Two Songs For the Holidays

I recorded my first Christmas song in Grade 5 – Run Run Rudolph.  I pressed that magical red button on my parent's cassette player – the one with the "R" on it – jammed away, and then took the tape to school as a gift for my favorite teacher, Mr. Mirwald.  He quickly became my first concert promoter, as he distributed the tape among the Montgomery School staff, and convinced the top brass to wedge me into the Holiday Assembly.  And so, with a Canadian Wool winter sock covering the microphone to prevent electric shocks, and a black Peavey electric guitar, I took to the stage and performed Run Run Rudolph, just as I'd performed it in the living room, in front of that cassette player.  The students clapped politely, my friends made fun of me, and I became addicted to this whole "performing" thing.

So there's a little story for you.  

And here are two new Christmas songs, recorded in my apartment, with slightly more sophisticated gear, but not by much.  

Peace and Love, 
Kyle  

A Visit From Burt

 Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Burt Bacharach!

Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Burt Bacharach!

We're in the middle of fixing up a few moments in the show, jamming along to songs we've now played hundreds of times, singing those roller-coaster melodies that are embedded in our hearts as if they've been there since the day we were born, when the man walks in the room.  The reminder that this body of music comes from the brain of a human being is tough to wrap your head around, even after years of getting to know him.  It seems impossible for one man to have created so much; for those creations to live inside us, as obvious as oxygen.  And yet, there he is.  Standing next to you in his puffy jacket and Scottish scarf, with a smile on his face, scanning the new theater with eyes that have seen the best of them.  
He looks up at the giant sculpture of instruments that stands behind us every night.  
"I like the way things are hanging," he says.  

Adventures in the West End

This morning, in the middle of the bustling Piccadilly Circus, this giant image was planted on top of the legendary Criterion Theater.  These are the days when you shake your head in all directions and say, as Joey Lawrence said so succinctly in every single episode of the hit 90's television series 'Blossom': 

"Woah."

So far, the Bacharach journey has been five years long, and I can say with great pride and certainty that it's been the most fulfilling five years of my life.  The people I've met, the things I've learned, and the music I've been so blessed to explore and share have added up to an experience that has changed my life.  

And now, the show takes a new form.  A West End show.  I'm excited.  We're in tech right now, and this is shaping up to be the best version of the show yet. 

Let the journey continue!  

Talk to you guys soon, 
Kyle

A Short Piece Of Non-Fiction. #TBT

Covering the Past Ten Grammy Winning Songs: 2014 - Royals (Lorde)

Here it is!  The final song in this 10 song series of Grammy winners.  This one's going to require you to pop on some good headphones or crank some good speakers in order to feel that bass pounding away at your earholes.  Laptop speakers be damned!

And now, after this two week countdown, we move on to Grammy weekend, where we'll see who wins Song Of The Year in 2015.  And the nominees are:

All About That Bass - Meghan Trainor
Chandelier - Sia
Shake It Off - Taylor Swift
Stay With Me - Sam Smith
Take Me To Church - Hozier

My vote would be for Stay With Me or Take Me To Church.  I think.  Yours?  

(Also, how cool would it be if they did a Stay With Me/Won't Back Down medley?  I'm actually serious!  You know, just to make light of the whole Tom Petty thing and kind of celebrate the elasticity of music?  I'd love that.  Won't happen.)

Anyway.  Posting these songs has been a real blast, guys.  It's been a bit of a marathon, and I'll admit there were moments where I thought, "Why am I forcing myself into this weird, daily deadline?", but ultimately the commitment was rewarding, and your commitment to listening was incredibly generous.  This little experiment gave me a lot of other ideas for similar projects where we can share the process of distributing and listening to music in the same moment.  I'm constantly making music in my home studio anyway, so why not share it with you guys almost immediately?  Right?  

First, I'm going to take a little break from covers and spend some solid time detailing a handful of original songs I've had sitting around for a while.  Look for those in the near future.  There are a couple of long term projects I'm going to jump back into on Monday as well.  And I think I might continue blogging, if you don't mind.  I'm not sure exactly how this blog is going to evolve, but I know that it will center around MUSIC.  So bear with me while I periodically express myself.  Hopefully some of it is interesting.  

