The quest to write, record, produce and release a brand new song each and every week. To read why I'm doing such a thing as well as being a full-time producer and musician for others, check out the first 'A Song A Week' blog post HERE .
It's best if you listen to the song whilst you're reading, so you can listen on...
It's also available on all major streaming and music stores worldwide, so just search for 'Tom B. Cooper GOING HOME' and it'll show up!
Anyway, welcome to Week 3 of the A Song A Week blog. I'm going to dive straight in with how 'GOING HOME' came to be...
This entry has ended up being one long stream of consciousness, so the entire songwriting/production section is in one – it’s really good though and not that long, so stick with it!
I was sat at my desk in my studio, waiting for a mix I’d done for another artist to send, noodling on the guitar, not actually planning to start this weeks song until the following day because I had quite a lot of mixing to do for other artists. That’s how Going Home was born and rather than put down the guitar and get on with the work I’d scheduled in for myself, I went with the inspiration and developed it. I actually thought to myself ‘If I don’t like what I’m doing straight away, I’ll stop and this riff can go in the ideas pile and I’ll get on with mixing.’
Fortunately for the sake of this song, I did like what I was doing and the more I ran with it, the more excited I got by it’s development.
Now, I’m the sort of songwriter that will 9 times out of 10 (probably more) write the music first, then the melody, then finally the lyrics and Going Home is no exception. I wrote the music in it’s entirety, tweaking some things as I went, obviously, but I can say that the bulk of the music was done before I’d even thought of a single lyric. It’s how I find writing most natural and I know some people will find that crazy, but it’s the truth. Last week for A Song A Week, I started with the lyric first and it had just as exciting (for me anyway) results, so there’s absolutely no right or wrong way to do it.
So, more about the music. Well, I really enjoy how subtle and cheeky the guitar line is in the verses, so I thought to myself how cool it would be to have a far harder hitting chorus. Now an interesting thing about this song is that nearly every instrument is based around the same 16th note constant pattern throughout the entire song. If you were to tell me that the majority of everything is doing a constant 16th pattern, I’d think it would get quite boring quite quickly, but it doesn’t. I was very careful to keep the harmonic content interesting. It’s a rock-pop song based around the F# major scale and it doesn’t ever stray from that, but the guitars, bass, piano and synths are always moving – apart from a couple of bars immediately before the chorus, they’re regularly changing to a different note or chord.
The chorus is pretty big and as such I decided to open it up by using cymbals on the drums rather than carry it on with the hats as I had done in the verses and pre-chorus’s. This is something I do quite often and I’m aware of it, so I try not to overuse this technique, but in the case of Going Home, it just worked. Just like it does going half time for the last 1 minute or so of the song, underneath the ‘wooooah’ vocal line.
Once I’d got the meat of the verses, chorus’s and outro down (guitars, drums and bass) then I walked the dog and came up with the melody. I think melody writing is one of my stronger skills as a songwriter and more often than not the melody doesn’t deviate too much from what I first come up with. I’ll often go with my gut instinct and 95% of the time I’m happy with it. Lyrics I slave over a bit more, but melody writing comes naturally to me and I think this is my strongest melody out of the songs I’ve done for A Song A Week so far. Just my opinion!
I wanted to add some ear candy and I’d been listening to Kings of Leon whilst cooking the night before and took note of some cool techniques that they, along with producer Jacquire King used to add interest to their songs. I thought of the sort of synth sounds, lead guitar sounds, percussive elements, pianos etc. they might use and what you can hear in the end product of Going Home is the inspiration I took from them. Ta boys!
The lyrics to Going Home are actually really personal, so I’m not going to go into them. You can make your own mind up about what they mean to you. I won’t make a habit of not talking about lyrics, but in the case of Going Home, I’ve said what I need to in the song and I’d hope that you can interpret them how you wish.
The lyrics are what took the longest for this song, not least because they’re very personal and I found it quite difficult to deal with what I was writing. Where the music and melody was easy, like I mentioned before, the lyrics were difficult, but I think they’re strong.
