Friday, February 3, 2012

FAWM 2012: Week 1

On top of Song Fight! and SpinTunes, I enjoy participating in February Album Writing Month. Each of these organizations / challenges has its own distinct atmosphere. Song Fight! is heavy on the criticism, but frequently in a very constructive way, and there's a lot of buy-in from the entire community to keep things going and continually improve things. SpinTunes, despite being a more focused songwriting competition, has a much more laid-back and convivial feel to the interactions. It's held rather infrequently, but there's a pretty solid core of people who regularly participate as either judges or contestants.
FAWM is something else entirely. If Song Fight! is a perpetual songwriting workshop, and SpinTunes is a Battle of the Bands, FAWM is a giant block party. It reminds me of la FĂȘte de la musique, with everybody playing every which way, what, where and how. The point isn't to craft great songs and hone your skills. It's just to get 14 songs written during the shortest month of the year.

You heard me right: 14 songs in 28 days. It's no small feat. In fact, I've never done it. Last year I think I hit ten, but only had nine recordings. 2010 only got three or four. Nonetheless, it's a great exercise in just getting it done and out there.

So, this the attitude I'm taking this year: write the damn tune, slap it down in demo form and move on to the next. Focus on the bigger pictures - melody, lyric, structure, narrative - instead of the minutiae of a killer drum track or building a third guitar part for the chorus. Attention to the immediate and the particular; I'll come back to the gems and refine them for an album over the some - probably Mayish.

You can visit my FAWM page here. I'll also be posting my demos on Bandcamp, just I can use the handy embedded playlist and you can listen to them right here:

It's the evening of February 2 as I write this, and that means I've completed two brand new songs in as many days. That's pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. (Mind you, I'm going to be busy over the long weekend, so that ratio's going to drop off mighty quick.) But let's savor the moment and talk a little about these tunes.

All Swear About Murder
"All swear about murder" was a typo on a Google+ post many months ago. It was just too good of a phrase to let go, so I plunked it down in Evernote and since then it's been steadily accruing companions from various places, though I must admit that Denise Hudson consistently turns a pretty phrase and I pilfer her disjecta with gusto. I started this with the clear intention never to mention the word murder, and I enjoy the ambiguity of what being "all swear" means. It's a flashback episode, too, starting at the end of the story, with a little plot twist at the end of Act One. When writing the prechorus, I decided the first line was just too good. Rather than jam it into a chorus, I just ditched the idea altogether. Chorus no; bridge, yes. The first line and the entire general grove of the bridge is actually ripped from a cover of a song by The Books that I did for Gift of Music this year, "A Cold Freezin' Night." I liked being able to the turn the original lyric on its head.

For some reason, it's really, really hard for me to write happy songs. I take myself too seriously, and I appreciate how much craft it takes to be funny. Being tragic is easier. So, I was delighted when a rather happy little ditty popped into my head on the way home this afternoon. Maybe it was the sunshine after days of rain. Maybe it was the car exhaust as I putted about on my scooter. Maybe Euterpe just had a caprice. Whatever, I took the idea and ran with it, keeping things as simple as possible: straight I - V - IV verse and few 7ths and 9ths for chorus. The doubled vocal track was a last-minute addition; i rather like it, but it'll take some serious honing in revisions. I waffled a lot about having a bridge. The 3rd verse was originally a bridge, but I didn't have anything more to say, and the melody wasn't all that different anyway. (Actually, the verse chord progression was going to be only for the bridge, but it was too good.)

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