Again, thank you so much for listening over these last two weeks.  It's actually been a very rewarding online experience for me.  

Here's the entire playlist of Grammy songs for you to listen to as a whole, if you feel like it:  

One more thing.  If you want to subscribe to my blog, so that you receive an email every time I post something new, you can enter your email below:

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Talk soon, 
Kyle

Covering the Past Ten Grammy Winning Songs: 2012 - Rolling In The Deep (Adele)

Okay.  We're in the home stretch of this cover song marathon.  Song 8 of 10.  And then BANG, we're caught up to the present, in which Paul McCartney is a hot new featured artist and Taylor Swift is her own galaxy and Tom Petty is writing songs with people he's never met.  It's a wild world, ladies and germs!

But for now, let's stick ourselves back into the world of 2012: 

ROLLING IN THE DEEP. 

Here' the thing: I committed to this list of 10 songs for a thematic reason.  I wanted to ask two questions: 
a) What makes a Grammy winning song?
and 
b) What might they sound like if I pick them up with fresh ears? 

(A third and equally important question was, "What are the last ten Grammy winning songs?" because it's not like I carry around this list of songs in my wallet.) 

So, in a sense, this playlist was already picked for me.  I had to live within the constraints of my own choice, which is often where creativity lies.  Necessity, as we all know, is the mother of invention.

What I'm getting to is this: the idea of covering this particular song (Rolling In The Deep) bothered me.  I felt challenged by this one in a way that I didn't with the others, and I had hard time justifying my take on it.  Why?  I love the song, I love Adele, I think this moment in pop history was a great one, because it highlighted true talent and true instrumentation.  I like everything about the damn thing.  My hesitation came from the fact that...

...EVERYONE IN THE WORLD HAS ALREADY DONE A COVER OF THIS SONG!  

Go ahead --- text the first person on your list of contacts and ask them if they've ever covered Adele.  They'll most likely reply with a link to their youtube page.

Your old friend from high school?  He's singing the chorus of Rolling in The Deep on Vine.  

Your old aunt Ruth?  She's got an EP on iTunes called, "Ruth sings Rollin'", in which she deconstructs the song into 3 versions: Acoustic, Big Band, and Dub Mix.  

There's another reason I was hesitant to put this song down:  The few times I've sat behind the table at vocal auditions, my ears have been filled with countless versions of the tune, most of which work against the singer's intentions.  Adele's vocal performance is SO strong and makes such a lasting impression that the tendency is to mimic her sound or to affect the voice in a way that masks the purity of the singer.  (I'm sure that's not always the case, but it's something I've thought about.  Sometimes a great song can actually get in a performers way, if that makes sense.  It can upstage them, in a way.)  And I didn't want to fall into that trap.  

ANYWAY.  I know I'm overanalyzing this and overthinking this, but the point is: If it weren't for this series I'm doing, I would have rather left this beautiful song alone.  But I wanted to complete this series properly and so I tackled the song from a point of view I know well: 

That of a 13 year old blues guitar playing little rascal.  

I reached into my subconscious and reverted back to the less-than-subtle version of myself that I was when I first started playing blues clubs in Canada (Buds On Broadway and Lydias in Saskatoon, mostly) in an attempt to capture something sort of new within this song.  Or, at least, to have fun with it.  This is the way I would have covered the song had it come out then, at the end of the 90s, when Johnny Lang and Colin James were personal heroes and I still thought Led Zeppelin was the name of a singer with a really great back-up band.  ("Morning, Led.  What shall we record today?")  

Anyway.  It's an unpolished take on a groundbreaking song.  I hope you dig it.  

 Playing the same Strat I used for this cover, in 1999.  Ed on Vocals, Jordan Cook (Reignwolf) on drums, Lynn Victoria on Bass, Big Dave McClean (out of frame, to the left of Ed) on harmonica.  

Playing the same Strat I used for this cover, in 1999.  Ed on Vocals, Jordan Cook (Reignwolf) on drums, Lynn Victoria on Bass, Big Dave McClean (out of frame, to the left of Ed) on harmonica.  

