Yellowgold

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

In Detail: Big Mistake

"Big Mistake" finished Pro Tools project

Well there you are again. Hello!

Today I want to write about the fourth track on Fever Dreamer. It’s called Big Mistake.

Of all the tracks on the album, this one probably dates back the earliest. This actually began as a basic idea during the planning phase of Ever One. Back in 2012 I was in hot pursuit of the music that would end up on that album and this one began one afternoon with little more than me noodling on a piano patch in my studio. Basically I have this thing where I wish I had been traditionally trained to play piano, and I like to pretend like I can actually play sometimes. I can fake my way through it, but sometimes… SOMETIMES, I will sit down and hammer away until I can play through an entire song start to finish. It makes me feel better at it than I usually do!

So that afternoon after much noodling I landed on the basic progression that is the basis for the main chunk of the album track. I then wrote some lyrics quickly and laid down some multipart vocal harmonies over the top. I distinctly remember at the time going for a Dr. Dog or Blitzen Trapper vibe when I was messing around with that track. The piano was not recorded to a click or anything, so it was very much a live performance sort of thing.

Well, I didn’t develop the idea out further than that. Other songs made it into the Ever One process and Big Mistake just laid in my project pool, waiting for some future inspiration to wake it up again. I knew someday I’d do something with it.

Snap forward to a few years ago. I was listening to Beck’s latest album at the time Morning Phase (freaking BRILLIANT by the way) and there was something about the sound of the songs on that album that reminded me of this forgotten scratch track. One inspired evening I pulled it up to see if there was any meat on the bones. I explored that sound and realized I was getting REALLY worked up on the track. 

The big challenge was, of course, that I didn’t record this to a click or a time base whatsoever. I could go one of two routes: Manually program a drum track to the non-timed tempo of the free playing guitar and hope it sounded good (this is what I did for the track Heavy Bones on Ever One and it worked so well there.) Or I could loosely fit the piano and vocals to fit a chosen tempo that resides close enough to the original tempo that it doesn’t throw off the feel of what I already had. I actually did both! And it took a TON of time, but I ended up opting for both. Basically using the untimed version for the top before the drums ever come in, and correcting the timing on the stuff after the drums come in. It was not easy and took forever. But yet again, it was worth all that effort.

I was originally going to end the song the way the scratch track above ends… pretty plainly after the main melody is done. But I decided to see if I could do an extension to give the song a bit more dimension and I’m so happy I did. Big Mistake, to me, feels like it has a few movements, and I’m thrilled that a song that took me on such a long journey came out the way it did in the end. Very rewarding. This was definitely one of those times where the song easily wrote itself.

What’s most interesting to me now looking at the finished Pro Tools project is how basic and relatively bare bones the project is. Aside from the many vocal harmonies and layers, instrumentation is pretty singular in how it was tracked. There’s not a lot there, but to my ears, the track has enough layers to keep it interesting. I think the movement-like quality helps create an illusion that there’s more to it than there really is. At least, that’s what I like about it anyways.

Here's the final product from the album:

Lyrics:

You mistake my friends for your friends
Makes no sense
Can't you see.
You are not my friend. Not my friend.
In the end.
You'll never be.
On the bridge.
Where it's raining I can see
You mistake my path for my past.
It never lasts.
Ya gonna see.
You are not my friend. Not my friend.
In the end.
You'll never be.
On the bridge where it's raining, I can see.
On the ledge where the air becomes the sea.
When it ends you see anymore of me.
All depends if you take it seriously.