A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Sieffe La Trobe – RIP

I’ve had a rather surreal day.  Over the last week I have been working flat out to finish my new eBook, nothing at all to do with music. It’s all about using location based services to help when you’re buying a house. Anyway I had just finished the draft and contracted someone to create a book cover design for me and went to check my email.

In the email was a message from Titirangi Folk Music Club, saying that Sieffe La Trobe had passed away and sharing the funeral details. The email was sent last week, but I was reading this an hour and a half after the funeral had started! I sat at my desk trying to take it in and couldn’t. The email said that there would be a remembrance and music afterwards at a church in Henderson. I told my daughter and she said GO and next thing you know, I’m on my way to Henderson with my guitar.

How do you process this? I arrived and sat in on some great music with fiddles, dulcimers, guitars, mandolin and more, with jigs, reels, folk songs and contemporary music and left it to my fingers to decide which ones to join in or not.

I saw a few old faces but its been so long since I was in that scene that I didn’t remember many of the names. Many I hadn’t seen for a couple of decades.

I don’t know how long I’ve known Sieffe. Going by this story on NZ Folkies, it was before 1984 because I remember visiting him in Fort Street when he was just setting up Fat Sparrow Studios. I still have a frame he made me somewhere that I used to swap photos out in every few days.

RolandG-707

RolandG-707

I remember the little shade of envy when he got himself a Roland Guitar synthesizer. I’m not positive, but I think it was the same as this one. He complained about the delay, but said that it really made you lift your game. I remember thinking I could live with that problem.

I remember, like him riding around on motorbikes with a guitar strapped to my back, folk festivals, clubs, good times.

Last time I saw Sieffe, he was jamming at the Coatsville market. It’s probably been 2-3 years since we jammed together.

I finished this song a while ago and it now has a rap bridge. Seems like its haunting me. A wake up call. Daylight saving started on Sunday. I hibernate in winter, don’t like playing in cold bars. I’ve been too busy working, not playing my guitars. Time to fix that:)

So while I didn’t write this one for you Sieffe, next time I’ll perform it in your honor.

Another Man Has Gone

V1

On the streets of Avondale

Wearing the tread off my shoes

Don’t you talk to me man

Can’t you see I’ve got the blues

My heart is breaking

Cancer called again

Another man is gone.

Chorus

Another man has gone

Life will never be the same

Another man has gone

How do we go on

V2

A brother comes along the road

So drunk he can hardly stand

He looks me up and down and nods

Then he shakes my hand

Life runs in cycles

And they have to end

Another man has gone

Bridge (rap)

I’ve been walking down these streets so long that I can’t feel my feet

But I can’t stop because that’s getting real, accepting the deal

The ache that I’m feeling

I’m reeling one minute you’re there then you’re gone and I can’t stop

Because that’s getting real, accepting the deal

V3

Now I’m on a back street

Man is glaring at me

His eyes are throwing daggers

Maybe he thinks that I’m a D

But I’m just a sad man

Walking misery

Another man has gone

I had the pleasure recently of being interviewed by Stephen Horton aka Rezinator on his radio show called The Highway of Dreams. You can hear the interview here. Click on the link under Rezinator speaks with Luigi Cappel. 

I really enjoyed chatting with Stephen who is an excellent musician in his own right. We talked about a number of my experiences over the years and discussed a few of my songs.

You can hear my songs You Oughta Run, which features the awesome sax playing of my friend Charly Nice, Old Flame which I wrote about a school reunion and Rarotonga, which I wrote over there, its a bit in the style of Chet Atkins, one of my heroes in the guitar world. If you’d like to know the stories behind those tracks, listen to the show. You can also hear those tracks on my Reverbnation page.

Telephone Card

Telephone CardI wrote a song several years ago which I wanted to make a musical slide show video out of. Unfortunately I have no idea what happened to the photos. This morning I saw a post on Facebook promoting Twitpic. I haven’t used it for year, so I followed the link and connected it to my Twitter profile and up came two of the photos that I had taken at Chartwell Foursquare for the song along with a pile of other photos that I took a few years ago.

This is the part where the Indian grocer is telling me that if I give him my Seiko watch, he will give me a loan for a $2 telephone card so I can call a cab to get home. Mahesh was wonderful when I asked him to pose for these photos, he thought it was a cool idea. I hope I can find them again. You can hear the song on my Reverbnation page.

Rarotonga is an awesome place to have a relax and get some musical inspiration. I wish I was back there now. I guess I’ll have to think warm (its winter in New Zealand) and enjoy the memories.

