The quest to write, record, produce and release a brand new song each and every week.
It's best if you listen to the song whilst you're reading, (which you'll get sent directly to you before it's released if you become one of my patrons!) but you can also listen on...
It's also available on all major streaming and music stores worldwide, so just search for 'Tom B. Cooper MILES FROM HOME' and it'll show up!
Anyway, welcome to Week 10 of the A Song A Week blog. I'm going to dive straight in with how 'MILES FROM HOME' came to be...
Happy Birthday To Me
For those keen eyed of you that have been waiting with baited breath for Tuesday’s regular blog entry for A Song A Week, I’ve decided to hit everyone with a triple whammy! Why? Because today the 8th of March is my 30th birthday.
So I’m sharing the song, the blog and the podcast all in one day.
I could be clever and say A Song A Week is 10 today and I’m 30 today so sharing 3 things in one day times by 10 = 30 and divided by the power of 4 multiplied by pi = the square root of klajhsdjbasldbnalsdjhasldnba…
But instead of mathematical nonsense, I’m going to talk about my new song Miles From Home.
If you fancy giving me a little birthday treat, I’d just love it if you shared this blog, or the podcast or the song on your social media/s. It’d mean the world to me.
Enough of that, on with the blog!
Reference Tracks Are Good For You
The strummy guitar pattern in Miles From Home is one of those things I automatically play when I pick up a guitar. It feels comfortable and it sounds nice.
I’ve probably been playing it for 10 years (a third of my life for those that are paying attention) and I’ve just never done anything with it.
Well, this week was the week!
I’ve been wanting to develop it for quite a while and so I picked up the acoustic, started playing it and then somehow my hands took my to a chord pattern that came from a jam when I was only 16 or 17 in a room with my cousin, the multi-talented Oli Austen (Sigma, Quiet Lions) and the most phenomenal guitarist I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with and good pal Paul Stenton (Willie Austen). I hadn’t even thought about the pattern since then, but for whatever reason, my hands played it and it fitted in so well with the chords I already had, that an entire song was there.
The lyrics were really easy this week. They just flowed. There’s nothing too fancy, they’re very open to interpretation and I think they work really well.
I don’t want to dwell on the songwriting too much, because what I really want to talk to you about is the production and mixing stages.
Those of you that have read any of my posts or listened to my podcasts or have worked with me in the past, will know that I’m a huge fan of reference tracks.
Some people shy away from them in our industry, but they speak far more accurately and with better emotions and outcomes than you or I could ever speak ourselves.
So start embracing them!
Anyway, after the blinding success of the guitar and vocals, I didn’t know what to do next. Well, I did know, I was trying out a bunch of stuff and none of it was working.
I spent a hell of a long time on a piano accompaniment and even whacked down a string arrangement, but it just sounded pretty shit in all honesty.
I tried synths, I tried organs, I tried loads of backing vocals and none of it worked.
It’s only when I stepped back and listened to Ray LaMontagne’s song ‘Trouble’ that it all made sense as to what I should do.
So, I walked the dog and put my headphones in and I analysed. It’s actually a pretty easy job to analyse the album because there’s very rarely any more than 4 or 5 elements to a song. In fact, I’m not sure there ever is.
What I love about it is that it feels so live. You’d only have to close your eyes and you’re in the room with Ray LaMontagne and his band.
So when I got in, I knew exactly what to do. I played some drums, I played some bass and I played another acoustic guitar part and a really subtle old sounding, kind of rough backing vocal in verse 2. That was all I needed to do.
There’s absolutely no way I’d have got to that point in the time I did if I hadn’t listened to the song. Why? Because I was clutching at straws, doing an awful lot while achieving nothing.
Would I have landed on something else cool? Probably. But in all likelihood it wouldn’t have been as good as this lovely raw little song I’ve ended up with that just features a handful (literally) of elements.
I don’t often talk about mixing when I talk about A Song A Week, but it’s actually really important for Miles From Home.
What I noticed with the reference tracks (or album in this case) is that all the drums are panned hard left, the main guitar and the bass guitar is panned hard right, the lead vocal down the middle and then anything else will be panned hard left or hard right too.
So for those that aren’t aware of what that means, if you grab a pair of headphones and listen to Ray Lamontagne’s ‘Trouble’ then only put the left headphone in, you’ll only hear the drums and the lead vocal (a violin also comes in at points in the left) then do the same with the right headphone and you’ll only hear the acoustic guitar, bass guitar and vocal. You hear the vocal in both because it’s not panned to either the left or the right.
This is a way of mixing I’ve never ever done before and I found it SO difficult to do.
Miles From Home certainly isn’t a bad mix, but I’m pretty sure if I had more time, I could do a bit better.
For starters, I haven’t gone fully left with the drums and fully right with the bass. I have with the two guitars, but the drums are 50% left and the bass is 50% right. I’m of the mixing school of LCR panning (basically 100% left, centre, 100% right) but more often than not, kick drum, snare and bass are panned up the centre and everything else is 100% left and right accordingly.
In other words, I chickened out from doing what Ray has done (or rather his mix engineer, the excellent Ethan Johns)
By the way, if you’re listening to Miles From Home or Ray LaMontagne or basically anything by The Beatles and so many other songs on a phone or a laptop or a single speaker of any sort… this will mean nothing to you. So get yourself a pair of headphone or a couple of speakers and have a listen. Once you know this stuff, you’ll notice it ALL the time.
So my next challenge was to make it sound live.
I used to be ridiculous at getting the perfect take. I’d have 10’s of takes of the same thing over and over, so that I could come up with the perfect take and over the years, especially when it comes to my own music, I want to do it in as fewer takes as possible.
That means, inevitably mistakes are left in and in the case of Miles From Home, I embraced the mistakes and the ‘live-ness’ of them.
Every single element has a mistake or two in there and I fully embraced that.
Now funnily enough as far as processing goes, because I wanted it so much to sound like a bunch of guys in a room playing and it wasn’t, it’s just me playing everything all in the same room infant of the same microphone, then I had to do quite a lot of EQ-ing and compressing and automating and a bunch of other things.
Had it actually been a band in a room, I wouldn’t have needed to do so much, but I wanted things to react with each other in certain ways that I just didn’t get with the single takes I got of everything else.
I won’t bore you with the details of all those moves, but it there was more processing on this track than some of my busiest songs for A Song A Week so far.
When I listen to Miles From Home next to Trouble, I know I didn’t quite nail copying it, but really, I didn’t want to copy it.
Granted I’m heavily inspired by the production and mixing of it, but really, Miles From Home is its own song and I think it’s pretty cool.
Thank you so much for reading. The absolute best way you can support me and this blog is by listening to and sharing 'KORVATUNTURI' (which you'll get sent directly to you before it's released if you become one of my patrons!) but you can also listen on...
And it's available on all major streaming and music stores across the internet, just search for 'Tom B. Cooper KORVATUNTURI' and it'll show up!
I'd also love it if we connected via social media, so hit me up on...
Peace and happy music making.