Old Photographs

Old Photographs is Done Again

I thought I had finished my recording for “Old Photographs” about a month ago. It turned out that it wasn’t really finished but now it is. You can click here for all of the Daily Dispatches related to this track, if you need the whole back story.

If the audio player doesn’t display in your email reader, click here to listen to the finished track.

Telephone

Yesterday, I wrote about my friend Jesse, whose judgment I trust completely. He helped me come to terms with the fact that my recording of “Old Photographs” isn’t as finished as I had previously assumed. I knew it wasn’t right but I didn’t know how to fix it. He asked the fundamental question, “What are you trying to say with this song?” Spoken like a true English teacher.

I have developed some bad habits in the studio. I follow my gut from one part to the next. This isn’t necessarily a problem but it is a singular focus on the tiny details. It doesn’t allow a view of the big picture. I have not been taking time to think about my tracks from an emotional standpoint. Does good art require an emotional perspective? I would argue that you can make good art without emotional clarity.

In this case it was very helpful to take a step back and think about what the song was trying to say. The problem has been the chorus. I tried singing it angry, proud, and also sad. I tried a whisper. I tried a scream. When I stopped to contemplate the song, it became obvious that it wanted to sound like a phone call. Stay tuned.

Trusted Criticism

I shared my finished master for “Old Photographs” with my friend Jesse.

“I’m assuming you have some more tweaking to do?”

“No, I’m burnt out. I’ve tried six different things and I don’t know what else to do. It’s as good as it’s gonna be.”

“Are you sure?”

“Looks like I’m going to try again.”

The experts recommend that you should never share your work because feedback corrupts the artistic process. Other experts encourage constructive feedback as an integral part of the creative flow. There seems to be a range of ideas regarding this surprisingly controversial topic. How much should you allow outside voices to affect your creative work? I feel like it is no different than any other part of life. If you find someone whom you trust, you should listen. He was right. I’m back to work on this song.

The Original Old Photographs

I really went back and forth on whether I should share this. It’s not that it’s bad, it is just old. I recorded this track when I was 19. This track is 25 years old. I thought you might want to hear how the song started.

If the audio player doesn’t display in your email reader, click here to listen to the finished track.

Old Photographs is Done

I finally finished “Old Photographs.” The process has been well documented and I don’t have anything else to say about it. If you are interested, you can click here for a list of Daily Dispatches related to this track. In this moment it feels as though it took forever to get this one done. It wasn’t much different than any other song but it felt overwhelming. It was so close to being finished right from the start but the last mile was grueling. If you want to hear the finished track before it’s released, you have come to the right place.

If the audio player doesn’t display in your email reader, click here to listen to the finished track.

Screaming in the Closet

I’ve been almost finished with the new recording of “Old Photographs” for a while. Everything is balanced and the parts sound exactly how I intended. But it was missing something. I kept tweaking, hoping it would magically fix itself. Somewhere around the third iteration, I tried adding some harmonies to the chorus. This made everything worse. I re-recorded the chorus vocals three different times. On iteration 10, it was so close. I was ready to call it “good enough” and move on. Then it hit me. I knew what it needed. This morning I found myself in the vocal booth. The vocal booth is basically a small closet with old carpet hanging on the walls. I was in the closet with a microphone and I was screaming “I’m okay without you” over and over. This is not the weirdest thing that I’ve done for a song. However, if someone had shown up at my house at that moment, they would have been concerned. It was just what the song needed.

Scratch : Old Photographs

Check out the demo version of Old Photographs on YouTube.

This song is almost 25 years old. I think it’s still a solid song and I’m glad it’s getting an update. Maybe someday I will let you hear the original version. It makes me feel good that something this old can find new life. I think the demo arrangement of this song is almost enough. I love it when a song can stand alone with just a guitar. When I start a new song in the studio, I record a simple version like this and then build everything upon the scratch track. It makes the process easier when there is a solid foundation. When I recorded this song for the first time at the age of 19, I didn’t envision recording this new version. When I was 19, I couldn’t even comprehend being 44 years old. I am looking forward to the next version in another 25 years.

Popeye’s Forearms

I hit another roadblock in the studio. I’ve been working on the same bass part for a week and a half. When I was figuring out arrangements for the song, I heard this bass part in my head. I knew how I wanted it to go. The problem occurred when I tried to play the part at full speed. I don’t play bass very often and this part was hard. My theory was that if I kept practicing every day, it wouldn’t take long to get it recorded. Now, my forearms look like Popeye and I still can’t play it clean. I hope I get it recorded soon because I’m not sure how much longer I can keep at it before my arms turn into dynamite and explode.

