Ep. 55: Song Challenge with Micah Dahl Anderson “The Door”

July 17, 2017

For this week's episode, I'm joined by a guest collaborator, film composer and good friend of mine, Micah Dahl Anderson. The topic we randomly drew was "Write a song about a movie that doesn't exist." What you'll hear next is our conversation while writing the song (with the boring parts edited out), the process of recording it, and the finished song at the end.

For the recording, Micah sang lead vocals, played acoustic guitar and drums. I sang harmonies, played bass, organ, and electric guitars.

I'm pretty happy with the results. I think it's a really epic sounding song and collaborating made it better than it would have been on it's own.

Micah's website: micahdahl.com

Download "The Door" on Bandcamp

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Ep. 54: Declaration - Live Concert at Muse Music (4/11/2006)

July 10, 2017

This week, I'm sharing a live recording from my old band, Declaration. This is from 11 years ago recorded at a club I owned at the time called Muse Music. For this show, we were opening for Neon Trees, who were just starting out at the time and have since gone on to have huge success with several hit records and have toured the world. Listening to again really brings me back. It was a fun show to play. I hope you enjoy it.

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Ep. 53: Song “You Only Live A Day” (Influenced by REM)

June 26, 2017

This one is an oldie written when I was around 15 years old. I was going for an R.E.M. feel and I think I achieved that with the guitar part, which mimics Peter Buck's picking style.

The intro kind of has a spaghetti western vibe with the tambourine, shakers retro organ and overdrive guitar. The lyrics are about feeling like your life is passing by.

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Ep. 52: “Life Support” (Song Exploder / Splice Contest)

June 14, 2017

Here's a brand new song I recently submitted to a contest put on by the podcast Song Exploder and a website called Splice. Basically, Splice is a subscription site which contains a large library of samples you can use for your songs. For this contest, I was given a collection of 50 samples and tasked with creating a song using at least 4 of them. If my song is selected, I'll win a one year subscription to Splice, a Song Exploder t-shirt, and have my song featured on both the Song Exploder and Splice websites.

In the spirit of Song Exploder and the Making Music podcast, I thought it would be fun to break down the song a bit and talk about how it was made. I ended using 13 samples for this song but I'll just point out a few of them.

Most of the song revolves around this bassy synth line which I think sounds really cool. Reminds me a little of a Moog synth. The beat I choose was the wrong tempo so I had to speed it up to match the bassy synth. I also added other samples like a piano line, strings, ambient sounds and a buzzy synth.

After I started piecing together some of these basic elements, I came up with a melody and some lyrics. At first, I couldn't decide what the song should be about. I went to website with a song idea generator, clicked the submit button, and got the response "Write a song about your physical condition." This spurred the idea to write a song from the perspective of someone with cancer who is about to die and some of the feelings they might be going through, including trying to find hope in a dismal situation.

I'm please with how the whole thing turned. I'll keep you posted about the contest and let you know if I won.

Visit: http://jakehaws.com/ep-52-life-support-song-exploder-splice-contest/

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Ep. 51: “Turned Away” (Instrumental Piano Song)

June 4, 2017

For this week's episode, I was was digging through some of my old tapes and found this instrumental piano piece I wrote back when I was around 14. I believe it might even be the very first thing I ever wrote. I submitted this tape for a school contest called "reflections" and won for my age category. It's not the best quality recording but I think it still captures the mood nicely. I'd love to see it in a movie. I think it would make a great film score. Maybe one of these days, I'll get around to re-recording it on a nice piano with quality microphones but for now, here it is.

Download "Turned Away" on Bandcamp

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Ep. 50: “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” (Acoustic Beatles Cover from Sgt. Peppers)

May 30, 2017

This week marks the 50th Episode for me of doing this podcast. I started it about a year and a half ago and It's been a lot of fun so I'm excited for the many more episodes to come.

This week also happens to be the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles classic album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," which is regarded by many as one of the greatest albums of all time. To commemorate the occasion, I recorded a stripped down acoustic version of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," which is one of my favorites from the album.

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Ep. 49: Song “Friday Night” (Influenced By Dave Matthews Band)

May 22, 2017

Today’s episode is a song from my “50 songs in 50 weeks” series.

This is one of my first songs I ever wrote, written back when I was 14. It's about a time when I went to a school dance and the girl I went with pretty much ignored me the whole time so I was pretty bummed. They said, write what you know, don't they. Come I was I was 14.

I tried to copy a little bit the style of Dave Matthews Band, particularly the song, "Jimi Thing."

I decided to just keep the production sparse and just do an acoustic guitar and a single vocal. Honestly, I'm a little embarrass by this one because it's kind of corny song but I felt like sharing something the represented my early songwriting.

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Ep. 48: Song “Elephant In The Room” (Influenced by Kelly Clarkson)

May 16, 2017

This week, I'm sharing a track called "Elephant In The Room" from my upcoming album, which should be out this fall.

Most of the time when I write songs, I start off by playing something on the guitar or piano, then come up with some sort of melody on top of it, then add lyrics. This song is a little different, in that I had the melody in my head and come up with lyrics before I even picked up a guitar. Then, I kind of figured out what the chords were gonna be after the fact. I think because of this, the melody is a little stronger than some of my other songs.