Talk soon, 
Kyle

PS - Here's a little Colin James, for those of you who aren't familiar:  

Covering the Past Ten Grammy Winning Songs: 2011 - Need You Now (Lady Antebellum)

Need You Now
The general idea here was to take a song that feels very BIG in every way and turn it into something small.  So I started with a very choppy, tiny electric keys part and took it from there.  

To be completely honest, I didn't know this song very well (It must have been released while I was  living under a giant rock, which was convenient and cheap, but cold at night), so I had to educate myself over the course of several listens.  Unsurprisingly, it's an indestructible, undeniable mega smash.  Most, if not all, of these Grammy tunes are structured like giant condo buildings with enormous underground parking lots.  I mean that in a good way.  For all of their frivolity and hip-ness, they're very deeply thought out, these tunes.  They're designed for success.  It's kind of amazing, actually.  (Rehab may be an exception --- that song seems to be more of a Lightning In A Bottle situation, in which the MOOD and TONE was exactly equal to the messenger and the MOOD and TONE of the moment it was released.  It's more of a continuous groove than a carefully structured piece.  There are probably other exceptions too, but I'm writing this quickly, with very little thought, after a night of so-so sleep.)  

The bass I introduce about halfway through the tune is a 1976 Rickenbacker that my Uncle Randy gave me 15 years ago.  It was his as a kid and, when he saw that I was getting serious about music, he handed it down.  It's still one of my favorite instruments.  I lay that thing down on a LOT of tracks.  (I used it in the REHAB cover as well.)  THANKS, UNCLE RANDY!

That's all I have to say at this moment.  On to the next song.  Here's NEED YOU NOW in YouTube form:

Talk soon, 
Kyle

Covering the Past Ten Grammy Winning Songs: 2010 - Single Ladies (Beyonce)

Welcome back!!  I hope you had an amazing weekend, filled with corn nuts and beer and interceptions.  

Diving back into the Grammy Winning Songs series:

SINGLE LADIES.
I decided to take an instrumental approach to this song, because it has such an incredibly strong melody.  It reminds me of a song that John Scofield might have played on his amazing 'A Go Go' album, with Medeski, Martin, Wood as his backup band, and so I basically said to myself, "What would it sound like if those guys played this tune?"  And here you have it! 

Then, I sat down at my computer and chopped together a video like an insane person.  I edited in a state of gleeful madness.  Enjoy!

Thanks for all of your comments, on the blog and on Facebook, over the past week.  Once I'm done with these Grammy tracks, I'll pick some of them and address them on the Blog.  

Talk soon, 
Kyle

Covering the Past Ten Grammy Winning Songs: 2009 - Viva La Vida (Coldplay)

Well, here we are at the end of Week 1 of this Grammy Countdown.  I've really enjoyed posting this stuff for you guys and watching your reactions roll in.  Keep the conversation rolling, my friends -- there's a whole new batch of songs coming at you next week.  

Have we learned anything about the course of pop music through this strange experiment?  Have we learned anything about what it means to be named Song Of The Year?  Or have we just learned that, when I'm at home, I wear old shirts, shitty pants or shorts, and a hat that I stole from my friend's basement a couple of months ago?  Who's to say?  Maybe, at the very least, we've had a few toe tapping moments.  

I find that making these covers is like batting practice for my own original music.  There's a real benefit to digging into well-crafted songs and pulling them apart, trying to figure out what makes them tick.  So the next batch of originals you hear (which you will hear relatively soon), will be in some way informed by this experience.   

I'm taking the weekend off and then we'll get ramped up again on Monday.  But if any of you want to leave comments or questions below, I'll try to get to them on Saturday or Sunday.  

Talk soon, 
Kyle

PS -- I finally got around to watching Altman's SHORT CUTS this week.  I had the Criterion DVD sitting on my shelf for years, staring at me like some sort of three-hour bully:  "I DARE YOU TO WATCH ME!"  Boy am I glad I did.  For those of you who are film people and haven't seen it, do yourself a favor.  This thing is crushingly good.  And it makes MAGNOLIA make a whole lot more sense...

It's pretty hard to find online, so I wish you luck in your journey.  I'd lend you my DVD, but it's going back on that shelf, so that it can stare me down for another 5 years, until I watch it and enjoy it again...