18. I Only Have Eyes For You

DAY EIGHTEEN

This is a long-ass entry mainly because I add some totally extraneous, grand-ole-EHP-insight into my covers, technique, etc. (Also known as, “Blah, blah, blah, blah”.)  You can also opt out of it and just listen to the song, of course.  Have at it, I say!

Today marks the first cover of the 365.  (Purists: relax.  Covers count because they’re arrangements, yo!)  I chose this song because Jonathan and I were on the train going to see Avatar (holy crap: see this movie in the theatre!), and he turned to me and started singing a House of Pain song (I know, random, but that’s how it works…).  Something in what he sang, and the loudness of the train, made me think he was singing this song, and I remembered how much I love it.


I Only Have Eyes For You was written by composer Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin, written in 1934 for the film Dames where it was introduced by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. *Wikipedia

My dad, up until a few years ago, owned a 1952 Ford Crestline Victoria.  It was a yellowish-cream color with a dark green top.  I loved how it drove; how it smelled; the tan leather heated up in the summer, and its scent became so familiar to me.  We would only get it out of storage during those summer months because a car that old had to be kept cooped up in the severe Utah winters.  The radio was original, but I’m not sure why my dad used only a slightly newer radio he kept in the glove box.  We would take evening rides for ice cream, just look at the scenery, or even check up on a sprinkler head (my dad did service maintenance when I was growing up).  We’d attend the Lewiston, Utah parade in this car, entered the famous Cache Valley Cruise-In, and drove across the valley at casual, small highway speeds with the windows down and the triangle mirrors turned out.  It was a great car, and, without fail, my dad would switch on the radio to a pre-set oldies station.  This song would play, or maybe a different one, but it didn’t matter, because we were driving.  Driving.  Driving.

My main influence, obviously, was The Flamingos 1959 version of this song (Please, how could I not link to this video?!).  I love this version.  There is something special about it for me.  Is it the strangely repetitive pedal piano deep in the mix?  The vocals?  (After studying the vocals for a while, I’m hearing tiny, tiny details in how he sings each word, uses each breath, how long or short he holds consonants, syllables.  It’s incredible to me, frankly.)  It’s rhythm is so sensual, so intimate.

A Word on Covers: Covers for me are a very special deal.  As much as I love covers, they are hard for me to do for a few reasons: I can’t remember anything. I have a hard enough time remembering my own lyrics, let alone lyrics someone else wrote however long ago.  Another reason is that I have this brain clog when it comes to performing them: I can’t just perform them as I know them, I have to make them different, at times even unrecognizable.  This keeps me from working on them because they’re so time-consuming.  For this reason I usually stick to performing covers I absolutely love doing, so I’ll memorize lyrics and figure out a way to play them that I’m happy with.  (If you’d like, you can watch my cover of Bjork’s Come to Me, I’ve done about a million times since learning it a few years ago.  Ignore the fact that it’s a terribly old video.  I should really retire this song by now!  But I just love it.)

However, I really tried to change my attitude with this arrangement.  As much as I love this song and felt like I knew it, when I sat down to arrange it, I found I didn’t know it as well as I thought!  With the altered tuning I was using on my cello I had to learn how to configure the chords just right, which I still need to clean up.  Though I was careful and studied about finding the right sound-color for this arrangement, I stopped myself when I started to turn it inside out (attempting to play it in 7/8- blah!).  For me, this is a hasty arrangement of a cover.  I am learning to be purposefully hasty.

The Cello Part: I love playing with the tuning on my cello.  Sure normal A, D, G, C is great, but you can get some amazing color by pulling everything down at least a whole step, then playing around with each string from there.  You can hear a ticking as the strings are hit: it’s my finger.  I’m not plucking, but making the strings sound by striking them from above, hitting them with a finger.  I think in future versions, I’ll change it up a bit.  It gets a bit too much all the way through the song like that for me.  (If you’re super curious about this, I actually used a similar technique on a Nadia Ali arrangement of her song Rapture for her MTVIggy performance a while back. I had forgotten I had used it there until just now!  Nadia is a beautiful singer: maybe she will do a song with me!  Nadia?!)

The Recording: The recording process for this kind of freaked me out- I felt it was stealthy on my part, at least.  My plan was, at first, to record in my bathroom because this was such a quiet song, and New York is noisy.  But something in my mind told me to try doing it in the hallway of my building.  Embrace the noise.  I live in a building of many musicians and artists, so it’s not rare to hear an instrument or singer (I live below a harpist), but it wasn’t until today, for the first time, I realized a bassist had moved into the building!  Hello, my brother!

When the thought first occurred to me I might try to record in the hallway, I immediately got anxious: it was 9:15 pm, kind of late for some people, early for others.  Would someone try to stop me?  (And wouldn’t that be terribly inconvenient?)  I wasn’t even sure if I’d like the outcome anyway.  I quickly went out and tested about 20 seconds of the song, went back in, listened to it and loved it right away.

Arranging/recording probably took a little over an hour.  This is the second take of two.  I so badly wanted to see what arco cello over-dubs would sound like, but I resisted, thinking maybe the intimacy of this infant recording might be more interesting in a minimal kind of way…?  There’s actually something really special that happened in the first take: I was extra nervous playing out, so everything is very still and subtle, but the second was by far the better performance.  I breathe really heavily in the beginning in an effort to relax myself.  I was in the hallway at 9:30 at night playing a cello in front of a microphone!  What?! I also didn’t feel quite prepared enough to record this song, but wanted to capture the moment with the practicing bass downstairs before it got too late.  There are no effects on this song.  It’s all natural reverb from the hallway.  I’m starting to see that I will have to invest in a better mic.

Things I like about this recording that I was planning on- I love that the bassist is practicing on the second floor.  I really wanted to capture the “duet” between two instruments “cut from the same cloth”, coming from the same mother register.  Bass!  It’s so John Cage!  After I finished, I listened to it for a second time, trying only to hear noises in the distance: the elevator, the bassist, doors shutting.  It’s a bit surreal for me.

Things I like about this recording that I wasn’t planning on- I’m such a sucker for naturally occurring “artifacts” in recordings- breath specifically, and though I can annoy myself with my own breathing, I like some if it here: Anxious breath at the start, totally running out of breath before the bridge, and an interesting gasp at 1:34.  How at times you can hear the vibration of the strings become interrupted by the next hit of my finger: that’s such a cool sound (i.e. 4:02).

This one was really fun.  I enjoyed myself in part because the song was already in existence (leaving a few responsibilities at the door) so it gave me more time to experiment with other detailed things like the recording itself…

Until tomorrow, my friend.  Thank you for reading and listening.  For being you.  Have a fine, fine day.

This one’s for you, Dad.

I Only Have Eyes For You

My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you.

Are the stars out tonight?
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright
I Only Have Eyes For You, Dear.

The moon maybe high
but I can’t see a thing in the sky,
‘Cause I Only Have Eyes For You.

I don’t know if we’re in a garden,
or on a crowded avenue.

You are here
So am I
Maybe millions of people go by,
but they all disappear from view.
And I Only Have Eyes For You.

17. I Can’t See Anything

DAY EIGHTEEN.

I love my friends.  I want you to meet them.

Jeremy, EHP, Jim, Jocelyn: Really, we can't see anything without our glasses.

Jocelyn Mackenzie: Glasses-wearing, drumming, lyricist-to-the-stars-improv-ing, rap-geniusing, angelic-voicing, uber-knittering, glock-hitting, shaker-ing, member of Pearl and the Beard.

