Archive for the ‘Daveisms’ Category

Everybody Goes

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

This song is in some weird way the sister song to “I Left My Muse,” a song that started as a Drinking Problem song and ended up on the last Sights record. I think of them as a pair since I wrote them during the same weekend towards the end of 2008. Both songs are different perspectives on being in a long term relationship.

Adrian Robles played the drums on this 2009 demo, and it was the first time I ever worked with him on a full drum kit. Since then, he’s played drums for my demos on several other occasions and did one live performance with Emily and I (a portion of which can be seen here). I’m playing all the non-drum instruments, as I believe they’re called.

Dave Lawson – “Everybody Goes”

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F120

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

This song started out as a group assignment. Emily and I were talking with Brad Elliott at the Loving Touch one night last year, and we came up with the following idea.

Each of us would write and record a song in the key of F to a tempo of 120 bpm with no more than four chords. Obviously we couldn’t hear each other’s songs until they were done. After we had each recorded the song, the idea was to try to swap layers from the different songs and create mashups.

As you might expect, the mashups never happened since no one finished their song. Except me. When I did, I asked Brad to play drums on the song as a nod to the original concept of the project.

So here it is, a song using only four chords in the key of F with lyrics loosely based on a statement Carey made in a facebook note that had stuck in my brain. (I actually just reread her original note and realized I had completely misremembered the quote!)

If anyone wants to do their own F120 song, go for it and let’s see if the mix and match works!

F120

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The 24 Second Song

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Five years ago, I participated in a project of Angie Lehman’s while she was a student at CCS. She asked artists to make a 24 second recording inspired by a photograph and then made graphic designs based on these songs. The songs had to be composed and recorded within one hour of viewing the photo and could only feature one percussion instrument and one melodic instrument.

Here is the photo I received:

My initial thought when I saw this photo was a racetrack for mice. (I later found out it’s a picture of National Coney Island.) This initial thought led to the idea of mice drag racing. Which led to the idea of a 24 second mouse version of “Leader of the Pack” without lyrics. I made “voice” my percussion instrument so I could add a melody and chose acoustic guitar as my instrument. Using the ol’ Cool Edit Pro, I played with voice speed and quickly recorded the following structure:
– A section, mice singing in C major (happy key) as the race is about to begin
– B section, the race happens
– C section, mice sing again in A minor (sad key) as a low voice (DEATH) joins in

Like I said, it’s only 24 seconds long and it was written/recorded in under an hour (more like 30 minutes), so take it for what it is.

The 24 Second Song

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So I sent this to Angie and she used it to make the following print piece. The top is the email exchange we had, and the bottom is the design inspired by the piece.

And there you go – homework done! Here’s a summary of the project from Angie’s portfolio site (where all six posters are displayed):

These posters were created by method of chance. I randomly took pictures by pointing the camera without looking through the viewfinder at places that were open 24/7. I then selected the 7th photo from each location and sent it to a musician.

I told each participant that they had to write a 24 second song based on the photograph. They had only one hour to write the song and the time started when they looked at the photo. After I heard each song, I created sheet music for each song, inspired by John Cage.

Each poster incorporates a line drawing from the original photograph, email conversations between me and the musicians, and the new sheet music that describes how the music sounds. I guess the next step would be to have someone new try to play the song from the sheet music.

I’m sure if someone tried to play this song from the sheet music it would sound absolutely nothing like the original piece, but it’d be fun to hear.

What’s most mindblowing to me about this whole experience in retrospect is that a quick five years later, Angie – who I barely knew at the time – is now married to my longtime friend Darin Ficorelli, and together they are parents of a baby girl. Time does some crazy awesome things.

Journal Song: July 21, 2010

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

I am excited and relieved to announce that I’ll be soon going down to a four day work week (by choice). I’m hoping to use this extra day of freedom to devote more energy towards recording/music/friendship. Recently life has been so packed that the only way I’ve been able to record recreationally has been to stay in on the weekends and sacrifice my social life. This journal song from last month relates to that feeling.

Journal Song: July 21, 2010

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Everybody Sells Their Soul

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

I’ve been sitting on a lot of half-finished tunes lately, feeling no urge to finish them. Even so, I am trying to follow the songwriting advice I read somewhere (maybe from Randy Newman?) to finish writing all songs you start, even if you’re not sure you like them. For me, writing and demoing can be nearly synonymous, so I’ve been demoing a lot of songs as a way to finish them.

This song was a structure with barely a melody when my old pal Ryan Clancy (The Silent Years, Rescue, Wafflehouse*) came over and recorded the drums to a scratch guitar track. Ryan’s drum part on the verses was so awesomely off-kilter and funky that it renewed my interest in the tune. I ended up keeping the scratch guitar track (with some stereo slapback) and added a fuzzed-out bassline and a simple lead guitar. The lyrics came naturally out of the feelings the music stirred from my current life. Considering how reluctant I was about the song before I started recording, it was sort of shocking how well the final product came together.

And now (spoiler alert) the Pop Project is working on this song for our next album. So the moral of the story is that whoever said that thing about finishing all your songs was giving good advice.

Everybody Sells Their Soul

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Best Not Believe That It’s Easy

Friday, May 28th, 2010

I don’t think anyone in the Drinking Problem would recognize that title, even though we played this song at nearly all our shows. We always referred to it as “Spooky,” in reference to the Halloweeny riff at the beginning.