I always thought the phrase "elephant in the room" was sort of funny expression. The image I get in my head of an actual elephant is sort of cartoony like dumbo or something and I thought it made an interesting phrase for a song. I think most of us can relate to being in awkward situations where people sort of pretend things are normal when they aren't. I also liked the idea of using other phrases that have both a literal image and metaphorical meaning so I say things like "sitting on my hands" and "holding my tongue" and "getting under my skin" - phrases that we say all the time but don't really think about literally but they all kind of fit with the theme.

As I thought more about the arrangement for the studio recording, the Kelly Clarkson song "Since U Been Gone" came to mind. I specially like the guitar strums and drum machine at the beginning and how big and catchy the chorus is.

That was sort of the idolized type of pop arrangement I had in my head. I quickly realized I don't really have the vocal power to pull it off plus the production was a bit outside my usual territory. As worked on it, it sort of morphed into sounding a bit more like Nada Surf.

With those two influences in mind, I think I was able to come up with something fairly catchy that both fit my vocals and stayed true to my sound.

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Ep. 47: Song “Descent Into Madness” (Influenced by Sunny Day Real Estate)

May 9, 2017

For this week's episode, I break apart a song from my “50 songs in 50 weeks” series.

This one was written back in high school. I originally planned on playing it with my band at the time, Made in the Shade, but it didn't quite come together when we jammed on it. When I wrote it, I was heavily into the band Sunny Day Real Estate. They came out of Seattle in the 90s and are considered one of the godfathers of emo. They've been an influence to hundreds of artists, including myself. Here's a clip from their song, "Pillars" from the 1998 album, "How It Feels To Be Something On."

So I wanted to try to capture the some mood as Pillars. I began this song with just the guitar riff. For the recording, I've doubled it up to it's two guitars playing the same part, just to help it sound a little fuller.

Next, it needed a beat. I didn't have a drum set available so I opted to use drum machine loops from my computer. It almost gives it sort of an industrial quality, which I kinda liked so I went with it. The guitar part and the drum machine and played a bit mechanical so I added some groove with the bass line.

The song needed some more texture to it so I added some ebow parts. If you've been listening this podcast, you've probably heard me talk about the ebow, which I used a lot during this era.

Basically, it's a little device which you hold up to your guitar and it makes the strings vibrate without actually touching it and sounds a little bit like a cello. There 4 ebow parts, which played together make up the main chords of the song. It's purposely played just a little messy because I like the swelling sounds it makes when you get too close to the pickup.

Next came the vocals. The melody lines kind of overlap so there are two tracks for that, plus another track for harmony. I added distortion to the vocals, which make a messy "static" sound during the parts where I am not singing. I liked the direction of the messiness so I look a few of these static moments and ebow parts, looped them in reverse and added some strange sounding effects. I think it gives a real sinister and creepy feel fitting for the song. I think the whole thing came together in kind of an interesting and unique way. It's sort of a different sound than my other songs but I like it.

Download "Descent Into Madness" on Bandcamp

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Ep. 46: Film Score for “The Tailypo”

May 1, 2017

This week, I'm sharing some music and sounds from a film project I recently worked on. This was a collaboration with my friend, Archie Crisanto. You long term listeners may remember Archie's name from episode 37 when we collaborated on writing a song together and also from episode 20 when I shared some music I wrote for a play he directed called "The Woman in Black."

This project was a short 11-minute film Archie directed called "The Tailypo." It's a suspense/horror film based on an old folk tale. Basically, a starving hunter shoots off the tale of a mythical beast and cooks it in a stew, only to have the beast return and demand it back. Archie and I came up with the music and sounds together. Most of it was even recorded while simultaneously watching the video in order to get the right timing and pacing.

So first, the opening theme is played on acoustic guitar by Archie. It happens during a scene when the hunter first shoots the creature. The theme is follow by a boom sound which I played on a cajon and heavily altered the EQ to emphasize the bass tones and added a long, sustained reverb effect.

For the next scene, we repeat the theme but this time played by myself on an electric guitar using an ebow, which is basically an electric device that vibrates the strings without actually touching them, making the guitar sound something like a cello. There are also little block hits played by myself on a cajon. Both parts have plenty of reverb added. This music happens after the man collects the tail and walks back to his cabin in the middle of a snowy wilderness.

The next part I played on electric guitar and is sort of another variation on the same theme but with a steady, quarter note strumming. The man leaves his cabin because it's just too lonely of a place and so the music reflects his sense of isolation and despair. It's played in a pattern of three instead of four so it doesn't really seem to feel like it ever settles and resolves, which was done purposely to fit the mood of this scene. I took some inspiration from the post-rock band, Explosions in the Sky.

This last chunk I'll share are a series of guitar squeals and fast strumming along with an acoustic guitar chimey-sound played at the headstock where the tuning pegs are (which kind of reminded up of the string hits from Psycho). This was played by Archie and done more for sound effect purposes to build tension during the various times we see the creature.

Watch "The Tailypo" on Vimeo.

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