Jeremy Styles: ALSO glasses-wearing, bartending, ladies-manning, guitar-strumming, sometimes drum-hitting, and sexy-vocal-tantalizing member of Pearl and the Beard

Jim Altieri: ALSO glasses wearing, computer-knowing, violin-sweeping, sweet-composering, Jocelyn-loving, temporary accordion-squeezin’, for Pearl and the Beard’s Mercury Lounge show, January 23.  (This Saturday!)  *Jocelyn and Jim are also in the band Poo Poo Jim and Pee Pee Girl

Jeremy, Jonathan, EHP, Jim, Jocelyn!

These three lovely people came over tonight for a rehearsal for our show coming up.  Yet again, captured artists + EHP needs a song for today = collaboration with Pearl and the Beard, Jim Altieri and Jonathan Clark!  YESSS!  I told them we were going to write a song in 15 minutes and record it in 10, so they agreed to do it, and I do believe we actually did it in that time. In fact, we may have written it in less than 15 minutes (considering the words are minimal!)  I had come up with the words and melody for “I can’t see anything, anything without my glasses,” a few weeks ago and had planned on doing it with someone.  I shouted it out, and that’s how the song came to be.  I love doing songs like this with lots of minds thinking and lots of care free grabbing of instruments.  I even made a shaker out of Tupperware and rice!  I am happier because this songs exists… I love you guys so much.

This is Jocelyn Mackenzie. This is Jocelyn Mackenzie’s word salad.  Jocelyn is improvising here.  (I get so jealous she can do this!)  I mean, “Don’t kiss ’em under a waterfall cause those glasses will get fogged by waterfall droplets”?!  This totally kills me.   This is nothing, friend.  Just wait until you catch her in full-force.  She can unleash an improvised rhyme or verse on you at any moment so hard that your face will melt to the ground!  (I haven’t even attempted a rap yet. To be sure, I will do it with her.)  And, as I mentioned yesterday, today’s song marks the first song within the 365 to contain: A SWEAR WORD! Get ready!

Also of personal note: I am playing the shaker!  And one of my favorite parts is hearing Jonathan and Jim come in with their low and grumbly registers starting a chorus…yessss!

Yet again, another hilarious and entertaining evening creating the 365.  We did two versions for you: an mp3 and a video version.  The “lyrics” below are from the the mp3.  See you tomorrow!

I Can’t See Anything

instrumentation: Jocelyn Mackenzie: glockenspiel; Jim Altieri: violin; Jeremy Styles: guitar; Jonathan Clark, omnichord beats. EHP: shaker


I can’t see anything, anything without my glasses
Jocelyn:
Yo, girl, you know sometimes when you’re walking down the street or whateva
And your glasses fall offa your face and you can’t see nothin’, girl
Well, that don’t mean I don’t love you cause I can’t see you
Even when I can’t see your face you’re beautiful.
I want to kiss you on your face
But especially I want to kiss you when I put my glasses on cause I can see you better
The visually impaired have one problem and one problem only
and that is that they can’t see shit without their glasses
So, get your lover, get your glasses, get your lover’s glasses
Find the person nearest you wearing a pair of glasses
Kiss ’em right on the mouth
Don’t kiss ’em under a waterfall
Cause those glasses will get fogged by waterfall droplets.
Okay, everybody, so I’m just sayin’ I love you girl, you’re beautiful
I can’t see you without my glasses, girl, but that don’t mean I don’t love you.
I can’t see anything, anything without my glasses.
Jim:
…At all…

16. Julie

DAY SIXTEEN

For my sixteenth birthday, I remember being blind folded and taken to First Dam (a little man-made lake in Logan, Utah with a dock and nice grassy parts.  And yes, there is a Second Dam.)  I got there and my friends had made me a poster out of dried noodles that said Happy Birthday.  And now, as I type this, I think all this happened when I turned 18.  Sigh.  I’m getting old.

Hello there and good day to you.  Are you well?  Are you feeling alright?  I hope so.

As you know, I spent last weekend in the North East (freaking awesome!) with friends, Jonathan, and Hog Farm.   On our way home, and lucky for us, we had the chance to break up our long drive home with a stop by Jonathan’s sister’s.  Julie Clark Shubert is Jonathan’s oldest sister.  She is 53 years old and started playing the electric guitar three years ago when she turned the magical 5-0.  She had never even touched a guitar before turning 50.  In her own words from her website, www.allthingsjulie.com:

[My husband] Gary surprised me with [a Fender Strat] on my fiftieth birthday. She’s beautiful, but I hadn’t even held a guitar before.  It was just on my list I had made, my bucket list of things I needed to do before I die and learn how to play electric guitar was on it next to tap dancing.

For nine months I just plucked at her a little, hoping my inner Hendrix would spring out of me, but the sounds I made couldn’t be called music. I kept putting off trying to find a guitar teacher, but everyday she just sat there in the corner of my office and stared at me. I finally gave in and found a teacher. Then one day after taking lessons for two months and knowing four chords, my first song poured out of me. It was magical. I don’t know how to write a song, no one had ever taught me how, I was writing chords I hadn’t learned yet. I assumed it was some kind of miracle, but then it happened again and again.

My songs are like my children, I can’t believe they came out of me. I am delighted, intrigued, and amazed by them. I am also struck with a sense of responsibility, they are clearly not mine in the same way that my children are not mine, and come from a place much bigger than me. My songs are gifts from the universe, and I realized that I alone was responsible for their growing and nurturing and sharing them with the world.

Knowing Julie has been an important turning point for me in my music making.  What a wonderful example of awesomeness.  Here we have someone who had never written a song in her life and she picks up her guitar and there you go.  Before I talked to Julie about songwriting, I was unhappy with the songs that were coming out because they didn’t fit some mold I had set for myself.  I opened up to Julie about my frustration and the most important piece of advice she gave me was, “Just like you don’t choose your kids and who they will be when they come out, you can’t always determine what a song is going to be when it comes out.  You have to let them out and let them be what they’re going to be.  Don’t judge them.”  Up until that point, I had been pushing and forcing myself: where did I belong, what is my sound, where are my songs?   The second I gave up on all that head space mumbo-jumbo and followed her advice, and I’m telling you, the very second I let it go, I felt like I had written a really solid song that I enjoyed playing and, for the first time, I felt was me.  (That song happens to be Danny Sorrow, a song I recorded for The Crux and The Bluestocking EP with Franz Nicolay.  You can find it on iTunes!)

Since then, I still have frustrating moments, and those moments are a big reason why I started this project.  But it’s getting better the more I do it, and hopefully I’m learning something valuable in the process.

You will hear in this recording Julie shout out, “You’re looking sharp, my man!”  She is speaking to her husband, Gary who had just passed us and was dressed in a shirt and tie.  I left this in because it gives you a very clear picture of a side of Julie that makes her very… well… Julie.

We starting writing this at about 8:30 am, had a break to eat breakfast, and finished recording at 10:30, so I would say the whole thing took about an hour, maybe an hour and a half.  Julie has a style that is all her own, and I changed up her normal form by taking out the bridge mostly to save time since we had to make a deadline, but also to shake it up a bit (if you can call taking something out shaking it up).  I was afraid the melody that came to me so automatically sounded too much like something I have heard before, but it doesn’t matter, and I put my mind away about it.  As I wrote my verse I realized it was about Julie, so she fashioned her verse about me.  Julie pulled together lyrics for the chorus, and that was it.  We had a great time together.  Thank you, Julie!  Rock on, sister.

