Friday, January 18, 2013

Story Unfolding, Track 3: Psalm 134

This is the third of 7 daily posts about the songs on my first solo EP, Story Unfolding. It will be for sale on Bandcamp starting January 27, 2013. Before the official release, you can listen to samples on Reverb Nation.

"Psalm 134" is a full-circle moment for me.

Around 9 years ago I was living in Norfolk, NE. I was getting used to the schedule and life of full-time music ministry. I was trying to write some songs, too. Some of them I sang in church. Some never left my basement.

One of the albums that was getting a lot of time in my car CD player was Flatland Figurines by Matt Banta. You might remember Banta, an Omaha native, as the frontman for Blue Moon Ghetto, who had a great local following in the early 90s. When the band broke up, Matt continued to write and recorded a couple of solo CDs. Flatland Figurines was his second. Incidentally, it was recorded by Mark Hansen (who recorded my CD), and mixed by Eric Medley (who mixed my CD). More on that in a bit.

Anyway, it's a great album. It highlights Matt's incredible voice, and ventures into a more country-rock sound. There are a few songs where it's mostly acoustic guitar picking and Matt's voice, with layers of backing harmonies that blend and dance and soar behind. Really beautiful stuff, and it started to affect the way I wrote songs at that time. 

One day, I turned on the mics and started picking a simple progression. I tracked a djembe part, some shakers, and then the guitar parts. Then I needed some lyrics. I had recently read Psalm 134, a short but eloquent call to the servants of God's temple to continue their praise. I worked out the melody and recorded it, then tried my voice on some harmonies that emulated what I was hearing on Banta's Flatland Figurines, particularly tracks like "Ballad of the Desert" and "Alleluia." I might have even sent Mark an mp3 of the finished track to get his thoughts on it.

Fast forward to earlier this year, when I was going through the tracks I'd like to include on the album. I started thinking about "Psalm 134," and told Mark how I had modeled it after the vocal harmony-laden album that he and Eric had produced for Banta. Mark's reply was that Eric was behind a lot of the gorgeous harmony I mentioned.

Eric would be mixing my album. And Mark guessed Eric would be happy to try the same type of harmonies on my recording.

And he was right. Eric's voice appears a lot on Story Unfolding, in large part because I gave him permission to try whatever he'd like, and because he's got a great ear for melodies and harmonies. "Psalm 134" is a perfect example. Eric harmonized with the melody with skill, and he wrote echoes that fit perfectly in the song. And I could not be happier with the result.

So the song that I modelled after Eric Medley harmonies, now features Eric Medley harmonies. 


How's that for coming full circle?

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