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 CALL MY NAME' and it'll show up!
Anyway, welcome to Week 11 of the A Song A Week blog. I'm going to dive straight in with how 'CALL MY NAME' came to be...
Ah the piano. What a beautiful instrument. We had an old beat up one in our house when I was growing up and I’m ashamed to say all I ever managed to teach myself was the Match of the Day theme tune and the obligatory chopsticks.
I’d often sit at it and mess around, but I never took my curiosity much further than that.
It’s such a beautiful instrument when it’s played well and although I’m very much of the ‘work hard and it’ll come’ mentality, there’s something about the piano that I know I’ll never be as good as I want actually want to, if I’d actually just learnt it when I was a child.
That being said, I’ve been teaching myself over the last few years and I’m pleased to say I can now play quite a bit, including Missing You by Des’ree (a song I’ve always loved since hearing it on the BRILLIANT Romeo & Juliet soundtrack, directed by the equally brilliant Bar Luhrmann), a bit of The Beatles back catalogue and some choice snippets of Clair de Lune by Debussy, amongst some other things.
I don’t necessarily play these things with an awful lot of beauty or finesse, but I can still play them and get a whole lot of joy out of them.
It’s been many painstaking hours getting to this still fairly amateur level, but I’m alright with what I can play for now, I guess.
When it comes to writing on the piano though, I’m pathetic. It’s all white keys and some of the most uninspiring chords progressions and rhythms you could ever imagine!
So, this week I set myself the challenge of writing on the piano. Not just writing an idea on the piano – writing a full song on the piano and making the piano the main melodic instrument of the whole song.
That’s exactly what I did.
Boy did I struggle!
It was block chords of unimaginative and dull chord progressions.
I guess the difference being when I play these dull unimaginative chords progressions of the guitar is that I’ve got the skills to do some interesting things with rhythms, or play it fingerpicking style, or I know the guitar well enough to invert the chords or add in a few little flourishes to keep the interest. On the piano though… nah. Not a chance. Not when I’m writing anyway.
I hope that doesn’t come across as strange that I can play something as beautiful as Clair de Lune (not all of it, but the real pretty bits that you hear on the adverts) but my learning of any instrument has always been to listen and work it out myself. That’s still the case now. I’m not a site-reader and although I’ve acquired a decent level of music theory knowledge, it’s certainly not something that I practise and my brain doesn’t go to it when I’m playing. I visualise, feel and emulate my way through music.
I’m not saying that I NEVER use theory, of course I do – maybe I’m doing a disservice to myself there too, because if we’re in a Lux Lisbon rehearsal or if I’m playing a function gig for someone and it gets on to theory then I can hold my own (to a level) but I’m just not interested enough in it really. Especially when I’m songwriting. That gets in the way for me. Not for everyone, but certainly for me.
So I was getting pretty annoyed at myself, trying to be too clever, not being clever enough, sat at my keyboard, just getting nowhere. So I did what all good songwriters do… made myself a cup of tea.
Whilst I was sulkily waiting for the kettle to boil I was thinking to myself ‘well I’ll just chalk this one off as a miss and I’ll come back to it next week’ but within seconds I said ‘NO! That’s not the spirit!’ and with that, I bounded my way to the fridge, grabbed the soya milk and added it to my decaf tea… who ever said rock ‘n roll was dead?!
And so I had another thought at that point too, ‘You’re obviously not good enough to come up with something yourself on the old ivory, so just make something up now and then work it out. That’s what you’ve done before, just your song isn’t adored by people around the world.’
I headed my advice and I hummed some things.
A 30 year old man in his kitchen, clinging on to a cup of decaf tea (with soya milk. Never forget that) singing some ideas, dog looking at me wondering what the hell was going on, but her tail was wagging at what I was humming, so that’s good enough for me!
The piano part on Call My Name was essentially born out of lack of skill, frustration, a cuppa tea… and the reaction of my dog. Again… who said rock ‘n roll was dead?!
So what did I do with it?
Well, I played it. All white keys and still some fairly unimaginative rhythms, but now it had a focus and the idea was a good one. I was starting to hear different ideas and different things that other instruments could do.
But, if you remember correctly, at the start of the blog I said I was gonna write a whole song on piano and my idea of a whole song (within the pop music world at least) isn’t just a piano part. It’s got to have lyrics too.
