as another tough day at the “office”. Sigh!

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All in all, the afternoon went well. Just as a further note, I haven’t written too much outside of the home, but this could set a precedence – welcome precedence at that. I think sometimes of writing in a professional studio, but then I get to thinking about that environment being “stale”. To me, food atmosphere is a good infuse to writing as it is with eating at…say a good restaurant. Which brings to mind a joke I heard recently. Q: Did you hear about the new restaurant on the moon?
A: The food is great, but no atmosphere!

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Here is the result of my afternoon of writing and dancing with ducks. Hope you enjoy it. BTW, if you see me wandering around somewhere, I generally have the CD on hand if that interests you. Quite proud of the work I completed this year. Thanks to those also who have extended their kind comments. As for that bird who pooped on my song sheet, well we’ll see what becomes of this tune. Anyways…listen

here! BTW. Press “Play” button upper right, once there.

Thanks for the visit!

Clarence

P.S. Looking to do some live performance stuff for YouTube soon. Will post when available. BTW, you may want listen to this tune also available on Hardrock Acoustics. So Goodnight, a partially non-fiction account of my youth.

And just for fun. I did up a little comic of my former characters featured in my strip “Duck Attitude” If you are not familiar with the strip or want to learn more go here.

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Courage Highway – Songwriting 2010

August 6, 2010

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Just wanted to write a short blog pertaining to my new offering of original tunes, demo style. My second release of tunes is now ready. I’ve called the release “Hardrock Acoustics” which is not “Hard Rock” as the title might suggest, but rather is an acoustic representation of all the selections of the CD that are simply presented with acoustic guitar and vocals only. Actually the Hardrock reference pertains to the goldmine head-frame that appears on the cover. The head-frame is the last of the many that existed in this wee gold mining town where I grew up. BTW, I took a shot at designing my own cover in Photoshop and I am quite pleased with the results. Whadaya tinks eh?

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As per the title of this blog, I am featuring one of the last additions to the CD offering – Courage Highway. Prior to listening to the tune however, I’d like to give a little history of the song and its title. For many who live in my area near Thunder Bay, or often travel that part of the Highway 11/17, you will know that Courage Highway is the 100km stretch of highway that commemorates the courage of Canadian Hero, Terry Fox in his Marathon of Hope run that sadly ended near Thunder Bay when he lost his battle with cancer. Courage Highway starts at Nipigon Ontario on to Thunder Bay where a Scenic Lookout that bears his name exists. It is at the end of the 100 km stretch, a statue in Terry’s likeness stands tall facing west toward his intended destination to the Pacific. Much more can be read about Terry’s effort and the annual run that bears his name toward the run to cure cancer here.

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I am not a dreamer, and I am not saying that this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer. But I believe in miracles. I have to.”
Terry Fox, October 1979 ”

COURAGE HIGHWAY – THE SONG

More specific to the song, however, I have to say there is some direct references to Terry’s Run, but I also view it as a general statement as to how we determine our own destiny. In my thinking, whatever passion one aspires to, there will always be hardships and maybe even failures along the way that will test our will. With faith and perseverance we at times have to muster up our courage, stay the course and carry on. I think an old Chinese proverb says something to that affect, if I recall correctly, ” Fall down seven times. Get up eight.” I think falling down is just a part of life that we simply have to contend with and it tests our determination and courage time and again to get up and start all over again. With the “highway” as the metaphor as to the experiences we encounter along the way to our dreams, I think is fitting because we have to know the destination and if observant, we watch for “signs” along the way that help get us there. I have often traveled the real Courage Highway that exist between Nipigon, Ontario and Thunder Bay, because of my close proximity and am often reminded of the courage of Terry Fox. However, no matter where one lives, I’m sure we all have our own race to run out there on Courage Highway. I think a few lines of my song, Courage Highway, pretty well sums up my thoughts about courage. Hope you enjoy it!

Ran a lot of miles out there on Courage Highway
There’s time my heart felt tired and torn
There’s a lot of dreams there out on Courage Highway
That’s where legends are born

COURAGE HIGHWAY – A Song Tribute to Terry Fox

As a further testament to the courage of Terry Fox. Here is a YouTube video. It depicts me and my brother this past winter as we chased down the Winter Olympic Torch Run. We were literally coming back from Thunder Bay and met up with them at Nipigon, so we swung the vehicle back west to chase them the full 100km stretch of Courage Highway. In the end, we finally caught them at Terry Fox Scenic Lookout. I just happened to have my video camera with me and filed the following short video about that event.

ANOTHER NEW TUNE – SO GOODNIGHT

A short tune about a pool hall that closed down in my home town. Seems I’ve been listening to a lot of Guy Clark lately. Very much non-fiction, but some fiction involved, however, as I did exercised some poetic licence. The old man in the song does exist btw, and is very much alive. Hope you like this one too!

Songwriting 2010 – Part I

June 12, 2010

This is where all the magic happens! Fancy eh?

MY SONGWRITING ENDEAVORS 2010

Well the time has come to hunker down and get recording some new songs. For the most part, I’ve had ten complete tunes that have been kicking around for about year now,but I now feel the need to purge creatively and give them life online. Initially the plan was to record this winter, however – as things sometimes do – they were set aside. As Lennon once quipped “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” And so it goes. In any event during the interim, between then and now, I have continued to write. So to date, I say I am almost half way through my third offering of demos. Thus, my urgency to get the initial ten done pronto!