Julie


Jules, she came about a wide, wide universe
Keeping none and selling all
Goods she beamed were two bits strong
Saved a pretty piece
A big, red, lucky star
All the while screaming out
Things aren’t what they used to be
And we write every day
And we sing it all away
And she called me up
Confused as to who she was
Writing the words that were shuffling through her world
I told her they were for the people she’ll never know
The lives that she would touch
Would always mean so much
And we write every day
And we sing it all away

Since I’m a bit ahead because of Aly and Guy’s double recording day, I can already tell you what tomorrow’s song is!  But I won’t.  I will tell you, however, that Jeremy Styles, Jocelyn Mackenzie, Jim Alteri and Jonathan Clark all take part AND there’s ANOTHER VIDEO!!! YAY FOR TECHNOLOGY!  (Even if the program sucks.)  And, tomorrow’s song marks the first official SWEAR WORD in a song  in The 365 Project!  (So get ready, Grandma!)

Until tomorrow, once again!

EHP

15. Ghosts in My Teeth

DAY FIFTEEN

Good day to you, my friend.  I hope this day finds you well, and, should the weather permit, may you attempt a Slurpy run sometime around noon. (I knew a girl who added vanilla ice cream in the middle of hers.  It was surprisingly tasty.)

Lady Lamb and the Beekeeper! You are the reason jealously is running through my veins this evening… the voice, the hair, the menacing guitar, the screaming!  (Insert any obligatory “Woo“, “Hey” or “Yeah” here.)

Lady Lamb
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper (Aly Spaltro). Photo courtesy of G. Capecelatro III

This song was written in approximately 15 minutes in the larger Portsmouth, New Hampshire cemetery beneath a lovely, lonely tree.  Aly and her lovely traveling companion Maisie, drove an hour to Portsmouth just to write this song with me for the 365.  (I’m so grateful!)  Guy Capecelatro came to our aid yet again by, not only choosing the location to write this song (genius), but also carefully and skillfully tied my stereo mic up in the tree above us and has a thumb piano solo!  If the wind hadn’t been blowing so fiercely, I do believe the sound quality would not have frustrated me as much in the editing moments of this posting.  Not only was the wind a bit of a trial, but, for some reason, the video recorder on my mac decided to jump here and there which made matching up the garageband recording of the live performance impossible.  Why did we shoot a movie for this song, you’re asking yourself?  Well, I’ve been to Portsmouth, NH a few times now and each time I go I realized why I want to go back.  It’s just beautiful there, and I thought, for a little change of pace, I’d actually get video of the song today.  Everything seemed to fall into place, and I love it.  I hope you do, too.  (Again, sorry for the quality all around.  These things do happen, but I wanted you to see it anyway…)  Anyone interested in matching it up, let me know: have at it!  I’ve resolved to post everything as it is and say: Love to you!  (Oh, and who is the genius who got rid of the old iMovie and created this waste of space new version?! Who?! There is a reason I don’t put movies up anymore, and that program is it!)

Aly and EHP
EHP and Lady Lamb the Beekeeper in Portsmouth, NH. Photo G. Capecelatro III

As I mentioned earlier, I met Lady Lamb, also known as Aly Spaltro, when I was on tour with Anna Vogelzang a few years ago.  She caught my attention then and still manages to pull me in, years later.  I am enthrawled with her performance and writing style, and I will admit to you here that I had a hard time while recording and writing this with not feeling envious of her voice: so unique and beautiful.

Collaborations do a lot of wonderful things, but they can also bring up that little voice in the back of my mind that’s always critiquing, envying, and, even, punishing.  I don’t know a musician who doesn’t struggle with this aspect of the craft.  It’s a game we play with our own self-consciousness and awareness: Who am I, and how I can assure myself that I’m here and have something to offer as well.  Grass is always greener, no?  But I’m working on it.

Aly came up with her lyrics very quickly.  A few weeks ago, I had heard on the news of the death of a young South Korean supermodel who was once quoted as saying, “The more I gain, the more lonely it is…I know I’m like a ghost.” I thought, though so sad, it was beautifully poetic and wrote it in my lyric book.  This became the Ghost in My Teeth. (Something of interest: Guy only suggested right before we left for the cemetery that we go there to write the song as well, not just to film.  I had already planned on using that line with Aly before we even started writing.)

Aly (Lady Lamb) and EHP in Portsmouth, NH. Photo G. Capecelatro III

As far as the actual collaboration, she and I talked a little about ideas while driving to the cemetery, but decided in the end to just let stuff come as it wanted.  We only performed this song once, so what you’re hearing is the result of the 15 minutes we took to write it in the freezing cold. (Motivation!)  We went to the Friendly Toast for dinner (go there!), and we all had this song swimming in our minds.  The exciting thing about collaborating is the opportunity to revisit songs at a later date, fill them out, complete them if necessary, and make them even more awesome.  I hope Aly and I will get this opportunity soon.  Love you, girl.

Ghosts in My Teeth

instrumentation: guitar, cello, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper

What a sight you are for a night at the sea side
How the wasp watches you turn and toss
With the waves as cold as ghosts in your teeth
Where will you go? Will you wait for…
Where will you wait, where will you wait for…
Where will you wait, where will you wait for me?

Until tomorrow, dear friend.

EHP

14. Bird in Girl’s Clothing

DAY FOURTEEN

I’ve hit the two-week mark. It’s the little victories, you know?

After Friday night’s show in Maine at Hog Farm, I stayed on at Guy Capecelatro‘s house in Portsmouth to do another song with him because he’s so freaking awesome.  This song has a history- the first thing you hear is a loop I created months and months ago.  Sometimes I’ll take my loop pedal out and just improvise, saving it on the machine if I like it, dumping it if I don’t.  In this case, I had just received my black violin from my dad, changed the tuning and was totally just messing around.  I liked it, saved it, and played it for Guy today.  It ended up the starting point for this song.  (Before we worked on this song, I pulled out some improv on the pedal for a few loops he will hopefully use later, so I’m excited to hear what he does with them.)

(Guy can remember everything.) I'm dumb and didn't get a picture of Guy today. Lame. Here's Google's offering of G. Capecelatro.

As I listened to the loop, I had a general melody run through my mind.   The cool idea Guy had was to each record vocals independently, neither one being privy to the other’s melodic idea.  After we both recorded the vocals by ourselves in his little studio, we came together and listened to them fall into one another, I think, quite nicely.  I improvised the second voice under my main vocal, experimenting with my higher, (more falsetto) register, which I don’t get the opportunity to do very often.  I like the effect.  I always listen to the song of the day on repeat as I write about it here.  And the more I listen to this song, the more I love it.  Guy’s influence is so good for me; freeing and lovely.

The reason I love Guy so much is his total willingness to try anything.  I think this is what makes him such a great artist and musician.  He is literally not afraid to try something (or at least, that’s my take on it…), and it was infectious.  I was able to begin teaching myself how to let go, which is why when I hear the character of my vocal, though I wish would have allowed for a little space for silence (as Guy did), I hear some things I really like and wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Examples of Guy’s awesomeness for this song: beautiful lyrics, two tracks of electric guitar, thumb piano, and “Hey“s at the end (with Jonathan, too!) that I love.  (I will later address my secret wish that as many songs as possible contain “Hey!”, “Yeah!” or “Woo!”.  We’ll talk about it soon…)  My contributions?  A little cello pizz, the loop, lyrics, a want for hey’s!, and a fast hand with a tiny music box.  I wrote some of my lyrics on a bus at 2 am coming back from DC to New York just a few days ago.

