I released my second album on Friday 4th December this year. This concluded my musical output for 2015 where I released 2 albums, 2 EPs and 3 singles. Twenty six original songs all of which I am very proud of. Doing it all myself as well has taken it's toll! Because I play and sing everything, as well as produce, master then make the artwork for the releases, I am knackered and need a wee break for a while.

My second album "Time For A Change" consists of 11 tracks with a bonus track at the end. The bonus track is a version of "I Don't Care" that I decided to include on the album which has me doing the vocals. On the original single release, the song featured the beautiful vocals of Rachel Grey. I had to sing a guide vocal on the track before I sent it to her so that she could get a sense of the song. I recorded a few takes of me singing it never ever thinking that I would use them. My vision for the song was for Rachel to "lead" the song with her distinct haunting vocals. She did the honours and sent it back to me and I released it as a single on Bandcamp. 

It wasn't until I was compiling the tracks for the album release that I revisited the master backing tracks of "I Don't Care". I saw my vocal tracks (which were muted) and decided to give them a listen. Before I knew it I was editing together a vocal track which I thought sounded OK, but I don't usually like to release stuff with hundreds of edits in it, so I decided to sing it again in one take. It was hard going, because the chorus has a high E note that was extremely challenging for my male vocal chords to reach! I have to admit I took a few go's at this to get it right but eventually I was happy with the end result and decided to include it on the album as a bonus track.

The first track "Sinking Ship" is quite a production. It's about the movie business and the way film makers convince themselves that their film is NOT going to be a disaster, despite everyone around them seeing that it's a "sinking ship." I decided to use sound effects of a giant wooden ship creaking and sinking in the raging sea as a Captains voice comes on the tannoy making sure that the money men be saved first! It kind of sums up the movie business for me!

There are two comedic style songs on there too - both produced as 60s pop songs. The sort you might hear in the hit parade in about 1964! "She Dumped Me By Text and Put It On Facebook" is done as a "Beatles" style song with repeat vocals from the backing singers. I wanted to write a 60s song with contemporary lyrics as I liked the juxtaposition of these two things. "She Doesn't Need Botox" is another 60s style pop song that speaks out against the use of botox. I'm a great believer in growing older as nature intended - although my wife says that if she could afford it, she'd do it!

"Without Her" is a song about my wife. The guitar on it was inspired by Mark Knopfler's finger picking sound that I wanted to try and get. I had a chest infection when I was recording this song and spent many a happy hour playing and re-doing guitar parts to ensure it sounded just right. The vocals are the deepest I've ever sung and you can hear the chest infection on the track! Don't worry though, I'm not contagious!

"Standing In The Light" is a nod to The Beatle's song Blackbird. Simple production - acoustic guitar layers and some bass and percussion and that was it. It's a short song at 1'13 but I was really pleased with the end result.

If you fancy listening to my 2nd album you can listen to it here. Let me know what you think of it as I love to hear feedback.

Take care all - yer pal - Dan.



How I Write a 60s Pop Song

I don't know where all this creativity is coming from lately but I've written and recorded about 5 songs in the past 2 weeks. It's been full on and I now feel like I need a break for a week or so. But boy have I enjoyed myself! 

I've had a lot of good reaction to a 60s pop style track I wrote a while ago called "It's Not Working Out For Her" which is about a friend of mine who was going through some boyfriend problems at the time. I had decided to write the track in the style of one of those innocent pop songs from the 60s - you know the type - "I love you, yes I do, you know it's true, I feel blue" type of lyrics. I've got the guitars required, to achieve the "sound" I wanted, as I own a Rickenbacker 330/12 string and a Hofner VIolin bass. All I needed was the right back beat and I was up and running.

I was so pleased with the results that I've written two others with a third one in the works! Here's a link to one of them called "She Dumped Me By Text and Put It On Facebook".

It's been tremendous fun getting that 60s sound and as usual, I've had a certain amount of "happy accidents". What I mean by that is that by pure luck and chance, I do something "wrong" whilst recording, only to find out that this "mistake" turns out to be a bloody brilliant thing to have happened!!

This is how I get my 60s sound. It all starts off with the acoustic guitar. I sit down and put together a simple three or four chord sequence which is usually what turns out to be the chorus. The simpler the better. Another good tip is to add a major to minor chord change within the song. The Beatles did this a lot in the early years of their career. My favourite one is G major to G minor. Always bloody works! But get the tempo right. I've found that 137bpm is a really good pop song beat. Before I lay drum tracks down, I use an app called Pro Metronome. This is a brilliant and very useful app for playing along to, to ensure you get the tempo of your song exactly right.