 

 

It’s music night at Social Media Club Auckland and I was thinking about that and a radio interview I have coming up with Stephen Horton AKA Rezinator on The Highway of Dreams on the 1st of July.

In the shower, where I start my day’s planning I was thinking of all the things I needed today and started thinking about what I wanted to do. That’s play more music, write and record more songs and start gigging again. I’ve been so busy working this last year that my music has played second fiddle and this blog has been sitting in the back room where the guys tune up before getting on stage.

So here we go, another blog and hopefully the start of many more and maybe you’all will come back for more.

Gibson Factory

Yep, that’s me:)

I have to work out which tracks to share on the radio show and am wishing that I had done some more recording because since I recorded the songs which you can hear on my Reverbnation page, they have matured a lot, with rewrites and practice. One of the things that often happens as a songwriter who doesn’t perform much any more is that as soon as you have finished your latest song, you move onto the next one.

I’ve been stuck on one of my latest songs until last weekend when I had a bit of a blow out. I can’t share the recording with you yet, because it is still rough, but I can tell about it. It’s a rock, reggae, blues number with some rap in the bridge (yes I have genre fatigue) and I’m going to need some help with it.

My friend Charly Nice will hopefully add some of his awesome sax to the song as he did on You Oughta Run. I’ll need some help with the rap too. I know what I want it to sound like, I’ve got the phrasing, but not the voice for it. What I’d really like to do is make a music video of it, take you down those mean streets, but of course that means funding from somewhere.

I guess its taken me a long time to write it because it is based on the day my father in law died after his second bout with cancer. It chronicles a walk I made around the streets of Avondale, his final resting place. It’s probably taken that long for me to deal with it.

If you follow the lyrics you might get a gist of the story, but it will take a good recording and video to really share the story so you can feel it. Like walking past a rough pub and seeing a guy covered in ink, drunk as a skunk, with a beer bottle in his hand and a scowl in his face, who makes you feel like you should cross the road quick-smart and then extends his hand in a warm brotherly shake. That was like Auckland weather, all emotions in a couple of minutes.  If you’ve been in a similar situation with someone you cared about and then walked through a neighbourhood made up of some awesome and some quite scary people on a black day, you might relate.

Another Man Has Gone

V1

On the streets of Avondale

Wearing the tread off my shoes

Don’t you talk to me man

Can’t you see I’ve got the blues

My heart is breaking

Cancer called again

Another man is gone.

Chorus

Another man has gone

Life will never be the same

Another man has gone

How do we go on

V2

A brother comes along the road

So drunk he can hardly stand

He looks me up and down and nods

Then he shakes my hand

Life runs in cycles

And they have to end

Another man has gone

Bridge (rap)

I’ve been walking down these streets so long that I can’t feel my feet

But I can’t stop because that’s getting real, accepting the deal

The ache that I’m feeling

I’m reeling one minute you’re there then you’re gone and I can’t stop

Because that’s getting real, accepting the deal

V3

Now I’m on a back street

Man is glaring at me

His eyes are throwing daggers

Maybe he thinks that I’m a D

But I’m just a sad man

Walking misery

Another man has gone

So the writing is done. now comes arrangement and practice, then getting a team together to help record it.

So there’s my latest song-writing blog. If you come back I will too, OK?

Rise Up Christchurch

Today is the day of the Christchurch Rise Up Telethon and I’m wishing that I was ready to record my new version of my song The Fault Was Mine, which is about a father whose daughter is found in the Christchurch Earthquake wreckage. The first draft is here on YouTube, but I think the new rewrite is much more commercial.

Using what I learned at Berklee and with some mentoring the lyrics have been altered so that it is easier for people not close to what happened in Christchurch to understand what it is about and to relate to the situation so many people found themselves in.

My hope now is to be able to record it professionally and put together a music video, of course that means money so I need to look at how to fund it because my focus is on writing songs and what I really want is for someone else to record it. This means that I probably don’t qualify for the NZ Music On Air new funding because it is all about recording artists, not songwriters who do not want to be recording artists.

So here’s the new lyrics and hopefully I will have a new demo to share soon,

The Fault Was Mine Copyright Luigi Cappel 2011

The Policeman on the phone said come right down

To the hospital on the other side of town

I’d been awake all night consumed with fear

They’d found my daughter in Christchurch Cathedral Square

Now I’m walking and a wondering why was it you not me

I should have been protecting you, protecting you

Are you alive?

Are you hurt?

I’d do anything to turn back time.