I’m quite sad to leave Portsmouth and Hog Farm.  The more I collaborate with people on these songs, the more I believe the world really is an amazing place full of stunning, beautiful, and talented people, all with experiences to share.  It’s so easy to take people for granted, and it’s sharing these experiences with others that I hope will engrave gratitude upon my mind forever.

Guy and I worked on this from about maybe 12-2:30 pm.  Not long after we had finished, Aly Spaltro, or Lady Lamb the Beekeeper as most know her, came down to Guy’s home with dear friend Maisie to collaborate.  A full day of writing and recording for the 365! It was awesome! Lady Lamb the Beekeeper played the Hog Farm show with me last Friday night and is an unbelievably captivating performer and wonderful writer with an unbelievable voice (more on that tomorrow).  Based out of Portland, Maine, she drove an hour to record a song with me today in a cemetery in the middle of winter in New Hampshire.  I love her, love her, love her.  That post will show up tomorrow, so please visit to hear it! (We took a video of it, too.  Oh!  Technology!)

Are you thinking, “Wait. Two songs in one day? That means you’ll be ahead tomorrow.  Will you write a song tomorrow?”  True, and yes!  It will even out at some point, to be sure!

Bird in Girl’s Clothing

instrumentation: pre-prepared loop, electric guitar, thumb piano, music box, cello, Jonathan Clark, Guy Capecelatro III

(Jan. 21: I had Guy remix this because I, frankly, did a crappy job.  So up loaded the new version today.)

Are you making a nest up in that tree
Or are you spying on me?
Are you some bird in girl’s clothing?
Can you sing something soothing?
I’ve sometimes likened myself to a squirrel
Furtive, nervous and furry
Will you be there as I come awake?
And head into a brand new day
You are five, five miles wide (Going home)
Stay the entire night
Sad boy with wings to come
To this house you brought me home
Clothed you are but nigh forsaking
You, some sweet, worth the taking
Will you be there as I dream?
When I awake to some new day.
All at once, a sweet second and gone
Yet still living
Did you fly away when I wasn’t looking?
I thought you were some kind of something.

See you tomorrow!  Stay safe and well…

13. Three Knotted Napkin

DAY THIRTEEN

So Lucky.

Good morning.  I realize I’m a bit past my 12 am posting time, however, I have a good excuse.  I played a totally awesome venue tonight in Biddeford, Maine called the Hog Farm Annex.  It is a beautiful venue run by wonderful people.  If you are in the area, please stop in and chat with Coco and Gil: the sweet couple who founded and run Hog Farm.  Amazing.

Peforming "Little Sunshine" at Hog Farm Annex with Jonathan Clark. Photo courtesy of G. Capecelatro

Today’s installment is brought to you in part by Guy Capecelatro III.  Guy is one of the most incredible people I’ve met while on the east coast.  I met him whilst touring with dear friend Anna Vogelzang to Portsmouth, New Hampshire two years ago.  He is an unbelievably gifted and prolific songwriter, working tirelessly on his craft and constantly searching for new ideas and motivations.  He is always collaborating and recording with someone or other and has fascinating insights into the song writing process and how to keep it fresh.   He has been a wonderful inspiration to me in starting and continuing on in this project without fear.

We started this pretty much the minute I got into Portsmouth and finished just in time for me to run to my gig in Biddeford.  First came choosing what to do: we decided on looking for beats we liked in garageband and slowing them down immensely.  On top of those we layers we added other midi instruments (including a sweet-ass Harp! Nice!).  As we listened together to the progress of our song, we tried different sounds, deciding where we needed long lines verses shorter ones, etc., and finding other sounds that we could slap in there: somewhat a game of chance, in a way.  I like working this way because I’m usually always pleased and surprised by some great happy accident which occurs.

Peforming at Hog Farm Annex. Photo courtesy of G. Capecelatro

Guy suggested a long sonic line was needed over harp sections (which I just improvised on his midi keyboard), so I improvised a vocal melody intending for it to sound as if it were in a different key, from a different place, but somehow functioned with the surrounding material convincingly.  This is a difficult exercise for me: hearing one key but singing in another.  I’m not sure I was totally successful, but it was good to try.   I liked how we worked; we weren’t extremely perfectionist about things we’d put down. (I had to swallow this up because it would have impeded our progress, and that’s dumb to do when things are fun.)  We added a cool instrument  Guy had called a shruti box (which I actually keep mistaking as cell phone interference in the “second movement” of the song), an organ-sounding instrument you pump with one hand and turn knobs to adjust the drone’s pitches with the other hand.  He then added a improvised bass line, and I added an improvised track from my black violin (played in the fashion of a cello, of course.)

Guy and Jonathan and I were walking back from having lunch, and we pass an elementary school with kids playing outside in their winter gear and a large back-hoe operating just outside the fenced yard.  Guy pulled out his iPhone and recorded sounds as we passed this scene which he added into this work as well.  I’m impressed with the recording quality of the iPhone.  Almost makes me want to raise my phone bill just to own one.

Finally, I asked Guy if he would write lyrics or sing a melody over my vocal line.  What he came up with so haunting and beautiful.  His voice is so unique, and I wanted to capture it on this song for you to hear.

I really enjoy working with Guy.  He’s constantly thinking and coming up with new ideas of how to collaborate and write creatively.  I’m constantly surprised at the way these collaborations are unfolding.  It’s really fascinating.  It is now 2:30 am, and I’m exhausted, so it’s bed for me!

Three Knotted Napkin

instrumentation: shruti box, two field recordings, electric bass, violin (altered tuning), midi harp, samples, Guy Capecelatro III

Until tomorrow! I’m still in New Hampshire soaking up the sun from under a heated blanket. Burrrrr.

Stay well, and may I suggest having at least one piece of gummy candy this week for your own well being (okay, maybe just my own well-being then).

EHP

12. Fifteen Pieces of Flare

I read something today that implied (only implied, saying that something else was manageable…) that this 365 Project of mine was unmanageable.  For the first time since starting I felt defeated.  I know the comment wasn’t meant at all to offend me personally, but I took it personally and became discouraged.  I don’t want to think in terms of manageable and unmanageable.  This is part of my work, part of my study.  Isn’t it?  Is bathing and grooming yourself every day unmanageable?  Is parenting unmanageable?  Loving someone unmanageable?  Are these examples unmanageable?  (For some, yes.)  I’m just foaming now… Anyway, I started four different projects but all of them failed miserably.  (Yes, I used the word failed just then… okay, not failed, just not going anywhere…ugh.)

So, Discouragement: Kiss this.

Fifteen Pieces of Flare: I am dedicating this song to Rachel Lord of Ugly Purple Sweater and Jocelyn Mackenzie of Pearl and the Beard. And, yes, I love the movie Office Space.  I love the idea of “Pieces of Flare” actually being required.  So funny.  It’s almost a shame how long this song took me.  Since I’m leaving for a show tomorrow night in Biddeford, Maine, I had today to work and work, so I had time with which to write and record this one.  I have no excuse nor explanation for the theme of this song: it just came out like that.

I’m putting this song out there, and think that it came about being because I let myself just play and go along with what my cello said to me back without feeling stupid about it.  I’ve also done some pretty sad songs lately and felt it was time for a pick-me-up.  Someone said after hearing it, “Well, that came out of left field…”  Sure, but you can’t always write serious songs when you’re not always a serious person, right?  (Joc?)

Another point: this is done with voice and a single bowed cello, something I really dislike (See Day 3 Gloria).  I really believed it was against my better judgment to do it this way, but with all the other stuff on top, I don’t mind it at all.

The vocals were something else totally.  Really?  Make this voice public?  Hell, yes!