One major change I made as I was recording was that after the second verse, where I go into the ‘wooooah’ distorted vocal section, I originally had some lyrics instead of ‘woah’ and I was living with them as I went, but they were never pleasing me. As I went to record a take, I just thought of Kings Of Leon again and thought ‘hang on, they’d just do a big rousing ‘woah’, so once again, thanks lads, that outro is inspired by you.
All my songs for A Song A Week so far, I’ve been making production and arrangement decisions as I go, so rather than thinking things like ‘I have to record the DI of the guitar incase I end up hating the guitar tone’ I’m making those decisions there and then. I don’t have the time to mess around with auditioning lots and lots of tones or synth patches or microphones – I’m completely going with my gut every single step of the way from first idea to final master. If something isn’t working in a reasonable amount of time, I ditch it and reach for something new instead. It’s a scary thought to not dwell on an idea, but it’s working for me so far and I can honestly say that I don’t feel like I’m cutting any corners or short-changing the listener or myself.
My experience and fluency of the instruments and software I’m using help me to work quickly, but even if I was just doing a song with one acoustic guitar and one vocal, I think I’d still work as quickly as I do. Maybe I’ll try that next week! Who knows!
But that’s how Going Home came to be – noodling on a guitar at around 9am to all the parts, lyrics and vocals written and recorded by 6pm. On to the mix which I did the next day.
Mixing and Mastering
I wanted Going Home to really take you on a journey. It starts so quiet and subtle and ends up so big and loud that I wanted those bits and everything in between to come across in the mix. I’m not going to lie, this was quite a difficult song to do.
I just couldn’t quite get the balance right between verse and chorus. If the verses were too subtle or quiet, the chorus’s were TOO in your face. If the verses were any louder, it took away from the chorus’s. Then there was the difficulty in making the outro the big payoff it needed to be. The way I felt with this was that I started again two times having already got midway through a mix. I just removed all my mixing tools, set the faders to zero and started again… twice.
It’s amazing what you can do when you’re up against it. Being on my third attempt, I was ready to say to myself that I’d be mixing Going Home the following day, but the final mix you hear is what I managed to do in just under 2 hours at the end of a very frustrating day of mixing.
Turns out I’d been doing TOO much mixing on my previous attempts. Too many and too big EQ moves, too much compression. I ended up barely compressing anything and actually, it all sounded pretty good in it’s rawest form, so I didn’t do a huge amount in the way of EQ either.
What I did use a lot was saturation. Just light distortion across nearly everything. It brought everything to life and somehow just made those transitions from section to section far easier on the ear.
I also heavily distorted the ‘woah’ vocal at the end too. It just sounded a bit lame – because it was such a late addition to the production, I must have done it with little conviction. I could’ve (and would’ve if it didn’t work) easily just recorded the ‘woah vocal again’ but actually, that distorted sound works really well and the synth that takes over from it immediately after is a pretty similar quality that I might not have got if I’d re-recorded it.
I also used a lot of reverb and delay, particularly on the lead vocal, but also across a lot of the instruments too.
My reference track for mixing and mastering this song was Use Somebody by Kings Of Leon. A Song that I’m a touch sick of after years of playing in wedding bands, but it was the perfect fit for this!
In order to release Going Home I used Distro Kid who are a music distribution company. It’s so easy to do, it’s pretty foolproof! (to get a 7% discount on your account with them to release your own music, sign up with them using this link HERE )
Once I’d got everything in place at Distro Kid, I registered the song on PPL and PRS and now I’m here writing this for you!
Going Home Conclusion
What started out as a bit of a playful sort of guitar line has ended up as one of my most personal songs I’ve ever written. I struggled with the lyrics and I struggled with the mix, but in both those cases, not overcomplicating was the key to it’s success.
Because the instrumentation is so constant and driving throughout, the emotion and dynamic HAD to come from the lyric and vocal performance and was helped along by the ear candy.
Another song done and again, another I’m proud of. Who knows what next week will bring!
Thank you so much for reading. The absolute best way you can support me and this blog is by listening to and sharing 'GOING HOME'. So you can listen on...
And it's available on all major streaming and music stores across the internet, just search for 'Tom B. Cooper GOING HOME' and it'll show up!
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Peace and happy music making.