My 6 Channel Behringer Mixer - Eurorack UB1002FX

HOW I WRITE

At any given time I have anywhere from 10 to 15 songs on the go. There tend to be three type of songs that are on my plate. They are as follows: The best of the bunch are the ones that magically appear from thin air. Luckily these also make up the majority of the tunes. These are the ones that are usually written within a half hour to forty five minutes. Essentially my approach is to start with some “hooky” title and accompanying music. I generally get my titles from cliches, book titles, things people say, news headlines and sometimes I am blessed with something poetic sounding that pops in my head. Just wanted to add that I once bought a Leonard Maltin movie book once at a garage sale. I do believe I got a couple titles from there from obscure movies that likely went straight to video. Anyways, thought that might give you some ideas? So, thereafter, once I got something crafty, I move onto writing at least one verse that supports the chorus. With that verse I decide if I need a pre-chorus which generally is a four line thingy. ( Excuse all my technical songwriting jargon eh?) So assuming I haven’t lost you, after I have the verse, pre-chorus and chorus I just mess around and play it over and over and over…well you get the picture. The reason behind repeatedly playing it over is to get the phrasing down. A very important step! This is done by having a solid rhythm pattern in my head and strum unwaveringly to it. This is where editing comes in. If I find things too wordy, then I find I have to choppity chop chop accordingly. This is all done on the fly. By the way, I always have the words written on the page before me and a pencil handy. If something is too wordy for the rhythm, then it’s 86ed. Yep, it’s that simple. And there’s your song! However, I may go on and write the other verse(s) if I am on a roll. And should I feel it needs something to tie the verses/prechorus and chorus all together, then I’ll make a judgement call to see if a bridge will be beneficial. To me the purpose of the bridge is to succinctly tie – and sometimes summarize – what’s been said in the rest of the song. In early years I almost always wrote bridges, because I thought that was the “formula”. However, sometimes the song writes itself and you just know intuitively when things are best left alone and perhaps a bridge isn’t neccessary. “Less is more” like the old adage suggests. This is certainly true in the following song. Furthermore, I just wanted to add, that these are demos that I will put to full productions at a later date. I have always felt if a song could stand on its own with only vocals and simple accompaniment, then it likely a decent tune! I used to always do full productions, but I felt that impeded the creative process. So, its the song first, then the production. However, having stated that, I also have a good idea what the final production will sound like in my head as I write. Hope you find this helpful. This is what works for me, thought I know other songwriters who have their own philosophies on what is best. To each their own! See what works for you!

* IMPORTANT! You will want to click on the link at the end of this sentence to bring up the “TunePak”. This TunePak contains the songs to which I will be referring to for the rest of the blog. Here is the link to TunePak!

What Do Lovers Do

This one dropped into my lap sometime in the spring of 2009. I was just fumbling with the a chord progression and that immediately suggested a melody for a verse. Then I just started singing the title as the opening line and everything fell into place. Long story short, the prechorus followed as did the chorus as if by magic. Can’t really explain how that happens, but when it does you just accept it. Have to mention though, that I did not even intend to write a song that day, I just wanted strum my guitar casually as I sipped on my cup of java. Furthermore, just as magically the music fell into place, the words came just as easily. I remember writing frantically. As fast as I wrote one line the next came. Within a half hour the song was complete and has never changed. Well hardly an iota. The only exception being, was the bit of editing of words for phrasing. Hope you enjoy it!

Ashes After the Fire

This is a song that has been kicking around seemingly forever! I did once record it on a Tascam analog 4-track I think back in the early 90s and its been sitting on cassette somewhere tucked away in the basement? Anyways, whilst going through some old stuff stored in my parents home recently, I came across the original lyrics. Upon review, I felt I needed to write a bridge for the tune, so I did. Essentially, the melody and words remained the same since I first laid it down years ago. I think it turned out alright?

The Last Word

This one is pretty well in the same category as Ashes After the Fire. I recorded it for my last slew of 10 songs for my first demo CD. Kinda thought it was kinda harsh, but what the heck? Here it is! I wrote this in 1996 while in Moose Factory. It was at this point in my songwriting development, I put down the electric and started to learn to be a more proficient acoustic player. This was one of those songs written about that time. I found that during that period I started to use a lot of sweet sounding maj7 chords and 6th and 9th extensions. That seemed to open a lot of room for exploration. Given, the song is about an answering machine, I think it still holds well noting we still have answering services?

Anyways, those are a couple of babies I have been honing in hopes that they find their own legs. Much more to go! BTW, I’m quite happy with the new songs forthcoming. Stay tuned! I think some of my best tunes are about to find their own legs online very soon! Thanks for the visit! To be continued…

Clarence

SIDEBAR – EQUIPMENT AND HOW I RECORD

Nothing too fancy to add about this. That’s the gear in the pictures. I have a Canadian made guitar by Art Lutherie. ( I used to have a beautiful Seagul, but that got stolen, but I am liking the Art L !) For mics? I use two of a moderate quality. Someday hope to get better mics? For format, I record on to a stadard PC with Adobe Audition live off the floor! I think, that’s about it? Keeping it simple! As for mixing? I just add a bit of reverb to give the illusion of a medium room size. I also EQ the vocals a bit with a preset in Adobe for bringing vocals up front. That’s it! 🙂

P.S. Hope to have it all out there on a new CD by July 2nd…a birthday present to myself! “Buy Clarence a new Seagul guitar!” says smiling winking goofy moose. —> 3;-)

P.S.S. BTW, all my songs are available at my reverbnation site for your enjoyment if you wish to further explore my music
here!