Posts Tagged ‘craft’

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quiet storm track walkthrough (part i).

October 27, 2009

Hi there everyone! Thanks for the love you’ve shown my new album Quiet Storm.  I really appreciate it, from the bottom of my heart. ♥ If you have yet to download it, then you can get it here… –

(clicky) Quiet Storm (album download) (clicky)

This is gonna be the first instalment of a track-by-track rundown, so you can learn a little bit about each of the songs!  I’ll cover the first ‘arc’ of the album today, which are tracks 1-6! 🙂

1. Open

This is the album intro!  I wanted the title to have two meanings, one which was obviously the album intro being the ‘opening’ of the story / journey, but also for it to encourage listeners to enter the album with an open mind, open attitude and open heart.  The idea of “open your body / open your mind” was to combine the physical and mental, as some of the album songs are very much about physical sentiments such as sex, money and fashion; others are more to do with thoughts, emotions and relationships and our feelings and beliefs surrounding those situations.  It was also meant to have a somewhat mysterious feel, which is why my voice stutters and distorts at various parts. “I’m coming in” is your sign to get ready!…

2. All Night Long

…as I ask at the beginning of this song, “Are you ready?” The journey is beginning!  I wanted the album’s opening track (i.e. this is the first song proper) to be a slow, sexy song for two reasons: I thought it would be striking to open the album with a slower song, as all too often the temptation is to go in boom! bang! bang! with your uptempo.  I wanted the album to rise and fall in a more genuine way, and not to be front-loaded with club numbers.  I think that interspersing the album with uptempos, midtempos and slower songs throughout makes it more genuine and ultimately more engaging and cohesive.  This song was inspired by two songs: “Discipline” by Janet Jackson – but I hadn’t actually heard the song at this point! I’d read that there was an S&M theme, that it was a dark, slow song and I was inspired by those thoughts to make a song that I thought sounded like the essence of ‘discipline’ (hence its namecheck in the lyrics – “I exhibit discipline”); and “Mary Jane” by Mary J. Blige, from her seminal My Life album.  The hook of the song is a resung version of that song’s hook (which I’m aware is not the original use of that hook anyway, but it’s the version I’m most familiar with), but I slowed down the tempo and tried to do something a little bit different with it.  I also was tempted by the idea of putting this song first as it’s the most explicit, sexual song on the album – it’s the perfect start to the night-time, as Quiet Storm was largely inspired by the nocturnal, both in its soundscape and artwork.  And by getting the sex out of the way, we can focus on deeper things!  This actually being one of the very first songs I completed for the album, I don’t 100% remember how the beat breakdown came about now, but I love it and I felt that it was a really striking way to end the song… The breakdown is picked up by one of the songs at the album’s close, which also makes the album come full circle.

3. If I

Another one of the first songs I wrote for the album, this is probably the most dance-based song on the record, and it has a very nocturnal, dark feel again, as emphasised by the harmonies at the beginning which are nearly-but-not-quite off-key! It gives the song a mysterious introduction, which combined with the dance beat, makes it sound almost menacing.  The subject matter explores the fact that we all go to such lengths to please other people, and what would happen if we were just who we naturally are, rather than striving to meet others’ expectations?  At the end of the day, I’m just a young guy who wants to have fun and be happy and enjoy life!  Isn’t that what everyone wants?  Why should I put myself out for you?  What would happen if I did to you the things you do to me?  How would you feel about that?  That’s the main thematic of the song, and it’s one of the songs main uptempos.  The repetitive hook is actually quite en vogue now, but at the time of writing it, I really thought I was onto something and I felt that it was a little bit fun and kooky (as well as quite hot)!  But I generally liked the combination of the pulsing beats and the quite revealing lyrics: we all feel like a prisoner of other people’s “unrealistic expectations” and pressures at times, and although by living up to them we keep the peace and excel, to what extent do we sacrifice ourselves?  We all need to cut loose sometimes.

4. Hook Boy

I love this song!  It was a song I wrote lyrics to quite early on, but I just could not get right for ages!!!!! Ultimately, it was one of the last songs I completed for the album, as it was in work-in-progress stage for possibly a year!  This song is about swag, and also about songwriting prowess – I am still learning and honing my craft when it comes to singing, writing and producing, and I appreciate that on Garageband there’s only so much I can do. But at least I have total control of my music, and I’m pretty pleased with what I produce at this stage.  I can say, hand on heart, that this album is something I am very proud of!  And to be in charge of all these aspects of my music is very important to me, as it pisses me off to see certain stars who’ve made it big without much talent to speak of.  So I’m bigging myself up on this song, and although you could read it in terms of sexual prowess or swagger, to me, it’s really about being the best singer and songwriter I can be, and trying to offer something fresh.  Being a “hook boy” refers to being able to write a decent, catchy hook!  But as the coda of the song says (where the beat changes and becomes a little more complex – another end-of-song development I love!), sometimes people take your ability for granted, and at the same time as we may be skilled and have swag and talent, we have to make sure that people don’t take us for a ride without appreciating who we are and what we do.  We need to be proud and confident in ourselves, and it’s nice for others to recognise that, but we also need to make sure that people don’t take advantage of us.  So there’s an extra layer in there.

5. Focused (Interlude)

This interlude is thrilling to me because I finally got some harmonies exactly how I wanted them – there are about six layers of vocals in this!  It’s short and sweet, and essentially segues between the three beat-driven songs we’ve had so far (slow, deep sexual beat; mysterious, menacing dance beat; midtempo, stuttering beat) and the next song which will be the album’s first proper ballad.  “I’m too focused on the beat, gotta focus on the melody!”

