Monday, June 15, 2015

Growing Flowers: The Making of Super Beautiful

Super Beautiful, like many of the songs I've written, happened over a period of several months. But the truth is, that there are instances where certain creative sparks happen that make these songs, moments of unexplainable creative magic. There is the time I spit out the line "Super Beautiful" or the take where the bridge just happens because of the right blend of smoke and brew. But the neat thing in this case is that each of those moments is documented with recordings. This has never been the case with other songs I've written, and trust me, they each have these moments of musical magic that moves them along from just being a musical fart to being a complete song.

So here we go. I invite you to join me on the journey that was the creation of Super Beautiful, complete with embarrassing demos and stream of consciousness recordings that eventually became a song recorded and released by The Mariana Trenchcoats.

I was up late in jam mode. I had been noodling with piano and decided to set up the studio to record some demos. I did my Ray Charlesesque cover of  "Your Song" and then, for whatever reason, I switched to guitar. I put the capo on the third fret, and this happened:

It meanders a bit, but you can hear the elements. I work through some progressions and you can tell I have something in my head and I just needed to find it. And I do, right there at 3:10:

That is tough to listen too in some places, I admit.  But that is the point, to share the process. This is a common method for me, scatting nonsensical vocal lines over chord progressions in seach of melody and theme. And usually what happens is that a line comes out that works in terms of vibe, melody and syllables. I latch onto it and try to figure out what it means, what it could mean, what I can go with it lyrically. But we're not there yet. I need to sculpt some more format out of this thing and get rid of the shit.

So here is the next demo, from the same night, which as now become morning. There are definitive verse and chorus structure and even the psychedelic bridge is making it's first appearance here. And at 3:10 the phrase "Make the world Super Beautiful" arrives on the scene:

That is where it all started to take shape. I just needed to play with it, and start finding a theme that would work. I went through a bunch of ideas. By time we had brought it into the studio to start hammering it out, I had some ideas that kept creeping in as a ad-libbed my way through vocal takes. Lines about "playing drums" and the "river" crept in.

As I was in the studio cutting a scratch vocal, this happened. The line spouted out was "If they take away all the flowers..." I loved the flower thing. Also, I think Ryan Baker is playing cajon on this take.

It took another month and Arrch's contribution of a single word that changed the world before this song arrived at its proper destination.On the arrangement side, there were lots of experients with saxophones, cajon, hand claps and all kinds of things to try and get the sound to work. It wasn't easy. But the trip was worth it because it somehow, with a lot of hard work, aggrivation and love, came out like this:

Well, there it is, part of the process revealed for the brave and the utterly bored. Hope you enjoyed it.... have a good one.


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