RHYMING!!! Ahhh! I HATE RHYMING!  So I just decided to do it ridiculously.  I only hate it because it doesn’t come naturally to me, and it’s really hard.  Want an example of incredible rhyming talent?  Please visit the myspace of Jocelyn Mackenzie and Jim Alteri: Poo Poo Jim & Pee Pee Girl.  Jocelyn is in Pearl and the Beard with me and Jim is the uber talented wonderfully gifted musician/social genius who is in love with Jocelyn (Joc: is that okay to put into print?)  Joc has this unbelievable gift for lyrics and rhyme: she can do it constantly and on the spot, being totally right on every time.  It’s amazing.  Come to a Pearl and the Beard show and you’ll witness it first hand!

Queen Lacey of the Laceykins

Basically everything was overdubbed.  Every. Thing. It. Took. For. Ever.  The thing I’m finding the hardest about this is my desire to make good recordings, not just always a demo per se.  By good, I mean, at the very least feigning hard work and make it something I want to listen to and play over and over, therefore hoping you feel the same way.  So I figure if I can work as hard as I can with what I know, it will at least be worth it to me when I’m 75, should I live that long, and if you like it, too: Awesome.

At the end of it, my dog, Lacey came and put her nose at the end of the bed and sighed into the mic, as if to say: “Will you please be done already?!”

Yes, Lacey.  I will be done.

See you tomorrow,

EHP

I went to heaven but you weren’t there
Guys from Hell said that your presence was rare
Your mom was wearing 15 pieces of flare
If your mom was there and you weren’t I don’t know where you’re going.
I went by our favorite restaurant
You won’t believe me, at that very moment
Struck down I was, a violent ailment
You’ll be sorry if this is the last time you’ll ever see me
Oh, darling, oh, sugar
It’s a constant battle of, a constant battle of
Oh baby, oh honey
It’s a constant battle of me and you.
I couldn’t help it so I went to your house
Record was playing, I believe it was Strauss
Walked right in, you were there like a louse
Whitey-tighties and what?! You got on my blouse?
Oh, darling, oh, sugar
It’s a constant battle of, a constant battle of
Oh, baby, Oh honey
It’s a constant battle of,  a constant battle of
Oh, peachy, gosh it’s funny
It’s a constant battle of me and you.
You coulda told me, you could’ve announced it
Always something missing from the back of my closet
It’s totally fine, and it always will be,
Just wish you would have told me!
Didn’t know your taste was eclectic
See I was worried, mornings always so hectic
Wardrobe missing made me apoplectic
Getting ready was anticlimactic
Oh, darling, oh, sugar
It’s a constant battle of, a constant battle of
Oh, baby, Oh honey
It’s a constant battle of, a constant battle of
Oh, peachy, gosh it’s funny
It’s a constant battle of me and you.

11. Etiquette

DAY ELEVEN

How are you today?  Are you okay?  I hope so.  Thank you for reading and listening today.  I’m a little blue, but I think I was due for a blue day.  I’ve had some really red ones as of late, so blue isn’t so bad.  This week has been full, so I decided to empty my mind a little and create something in which to put the contents.

Baltimore. Oh, how you are a city I visit sometimes.

Etiquette: There are two separate recordings of people talking here.  One set of recordings is a microphone being hung from a stairwell near a circle of unsuspecting people who were in a living room in Baltimore, taken a few days ago.  Used here, it has been duplicated and the tracks off-set.  The other is a recording of the same group of people, minutes later, with a microphone on the table in front of them.  There was an bit of a change in demeanor and conversation when the latter happened.  Ironically, the topic of discussion in the recordings where the mic was unseen was about social etiquette; but it’s also interesting since it’s not exactly polite to record people without them unknowing.  (Who knows, maybe they knew?)  Hence, the title.  I made them do some hand claps for me.  Even that was a bit uncomfortable for them.  I suppose someone walking into the middle of your conversation requesting hand claps might create an odd vibe.  I had them clap a steady rhythm and then later I cut them up “by hand” into single claps and placed them where I wanted them.

At Ugly Purple Sweater‘s house I found a thumb piano which I used for this little piece.  I played it for a few minutes and found a melody and progression.  I really like this thumb piano.  I have one of my own, but I like this one better.  I sat in their bathroom on the floor to record this which took about 15 minutes.  I love the overtones of this instrument so much.  I thought of over-dubbing some cello, but just couldn’t do it.  It was so lovely as it was.  A tiny bit effect was used on it, but overall, it’s just as it sounds in real life.

The thumb piano, after stumbling initially, attempts consistency to the end until it’s done, ever traveling, only wavering for a second or so here or there.  The hand claps come in and out, sporadic and random, though for a few seconds they might come together “perfectly” or at least complimentary, each affecting the other: voices affecting harmony, claps affecting rhythm, and sometimes, vice versa if you get distracted listening for it all…

Etiquette


instrumentation: thumb piano, hand claps, Baltimore-people in a blue house.

10. A Thousand Thousands

DAY TEN

Sam McCormally (captured here in a I-have-a-day-job-sweater-dress-shirt-and-tie ensemble) and EHP

I have been on tour with Sam McCormally, a member of Ugly Purple Sweater, for the past four or so days.  Not only does he have one of the sexiest and absolutely gorgeous voices I’ve ever heard, but he is also an amazing songwriter and guitarist.  This tour was the perfect opportunity to collaborate with him.  Funny enough, I think we’re somewhat similar when it comes to writing (both in the technical aspects and in a few of the little insecurities that tend to occur), so it was eye-opening and a totally fulfilling creative experience for me.  If you haven’t heard of Ugly Purple Sweater, you need to have heard of them.  Their writing is probably unlike anything you’ve heard.  Their music is available at www.uglypurplesweater.bandcamp.com. (And if you want a recommendation, the song 2/3 Creatures is my personal favorite.)

I feel the writing of this song was fated to be with Sam.  I started this song on accordion with a little lilting rhythm but only had the first verse and had no idea where to go from there.  I loved it right away when it was born, but it is so emotionally close that I found myself procrastinating and sat on it for months and months.  Jocelyn heard the 10 seconds of it I had written and has been persistent in me finishing the song.  I put off even looking at it until last week and quickly pumped out a second verse, but I still got stuck.  Yesterday, I took the first two verses to Sam, and we pounded out changes in the verse, a chorus progression, melody and a bridge even before coming up with lyrics.  (It was Sam’s suggestion to put it into 5/8 time.  Absolutely perfect.)  According to Sam, he prefers to write music first, not lyrics, which is kind of foreign to me.  For me, most of the time, lyrics and music are born within a few seconds of each other.  We discussed a possible direction for lyrics, and he helped me find good color and intent.  I absolutely loved working with him.  Again, Sam?

The writing and recording took place in a friend’s bedroom in Baltimore, MD from about 4-9 pm (Right before our show!).  You’ll hear extraneous sounds here and there throughout- the kind of which I’ve heard cellist Zoe Keating describe as “artifacts”.  I like them- friends laughing downstairs, Sam’s breathing in the beginning, and even when I clear my voice before the first chorus.  I would argue that the chorus melody was mostly designed by Sam, and I can even hear Ugly Purple Sweater in it, which makes me smile; another fantastic reason to collaborate is being challenged with another melodic idea that wouldn’t have come to you naturally or might not be the easiest to sing or play (damn those high descending lines!).