They said it was

A new fault line

But I felt the fault was mine

I still feel the fault was mine

The trip past the earthquake rubble seemed to take years

Doctor sat me down, I listened through a haze of tears

At the hospital we did everything we can

Now its up to God we hope you understand

Now I’m walking down the corridor, why was it you not me

I should have been protecting you, protecting you

Are you alive?

Are you hurt?

I’d do anything to turn back time.

They said it was

A new fault line

But I felt the fault was mine

I still feel the fault was mine

A city’s made of bricks and mortar

They can be rebuilt but daughter

It would crush my heart to lose you now

Are you alive?

Are you hurt?

I’d do anything to turn back time.

They said it was

A new fault line

But I felt the fault was mine

I still feel the fault was mine

I still feel the fault was mine

Christchurch Cathedral

I’m in the process of fine tuning my new song God If You’re Listening, which is a Country Christian Christmas Song. As part of that I am analyzing Temporary Home as an example of both a hugely successful song and one that I love, written by Carrie Underwood, Zac Maloy and Luke Laird.  I want to emphasize that I have utmost respect for all of these amazing writers and that this analysis is to help me improve my craft, rather than to comment on theirs, given that they are all hit song writers and I am still working on becoming one.

At the end of this blog I have included a YouTube clip which displays the lyrics, rather than the official video, so you can see what I am referring to in my comments. You can see the official music video on my previous blog here.

So here we go. The first think I looked at was the hook, which is also the song title. It fits perfectly and is repeated twice in each chorus, so you are left in no doubt as to the point of the song. People who like the song will know the title even if they have never been told it. This is of course important for marketing if people hear it and want to buy a copy.

The theme of the song is consistent. It’s all about people who are in diffifult transitions in their lives, but accepting that better is to come, one way or another. I have read some critiques which said that the song is too simplistic, but I disagree.

I understand that Carrie knew exactly what she wanted to write about when she sat down with Zac and Luke during a 2 day writing session. They each drew from their own experiences, and songwriting teachers always say write about what you know.

There is a balance between writing a song that tells you an exact story, complete with detailed imagery, vs telling a story allowing you to insert your own imagery and imagination, being able to make it yours, based around your own experiences. Someone who listens to a song that matches their emotions and experience and has that special moment, wondering, how did the artist know that about me, is going to be a much bigger fan.

The lyric moves between the 1st and 2nd person, building a word picture then making it personal. I really like the imagery of “windows and rooms”, which is sufficient for you to fill in the gaps from your own memory or imagination, getting you involved in the story. The same with the old man. We know he’s in a hospital bed, we know he’s dying, but it is more powerful to not say it.

The only part I would change would be the beginning, with the 6 year old. The words do not belong to a 6 year old, rather to a commentator. What I’m trying to say is that a 6 year old foster child probably wouldn’t have that positive attitude unless it came from the advice of their caregiver. Like Luke Laird, I also had a time when our family hosted several foster children and they tended to arrive insecure and socially inept and certainly not thinking positively about the long term future. But then most people would not notice this and you quickly move on to the next vignettes and the old man situation which so many more of us can relate to.

The structure of the song is excellent whilst again simple. Whatever the critics say, I believe that commercially simple is best. People can learn the song quickly and sing along with it. The melodic repetition also supports this. Most won’t have Carrie’s chops but they will enjoy singing this song. The build from a boy, to his mother to the old man is linear. Carrie’s performance builds to long sustained notes with the song climaxing with the old man dying and the tension is then released in a more subdued chorus. The cadence from the 1 note to the 4 note at the end of each verse builds expectation and identifies the arrival of the chorus.

The arrangement is excellent for the song. There is a lot more in it than you will hear first time around, but ultimately this is a showcase for the power and clarity of Carrie’s awesome voice. Her phrasing makes so much impact on the song, for example “Looking for a way…………….out”. Great sustained notes and some sweet harmonies.

The backing band is tight as you would expect from Nashville, with the vocal taking centre stage, again I understand a Nashville recording prerequisite. There is some nice pedal and as I mentioned, each time you listen you will here something more, which makes it nice to come back to.

I found it interesting that the song runs for 4.29, which is long for a pop song, but probably less noticeable for a country track and one that tells a story. I would have expected a bridge chorus at the end or for the final chorus to go up a note for a final climax, but the writers kept it simple.

So what was the point of all of this?

  1. Just like an art student studies the great artists, a songwriter wanting to write hit songs, has to study hit songs.
  2. I want to write not only hit songs, but songs that tell a story, engage the listening and evoke emotions. The best way to do this is to understand the crafting of songs that I like, that do this.
  3. I am often too impulsive in writing songs, as I mentioned in my last blog. This exercise is forcing me to slow down and rethink the specific song I am currently writing, “God if You’re Listening “.

