Monday, January 21, 2013

Story Unfolding, Track 4: Running Back to You

This is the fourth 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.

"Running Back to You" is a song that underwent a complete overhaul in the process of recording Story Unfolding. It sounds so far from where it started, and it's been a reminder to me that art is a process, and in some ways it is a process that is never finished.

I wrote "Running Bak to You" based on the parable of the Prodigal Son, and based on my own struggles with pride and selfishness and independence at the cost of relationship. I hope the lyrics come through pretty clear on that.

The fun thing about this song is that it started as a 4/4 driving beat. Think "Hurricane" by David Wilcox, or "All I Want Is You" by U2. It was very straightforward and driving. I loved the bridge section, which had this ascending 4-note melody that repeated and built the tension, along with some chromatic bass movements, finally releasing at the end to go back to the chorus.

I recorded a live version at my brother's birthday party one year, when he had a concert in his apartment. I posted that version online (it might be out there still, somewhere). One day I got an email from a friend, Adam Ross, with an attached mp3. He had added his own electric guitar lines to the song, heavy with delay and reverb and overdrive. It was really cool, actually, and sounded a lot more like U2.

And that's how the song stayed in my mind for a long time. Fortunately, time has a way of giving new perspective, and one day about a year ago, listening to David Ramirez, I started to think "Running Back to You" could sound a lot different. A lot better. I felt like I could rewrite the music to better fit the mood and message of the song. So I started.

It was hard, especially at first. I had to record a version of it -- a really rough version -- to dislodge the original version from my head. I switched from a driving 4/4 to a slow shuffle. I rewrote melody lines to fit the new time signature. I added space. I subtracted other space. I had to demolish the bridge section that I loved, and then rebuild it.

When I brought it to Mark for recording, I gave him both versions: the original and the more bluesy version. It was an easy decision, in his mind. The newer, bluesy version left more space for instrumentation, creativity from the musicians, and emotion. And I think he's right.

One other tidbit about this song that is both a point of pride and humility. I wrote the guitar solo during the bridge. I'm still learning the finer points of playing electric, and I wanted to try my hand at a solo on my own song. So I wrote it, rehearsed it, and Mark recorded it, and I listened. And it sucked. I was so proud that I had written an 8-bar solo that I thought fit perfectly into the song. But I couldn't play it. 

So I called Joe Kirby, and he learned it, came into the studio, and laid it down in about 3 takes. And it was awesome. It'll be several years before I can play it that well, I'm afraid. Humility. 

In the end, Joe's solo is one of my favorite parts of the song. The dude exudes groove.

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