Its been a long spell since my last music post. Thankfully, recent collaborations as part of an online collective going under the name The Electro Musician mean some completely new tunes are now down, mixed & mastered. The tune itself ‘Better Days’ has been one of the most enjoyable pieces to work on thanks to my collaborator +Patrick Sharpe. Gas thing is – We’ve NEVER met!!! Read on, for the scoop…
Q: How Did This Collaboration Start?
A: The collaboration started due to +Patrick Sharpe and myself constantly bumping into each other on Google+ threads. Whether this was on comments or our own posts, we seemed to be circling around the same subjects – collaboration & music (especially due to us both using +Propellerhead music production software).
In one of these engaging Google+ conversations Patrick mentioned +The Electro Musician and the File Central project he’d developed (a web service for musicians to collaborate over the web, securely sharing components of their tunes). This sounded interesting to me and I was anxious to have my tunes performed by other musicians so reckoned it was worth doing some test collaborations.
I’ve spent over a decade recording entire tracks by myself so getting some ‘fresh ears’ to play & work on tracks was just the jolt my song-writing needed. We kicked off collaborating tentatively with a tune I’d worked on since 2004. This ended up being parked – for the time being! Ohhh will it ever see the light of day . And we began collaborating on a completely new track – Better Days.
‘Better Days’ was a true collaboration and here’s the genesis of the track:
- Patrick & myself were discussing different music genres on Google+. My passion is for Ska music and Patrick was up for hearing more Reggae/Ska tunes. I sent him on some killer ole Jamaican Ska tunes courtesy of YouTube.com.
- He then surprised me a day or two later by saying he’d created a Ska tune from scratch around a central chord structure. Patrick gave it the working title – ‘Better Days’. The first cut had drums, piano, bass, electric guitar and a killer horn section. My face nearly melted off hearing his musicianship on a genre he’d never played before.
- I downloaded the scratch mix off File Central, learnt the chords and started considering lyrics. I did a web search for the words ‘Better Days’ and happened across a comment someone made online. The comment mentioned one of Claude Monet’s paintings regarding how his wife had seen ‘better days’. The trigger for me was that I’d actually seen the Monet painting in question many years ago in Paris – it’s called ‘Camille Monet on her Deathbed’. Monet was quoted later saying that:“I caught myself watching her tragic forehead,” he wrote afterwards to a friend, “almost mechanically observing the sequence of changing colours that death was imposing on her rigid face. Blue, yellow, grey and so on… my reflexes compelled me to take unconscious action in spite of myself.”
Most folk would not consider it a suitable subject for a song. However, it struck me that Monet just couldn’t switch off being an artist, pondering how to paint her, even when his wife was dying. This is something any driven artist understands. So my 3 verses reflect 3 phases of grief from Claude Monet’s perspective – denial, reminisces and acceptance.
- After recording a guide mix of my lyrics (new drums, guitar & vocals) in Propellerhead I uploaded the files for Patrick to review.
- To my surprise, Patrick thought the first cut vocals were ideal for the tune. What ensued was several days of re-jigging instrumentation, structure and sound design by Patrick to have the various instruments (all of which he played) complement the rise & fall of the new vocals, melody & chorus.
- I added one final extra acoustic guitar based on some reggae & calypso strumming patterns.
- At which point, Patrick did a few master copies with minor tweaks and lo and behold – the band that have never met face to face had produced a completely new tune!
Q. What’s Next for the Band That Never Met?
A. I’d love to help showcase musicianship even more. The tunes are the recipe. Collaborating with musicians is like giving these tunes their own flavor and spice. The Electro Musician collective has been joined by +Jesse Crawford and +Ray Toler so there’ll be plenty more genres & song-writing to get innovative with.