Friday, April 24, 2020
Sorry for the radio silence, I've gotten a little behind in posting since the apocalypse began. This next week I'll be posting a lot to catch up! How are you all doing? I've been busy trying to keep my business afloat, stressing every time I have to be around people for work, keeping up with homeschooling, exercise, failing at sourdough bread, avoiding Tiger King and Trump's medical advice, etc. I definitely have not had any down time.
How fitting the next song to post is Still Ill! My version is very drone-based and looking back now, I might have added a creepy beat to the background but this early in the game I was still very new to beatboxing. I dig it, though. Very moody in deed!
2010 Original Post
This should have been my theme song for January and February. After a month and a half, I am finally recovering from my super-stupid-cold. I am looking forward to recording without having to stop every two seconds to hack and cough.
My version of Still Ill has a drone made of vocal loops pitched down one octave. I wanted to give the piece a feeling of being somewhat heavy and stuck in the illness but then contrast that with light and airy vocals because, to me, the act of questioning is really a sign of hope...
Thursday, March 19, 2020
We suddenly live in a different world. I've been hanging out in my house with my fam, just homeschooling and figuring out how to navigate our new reality and keep my business/job going. It's tough but we are all doing a variation of this same thing and we are all in it together. In the meantime, maybe posting these songs can give you a tiny break from the madness. Love you all and stay safe! On with the music!
This is still one of my fav Smiths songs. On my version, this is where I started to branch out and away from the doo doo doot background vocals and try to find different ways to make textures and rhythms with voice.
2010 Original Post
I love what Simon Goddard (author of all things Smiths) says about this song. Basically, he says that when most rock bands are singing "oh baby" "oooh yeah" and other radio-friendly nonsense, out of nowhere comes Morrissey singing "Punctured bicycle on a hillside desolate..."
What an amazing lyricist he is.
Friday, February 28, 2020
When I started this project, Jaden was 3-4 years old and now he's 13 and still the most awesome kid I could have ever hoped for! I love him to the moon and back.
People ask how was I able to complete this project while parenting a toddler. For years, Josh and I worked one hour away in SF which meant Jaden also went to preschool/daycare in SF because he needed to be dropped off/picked up in the normal preschool time-frame of 8am-6pm.
Starting the end of 2009, I was able to work every other week from home so I suddenly had all that day time to myself. I sang and edited from the time they left early in the morning until 7pm when they got back home. And then I would take the Musician Hat off and put the Mom Hat back on to make dinner and hang out with the fam. I also did all my "work from home" tasks at night. This is why I was able to accurately add up the amount of time I spent on this project. Exactly ten hours a day, five days a week, every other week. 1300 hours.
Unfortunately, I've never had that much time for music again.
This is why I haven't put out anything new. I have tried so many ways to incorporate music into my life while still making ends meet but I have yet to figure out how to do something that pays the bills while still having time/energy left over for music. Over the years, my thought process has been: start a business using my unique skills, put in the work until eventually it can continue without me by hiring additional help. I thought this would be true of the awesome vegan restaurant that Josh and I created and built up over the last few years but I was never able to step back and get any of my time back. I'm in the process of trying again with the current business but we will see. I'm often frustrated that none of the things I'm "good at" or "known for" are things I'm able to support myself with. The inability to create music has been my main source of depression over the years. I just can't figure out how to make things work in my favor. I have to, though.
*original 2010 Post*
This song is dedicated to my three year old son, Jaden whom I love more than life itself.
Thursday, February 20, 2020
Early on, I did a lot of doot doot sounds to create rhythms but I knew it was only a matter of time before I needed to do something else. I like listening back to see how my mind came up with new creative solutions to make each song unique. In a way, it follows The Smiths (especially Johnny Marr's guitars!) journey of expanding creativity as well. However, I like the haunting quality of this- especially the totally different chord structure at the end. Fun fact: that ending caught me off guard today as I was listening to write this post. I had honestly forgotten how my version went. Once I had finished the entire project in 2010, I completely put it out of my mind to get some much needed space from the all-consuming 1300-hour project. It took me several years to be able to listen to The Smiths again without hearing my versions layered on top. Now I'm back to thinking of great high school memories when I listen to them and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Of all 71 tracks, this is the only original file that somehow got deleted- both the original single voice version and the multilayered one. When the project was remastered in 2011, we had to just clean up the audio file that already had all the vocal layers flattened into one stereo track.
