Ep. 42: Song “Scarlet Letter” (Influenced by Radiohead)

April 3, 2017

This week's song is called "Scarlet Letter," which was released by my band Declaration on our 2006 album, Panic Button.

This was originally written during my senior year of high school for a class project. We were reading the book, "The Scarlet Letter," and tasked with doing something creative to depict certain aspects of the story. Most people made posters or collages but I decided to write a song and perform it for the class. This is one of the few times I've actually sat down and started writing a song with a topic in mind beforehand.

To give you a little background about the story, it takes place in Puritan times. The main character, Hester Prynne, whose husband was presumed lost at sea, has committed adultery and forced to wear a scarlet colored "A" on her chest so that everyone in the town would know what she had done. As it turns out, the person she committed adultery with was the town's priest, Arthur Dimmesdale, who is put in a position where he feels forced to condemn her publicly but secretly is racked with the guilt and torment of what he had done and of knowing what a hypocrite he actually is. Eventually, he confesses his sin to the town and opens his shirt to reveal scars from the letter "A" he carved on his own chest, signifying that while Hester openly carries the burden of sin, his was carried in secret until now.

So, the lyrics are written from the priest's perspective and speak of his torment as well as the need he felt to come clean and live a repentant, virtuous life.

The mood and tone I was going for was something along the lines of Radiohead's song, Exit Music (For A Film) from their album OK Computer.

So, fast forward about a year. I had just finished my first year at BYU and was about the leave on a mission. I had a friend who was studying sound recording and needed someone to record for his project. I came in BYU's studio and laid down piano, vocals, drums and bass. Here's what the first version sounds like.

During my mission, it would occasionally come up that I was a songwriter and people would want to hear one of my songs. This was usually the song I would play to them if they had a piano in their house. Plus, it also has a spiritual component to it so it made sense to play it as a missionary, I think.

After I returned home from my mission, I reformed my band, Declaration and we set out to record an album. Originally, we tried to recreate the version of the song I recorded I few years before. It felt a little vanilla so we decided to experiment with some different sounds.

The first of those was a wurlitzer electric piano. One of my friends was storing it in my studio so we gave it a try. We ran it through a guitar amp for the recording. It has a really cool, smooth sound quite different from a regular piano and we felt like it really added something interesting to the song so we went with it.

After the wurlitzer was recorded, we laid down the drums. I think we got a really good tone with the recording. We added a small room reverb effect and a light delay or echo effect to help it sound a little fuller and give it additional texture.

There are three electric guitar tracks on this song. The first is played clean, lightly strumming the chords with a thin, washy tone.

The next guitar plucks the chords in an arpeggiated pattern with a light delay effect.

The third guitar has a stronger delay effect and heavy reverb. We were going for a spacey, cosmic sound here. The notes are played in a tremelo strumming style much like on Radiohead's song.

Halfway through the song, the drums cut out for the third verse. I thought the song could use a shift in texture at this point so we added a church organ.

When the drums come back in for the chorus, we wanted a big, epic moment so I recorded three tracks of ohs and ahs, layered with a lot of reverb to give the impression of a choir singing in a cathedral.

I think all these elements came together nicely to make for an interesting production. Here's the final version of the song. I hope you like it.

Download "Scarlet Letter" on Bandcamp

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Ep. 41: Guest Oscar Olaya (Mormon Rapper)

March 27, 2017

Today I have a special guest: Oscar Olaya. He's a rapper from New York City who now lives in Utah. We discuss his own journey of making music and play some tracks from his new EP. We even jam together on a song.

Download his album on iTunes or stream it on Spotify.

Here's his video for "I'm OK" (you can see me in the background): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rH4NoNPVko

Here's the song Oscar and I jammed on in this episode: https://jakehaws.bandcamp.com/track/you-my-girl-acoustic-version

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Ep. 40: 5-10-15-20 (Music That’s Inspired Me Over The Years)

March 20, 2017

Pitchfork.com does a feature on their website called "5-10-15-20" where an artist talks about what they were listening to and influenced by during different ages in their life starting with age 5, than age 10 and so on. I thought it would be fun to do it myself.

For a playlist with all these songs, visit: http://jakehaws.com/ep-40-5-10-15-20-music-thats-inspired-me-over-the-years/

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Ep. 39: Irish Music for St. Patrick’s Day

March 13, 2017

With St. Patrick's Day right around the corner, I thought it was a good time to share some Irish style music I've recorded. A little back, I was asked to write some music for a video game. The maker of the game described the different scenes to me and I tried to match the mood the best I could to each of those scenes (without seeing any visuals). The project ended up not happening but at least I got some experience writing music in a different style. In each of these three pieces, I play an instrument called a melodica, which is sort of like an accordion and harmonica mashed together.

In The Pub

This music is intended for when one of the characters enters a pub where there is dancing and partying happening. I recorded this is my bathroom because I liked the particular echo sound it had. I started with the “drone-like” sound of the melodica, in an attempt to imitate bagpipes. The melodica also plays the melody and harmony. The majority of the percussion consists of myself hitting a suitcase in various ways with drum sticks and EQing the mix so that I had a spectrum of high, mid and low frequencies. I also recorded about 20 tracks of myself doing handclaps in order to get the crowd sound I was looking for. Lastly, I recorded a couple of low key violin parts (I haven’t played in several years, so I kept it simple).

Missing My Bride

This music goes along with a scene in the game where one of character's house burns down. The mood is sorrowful and is timed in a sad 6/8 waltz. I came up with the melody on the melodica, accompanied by a acoustic guitar played in a classical style. The tamborine part is inspired by gypsy folk music and intended sound a bit like a person dragging chains (to symbolize the emotional chains they carry).

