The quest to write, record, produce and release a song a week. To read why I’m doing such a thing as well as being a full-time producer and musician for others, check out the first ‘A Song A Week’ blog post HERE.
Welcome to Week 9 of the A Song A Week blog. I’m going to dive straight in with how ‘Trouble’ came to be in the space of just 2 days…
If you don’t have Spotify to stream whilst you’re reading, then you can buy the song on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon, or better even still, for the same price and supporting the blog, podcast and the song itself you can get the song directly from me at the amazing PATREON.
It’s also available on all major streaming and music stores across the internet, just search for ‘Tom B. Cooper Trouble’ on your preferred service and it’ll show up!
After my crazy busy week last week I’ve been able to hit 2 days of writing/production/mixing for A Song A Week head on at 100mph!
The result is this slightly unusual alternative rock/pop tune ‘Trouble.’
Now that I’m 9 weeks into this process I felt a bit empty after last weeks A Song A Week ‘Korvatunturi’. I still really like the song and I’ve been getting some truly lovely feedback, but in myself I just hadn’t flexed my songwriting muscles and so I was absolutely raring to go this week.
I very deliberately sat down with an acoustic guitar in hand and came up with the chorus within seconds. Melody and all.
It didn’t take me any more than 60 seconds to get my hands around the chords and hum the melody and I knew I was happy with it.
If only it was this easy every time!
So then I just completely beefed out the chorus.
I built it up layer by layer.
I put one acoustic guitar down, then another, then the drum beat you hear throughout which is built up of several different elements.
I had the meat of the chorus down within about 20 minutes. I can’t tell you how focused I was.
I had a long car journey the other day and rather than pop Spotify to shuffle, stick the radio on or listen to a podcast, I stuck the incredible album ‘An Awesome Wave’ by Alt-J on. For a master class in production, analyse that album.
Anyway, I noticed something with the album that I’d not really noticed before and that’s in a lot of the songs the difference between sections isn’t marked out by huge differences. For example the drums often stay the same and other elements come in and out, or the sheer volume of playing stays quite similar. So I thought about that and I thought ‘right, I like this drum beat, I’m going to stick it on a verse too.’
So that’s exactly what I did and when I heard it in isolation I just started messing around some lines on a synth. It took me a good 30 minutes to come up with the synth line that you hear on the verse and I didn’t have a melody for the vocal at all, but I was having a lot of fun honing it as I went.
ANOTHER thing I’ve always loved from ‘An Awesome Wave’ is that there are quite a lot of jarring little sections that stop you in your track a little bit – they’ll either introduce a brand new instrument out of nowhere and isolate it or a vocal hook that doesn’t quite sit right at first listen or any number of things (really, if you’ve never listened to the album, do it now!) and I wanted to borrow that idea too.
I decided I really liked the picking pattern I’d come up with initially for the chorus and I wanted to introduce that element after such a clearly synthetic verse (the electronic drum samples and the very glitchy sort of synth) so I just came up with a very simple acoustic part and then harmonised it with another acoustic part.
To transition a little nicer between verse and this newly created pre-chorus I stuck a delay on a kick drum and added a crash in on beat 1, but then very much left the pre-chorus to be just acoustic guitar. On the final mix I’ve also added an echo on the lead vocal to go over the entire pre-chorus, but that was a very late decision I made in the mix stage.
Now to take my idea of having an isolated section that pops up out the blue even further, I also wrote that piano break in and this time I very deliberately stopped everything immediately before that section starts to really grab the listeners attention. I think it works really well. Again, I’ve deliberately mixed it so that it’s not popping out your speakers, but just enough so to really grab your attention.
So at this point I had the basis of a slightly unusual song, but I didn’t have a melody or words to the verse, I had a scratch melody but no lyrics to the chorus, no bass line either, so all I really had was 3 sections that had no real coherence between them.
Rather than do the sensible thing of write some lyrics to map out exactly where I want to go, I built the song up even more.
In fact, I built it up and arranged it completely.
I recorded the intro section with that buzzy sounding synth and delayed guitar line, I recorded the real drums in the last double chorus (fills and all), I recorded the bass line, I recorded the synths in the chorus. You name it, I did it!
Everything you hear in the song was added in it’s entirety so I had the whole song… apart from the lyrics.
Classic Tom B. Cooper!
So up to this point the song and been an absolute breeze. I’d spent no more than 3 hours from start to finish and that included taking the dog for a walk and a wee!
Considering it’s not the most standard of song or production then I was really pleased.
Then again, Trouble’s probably a bit more reminiscent of my songs as Kuqi (listen HERE) rather than my previous A Song A Week releases, so maybe it’s not that crazy I got to this stage quicker.
Anyway, I have a few lines that stick with me that I’ve come up with or read or made a mental note of somehow and one of those such lines was…
“He probably fell while he was looking for a place to jump.” *** The quote is from Harold Ramis about Doug Kenney ***
… There’s something so tragic about that line and I used it as a starting block for the whole song.
I knew all I had to write was one chorus and two verses but I struggled.
Anyone that’s familiar with my previous songs will know that the denser the lyric the easier I find it. But anyway, undeterred I ploughed on.
This is another song of mine that is particularly un-storytelling-y so I don’t want to give you too many ideas about what I interpret the lyrics as, but there’s something I really enjoy about writing sad or melancholic words over quite upbeat music and vice versa, and that’s definitely the case here.
Now with Trouble, I’ve used a grand total of 57 words. 57 WORDS! in a 3 minute 18 second song!
That’s not very many, yet it took me roughly 3 hours to write them.
So it took me as long to write 57 words as it did to write and arrange the music in it’s entirety.
The longer this process is going on (week 9 now, crazy!) then the more I’m challenging and pushing myself.
I could’ve easily landed on a melody that had a larger syllable count or shoe-horned some words in there just to make me feel a bit more comfortable, but I didn’t. I did what I believe to be right for the song.
Trouble is a good example of A Song A Week because I wrote the music quickly and by instinct and then laboured the thing that generally people connect with most, the words.
Before I would’ve agonised over every element, lyrics included and a song like Trouble might have taken me weeks to write, but I had a deadline in place and I stuck to it.
I’m growing ever prouder of what I’m achieving, full in the knowledge that some of it I like and some of it I don’t and equally and more importantly, some of it you’ll like and some of it you won’t.
Thank you so much for reading. I hugely appreciate it. The absolute best way you can support me and this blog is by listening to and sharing ‘Trouble’. So you can…
Stream on Spotify
It’s available on all major streaming and music stores across the internet, just search for ‘Tom B. Cooper Trouble’ and it’ll show up!
I absolutely love doing these, but they take up a lot of my own time and money, which as a self-employed musician, I don’t have a lot of either of those things! So you can also show your support on Patreon by clicking the image below, or by clicking right HERE. (If you haven’t heard of Patreon, it’s absolutely awesome for people like me, so go go go!)
I also do a weekly podcast to go with the A Song A Week blog, which I actually record as I go, so it’s really like you’re there with me as the song goes from idea to fully finished. To listen and subscribe to the A Song A Week Podcast, click the image below or right HERE. (If you’re on iTunes, otherwise just search for ‘Tom B. Cooper A Song A Week’ in your preferred podcast service and it’ll show up!)
Peace and happy music making.
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