2010 Original Post
As promised, here's the new and improved version with about 10 more layers of voice than the original. I did my best to include more of the guitar element to the music and I'm pleased with how it turned out. It's probably the most rhythmic of my vocal pieces to date!
(btw, I seem to be having volume issues but hopefully the levels aren't too low for everyone else...)
Monday, February 17, 2020
This was the last of the original single-track vocals that were replaced by the layered versions. From this point forward, all songs were created with the idea of layering. This also marks the first track that included beatboxing! I had never attempted drum sounds and I hid them in the background just in case people laughed. It may seem like a small thing, but I felt selfconcious trying to make drum noises and it really took some courage to post this. Comfort zone be damned!
The inspiration for Miserable Lie was the sparse, dark feel of Pipeline by Depeche Mode The overall dirge feel of the bass notes sliding into position was a direct nod. The high ooooo in the background at 1:20 and again at 2:06 was a slowed-down version of the main Pipeline melody. I love easter eggs but I think this was one that absolutely nobody figured out!
**2010 original post**
This is more of a departure from the original song and I'm pleased with how it turned out. First off, let me just say this: I am not a beatboxer nor have I ever played one on TV, ok Rahzel? I find that adding drums really gives me more options to take the music in different directions so this probably won't be the last you hear of them. I have 70-ish songs to go so it's time to start getting creative!
Also, my version is a bit darker than the original. I wanted it to have some anger and despair to match the lyrics so I said to myself, WWMGD?* Oh! and extra credit points to the first person who can name the Depeche Mode song I borrowed a melody from.
* What Would Martin Gore Do
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
This is the multi-layer version of the second song that replaced the original single-voice track. It was also my first attempt at adding rhythm to a cover. Complete with all the doots and aaaahhhs of a live a cappella song, it could be easily recreated and I would absolutely love to hear some barbershop quartet type group give it a whirl. After a few more songs with this traditional singing style, I quickly realized I was going to have to expand and make things more interesting before I doo-ta-doo'd everyone to death. I often wonder what I might have come up for my rendition if it had taken place later on in the project.
FUN FACT: Each vocal is on a separate layer in ProTools so that I can adjust volume/panning, etc. I used to label them according to how they sounded, for example Low Doots, Mid Doots, Ahhh Hi, Hum Low... Which made perfect sense to me but was apparently an absolute nightmare for any engineer that took a look at the files once the songs were upwards of 50 layers. What can I say. I'm complicated. *SHRUG EMOJI*
*original 2010 post*
This is a pretty literal translation of the song but I promise the next song, Miserable Lie, is waaaaay far from it's original version. Just you wait...
Friday, January 10, 2020
This project was born out of the sadness of losing two great friends in 5 weeks. At the time, I thought of the music as a major distraction, but now I can hear myself processing all that grief on a subconscious level. Even ten years later, I still get messages from strangers telling me my voice has helped them through hard times. I basically locked myself in a room and sang for 10 hours a day for a year. At times I felt very much alone, but I never was. This is the beautiful thing about sharing pain rather than keeping it locked inside.
Saturday, January 4, 2020
I approached it the way all Smiths Project songs eventually happened. I would start with a vocal based on the root of the chords, sometimes just ahhhs and oooohs to set the pitch for the song. Then I continued to the next layer, adding harmonies in what ever order seemed to make sense. In general, and this is still true today, I never have any clue what I'll sing ahead of time. Every layer is an improv built on listening to the previous layers as I sing. Sometimes a concept would quickly form and I'd take it the harmonies in a particular direction. Other times, I just kept going until one of the layers suddenly sparked an idea.
Someone once asked me if I had sheet music of all 71 Smiths Project arrangements. Ooooof. I wouldn't even know where to begin.
(btw, only a few more days until the first official Smiths Project song is posted!)
