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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Ep. 45: Song “Ocean” (Influenced by Pedro the Lion)

April 25, 2017

Today’s episode is about the title track from one of my albums called Ocean recorded back in 2002.

First, I'll started with the influence. At the time, I was into a Seattle indie band called Pedro The Lion. One of my favorite tracks of theirs was the first song off their 1998 album, "It's Hard To Find A Friend" and the song is called "Of Up And Coming Monarchs."

So when I wrote my song, there are several elements from the Pedro The Lion song that I borrow. First, I liked the 6/8 time signature. Most pop/rock songs are 4/4 time, which means each measure is made up of 4 quarter notes. With 6/8 time, each measure is made up of 6 eighth notes, which gives it a sort of waltzy, drifty quality so I wanted my song to have similar quality. I also liked the way the chords progress. The notes added between the main chord changes gives it a better melodic flow than just playing the chords straight so I tried to incorporate that as well into my song. I also liked how the lyrics mention things like like the ocean floor and swimming. I think it's interesting imagery for a song.

So a little more background: I actually wrote it in 2001. I had recently graduated high school and my family was moving from Washington State to Utah and I wrote this the night before we moved. It was definitely the close of one chapter of my life and the opening of a new one. The first verse talks about returning home to an empty house and talking to the walls. That's me sort of imagining what it will be like in the future to look back at this moment. The other verses talk about swimming in an ocean and building sandcastles and flying, which are all childhood memories having to do with growing up in Washington for me. I was thinking a lot at the time about the way a location can shape the way you might turn out as a person and how you view the world. So, I would say this song is kind of a farewell letter to both Washington and to my childhood.

I recorded this about a year later. Unlike the Pedro the Lion song, I used an acoustic guitar instead of an electric. I played a pretty straightforward and simple beat on the drums using brushes. I also invited a friend of mine, Robin Jolley, to play cello, which I think added an interesting quality. She's great at improvising so there's actually a cello solo on the second half of the song.

This is one my favorite songs from that era of my life. I hope you like it.

Lyrics and More Info: http://jakehaws.com/ep-45-song-ocean-influenced-by-pedro-the-lion/



Ep. 44: Song “The Lord Is My Shepard” (Religious)

April 18, 2017

Since Easter was this last Sunday, I thought I would share something I dug up from my time as a missionary. This is a recording of my mission companion, Elder Brad Chaston, and myself singing "The Lord is My Shepard" recorded onto mini-disc. We were in Manhattan and this would have been sometime between January and April of 2004.

This is one of my favorite hymns. We're not perfectly in tune with our performance but for me, it has the significance of documenting an important time in my life so I wanted to share.

Download "The Lord is My Shepard" for free on Bandcamp.

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Ep. 43: The Fab Folk – Live Concert at ABGs (7/29/2016)

April 10, 2017

For this week's episode, I'm sharing live recordings from a concert I played last year at ABGs in Provo, Utah with my Beatles cover duo, The Fab Folk. All together, it was a really long set. We played 50 songs (including the album Revolver in it's entirety) and we had several guest performers join us. For purposes of this podcast, I picked my favorite 8 songs from the night. I'm joined as always by Matt Weidauer on vocals, guitar, mandolin and cajon. You will also hear a few guests on Hey Jude: Eric Robertson on keyboard, John-Ross Boyce on vocals, and Kathleen Freewin on tamborine and vocals.

If you are you interested in hearing studio recordings and keeping up with our latest from The Fab Folk, head over to thefabfolk.com. Currently, we are scheduled to play at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi on April 22nd and 28th, as well as returning to ABGs in Provo on June 9th. Also, the Freedom Festival in Provo July 1st, Fiesta Days in Spanish Fork July 24th and the American Fork Outdoor Concert Series August 7th. We have even more shows in the works so check back periodically at thefabfolk.com for the latest details.


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