Remembering "The Forgotten Place": How a new song came into being, part two.
In part one of this saga describing the writing of The Forgotten Place, a collaboration between me and Dave Tutin, I described mainly how the lyrics came together, starting with my friend Dave's email and ending with Dave's rewrite of my additions to his original lyric. Since Dave's rewrite was pretty much NAILS, the rest of this saga has to do with music.
Let's see, when last I left this tale, I had just sent Dave my first pass at music and melody. His reaction? Encouraging, and... well... encouraging. But before Dave got back to me, I played the tune for Catherine and she was pretty blunt, saying the song was boring and didn't really go anywhere. I agreed, reluctantly, and when Dave's note came through, I wasn't surprised. Dave also noted that my decision to leave out the middle 8 seemed, um, unfortunate.
Clearly, I had a lot of work to do, so when Catherine and I left for a Christmas vacation in Hawaii, I brought a guitar.
After much noodling, I decided that the two biggest problems were the verse chords/melody and the chorus.The verse chords for the first version were E, Bm, C, Bm, C, Am, Em, which were meant to evoke the act of trying to climb a hill but slipping backwards, never really reaching the top, in other words, trying to get somewhere but never quite making it. I thought the metaphor seemed apt, given the lyric. I also loved the movement from Bm up to C, then back to Bm, then slipping to Am and back to E, only this time a minor. It all felt resigned, sad, tired -- and somehow right.
But it was wrong. The movement from Bm to C just felt too passive, there was no intent to make it to the top, and without intent, why bother? After playing the progression a million times, I finally tried dropping to A and, for me, that made all the difference. Now the melody seemed to say, "I'm going to regroup, take one step back to take two steps forward," instead of. "what's the point?" I also asked Dave to pen a second verse, so that there would be more anticipation before the first chorus; further, a second verse would create the opportunity to vary the chords slightly, so that the transition to the chorus could be more dramatic. The new verse Dave sent over read:
Sparks on the wind
And a new fire starts
The ecstasy of every
Collision of hearts
Yeah, pretty brilliant, and with more noodling, I finally hit on a chord progression I thought did the words justice and created a good verse melody that really built to a chorus. The progression was E, Bm, A, Bm, C, D, Em, E, Bm, A, Bm, C, D, A, with the A being the fulcrum, the inflection point between verse and chorus. Of course, A can't settle into G, as it would have had I kept the original chorus chords, so, more noodling, and I hit on a progression that went: C, G, F, D, F, D, Bb, F, Am. Was this right? My gut told me no, but I persevered, keeping the last verse/chorus from the first version the same, because I loved the notion of the song itself not going home (not repeating the verse/chorus melodies from the pre solo bit) and I hit send.
Here's the version I sent? Still no middle 8. Was this the winner? Stay tuned.