Once I've got my tempo and roughed out a chorus (simple three / four chords) I go to my drum loops. I've got hundreds of them from an online company called Drums on Demand. They are FANTASTIC loops and if you're clever enough (like me) you can edit together the most perfect drum breaks and fills at the right moment in the song. I just lay down one continuous 4/4 time drum loop for about 3-4 minutes in Garageband. 

Next is to lay down an acoustic guitar track of the backing. Usually I jam along to the drum beat and write the song "on the fly". Being a solo musician, this is the closest to being in a room with bandmates and having a jam! So often, great songs come from this method I find. Eventually I have a "scratch" acoustic guitar track of the song, played along to the drum loop. At this stage it is sounding a bit shit. But don't worry. The magic dust is about to be added....

By this time I've "learned" what the song chords and structure will be and I lay down TWO acoustic guitar tracks - one left and one right (in the stereo spectrum). Then I plug in my Fender Tele and choose a clean amp sound from the enormous array of guitar amp sounds on offer from Garageband. I lay down two tracks of this. Then I plug in my Hofner violin bass and this is when the track starts sounding all "60s". I try and make sure that the bass part is played in a very "McCartney'esque" manner. Being a massive Beatles freak I know virtually every single McCartney bass styles! Oh by the way! There are still no lyrics written! I never right lyrics until the very end. OK. So I put the bass down. Once all this is cooking, I work on the drums track - editing in different breaks and fills, adding cymbal crashes etc. Maybe add extra percussion like tambourine or shakers.

Next up is the "piece da resistance" - that quintissential 60s guitar sound - the Rickenbacker 12 string electric! I like to bring in the Ricky 12 string in at the start of the second verse. The jangle of the strings tell you instantly that this is "60s Stylee"!! Again, I like to put down two tracks of picking 12 string jangle and place them centre LEFT and centre RIGHT in the final mix. This gives the song a lot of width.

When it comes to a guitar solo - the simpler the better! There's no point going all Eddie Van Halen and playing a 1000 notes in the space of 8 bars. The guys back in the day were pretty economical with their finger work and I've found that a simple solo on the Ricky 12 is just enough to keep the feel of the song.

Vocals time! You can't go wrong with plenty of "Oooh's" and "Ahhh's" throughout the song. Also the "Question/Answer or Vocal Repeat" vocals structure is another tip to get that authentic style. SIng a line and then have backing singers (that's you!) repeat the line in two or three part harmony. Works a treat!

Anyway, that's how I approach the writing of a 60s pop song - Dan Style! I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thanks for reading.
yer pal

How do YOU record?

Having got laid off from my "day job" almost two weeks ago owing to my employer running out of money, I've immersed myself in all things music. What a buzz it is to spend an entire day writing and recording - and then repeat the following day!

I've managed to complete three new tunes which I had been working on. As well as this, a fourth new song is in the works which is another collaboration with Rachel Grey. She and I hooked up on "I Don't Care" which you can listen to here and we were so blown away at how well we worked together, we thought we'd do it again! Hoping to get this new one released very soon.

I did an interview with a music blog called Jingle Jangle Jungle http://bit.ly/1K5hW4z  which is run by an amazing lady called Mary Burris. She's a great supporter of indie musicians and I really enjoyed being featured on her blog this month.

I'm fascinated with recording and always have been. I started off using tape (yes, that's CASSETTE tape!) and then progressed to 1/4" tape 8 track. Now my main recording studio is a 27" Mac with Garageband. I've got a Focusrite mic preamp to take the mic input into the Mac - it also handles the guitar signals too - and that's about it. I've got a fairly good amount of professional experience with sound mixing, so I spend a huge amount of time "cooking" the tracks so that they sound perfect. Or as perfect as I think they should be! It got me thinking though...

How do YOU record? Do you use Logic? Ableton Live? 4 track cassette tape?! I'd love to hear from you if you're a home recordist and tell me your way of getting "signal to tape"! Maybe some of you save your pennies and go to a proper studio complete with engineer. I'd like to be able to do that - and have done once or twice in the past. But it costs!

Well have a great weekend fellow muso dudes. Keep the music flowing!

Yer pal


It's Been Busy!

