Every Song Tells A Story: There You Are

The Story

This song was a very interesting one for me in that it wasn’t written in the usual way. I wrote it with my friend Doug Brehm one night. Doug and I usually hang out together on random Friday nights to either watch a flick or play some video games and drink a few beers. I’ve known Doug since high school and while he’s always a bit timid about his playing, he’s actually quite melodic and has developed his own little style of playing based on folks like Andy Summers of The Police and The Edge of U2.

One Friday night I was home noodling with a chord/riff when he called to see if I wanted to hang out. I asked him if perhaps he’d like to have a songwriting session instead of the usual movie watching session or a night of virtual zombie/alien killing. He seemed up for it, so I packed up my guitar, bass, and Macbook Pro and traveled up to his place.

Everything we did that night over a couple of beers was very productive. We sat there and wrote just about the whole song except for the lyrics which I wrote a couple of days later. It was a great night of bouncing ideas back and forth and seeing what stuck. I really enjoy collaborative songwriting and while I always have the offer out there, people rarely take me up on it. You would think that in the digital age this would be quite common but songwriters are fickle souls and sometimes don’t like to collaborate for whatever reason. What happened in Doug’s basement was a great example of two people just creating something from nothing in a positive and honest way.

Like I said, I wrote the lyrics a few days after we wrote the song. The intention was to keep the subject of the song ambiguous so the listener could make it about someone of their own choice. At first listen, you might suspect it’s a love song about a girl, as many songs are. If that works for you, that’s great and that’s what it’s about for you. I specifically left gender out so that if the listener was a female, she could sing along with the same emotion as a male singing to a female. I’ve always found it awkward singing songs by female artists and having to switch the gender around. Sometimes it works well, other times not.

For me, however, this song is about God. The lyrics leave it open, which is nice, but if you really look at the words, I’m singing about God: Every time I need somebody/When my friends leave me stranded/When I feel like I can’t make it/Every time I think I’m losing you.

People have very strong beliefs about religion and sometimes have trouble separating it from spirituality. I’m more spiritual than religious. I believe there is a God. Others don’t. Who’s right? We don’t know. It all comes down to faith. I didn’t really set out to write a song about God – it just happened. I don’t fight inspiration.

So in the end, this song wound up being quite poignant and serious for me. I write lots of fun songs but I enjoy serious songs as well and this one ended up being one of my favorites. It started as a joint writing session with no real direction and ended up being a good song (in my opinion) with a reflective message; something people could personalize and make mean whatever else,  should they wish. Not bad!

The Recording

The recording session started out in my friend Doug’s basement. I had this little riff I was noodling around with and that ended up being the intro and main hook of the song. I felt we needed some kind of beat behind it though, in order to kick start the writing process. So we hooked up the Mac to some monitors and I fished around for a drum loop that I thought might work. The one you hear in the finished track is the one I ended up using. I don’t even think I changed it in any way. It was like using a non-programmed drum machine. The beat played over and over until I stopped it. It just worked. I didn’t even add accents or other percussion. It’s a mellow song that didn’t warrant anything other than a laid back beat. I usually like to play my own drums but I got so used to hearing the loop that I just left it alone. It sounded right to me and I’ve learned to not mess with something if it feels and sounds right.

While we did some recording that night together, it was basically just for the purpose of getting the ideas down in the computer so that I had something to go on when I got back home. Doug and I went through some ideas, discarded others and eventually worked out a nice, simple progression that felt good. We packed it up and I went home. I believe I wrote the lyrics the following Monday while at work and then finished up the song that Wednesday. Everything about this song just literally fell into place.

I re-recorded everything except the drum loop. I believe I started with the main acoustic guitar track, just to get some melody in there. The main riff is a fun one for me and reminds me of something a little Sting-ish. It gracefully descends and sounds like it should resolve somewhere else but doesn’t, which adds a little tension. I enjoy that. There are lots of Major 7th chords in there. In fact, the entire bridge is comprised of them. They sound so nice and full.

I remember coming up with the bass line while at Doug’s place. We were both on guitar and at one point I remember thinking, “This is silly. Why are we both on guitar? Let me get the bass out.” So I did that and as Doug played the riff over and over, I starter working in this sort of alien bass line that didn’t really seem to match what was going on with the acoustic. Of course, that intrigued me even more. It’s got that bit of counterpoint that just seemed to work. There are also some fun bass fills in the bridge if you listen closely. They remind me of something Lenny Kravitz would do for some reason.

After adding more guitars and some of the vocals, I had Doug come back over and lay down the guitar solo. I really wanted him to do it because I knew he’d come up with something cool and something totally different than what I would do. I gave him a copy of the work-in-progress track so he could get some ideas. He came down totally prepared with a really nice solo in mind that I absolutely loved. After a few takes, we got it down and the song came that much more alive.

The vocals were pretty simple. The usual light reverb on the verses and choruses did the trick. I added some harmony to the last chorus for effect. I tried to make it a little more powerful so that when it broke down at the end there would be some nice contrast. As for the bridge, I knew I needed something else there so I tried some oohs and ahhs, drenched in reverb. It’s amazing what some ambient vocals can add to a song.

Like I said before, everything just seemed to fall into place. Divine Intervention? Could be. All I know is that I’m quite happy with the final product. I hope you like it.

The Lyrics

I woke up this morning with the sun shining in my eyes
I had a feeling everything was all right
The pain that I had yesterday faded in the night
I can’t bring back the memory now if I tried

For a while I traveled underground and lost the light of day
Never thought that I could make a mistake
Reflections can be so painful if you take them the wrong way
But the mirror is smiling back today

And I wouldn’t be here without you…

Every time I need somebody now – there you are
When my friends leave me stranded – there you are
When I feel like I can’t make it – there you are
Every time I think I’m losing you – there you are

So many people living, breathing in our space and time
No reason anybody should be alone
You can’t call it hanging out when you’re the last one in the room
Say goodbye to the past, you have to let go

And I wouldn’t know it without you…

Every time I need somebody now – there you are
When my friends leave me stranded – there you are
When I feel like I can’t make it – there you are
Every time I think I’m losing you – there you are

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