6. Secret

This song is one where I wanted my voice to stand out, and that’s why it starts off acapella – I wanted it to be a stark contrast to the songs which came before, and to really be melody- and vocal-focused.  A good melody can make or break a song, and I wanted the heartfelt nature of this song, the album’s first romantic track, to really come through in the melody.  I also wanted a song which was vocally-driven, as I want to reinforce that I am a singer and confident vocalist first and foremost.  I was inspired by Delta Goodrem’s “Believe Again” – although that song has a more electronic, dance undertone than this track, I loved how the beats and effects built up through the song, so that was something I sought to replicate here.  After the second verse, the beat chips in, and it’s sorta off-kilter (not a straightforward 2/4 or 4/4).  It drops out again completely for the bridge, leaving my voice to carry the song to its finale.  I wanted to emphasise the vocals and the vocal melody line as the spine of the song, especially as the lyrics are so romantic and heartfelt.  It’s quite possibly the most purely optimistic song on the record – it’s a very positively romantic song not coloured by heartache, and brings the first arc of the album to a satisfying close, while seguing into the next songs…

… which I’ll cover in part 2!  Enjoy and keep it locked, and download Quiet Storm if you haven’t already! 🙂 Thankyou xxx

(clicky) Quiet Storm (album download) (clicky)

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positive speaking.

July 25, 2009

One maxim that I try to live by, wherever possible, is that of “if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all”.  Of course, it’s natural that we aren’t 100% happy and sweetness and light all of the time, and nobody is a perfect saint, but I try never to be deliberately nasty or spiteful towards people if I can at all help it.  If I feel resentment towards somebody, it is something that I try to channel in a constructive way, or keep to myself so that they won’t know how I feel.  I believe that it is classier not to diss people, and although occasionally I can’t resist the urge, most of the time I can.  Instead of wasting time hating on others, I try to step my own game up – that’s my response.

After my video singing Whitney Houston’s new song was posted on Thursday, I received a barrage of comments on my youtube account, as well as some comments on a Whitney forum.  Some people were positive, some people were critical, which is fine.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  What really irks me (and what I am always prepared for, because I’ve been doing these youtube videos on and off for 2 years now) is the senseless hateful comments that I get.  I understand that if somebody covers your favourite artist’s song, you may be a bit disgruntled because you like the original version.  But it doesn’t mean that nobody else is ever allowed to sing that song.  I’m not trying to be Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston or Chris Brown, I’m just having fun singing a song.  And I try to separate the genuinely valid comments from the ridiculous (for example: “Whoever told you you were good has mental problems” O RLY? I feel sorry for my friends, for the entirety of my school and its teaching staff, for the students of Oxford University, for a couple of Oxford journalists.  We’re all crazy! Bish please.) and improve upon what I can.  I know I am not the consummate singer, and I am not perfect.  Of course, you can’t please everyone.  But if you have nothing constructive to say, or nothing to back your criticism up, then please keep your mouth shut.  I make it a rule never to reply to comments on youtube because I don’t want to dilute anyone’s opinion, nor enter into a slanging match with any deranged fans.  I sing the song, I make my video, and then I let people say what they want.  It’s freedom of speech.  But if you can’t be nice, at least be classy!

It’s not just me, obviously.  There are plenty of comments on youtube saying Beyoncé is a fat whore (um?), Mariah Carey cannot sing (The Voice? yeah right), that singers who are legitimate superstars are rubbish at their craft.  And while I don’t like every famous singer out there, I have respect for their hustle and appreciate that it is not easy to put yourself up for criticism and hate (as well as adoration and love 😉 ) night after night and day after day.  You have to be incredibly thick-skinned  to keep on going – to give her her due, Paris Hilton made her album and records her tv shows and doesn’t give a fuck what people say and think about her.  If it’s negative, they’re still wasting their negative energy talking about her, so it’s all promotion and job done.  That is something I have a lot of respect for.  But these armchair critics who think they are Simon Cowell are only feeding into these people’s fame, and if you don’t wanna hear from them anymore, then you have to go one better.  If you aren’t willing to do that, or you’re not capable of it, then you should sit your ass down and keep your mouth shut.  If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

I wanted to also congratulate my friend Hannah on her family dog sitting job she’s netted in September – she’s getting £500 for a week’s work!  Of course I am slightly jealous, because I could really do with £500 myself.  But instead of criticising her or being unsupportive, I congratulated her and am genuinely happy for her, not just because she is one of my very best and closest friends, but because I don’t believe I am a negative or spiteful person.  If somebody does something well, has a great stroke of luck, or is talented, I congratulate them and express my appreciation.  You get what you give, and I believe in passing out positive energy instead of negative.  It all comes back around to you, ultimately, even if it’s a long time in coming… But I never understood the point of hating on people who are luckier or more talented than you in a specific area… instead of wasting your time hating on them, you get your game up.  I am hugely envious of models and guys with better bodies, but instead of commiserating at home eating Ben & Jerrys, I get my ass down the gym and watch what I eat because I want that body and my determination to get it will one day pay off (even if it could hurry up. please.). That will be the sweetest victory.  As Blu Cantrell says, “Revenge is better than money you seeeeeeee!” (“Hit ‘Em Up Style”)  So don’t hate; appreciate, and step your game up… because when the time comes that people are hating on you, you must be doing something right!