The song dates back to around early 2004 and was originally recorded spontaneously while it was being written. I felt like recording a song but didn’t have one to record. So I made up a simple chord progression and recorded it without much of a master plan. I did a second guitar track on top of that, then I made up a melody and recorded the vocals with some quickie lyrics, topping it off with tambourine. In total it took less than an hour, after which Gene arrived and picked me up for some Singles tour. I came back a couple weeks later and thought it’d be good to have hits on the pre-chorus so I added cymbal crashes. Here is that original demo:

Dave Lawson – “Best Not Believe That It’s Easy” (bedroom demo)

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Eventually when the Drinking Problem started playing, Eddie and I used the band as an excuse to let some B-grade tunes out into the world. We recorded our first batch of songs at John Krohn’s and he released a 45 of that material, but after that we learned a full album’s worth of songs which were never released (a few are now played by the Sights). We recorded some demos, but it seemed that every time Eddie, Jeremy and I got together for demos we were all hung over, unmotivated, and – after the first hour – full of Little Caesars pizza and ready for a nap. Nonetheless, a few passable recordings were salvaged from these sloppy sessions, this song being one of them. The lineup: Jeremy on drums, Eddie on multiple guitar overdubs and backup vocals, Korin on organ and backups, me playing bass and singing.

The Drinking Problem – Best Not Believe That It’s Easy (demo)

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Michigan For Life

Monday, May 17th, 2010

This song was recorded back in 2006 for the inaugural issue of Spoke Magazine, a themed DIY arts publication put together by Annette Janik. The first issue was about Michigan, and I wrote this song specifically for the CD that came with it. I have a long standing policy to try and accept all themed compilation requests purely as an exercise. (Examples: The Ypsilanti song, the 426 Monster Protest song, both Pop Project candy songs.) The Spoke website, which once hosted this song, is no longer online, so I figured it was worth reposting. [Bonus fact: Will Yates also wrote a song for this compilation, called “Everybody’s Moving Out of Michigan,” which was pretty fantastic.]

This is one of the only recordings made in my Royal Oak apartment on Gardenia St, which was a horrible place to live due the abundance of crotechty complaining senior citizens in the building. One neighbor called the cops on me for playing acoustic guitar on a Saturday afternoon. I didn’t stay there long.

This recording features my oldest friend Matt Balcer on mandolin. We met when we were literally in diapers. Matt now plays in the Irish band the Codgers. Here’s a picture of the two of us at one of my childhood birthday parties. I’m in the middle; Matt is on the right. Chuck E. Cheese sure looks like a creeper in this photo.

Besides Matt’s great contribution on mandolin, I played acoustic guitar, my first recorded banjo part, and various things with my hands such as a tambourine and my knees. I like this bedroom brewed recording, but sometimes I think the song would be a lot more fun if recorded by a live group in a setting where the neighbors aren’t speed dialing the cops with noise complaints. Perhaps one day.

Michigan For Life

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One Day at a Time

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

I first heard this song through the floor boards of my house in Ann Arbor that I shared with seven other people. Matt Lurie and Andy Thompson were working on an arrangement of this song based on the Flatlanders’ cover version.

Years later I got really into the early recordings of Willie Nelson. (I strongly recommend his early demos recorded for other singers, which were released on this complilation a few years ago. Sample 1, 2 and 3.) This song also dates from his early career, although I’ve never heard a demo of it.

In a world is full of precautions and plans, this song captures the restless free spirit and its nuances in so few lines. Matt Lurie and I once discussed the audacity and brilliance of a line like “Don’t ask how long I plan to stay – it never crossed my mind. I live one day at a time.” Who needs to pay taxes when you’ve got songs like these?

This recording is a quickie done in the basement a few years ago, but I feel good about the looseness of it. One take of live guitar and vocals, one vocal overdub and one guitar solo overdub.

One Day at a Time (written by Willie Nelson)

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The Opening Chapter of Openness

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

I have a desire to share the things I record, but I have trouble determining when things are “acceptable to share.” For the past few years,  I wanted to only present “finished” songs to others, which meant that I barely shared anything, even though I’ve recorded lots of things that are decidedly unfinished.

I’m hoping to stop worrying about that with this blog by posting demos in progress, rough jams, cover songs, episodes from my long-in-progress podcast, and whatever else I feel like sharing, starting with my rawest and most personal form of demos: journal songs.

Back in September of 2003, right after I graduated college, I started doing them. The idea was that I would sit down in front of a microphone and spontaneously record an improvised song about my day, every day. The “every day” part didn’t last, but I had some good streaks going. I’ve done quite a few since the first one – maybe 100? I’ve never counted, but every time I’ve stopped doing them I eventually start again. Many are unlistenable pieces of garbage, others are fairly enjoyable and even eventually turned into “real” songs. I probably won’t post them too often, but I think it’s interesting to force a song to come out of you with no preconceived planning whatsoever. Maybe I’ll post some old journal songs from time to time, but right now I’d rather post brand new songs as they happen.

Whether the anonymous “people” read this blog or not, I really don’t care or expect it. But I do think it’d be a nice way to share new recordings that have otherwise been unheard with a network of pals. So, friends, here we go. Hopefully you’ll see new recordings here fairly regularly. One at a time, starting with this one.

Journal Song: April 20, 2010
Many of you probably already know this, but Emily’s sister Carey and her boyfriend Adam had a baby girl named Lucy on April 22 at 2:16am. The night of April 20, I recorded the following journal song. At that moment, we had just left their house, where she was having contractions at 6 minutes apart. These were later revealed to be Toni Braxton fake outs, however, when Emily and I left we thought it was the real deal and that it was going to happen that night. That’s really all the setup you need.

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