The official website showcasing the music of Yellowgold, produced by Jason Howell.

Writing with your dreams (part two)

The second time I wrote a song with my dreams happened a few months ago. And it was incredibly satisfying thanks to the complicated dream scenario. This one gets a little "Inception" so try to keep up.

Photo by  Allie Holzman

Photo by Allie Holzman

I had a dream that I was having a dream that I was playing my guitar for a group of people. It was a complete song, with verse, chorus and bridge all in tact. In retrospect, I'm surprised at how detailed the song was in a dream state. I was sitting with a guitar, playing a song where I was singing the words "Sexy, sexy bones." Yeah, I know, kinda weird. I'll get to that strange lyric in a bit. Hey it was a dream, ok?

After I played the song in what seemed to be its entirety, I then awoke from my dream within my dream. So I'm still asleep, mind you, but now, in my dream, I'm awake from the dream I just had playing guitar. In my dream, I now realize that I just had a lucid dream playing a song and I knew that all I wanted to do was get it recorded before I forgot it. So in this dream I left wherever I was at to head home as fast as I could, looking to get it recorded in any way possible. On the way, I passed person after person, each one slowing me down. Each one talking to me on my way, distracting me from my mission. The entire time, I had the song I'd heard within my dream within a dream looping in my head over and over and over again. I distinctly remember people approaching me, their lips moving and hearing only a faint voice coming from their mouths. Much louder was the song in my head, purposefully cranked up to drown them out. By god, they would NOT get me to lose a grip on this song!

In my dream I made it to the front door of my house, and bam. I stopped dreaming and started to actually awaken. But again, I realized very quickly what had just happened and, with that song still fresh in my mind, I lay in bed for nearly 30 minutes (or so, I think... it was quite a while but, of course, I never opened my eyes so who really knows.) I forced myself to stay in that hazy space as long as I could, letting the song and all of the details that I still recalled etch themselves in my brain and saturate.

I finally allowed myself to open my eyes. I walked to my studio, shut the door, picked up my electric guitar, hit record, and figured out the key. My electric guitar wasn't plugged in cause I didn't want to waste any time. I played what I had, which was a good amount. At one point, you hear my daughter enter the room but dammit, that didn't stop me from getting it all out there. 

Here's that recording:

First, the audio quality is pretty bad. That's thanks to Evernote, my personal note taking app of choice these days. This might be one of my few complaints I have of the service. I love the ease of use, but the quality is very low and I'm sure that's in an effort to allow you to throw more notes into their cloud storage without eating up space. But regardless, it always does the trick as my personal go-to notepad for ideas.

The thought was to get anything and everything associated with my fading memory of the dream out in recorded form before it disappeared completely. It's cool listening to this now, as the track is now already complete and I get a rear-view mirror perspective on what the track became, and where it started. Actually, the final version is pretty close to this bare bones approach. Though the chorus is changed and refined a bit in the final version for the album.  And I added a little instrumental part in the middle with some moody reverb soaked vocals for effect.

Now, the name. Sexy Bones. (sigh) I had a hard time with this one. Normally, I'd operate under the assumption that a song written in a dream is kind of a beacon, saying "this is what you should do, trust me." In this cause, that particular phrase was a little bit of a challenge for me.

Taking a step back a little bit: Lyrics are ALWAYS the hardest part for me when it comes to writing songs. I've never been too fond of writing lyrics, and often, in an effort to speed up the production of a song, I'll record myself playing the song multiple times as I play around with vocal harmonies and out of that ad lib approach, a theme or series of lyrics will appear that is good enough to use in the song. I'll form the song around one of those themes, and that at least gives me a direction where before, I had none lyrically.

I was fine with the idea of writing a song called Sexy Bones, but... what on earth does that mean? Am I writing a song about a necropheliac? No thank you. Maybe something more direct like a song about Karen Carpenter? That wouldn't have been too bad, actually, but what do I really have to say about her? Not a lot, so no. Maybe I was being too literal. So then, what's the abstract reference that a lyric or song title like Sexy Bones implies? Nothing was coming to me.

Ultimately, I looked at alternatives like Lazy Bones, and though I liked what it could be, I was still running a bit dry on lyrics to support that idea. Then I thought of Heavy Bones. Phonetically, heavy sounded close enough to sexy. And Heavy Bones seemed to instantly paint a picture in my mind that fit the sad tone of the music. And so it became Heavy Bones.

Photo by  Veronica Belmont

As for the song, after that initial idea was put to tape, I think the rest of the song wrote itself in recorded form over the course of the next four days. Piece by piece, layer by layer. I also took great care with the lyrics for that song as it ended up being about someone I used to work with at CNET, James Kim. He drove his family into the mountains of Oregon during a family trip, and the GPS got them lost so they found themselves stranded in the dead of winter. You can read about the harrowing story here. 

There's no denying that it's a sad song, befitting for such a tragic story. A man as respected and loved as James Kim deserves a song dedicated to him and his family. It makes it even more special to me to know that a dream inspired the foundation of the track.

I'm setting a lot up without actually giving you a listen to the final track, I realize that. But I suppose its something to anticipate when I release the new album in the coming months.

Next, I will show you some ways that you can take that idea floating around in your brain, and actually get it recorded. I'm not talking about making it a fully realized song quite yet, but taking that idea, and making a note of it so you never lose it again.