Sunday, June 27, 2010

the constellation song by song

on this very blog
over the past few years
i've written song by song commentaries for each of my solo records
and the Nourallah Brothers record too
i think enough time has passed
for me to be far away enough from the making of Constellation
to cover it now

endless dream days

"oh so long so long ago
when we were young and shunned the old"

this song was intended to be the Nourallah brothers comeback anthem
the sister song to "those days are gone"
which kicked off the NB record all those years ago
the we i refer to at the top of this song are my brother and i as children
but it could also be referring to any children
when i wrote i knew it was the lead track on whatever the next album would be
Billy and i also recorded it first
in every rough mix cd i burned it was always first
there was never any doubt
that it would open the album
a Roy Orbisonesque dramatically soaring chorus
and verse melody that moves around more than anything else i've ever written
instantly separates "endless dream days" from other tunes in my back catalogue

i've always been intrigued by the promise that life holds for us
especially when we're children
the next time you see a homeless person try picturing them as the 5 year old child
they once were
so full of joy and life
so open to the promise of things to come
who could ever have known how it would all turn out?

"life was but a mystery
a work of art that we’d conceive
and all it’s gifts would be revealed
laid out at our feet"

this lyric partly expresses how i felt as a child
i couldn't wait to get at the world
to snatch up all the dreams i had inside my head
only later would i learn that it wasn't that easy...

the recording features the first appearance of the upright bass
on any of my records
Bruce Hughes played it in one of our final sessions for the record
it takes the song even a bit further out from the conventional
Billy's harmony vocals are also stunning
on the 2nd chorus they've given me chills on more than one occasion
the piano track was supposed to be Billy's scratch track
it was only the 1st or 2nd time he'd made it through the song
so he hadn't had time to really finalize a part
when we went back and tried to do the "proper" take
we both realized there was something magical about the original track
so we kept it
it's so evocative
and freeform
his piano part perfectly captures the hazy days of youth that this song portrays
you know Billy doesn't even consider himself to be a keyboard player
how's that for being humble?

this is a recounting of the recording of "endless dream days from 4/12/08

it was a beautiful sunny cool morning in austin
billy and i met at 11
over at his house
he rolled up on a little black scooter
laughing right away about his entrance
we talked a bit in the front room
of his house
and then went to grab some breakfast
it was fun for me to finally hear
what songs he liked
and his thoughts on what kind of record
we were gonna try and make
a lot of the things he said
i'd already thought
like about not making it center
around the bass and drums
trying alternative methods of recording
starting with just voice and guitar
and building the recordings from there
when we got back to his house
he had me play "stranger in my own skin"
to me this one feels like a centerpiece
of the record
kind of like how i felt about "hang on" on snowing
and "the world is full of people" on BN
we spent about an hour tweaking the song structure
i'd wrestled a lot with it over the past few months
interestingly billy had me return to the structure
i'd originally come up with when i wrote the song
i like the way he tracks the emotion of a song
when he listens
that's what i'm always looking for
after that he set up a couple of mics
and had me play it live
right off the bat one funny moment was when i asked
"where's the click track?"
and he said "uh...i never use a click"
the "click" is a metronome or time keeper
i use them religiously
it's my sonic brassiere!
so immediately i was blasted outta my comfort zone
and although it felt strange
like walking around a mall no pants on
this is exactly what i've been looking forward to
breaking out of my comfort zone
and shaking up my way of doing things
after a few takes of "stranger..." billy asked me to play
"endless dream days"
which is another one of the "big" ones
i knew from the moment i wrote it that it was a good one
but was also probably going to be an absolute bitch
to record
so we waded into to it
trying to figure out the best way for the acoustic guitar to go
i think billy read my reaction to the no click thing
and tried to put me at ease by making a tambourine loop
for me to play along with on this one
i put down a couple of gingerly played acoustic guitars
and then sang
it felt really good to sing
and although this is the hardest vocal part of all of the songs
i felt good
and sang pretty well
billy then started playing his piano
which is strangely just like mine
a black yamaha upright
the melody he came up with immediately blew the doors
off of the arrangement
it was obvious to me that this was where the song needed to go
a whole world was opening up for it
since the piano was pretty outta tune
we put down a scratch track
to remember his ideas
and decided to call it a day
while we were waiting for my ride to come
we jammed on "pictures collected"
a jaunty number about our obsession with photos
billy played the funmaker wurlitzer in his living room
i think we should maybe try this one on day 2
something lighter and easier
we went right out of the gate with the monsters
even though we're kinda like
two people learning how to dance with each other
for the first time

Friday, June 18, 2010


Q: what have you been up to during your hiatus?

A: well, that's a very good question...let's see...hmmm, raising the kids; working on the Old 97s double album (April/May/June) - with 2 trips to Austin to record and mix; playing lots of gigs; finishing records by Chris Holt & Gabrielle LaPlante; doing the dishes; taking out the trash; changing lots of diapers; eating Thai; buying Lasso western suits; running; not sleeping too much; trying to be here now; trying to keep up with mountains of bills; writing 2 albums worth of songs; trying to rest my injured left wrist

Q: have you missed writing on your blog? are you finished with it?

A: yes, i have missed it...i'm not "officially" done with it but i'm obviosuly struggling to find time to continue. it just hasn't even been an option lately...

Q: would you like to give any special "shout outs" to dedicated snowing in my heart readers out there?

A: oh yes! Grace in Mass/Marfa - hang tough kid!!! Birce in Turkey - where have you been? Lex in Austria - love you baby!! Colin in Australia - gud'day mate!

Q: can you tell us about your upcoming record/songs?

A: yes, i could but that might be too obvious...a wise man once said to me "good things come to those who wait..." well, i've been waiting my whole life for good to come...

Q: any summer music recommends?

A: the Drones "havilah"
Pete Doherty "grace/wasteland"
Dan kelly "dan kelly's dream"

Q: when can we look for you to be back?

A: i never left...