With the mic balanced on the top of my cello case, we put down guitar and vocals simultaneously, preferring the third take, I think.  Sam’s vocals were laid down right after, though we redid them hours later because of an annoying buzzing.  Cello and other vocals were over-dubbed later.  This is yet another example of having to stop when I’d really rather not.  I can easily hear, and had planned, bowed cello lines, but I just ran completely out of time.  It’s obviously not perfectly engineered, but you’ll hear the intention, I hope.  I’m frustrated with the hiss I’m hearing, but I have done my best to improvise with what I have.  Hopefully, one day in the near future, we’ll be able to record this for real.

I really love this song.  It was a very personal experience  for me to see this song to such a high level in an amazingly short amount of time, and, to involve someone I deeply respect, makes me so grateful it happened this way.  Love you, Sam.

A Thousand Thousands

instrumentation: guitar, cello, and Sam McCormally

I met a man, an elephant man
In a sea of a thousand thousands
I’ve never cried, I’ve never cried your name so loudly
His seed was sad
Sad and soft
And I’ve counted all his poisons
When I sigh, I sigh for you, I sigh for me,
And fifty dozens
Here as I sleep, I’ll persuade you
Print my fingers deep in your skull
It’s a wonder that you feel it at all
No doubt, no doubt at all
That your mind is missing
And when I smile, I smile for you
Here as I sleep, I’ll persuade you
Print my fingers deep in your skull
It’s a wonder that I, that I feel it at all
I met a man, an elephant man
In a sea of a thousand thousands
I’ve never cried your name so loudly

9. “Hey Douche Bag, You Got Wings”

DAY NINE

On tour!  The possibilities of collaborations are ENDLESS!  Today is a special posting.  While we were in New Jersey, we played in a little bar upstairs at about one in the morning.  We made it to Jocelyn’s (Pearl and the Beard songstress!) parent’s house at about four in the morning where we were to be staying that night. (Only after a stop at Scotchhills Diner at 3 am.  There are more diners in New Jersey than in the rest of the world combined.)

Jocelyn’s father, Richie, is a multi-instrumentalist, and I knew this was the perfect opportunity to record a collaboration with him.  He agreed to improvise with me.  (Unfortunately, though he has a bunch of projects going, he didn’t give me a link to his stuff even when I requested one, so he’ll remain Richie for the moment.)  I have taken a special picture for you today.  Full of every kind of toy I would only dream of owning, his music room is awesome.  He was very quick with his electric guitar and small multi-colored boxes to find an interesting combination of sounds.  I have mixed it and have put the entire improvisation up for you to hear.  May you see as many things as you’d like while you are listening.

The Richie Arlington Cove of Creation and Fortress of Solitude. (Dad, see? You're not alone!)

I love improvisation like this: it’s very freeing and comfortable for me.  I have received two pieces of advice for improvisation: Just start playing and There is no such thing as a mistake. Any choice you make is good. I learned the former piece of goodwill during my undergrad when I took a year of jazz improvisation.  I learned the latter at a fantastic summer festival a few years ago.  I had the incredible opportunity to not only attend the New Directions Cello Festival, but teach at it as well.  If you are a cellist or even a wanna-be cellist wanting to experiment with all kinds of music outside the classical space: this is the place for you.  It’s one of the more affordable festivals out there, the people are supportive, kind, you don’t have to be any thing  like Yo-Yo Ma to go, and the guest lecturers they invite are always very inspiring.

This was recorded yet again with my trustworthy stereo mic and garageband.  Richie played his electric guitar through his amp, and I was acoustic on cello.  I cut up the original track a little and layered the take on itself, which is why you’re hearing two cellos at one time.  Recorded in about 5 minutes.  It took absolutely no prep.  I asked, Richie said yes, we went upstairs, he lit his boxes up, and I pushed record.  And that was it.  I had Sam McCormally of Ugly Purple Sweater help out on engineering, making sure there was no clipping.

Title: Came from an event which included a car ride with Jocelyn, Richie, a huge bird in the middle of the road and a heavy New Jersey accent.

Boo-ya.

“Hey Douche Bag, You Got Wings”

instrumentation: cello, electric guitar, and RICHIE ARLINGTON

8. The Easy Way

DAY EIGHT

I wanted to address a question I’ve gotten a few times:  Was I inspired by the movie/book Julie and Julia in starting this project?  Nope.  Though I did enjoy the movie, I didn’t even put the two together until someone asked me that a few days ago.  I was inspired by Brian Speaker’s year-long project, The Spiral Notebook, as I mentioned in the project description.  But, man, that Meryl Streep: what an actress!

I laid in bed last night at 2:30 in the morning reminding myself of things I had to do the next day.  One of them being a song, obviously, and for the first time since starting, I didn’t want to do it.  Really? Another one?  And just when I thought I was done for, I fell asleep and woke up, feeling okay and ready to go.

I’m on tour with Ugly Purple Sweater and Pearl and the Beard: really great, patient, and understanding people.  We have played Boston, Jersey City, and Philadelphia.  Baltimore tonight.  I really love it.

I was really worried about today’s song because I’ve felt drained and tired; not quite sure what to do.  Jonathan was playing around with a few chords and a rhythm on his guitar (another result of doing this project is that Jon is much more active on that dusty thing. It’s really nice.), so it was actually he who started playing arbitrary chords that lead to the creation of this song.  Credit where credit’s due, you know?

For The Easy Way, I used an old trick to get out of being stuck for lyrics: I went to a book, flipped to random page, closed my eyes and let my finger land on a random word or sentence.  I used whatever I landed on like you might use jumper cables for a dead battery on a car.  The book used for inspiration for this song?  Don Quixote by Cervantes.  It was very helpful.  The result?  Strangely, and totally unexpectedly, I think I just wrote a really scary song… a bit disturbing, actually…but I’ll let you judge for yourself.  For your mind’s back drop, imagine, if you will, a Sweeney Todd-like grossness and time period… I’ll let you take it from there.  (And yes, Tom Waits was a huge inspiration musically.  Experiments are fun!)

Recording: Accordion. Franz, where are you?! I was very inspired by the technique Franz Nicolay used on Pearl and the Beard’s new CD God bless your weary soul, Amanda Richardson (available on iTunes, too!)  I CANNOT PLAY THE ACCORDION TO SAVE MY LIFE.  But I did it JUST FOR YOU!  Yay! Also, I’m trying to train myself to be done when I really don’t have the time to slave over the recording of a song.  Sometimes, it’s just time to move on.  That’s what I did with this.  Recorded vocals and cello simultaneously and used the second full take.  Accordion was over-dubbed and just took the second take of it and told myself to get over my whiny insecurities.

This song was written fairly quickly.  Maybe an hour and a half for chords and vocals.  Vocals took longest, choosing chords was very easy and natural.  I love it when at least something is in this business!  Again, the most lengthy process was the recording and mixing.

The Easy Way


instrumentation: voice, cello, accordion

I’ve been around and around and around seven lifetimes
Little here, little there,
A shoe shine and shave
You know I’ll get mine
With a cough and wheeze and a laugh, it’s perplexing
Shield your face, glue the gun
Pack your lunch, watch the fun
I’m behind you
Skin whole from head to feet
Some of the most valuable
When will we meet again?
Market place, meet me there, wear that tie, comb your hair,
I’ll be waiting, might be late, pitch a fit,
Make it loud, scream and hit, be convincing
If I come, then I come, if I’m there, then I’m there, don’t you push me
If you’re not then your not, seems a problem we’ve got,
I wouldn’t mind one
Skin whole from head to feet
Some of the most valuable
When will we meet again?

I just realized that I have just written over a full week’s worth of work!  WEIRD!  Hope you’re doing well yourself.  Thank you for listening!  Until tomorrow!