It's been a busy couple of weeks. Three radio stations played some of my music for which I am eternally grateful. Shout out to - Beyond The Dawn Radio, BlogTalk Radio with Sharlette K and Stevie_J and most recently Enfield Music hosted by Mark Riley. Enfield Music are a UK based station specialising in playing indie unsigned dudes like me. I did a skype interview for their Podcast #49 and that was a lot of fun! Got some nice feedback too. You can hear it if you click here.

I'm busy beavering away getting my music to as many platforms as possible and it's a lot of work! Latest batch went off to the BBC Intro this morning, which sounds like a great service for us unsigned / unrepresented muso's. Admittedly it takes up to 6 months to get played / listened to, but the Beeb are a huge organisation and they probably get **itloads of music to listen to.

I've made a pledge to myself to buy music to help support my fellow musicians. It's only a few quid (that's Brit slang "pounds" for you Americans out there!) and when you think about the time invested in recording a song, to ask for £1 or £2 isn't much I don't think. Obviously you can listen for free on places like SoundCloud for instance, but I am now purchasing stuff that I play more than once. A few other folks out there in the twittersphere do the same and I applaud them for it. It's a very welcome and small investment for us who love to write songs to entertain and move you.

Last weekend I eventually finished mixing my latest song "I Don't Care" which Rachel Grey sang for me. Her vocals melt your heart and I am so grateful to her for collaborating on this song with me. We've never met in person, but hopefully one day that will change! I recorded "here", and she recorded "there" and somehow by the miracle of technology, we met inside my iMac computer!! It's on my Bandcamp page if you wanna buy....sorry....LISTEN to it! For just a quid, you get Rachel Grey's vocals stroking your earlobes and my guitars twanging your walnuts! What more could you ask for!

This week I am working on two new songs - "Rather Be Strumming" which is a get your head down and rock out track, and also "Standing In The Light" which is a McCartney'esque acoustic number. The sort of song you'd stick right at the end of an album. Cos it's really short. Not the album. The song.....These will be appearing on my Bandcamp page before too long.

Finally, I struck gold this week! I've been thinking about buying a new electro acoustic, as my current acoustic (A Yamaha FG400A which I've had for over 20 years) isn't electrified. The one I want is just short of a million pounds.....Ok, I exaggerate a bit......£550!! But enough to shout in my face "You can't afford it!". So what to do? I picked up my trusty old guitar and said "It's just you and me kid for the foreseeable..."

Then it hit me! The button where the strap fits on is metal. And a jack plug insert too....hang on a second......That's where a guitar lead plugs in.....

I had a pick up fitted to this guitar in about 1990! I'd forgotten all about it! HOORAY! So I am able to plug the f**ker in after all. What a nice discovery that was. I just need an amp now...

That's it for now folks. Thanks for reading!

Yer pal


Happy Accidents

Quite often I'll be playing guitar on a track, or singing a vocal line and make the most terrible mistake! I go back and re listen to what I've just recorded, and suddenly realise that it's NOT a mistake at all. By some pure fluke, my vocal chords or my fingers did something I hadn't planned to do and you know what? The result is INCREDIBLE!

"Happy Accidents" I call them and my songs are full of them. It's almost like your subconscious decides to disagree with your conscious mind and say "Oy! I'm not playing that shit! I know how to do it far far better, so move over baby and let me SHINE!"

I have no idea how these things happen either. Yet it happens to me all the time. I kind of know that when I am writing and recording, a "Happy Accident" will happen at some point, but I never 100% rely on it. If I did then it wouldn't happen. But the feeling of satisfaction is enormous when you hear something you didn't intend to do, and then realise it works BRILLIANTLY!

Sometimes these things occur in the most random fashion. When writing my most recent song "I Don't Care",  I sat down and started coming up with an idea. I embellished it, changed the chords around a bit, "la la'ed" the melody line and then stopped. As I sat there thinking, I decided to fiddle around on the guitar - playing two chords over and over again, almost like a mantra - to go along with my thinking. Then it hit me! These two chords, played totally randomly and bearing absolutely no relevance to the song I was writing, were exactly what I'd been trying to get! I started to embellish the structure around the chords, found a chorus which fit like a glove and BOOOOM!!! I had my song. It wasn't what I set out to write at all. It appeared, from deep in my subconscious mind and almost wrote itself!

So next time you make a mistake at the piano, playing your guitar or even singing - embrace it. It might just be the golden nugget you needed to make the song great!

Happy writing.

Yer pal