Marching Into Battle

As the title implies, this music going along with a battle scene. As with the one of the other pieces, I used a melodica drone to imitate the sound of bagpipes. I recorded a doubled mandolin part for the melody. I also used my trusty suitcase for percussion: one track to imitate a snare drum sound, another heavy reverbed track to give a big, boomy kick drum (or war drum) sound.

Visit jakehaws.com for more songs.

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Ep. 38: Song “What Can I Say” (Influenced by the Sixpence None The Richer)

March 7, 2017

Today’s episode is a song from my “50 songs in 50 weeks” series called "What Can I Say". I recorded it in 2012 but it was actually written around 1999 while I was in high school. The lyrics are about expectations and wondering whether you measure up what other people want out of you.

It was influenced by the Sixpence None The Richer song "Kiss Me." I probably would have been made fun of by my friends back then if I ever admitted that so it was kind of a guilty pleasure at the time.

I started the recording with an acoustic and electric guitars with a similar strumming sound to "Kiss Me" and to fill it out it bit more, some organ.

From there, I needed something to drive the beat but I knew I wasn't going to have drums so I ended up playing shaker and three different tracks of jembe, which is sort of like a bongo drum. I think it gives it a bit of a tribal feel.

It still felt a little dull to me so I felt like the piano would be a nice addition. I played lower notes on my left hand in place of a bass guitar. My right hand played something a little higher up with octaves. It's a line that compliments the melody of the song.

I saved room in the arrangement for a guitar solo. I used an ebow, which got a fair amount of use in 90s rock. Basically an ebow is a little device that vibrates the strings without touching them. It gives a sort of sustained humming sound similar to a violin box. They don't use an ebow in Kiss Me but even so, I think the solo ended up sounding fairly similar.

To read the lyrics for this song and listen to other music I've done, visit jakehaws.com.

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Ep. 37: Song Challenge with Archie Crisanto “That’s The Truth”

February 27, 2017

This week on the show, I'm excited to have as my first guest, a very good friend of mine, Archie Crisanto. We recently got together and challenged ourselves to write and record a song out of thin air. The topic we drew to base the song on was "having someone mistake you for someone else." In the audio, you'll hear our conversation in writing the song (with the boring parts edited out) followed by the finished, produced song at the end.

For the recording, I laid down vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, and percussion. Archie sang, played lead guitar, and piano. We settled on the title "That's The Truth."

Download "That's The Truth (feat. Archie Crisanto)" on Bandcamp

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Ep. 36: New Song “Lullaby Without Words” (Guitar Instrumental)

February 20, 2017

Today’s episode is an guitar instrumental. I actually wrote this one way back in high school. Over th years, I've tried to come up with some words for it but I was never satisfied with anything and it felt like the guitar part was melodic enough that it stood on it's own. I didn't have a specific influence in mind this time, other than I wanted to make something that sounded classical.

Visit jakehaws.com to download this and other songs.

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Ep. 35: Song “Across the Sea” (Weezer Cover)

February 13, 2017

Today's episode is my cover of Weezer's Across the Sea. In 1996, Weezer released Pinkerton, their follow-up to the successful blue album. They went for a much rawer sound this time including both the sound and performance of the music as well as lyrics that drew from Rivers Cuomo's own heart breaks and frustrations. The album was initially panned but has since gone on over to time to become a cult classic. In Across the Sea, he writes about a fan from Japan who wrote him a letter and he wishes they could have a relationship but realizes it would never work.

In 2010, I collaborated with a friend of mine, Drew Danburry, on a video/song project called "Reliving the 90s." Each month, we gathered together with a different band or set of musicians from the Provo area to cover a song from the 90s. I did all the recording/engineering at Muse Recording Studio and Drew filmed/produced the project with the assistance of local directors, which culminated in the release of 12 videos. My group, Adding Machines, recorded a cover of Across the Sea. As you'll hear, our version is quite a bit different from Weezer's. I sang, played acoustic and electric guitar and bass; My wife, Melissa played organ and sang harmonies; Dan Smock played drums, Jordan Clark played pedal steel and Drew Danburry sang harmony.

Visit jakehaws.com to watch the video of us recording Across the Sea in the studio, as well as other videos from the "Reliving the 90s" series.

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Ep. 34: Song “Patience” (Influenced by The Black Heart Procession)

February 7, 2017

This week's song is influenced by a band called The Black Heart Procession. I first heard them when I was a freshman in college and one of my room mates showed them to me. They have a pretty unique sound where they borrow from folk and blues traditions but with their own dark spaghetti-western spin on it. They incorporate church organ, put heavy reverb on the vocals and guitars and even play the saw on many of their songs.

With that influence in mind, I tried to write a song that captured the same sort of hopeless feeling. I made the sound of the guitar pretty twangy and turned up the reverb on the vocals to get the same type of sound as The Black Heart Procession (even though I have a much softer voice). As evident with the words, it's about couple going through hard times. Some of the inspiration came from my personal frustrations at the time with finding a job.

Visit http://jakehaws.com/ep-34-song-patience-influenced-by-the-black-heart-procession for lyrics and more info.

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Ep. 33: Song “Eye to Eye” (Influenced by Elvis Costello)

January 30, 2017

Today’s episode is a new song of mine called "Eye to Eye." This one is going to be on my album, which will be coming out later this year. It's influenced by Elvis Costello's song "Pump It Up." Visit jakehaws.com for lyrics and more info. 

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