So before I cracked on with writing the lyrics, I came up with all the parts on the piano. Recorded it, chopped some things around, moved some bits here and there, semi-arranged it into something a bit more coherent and had the basis of the song.
So for those of you that have been following A Song A Week from the start, you’ll know my preferred and most often way of writing is to write the music in it’s entirety, arrange it, follow with the melody, then lastly the lyrics. Some people have told me how mental they think that is and they can’t believe I do it like that, others have welcomed the approach with open arms.
For me that’s just what comes more naturally to me, so it’s no surprise that I work like that.
This week though, like I said, I wanted a song that I could play on piano and sing along to before thinking about other instrumentation (if it even needs it.)
Some lyricists are great at writing about themselves, others are really good at writing about others. Some are brilliant at writing about politics and others about love. Personally, I think it’s my weakest skill as a songwriter. Not that I’m unhappy with the finished article of my lyrics, just that they often take a long time to get there and it’s often only when the song is released that I think of an absolutely killer line in place of the filler.
That’s perfectionist in me though and part of the point of doing A Song A Week is to just release it. Be happy with it and release it.
The lyrics to Call My Name are kind of cool though and not something I’ve ever explored before.
A couple of weeks back, I witnessed something really rather sad. I was an unwilling onlooker that just couldn’t help but overhear and oversee what was going on.
A man in a suit, probably on an early lunch break approached a guy sitting on a step. This guy on the step was clearly drunk and they had a look at each other and then they embraced.
I thought to myself ‘ah that’s really nice’ then they had a bit of a chat and the guy in the suit walked away. But he slowed down and just sort of stood waiting until the drunk guy called his name.
So the guy in the suit walked back to him and both their expressions had changed. The guy in the suit didn’t have sympathy in his eyes and the drunk guy clearly wasn’t looking for sympathy.
Anyway, I really really tried to not listen in, but as I say, it was difficult not to. There was a bit of shouting and I overheard the man in the suit saying ‘You’ll only call me when somethings up. When you’re fine you don’t say a thing’
I’d finished getting my money out the bank and there was absolutely no reason for me to hear or see any more, so I swiftly walked the other way.
Well, that definitely stuck with me and I decided to write about it for this week.
Except I wrote it from the perspective of the guy in the suit, not as little old me waiting inline for a cash machine, reluctantly finding out about these two.
I’ve not done this before and I think it’s really worked, particularly in the context of the song.
It’s a little story that the reality is probably far more tragic than I’ve let on in the song, but I think it’s possibly my best story telling type lyric I’ve done so far.
You may well completely disagree or completely agree. Either way, I’d love to know!
I don’t want to dwell on the lyrics too much more, but what I noticed most from the exchange between the two men was that the both knew what was coming and it was only when the drunk guy called after the suited guy that things changed.
Calling someone’s name could be done in so many different ways. It definitely was a call as well. It wasn’t a shout, it was a call.
Another reason I think it stuck with me is because I saw it in the middle of my lovely little town, Cirencester. I’ve only lived here for 14 months, but I’ve not seen anything like that here in all that time.
Anyway, this little song is just my take on a thing that happened. I really hope they’re both doing better than how I left them that day.
Not an awful lot to add this week. I’ve gone pretty in depth about how I can’t write music on the piano and that I saw something once so wrote some words.
But the only other things you’ll hear in the song are some drums, synth bass and two synth pads as well as some backing vocals too.
I often use backing vocals to grow a song throughout the track, so rather than stacking every harmony on chorus 1, I’ve just done a low harmony on chorus 1, a low and a high harmony on chorus 2 and then when we’re really hammering it on chorus 3, I’ve added in a couple of other subtle harmonies too.
It was pretty easy to mix and master, just had to make sure the dynamics and the nuances came across and the vocal was as clear as possible, with each word being heard and the emotion felt. I’m pretty sure I achieved that.
I’m super happy with Call My Name and my first venture into writing solely on the piano.
A hell of a long way to go for me, clearly, but I’m pleased.
Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think.
Thank you so much for reading. The absolute best way you can support me and this blog is by listening to and sharing 'CALL MY NAME' (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 'CALL MY NAME' 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.