EHP

7. Untitled No. 1

DAY SEVEN

Due to the nature of this installment, I will limit my posting to how it came about being, not how I interpret it.  If you don’t want to know about the innards of the process, just push play.  Really.  I don’t mind.  It’s okay.  Everybody knows the wizard behind the curtain was just an old guy with a pension for yelling when speaking to someone he didn’t know.  And who would want that?

This was a tough night because I’m feeling behind even though I’m not at all behind.  It is 1:02 am, and I have finally finished this piece.  I’m exhausted, on tour, but happy with the outcome of this work.  I can’t even begin to describe to you how I started today’s installment.  It started as a writing exercise: write a song in 5 minutes by timing each verse at one minute increments.  It was fairly successful, but it didn’t go far enough for me.  It was a disorganized exercise anyway.  I started something else instead.  I picked up Johnny, my totally-awesome-ebay-score accordion, and began improvising, trying new progressions and old.  I found a new progression I liked and attempted lyrics, a melody line.  Nothing stuck.  Nothing stood out.  For some stupid reason I thought I had the luxury of being picky.  Why would I ever think that in a 365 day project?!

Johnny! Courtesy of http://www.katrinabaldwin.com

I recorded the accordion, basically improvising a slow chord progression.  Note: I do not know how to play the accordion other than the basic idea that you fill it with air and push the buttons.  I am teaching myself little by little and absolutely love it.  I have almost typed the words “failed attempts” in two different entries, but I have decided I don’t like that term.  I don’t think any experiments are failures, just pathways to preferred successes.  I even experimented with beats and bowed guitar over the accordion at first.  I slowed the tempo down on the accordion track to 40 BPM.  Huzaah! It created an awesome, creepy, organ-like color.  Not sure where to go with it, I picked up my cello and just started listening, experimenting (lowering my C string VERY low) and improvising.  This might sound fruity, but if I have a foundation of something interesting, I can often hear what might need to go next.  For example, in hearing the vibrating nature of the accordion track and G flat drone, I heard trills, so I tried it and there you go.  Basically, everything “fell” into place from there.  Important: there were many happy accidents.  I fear I’m making this sound like it took an hour, when, in reality, I did just the accordion track from 6:00-7:00, then restarted at 10:30.  The final product, at a lengthy time of one minute and fifty-one seconds, was completed at 12:45 am.

It’s been really frustrating installment today.  I had really intended this to take less than an hour total.  It’s a good goal to stick to, especially since I’m on tour and needing to learn how to be quicker and less of a perfectionist.  There’s a time and a place for being slow and detailed.

There was a lot of unnecessary judgment before it was even finished.  EHP: Stop that.  I didn’t come to a personal interpretation until about mid-way through.  Give it a listen.  I’d be interested to hear your interpretations.

*Headphones are recommended for a more robust experience.

Untitled No. 1

Instrumentation: accordion, 7 cello tracks including one track of dropped C string to a G flat (scordatura)

Stay well.  Hope your weekend is a happy time.

EHP

6. Little Sunshine

DAY SIX

I have a best friend.  He is my best friend in the whole world.  Relationships are funny because when one person is having a wonderful day, the other might be feeling two inches tall.  Knowing I had a song due, it was a perfect excuse to sit down with love-of-my-life Jonathan Clark to create a song describing how miserable it feels to be…well… miserable.  I really wanted him to sing on this track with me, and, though it took some convincing, I’m glad he did.  (Those of you who know or who have met Jonathan, I challenge you to guess which lyrics are his…)  It was written fairly quickly.  Maybe an hour on lyrics total?  On one of these installments, I think I will scan my notebook pages as a matter of interest.  Looking at them, I think they would tell you a lot about how I’m working the lyrical side of things.

The melody and accompaniment was very instantaneous.  And sometimes, it just happens that way.

As song writing usually goes for me, my initial intention often turns into something I hadn’t expected.  In this case, we set out to write a song about how sad life can be; this morphed into a song about two people, one feeling happy and one totally lost in his unhappiness.  I think it’s even strayed a little to becoming a really, really sad song about loving someone even after they’ve died (?!).  Use your best judgment, I guess.  What it means to you is what it means.

Yep, that's us.

In any case, there are things I really love about this song and those things are so deeply personal that even if I shared them, they’d just be extraneous info.  (And you’ve read enough already for six days.)  There are a few technical things I’m pretty unhappy with which I might redo at a later time, but the most important thing for me was the act of creating it with someone I love.  I think many of these songs will fall this way as I continue.  Even now, I fear posting this because rereading the lyrics has made me insecure, but I want to post it.  The lyrics aren’t gold medal winning, and I see its weaknesses, but we had a good time coming up with them together: finding words to describe how it feels to want to be anywhere else or be anything other than what you’re feeling now.

Another little something I learned today: writing a song expressing sadness or struggle is very healing.  Even if it doesn’t heal a wound or make it go away; it puts it into a physical form, and you can stand back and say, “Oh, look, here it is…”

Recording: Done live with a totally sweet shiny black violin (with lime green purfling) my dad bought me for $15 on ebay (played with altered tuning).  You might be asking yourself: why in the hell don’t you just use a uke?!  Well, a) I don’t own one (yet) b) the sound of this instrument just can’t be reproduced!  My strumming skillz are a little wanting but working on it. Bells were over-dubbed.

We did a lot of takes, unfortunately.  Recording numerous times can be frustrating and at the end you have to just accept that the dog decided to take a huge, one minute, sloshing drink of water right in the middle of it. (Though that was too much for me, and we did it again.)

My favorite parts?  The way we ended up singing “days for every song” the first time it appears.  It makes me laugh- suddenly it’s a Woody Guthrie song.  And I like that whole line: Still I’ll write you days for every song – there will be so many songs for you that I’ll have to create more days to hold them.

(Quiz time: One my favorite movie lines of all time is whispered at the end of the track…)

Little Sunshine

It’s so hard/Rain does fall/I’m a ghost/Nothin’ matters at all
Butterflies and candy canes/Got nothing on me/Where is my little house/Out by the sea?
Broken down bicycle/No where to go/I’ve lost everything/Buried by snow
I will love you when you’re dead and gone/Still I’ll write you days for every song
See here my little one/We’ve waned and we’ve borne/Deep goes our sorrow down/Down to the core
You are my sunshine/That comes through the pane/And I would give anything/To see you again
I will love you when you’re dead and gone/Still I’ll write you days for every song
It’s so hard/Rain does come/Wanting to see your face/Is like needing the sun

You are great, just the way you are.  Really.  You are.

EHP

5. You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

DAY FIVE

COLLABORATION FRIDAY!  Friend, this is how magic happens.

Anthony Da Costa, Emilyn Brodsky, Marie Darling, EHP, James Frazee

I talked about the uke playin’ and singin’ Emilyn Brodsky in yesterday‘s post.  Well, here she is, and she’s brought others.   We found amazing guitarist and songwriter Anthony Da Costa watching television. (He said the remote control just magically landed on the Real World D.C.  Sure, sure.)  We gathered together our resources of 1. Anthony’s guitar and 2. EHP’s Omnichord and began crafting a song together.  After many entertaining attempts (one of which included a chorus of “Nobody Cares!” which we felt was a bit depressing), the Omnichord became irritable and sleepy.  It almost went home when suddenly, and unexpectedly, at the last second, a song was born!  As we were in the stages of verse configuration, in walks french songstress Marie Darling to join the collaboration as well.  (I’m telling you right now: I have never wanted to be french so bad in my whole life.)   As we commenced recording, we only felt it appropriate that the real french lady (not the fake one) sing the french lyric in our song.  We’re so international.  You will hear the phrase fait accompli sung extremely well by Marie.  The first take we did was the first time we heard her sing this- and you can only imagine how its total wickedness took us a little off guard. Supposedly that specific phrase doesn’t actually mean that much in French, but English speakers (according to Google search) say it means-

1.  Creation of a situation which is irreversible and with which other parties will have to live, even if grudgingly.

Wondering about the Omnichord? Given to me as a gift from Nadia Ali, and I love it!