Friday, January 3, 2020
The beginning of the Smiths Project was a bit bumpy. Since I thought of it as a personal project that nobody would care about, I had planned on doing a single voice track of each song and post them throughout the year. It was just meant as a way of having me return to the music studio throughout the year and get back into doing something, *anything* with music. I had never envisioned the complicated layered vocal versions that ended up being the project. But after the third single-voice track was posted, someone mentioned it on morrissey-solo.com and suddenly, people were listening and they weren't impressed. Fair enough. I decided, if people were interested, I might as well make the songs more interesting considering I knew I had it in me. I deleted the first few posts and began working on layered versions.
Ever since HS, I had always layered my vocal tracks on my songs but once I went to college, I really got into the idea of layered harmonies, thanks to David Xiques's super early morning ear training exercises using the teachings of Zoltan Kodaly. (Lets just take a minute to bask in the glow of Zoltan. I mean, even his name... wow.) So! I started recording myself singing all parts of these musical exercises. Here is my favorite one.A post shared by The Smiths Project (@thesmithsproject) on
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
I am just your average 34 year old gal with a boyfriend, a beautiful son, a happy (but grumpy-looking) cat, and a piano that looks like a fireplace. I work in San Francisco, where I lived for more than twelve years before moving to San Jose where there are huge tracts of land...
I'm a musician. I started first with piano at age 2, then worked my way through every instrument in marching band by the end of high school. Not that I could play most of those instruments now, mind you. Point is, I was the ultimate band nerd. I even went on to study music at San Francisco State University.
Through out my life, certain music has stuck by me through thick and thin like old friends. The Smiths have been a soundtrack to my life ever since I first heard a third generation cassette copy of Rank as a freshman in high school. I lived in a small desert town of Joshua Tree, CA and there were no radio stations of interest (unless you consider classic rock and country music interesting). The way I was introduced to almost all of my favorite artists was by word of mouth. Any time you heard something cool, you'd pass around cassette tape and make your own copy. I still have cassette copies of Depeche Mode records that someone's big brother used his mom's stereo to copy for me... and I, of course, shared them with others. Ah, pre-internet file sharing. It's my generation's equivalent to old people talking about how they walked to school up-hill both directions, backward, in a blizzard.
When I first heard the Smiths, I was hooked on the melodies, the guitars, the way Morrissey made sense of the jumbled things I was feeling. The lyrics have something that everyone can relate to in one way or another. Johnny Marr is a genius on guitars. I've seen so many guitarists attempt to replicate his guitar parts and they are pretty mind-boggling. I mean, for starters... which guitar part do you even choose to practice?? Each layer upon layer of guitar parts is amazing. Andy Rourke's bass lines rock as well. I love how the bass had its own unique space within the music to create yet another melody line. Out of everyone in the band, poor Mike Joyce on drums is probably the most overlooked. But where would those songs be without the beat? (ok, you're right. The songs would still be amazing.)
These were the songs that I listened to through my formative years. The music that saw me through good times and bad, from sneaking out of the house late at night (eeep, sorry mom and dad), to recuperating from a 2 year bout with a muscle disease, and now singing the songs in the car with my own family. These songs have been in my life for the past 20 years.
I started this blog because I love music. I needed a goal for the new year and I wanted it to be something that involved singing as often as possible. I used to do more layered and intricate recordings back when I had all the time in the world but now that I have more responsibilities, music has taken a back seat for a long, long time. Too long. With a toddler pulling on my shirt constantly, it's all the more important to make a little time for myself to do what I love.
The year is 2010 and it's time to reconnect to my "inner musician." She's kinda dusty.
So here goes...
I thought I would share with you some oldies as we head into The Smiths Project songs. After high school, I was briefly with a band who also loved The Smiths. Here is a song we recorded when I was about 18.
Made of Cinders
Recorded by Cipher in 1994
Lyrics by Chad Murray (sp?) who I never really knew very well, guitars by John Given who is still the best guitar player I've ever worked with, and Nathen Lester with the awesome bass and recording skills. Growing up in the desert of Joshua Tree in the 80s and 90s, there was no internet, just kids who spent time doing things that interested them. It resulted in some incredibly talented kids who are still doing amazing things today. A lot of them who are still doing music as well. Maybe it's time for a reunion?