Tuesday, June 12, 2012

All Swear About Murder: "it was a pleasure to burn" production diary

First off, a quick announcement: I've made all of the tracks for it was a pleasure to burn available for free download! I hadn't done this before for a few reasons. First, the album's not done yet and, as twentieth-century as it is, I still prefer albums to individual tracks as a method of distribution and consumption. Second, Bandcamp limits my bandwidth to 200 downloads a month.

But I realized that it was silly and egotistical to make the songs streaming-only. It should be up to you, the listener, how you want to encounter this music. Also, it's a "limit" of two hundred downloads. If I somehow magically break that barrier, it will be a happy problem indeed.

So, enjoy! Grab the tracks as you please, play them where you want on the device you want. Just, please respect the Creative Commons Attribute-Share-Alike license I'm using. Most importantly, thanks for listening!

On with the show: new track, new stories!

Some times, mistakes are fortuituous. Some times, you just happen to know the right people at the right moment. And some times, it's the wrong moment. "All Swear About Murder" fell out of a Google+ conversation I had last Fall with Denise Hudson (whose work you should totally check out, by the way). Well, the title fell off the back of that truck. The story is pure Appalachian Noir.

you were standing in a shadow of blue
a chord in one hand my heart to undo
you were a cipher, a mistress code
a wind-talker in melody clothed
& we sang all night
& whispered the day
you were standing but i heard you croon
a siren sang your secret tune

it was a tryst it was a whirlwind
but all good things must find their end
your ├ętudes your ivory keys
my six-string down on its knees
i play the blues
you play for you
it was a tryst it was too facile
i was all swear about blue gun steel

i was all swear about your demise
shed not a tear for all your lies
they put me in chains and on the stand
i told the tale 'bout your demands
'bout what you took from me
my ransomed heart
i was all swear about your timely end
but never said a word about our bed

I don't often write murder ballads. But when I do, they don't have a chorus and I use slide guitar.

I made a demo of this song for FAWM. As you can hear, this girl has undergone several changes. When I started writing, I knew that I wanted to craft a song with no chorus. The original draft has a bridge, but it was always a problematic thing.

I took the chance to perform "All Swear" for a local Atlanta songwriters' group and I realized during the discussion session that 1) the bridge was not working and 2) it still needed a refrain of some kind. And hey, the purely musical refrain for "Susan" is awesome, so why not do that again?

Yes, I'm totally borrowing from myself. Or doing a retread of an idea I explored once. Shoot me. If it works, do it twice more. That's the basis of a song, isn't it?

I also changed the order of the verses after the group discussion because I realized that I was starting the story at the end, and that moving verse two to the first slot would make the story more accessible, since it establishes the setting. That first line is the one real thing in this entire song; I really did meet someone for the first time in a shadow of blue. Also, the last line "about our bed" is the zinger twist, so it's good to hold that back.

Recording of the fully-produced track was a rather organic thing. Since I wasn't under time constraints to submit this to a contest, I was able to fiddle with sounds and tones. So there are at least three different guitar tones there (I love that warbly guitar tone, which harkens to the black-and-white wild west sections of Kill Bill Volume 2 for me). And my favorite organ. And a piano. And acoustic guitars because that's where the whole thing started, right?  (Actually, recording the acoustic was a pain in the rear; I'm finger-strumming again and it was so quiet that I had to work mic positions and the gain and blah, blah blah. Eventually, I double tracked most of it just for volume.)

To make a long story short (too late!) The recording process resulted in a series of happy accidents that gave me the cool intro and that dramatic drop-off at the end of the second break.

There's probably some unfulfilled potential with the tempo change that leads into the third verse; could be a moment for a bridge or another kind of break. As it is, this track is somewhat weak on its own, but it's going to make a killer lead-in for "Where You Can Go."

Besides, some times you just have step back, brush the gunshot residue off of your sleeve and go "good enough."

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