It Didn’t Work

I am sure this has happened to you too. I had a plan. I spent all day working on my project, according to plan. When I got to the end of the day, I realized that I had nothing to show for my time. I guess that is not entirely true. I had a long list of things that didn’t work. I know all of the tempos that are too fast. I am aware of the many strum patterns that sound awkward. I know that after playing the same pattern on the bass for an hour my hand cramps the whole way up to my elbow. I know the arrangements that won‘t work. I know that, if I accidentally delete the video footage from my camera, there is no way to recover it. Today, I learned about all of the things that I should avoid doing when I dig into it tomorrow. I know that I can never finish the project if I don’t start again.

The Fifth Try

Wednesday Words

I’ve been chipping away on the second verse of my song called “Old Photographs.” I talked about this previously when I falsely believed that I had written the finished version. It’s been through at least two more iterations since then. I will list all of the changes below. If you are keeping score at home, you might find this interesting.

Earliest version of verse 2 
(written circa 1999):
Allow myself to remember
The things I try so hard to forget
The way you smelled
And the way you’d touch my hand
The fondest memories I recall
The warm fuzzy feelings
And the way I’d smile 
When I picture your face
2nd attempt 
(I thought this was it):
Allow myself to remember
The things I try so hard to forget 
Like the way you’d get so excited
On a warm summer evening
And I still hear your voice
Echoing in my head
Whispering all those words 
I wish you had never said
3rd version 
(I didn’t like the reference to a 
“warm summer evening,” too sweaty):
Allow myself to remember
The things I try so hard to forget 
Like the way you’d get so excited
When your favorite song would come on
And I still hear your voice
Echoing in my head
Whispering all those words 
I wish you had never said
4th iteration was lost forever 
(it’s ok, it wasn’t very good)
5th version 
(and hopefully the last):
Allow myself to remember
The things I try so hard to forget 
Then something catches my eye
And I’m haunted by your ghost
And I still hear your voice
Echoing in my head
Whispering all those words 
I wish you had never said

A Double Eight Turnaround

I just wrote a classic double-eight-turnaround. I don’t know if that’s a real thing. I think I just made it up. It’s a convoluted way to say musical bridge.

We could discuss how a musical bridge has become obsolete. We could debate if the world might be a better place if more current songs had a bridge. In case I put the cart ahead of the horse, a bridge is a short section of music in the middle of a song that serves the purpose of changing the pace of the song. If you need an example of a bridge, listen to anything recorded by Bruce Springsteen.

I just wrote a classic bridge. I was preparing to record my song called “Old Photographs.” The entire song was less than two and a half minutes. Songs are trending shorter but this felt too short. I wanted to write a poetic bridge but there was nothing else that needed to be said. What is the difference between a classic bridge and an epic guitar solo?

Allow Myself To Remember

Wednesday Words
Original version :
Allow myself to remember
The things I try so hard to forget 
The way you smelled
And the way you’d touch my hand
The fondest memories I recall
The warm fuzzy feelings
And the way I’d smile 
When I picture your face
-vs-
New version:
Allow myself to remember
The things I try so hard to forget 
Like the way you’d get so excited
On a warm summer evening
And I still hear your voice
Echoing in my head
Whispering all those words 
I wish you had never said

I don’t know if the new version is better than the old version but it ranks higher simply because it isn’t the old version. “The way you smelled” is a bad line. Sure, there are some sensory memory emotions loaded into that line but it’s inherently dumb. The new verse feels better.

You can hear it on YouTube here.

Old Masters

I was scouring a hard drive, trying to clean out all of the old junk. On the same day, I was working on a list of potential songs for my next record. On that hard drive, I found the masters from my very first recording project. One of the songs is called Old Photographs. I think a new version of this song will be on the next record. If the very sketchy documentation is accurate, I was 19 years old when I wrote this song. I can’t remember the emotional catalyst behind it. I don’t remember who it was about or why I wrote it. There is a seed of something in this tune that might grow into a good song. The first verse and chorus work. The second verse needs some work. The guy that wrote this song was a mess but there was the seed of something decent in him as well. Maybe when the new version is finished, I will let you hear the original.

Old Shoebox

Wednesday Words

This is a new song that is actually an old song. I wrote this a long time ago. That’s a story for another time. I am pretty sure that some form of this song will be on the next record. You can hear the first verse here.

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