Prepare yourself, as you will hear another fantastic aspect of this song: recording engineer and producer James Frazee (a man with an amazing ear who will be working on Emilyn Brodsky and Anthony DaCosta’s next albums) has a cameo at the very end.

I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the art of collaborating.  Without thinking about it I noticed I just said “art” of collaborating, and I’m totally agreeing with myself.  It’s an art, and collaboration can be really rewarding (like in today’s song) or really awful (example withheld).  In my case, today’s song involved musicians who I totally respect and revere as well as being a bit intimidated by.  It’s this intimidation I feel that can make working with other songwriters difficult for me.  It’s yet another reason why this project is so good for me, too.  Sadly, I think under any other circumstance, I wouldn’t have asked these people to write a song with me.  And how unfortunate!  Our little song would not have ever been born!  There’s always some excuse or fear behind exposing your weaknesses or strengths, even, to other creators though I know we all have them.  For example, Emilyn is a genius wordsmith and Anthony is amazing at fitting chords and lyrics together very quickly.  These are two qualities I have to work at, and I spend a lot of time crafting in the privacy of my own writing hole.  However, being with people who create so well in such a short period of time is infectious and opens up new ways of thinking.  It was so awesome.  Thanks, Aubergine!

Recorded live using my little stereo mic.  (Unless I tell you different, all songs are recorded with this little cheap-o microphone, my M-Audio and Garageband.)  I got to Emilyn’s house at 6 pm, and I was on the train home by 10:30 pm.  That time frame is misleading.  Emilyn was in the shower when I first arrived, so we probably started writing this song at 8:00 after other less intriguing leads on other starts.  We used the second of two takes.  The natural panning that occurs due to how we were all situated around the mic is amazing to me!  Not knowing anything about recording or the technical aspects of it, finding happy accidents like that is cool for me.

You Don’t Know What You’re Doing


you don’t know what you’re doing to me.

the way you’re walking down the street
the way you’re dancing to the beat
the way you make my heart complete
you don’t know what you’re doing to me.

i know just what i’m doing to you.
and you don’t even have a clue.
i could tell you if you wanted me to
i know just what i’m doing.

the way i’m walking down the street
the way i’m dancing to the beat
the way i make your heart complete
fait accompli.

when it started and you were first mine
you said you loved me and i thought you were kind
and now in retrospect i see i was blind.

you don’t know what you’re doing to me.

On tour with Pearl and the Beard and Ugly Purple Sweater in Boston!  Back in New York today, then on the road again Saturday to New Jersey, Baltimore, Philly, and DC.  I’ll let you know how things go recording and writing-wise whilst on the road.  Fingers crossed!

Thank you for checking in and coming here.  Your presence here is super-valued, and whether you read or not, I’m so glad you listen!  May your day today be Friday-licious.

See you tomorrow,

EHP

4. You’ll Be Lonely

DAY FOUR

Alright.  I’m admitting it.  This is hard.  But, I’m pretty sure I’m in denial about the everyday-ness of this whole thing.  I’m thinking this might benefit me.  It’s just one, right?

I had an interesting conversation today with a friend who’s a songwriter (who will also, I hope, appear very soon in a future installment).  I was explaining my apprehensions and concerns about this project to her and her response was, “This is going to change your brain…” and “you need to start picking three chords.”  Oh, she also added, “You need to listen to some Magnetic Fields.”  (If you haven’t guessed already based on the M.F. recommendation, my friend is uke wielding Emilyn Brodsky.)

This is a great topic to address today, actually.  My friend knows I bend over backwards to insert anything but three chords.  In explanation, I’ve had people come over to my house who aren’t musicians and ask to play my cello.  They sit down with it for a few minutes having never touched the thing in their life.  And it’s those people who come up with some wicked riffs on an instrument they don’t even play.  I get stumped all the time on my own instrument with what to do or where to go.  When I get a new instrument that I don’t know how to play, I feel total abandon and write freely without hesitation.  (Which is why I hardly ever write an entire song on my cello any more.  I write it off my instrument then take it back if need be.)  I’m sure there’s a study out there about this phenomenon.  That’s how I feel about music theory.  Now that I’ve seen into the possibilities of the proverbial musical theory microscope, it’s hard for me to turn that knowledge on and off.  I have problems being okay with simplicity.  This little voice says, “A classical musician not utilizing the tools of the trade?! What’s wrong with her?!”  So, today’s song is written with these chords: C major, F major and G major.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Writing this song was a great lesson for me.  Less can totally be more.

This brings up another thought.  I apologize if it seems disjointed later: Right now, I’m sitting at my computer with headphones on with my iTunes running on shuffle.  Right now it is playing: Phenomena by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  This is a rockin’ song.  (I saw them live, and Karen O is totally crazy.  The kind of crazy I want to buy in a bottle at my nearest Bodega and put in everything I digest from now on.)  It’s hot.  She is hot.  When I listen to iTunes on shuffle it will fall on something totally kick-ass, and I’ll think, “Man, why can’t I write like that?”  I’ve come to realize I say that about every artist I love, but if I was going to write like them, I’d be them, not me.  As a side note, maintaining individuality is really important in my work, so there’s an important duality happening there.  Being inspired and motivated by other people without sacrificing your own musical identity.  (Guarantee this topic will come up again.  I have yet to even mention Radiohead- on purpose.  But I will.  Oh.  I will.)

You’ll Be Lonely. After working on another more difficult song most of the day today, I came out with this instead.  It took probably and hour to write in it’s complete form and another hour to completely record.  (I’m working on limiting my working time.  Tour with Pearl and the Beard and Ugly Purple Sweater is starting!)  These lyrics just came out, and I’m not sure where they came from, but they were quick.  (Hear this: I’m super relieved.  It doesn’t always happen this way; I was just really lucky today.  Will address lyrics more very soon.)  Death Cab for Cutie does a freaking amazing song called I will follow you into the dark.  When I finished with the lyrics for You’ll Be Lonely, this song came to my mind for my song’s color, and I was content.  This is a love song of various meanings.  I’m not totally happy with the title, but I choose not to get hung up on it.  Recording-wise, I’ve never done multi-vocal tracks in unison before, so I thought I’d try it.  I wanted it to feel like sisters were singing it together: two people knowing each other really well, but not exactly.  I put the other voices lower in the mix, as I later felt it distracted from the lyrics.  (I also felt like the bells were too loud so I added the other voices also as support.  Bells and main vocal was a one-take, live recording.)

You’ll Be Lonely

I’ll tell you someday you’ll be lonely/But my body will die smiling/I will turn myself out and away from you

The wall could go down and crush our bones to Hell/But I know that you’re mine tonight/I’m so weakened and I’m sure our shoulders will rub raw/But keep pushing and fail not our hearts will out

And when I see you, see you in the morning/I will see you in the morning light/When poor my head has gone from my body/I will see you in the morning light

I’ll tell you someday you’ll be lonely/But my body will die smiling/I will turn myself out just to see you in the morning light

I haven’t thanked you for listening and reading in few days.  Thank you.  Really, thanks a lot.

See you soon,

EHP