I was writing some notes in eSession for two musicians in the US who are shortly going to play some overdubs on a song for my album. I imagined reading these notes without first hearing the song, and they are rather intriguing! So here they are, for your puzzlement:
Although the style tends towards a country/folk/Americana lament, I want it to be ethereal and rise above any genre comparisons. Itâ€™s in that style because that might be the favourite music of the protagonists, but as a narrator Iâ€™m English (obviously) so it should be timeless and genre-less. Try to avoid clichÃ©s!
The exception may be the later instrumental solo sections (labelled Solo and Bridge Solo). In Solo I might use a pair of Cape Breton fiddlers and even a banjo, and itâ€™ll have a fresh kinda Ceilidh knees-up feel to it. The Bridge Solo section should rock out more. Itâ€™s worth trying a pedal steel solo in there; though I should warn you, Iâ€™m trying to locate Mark Knopfler so I can ask him to play in that bit, as I think he would kill it! plus heâ€™s another Brit with a history of narrating epic American tales (Sailing to Philadelphia etc.)
As such, the acoustic and guide piano may end up being ditched or low in the mix, in favor of more abstract sounds to suggest the chords; they are a bit unimaginative, yet the E chords do need some movement in them, perhaps the pedal steel lines and the odd high bass run can provide this.
We werenâ€™t able to get the bass figure legato enough yet, but it should really be silky smooth. Some of the notes might be harmonics if theyâ€™re available. There is something about the bass figure plus piano that is almost Eno-ambient, and I want to build on that, picking simple notes and motifs that combine nicely.
The â€˜Verseâ€™ section is the most down-to-earth and streetlike. The couple are briefly happy and in love, before it all turns tragic.
Chorus 4, where the girl dies, could support some slightly more dissonant elements.
The â€˜Spaceoutâ€™ section should be very dreamy. Iâ€™d like it to suggest seagulls, foghorns and lapping water, without actually resorting to using sound effects. There may be very abstract and surreal elements, even a string quartet, a bit Strawberry Fields-like. His life is flashing before his eyes, heâ€™s half-drowned, clinging to a log in the freezing waters, trying to make it through the fog to the City, or just away. But his girl is dead, so heâ€™s beyond caring.
Itâ€™s ok for the sections to be quite different. If you think in movie terms, itâ€™s like a movie that cuts around, has flashbacks etc. a bit like Shawshank Redemption. In fact, the image of Tim Robbins emerging from the storm drain into a stream and shaking the rain off as he realises heâ€™s finally free, is a good image for the song.
I tend to do a lot of cutting and pasting, moving things around, so itâ€™s fine if you give me a straightish take or two, and others where you go really out on a limb with bits I can try relocating in odd places. Moving a lick over a chord designed for often gives me something I never would have thought of!