So my conclusions? I am now going to rewrite my new song again. I’m going to remove the bridge and do a 3rd verse which will be about the husband and father, thereby telling a 3rd part of the story. In my bridge I have moved from the story to a commentary and I’m thinking that this commentary should be coming from the listener, not the singer.

I have also decided, as per my previous blog, to make the performance simple, just lead vocal, guitar and bass. If I do a version with more, it will just be for fun, but I am not writing as a singer songwriter, I am writing for someone else to perform. I believe that the more elements I add, the narrower the appeal will be for someone to pick the song up.

This has been a personal exercise for me, but I hope it also gives you some ideas for your own writing. I would welcome any feedback.

So its 2011 and I have made some resolutions, the big one being to really work hard in my songwriting and I’ve started off the way I intend to continue.

My first blog for this year was about my new song God if You’re Listening and having given it a lot of thought in the wee hours, I am doing an about face which will hopefully head me off in the right direction, especially a week before my first Berklee Music Semester of the year, with the paper on Commercial Songwriting Techniques.

So here’s my first weakness which I aim to correct. When I write a new song, I record a demo straight away. That’s fine if you do it so that you can remember all the nuances, but I tend to want to upload it onto websites straight away before it ripens. The result of this is that:

  • I haven’t learned how to play it properly yet. This means that the recording sounds like what it is. What it isn’t is a quality demo. Just because I know how I want it to sound, doesn’t mean that it is ready or refined.
  • I haven’t run through my Song Quality Checklist from Music Publishing 101. The first question of which is “Does the title sound like a hit. My song from my last blog started off as Santa If You’re Listening, but I very quickly realized it was wrong for lots of reasons, including that the dominant theme was a woman talking to God. It also means that it is not just a Christmas and Country song, but also a Christian song.
  • I rushed the accompaniment which actually sounded rushed and boring.
  • I added more instruments than necessary which actually detracted from the recording. As I songwriter, I really need to focus on simple elements, vocals, one guitar and bass. If  I want to pitch the song to an artist, in most cases less is more.
  • The melody and phrasing always improve the more you play a new song.

So sometime soon I am going to re-record “God If You’re Listening”. In the meantime, I am going to do the following things:

  1. Work through my Song Quality Checklist.
  2. Create a song Admin Sheet
  3. Print copies of the song and chords for my 3 performance clearfiles
  4. Register it with APRA
  5. Analyse a hit song in a similar style from my ongoing list of 5 songs for analysis. Probably Temporary Home by Zac Maloy, Luke Laird and co-written and recorded by Carrie Underwood, because it is similar inasmuch as it was written to evoke emotions and because it is a very successful hit song.
  6. Then I will revisit my song to see what I can improve.
  7. When I am happy I will re-record it, put some copies onto CD and then submit to a number of websites.

The key point I am making is about treating my songs as a business product, because if I don’t no one else will.

So I’ve now finished the first cut of my Christmas song for 2011, which as the name of the blog suggests is called, God If You’re Listening. This started off as Santa If You’re Listening, which I wrote about in my last blog. It started as my 2nd to last Harmony assignment for the year. I finished it this morning, 1 January 2011 and recorded the first cut which you can listen to here. God if You’re Listening

I decided to change the name because God If You’re Listening is more generic and while Christmas makes the concept more poignant, and is a time that many people do lose their jobs, it could happen at any time to anyone. Most people will lose their jobs at least once in their lives and often when they least expect it.

Here are the lyrics. I hope you like it. I’ve sent the song off to someone who offered to master a song for me for free. I’ll wait a few days and see what comes back before putting it onto my favorite music sites. So you’re the first to hear the raw demo. Let me know what you think.

God If You’re Listening © Luigi Cappel 2011
Verse One
There’s a young boy on the corner sitting on a garbage can, his red rimmed eyes are looking at the sky. He says
Santa if you’re listening, can you bring my Dad a job? Since they closed the plant we’re barely getting by.
Chorus
Santa if you’re listening I sure could use some help my Mom is lying crying in her room
I don’t need no toys or such, I’ll just do my chores and please Santa can you make it happen soon.
Verse 2
In the bedroom sits his mother and she’s staring at the wall, her eyes glazed over can’t see through her tears, she says
God if you’re listening can you help my family? Our food is low and the rent is in arrears.
Chorus
God if you’re listening I sure could use some help, my husband’s tried most everywhere he can.
I don’t need no Christmas Tree or fancy clothes to wear, I just hope that you have a plan.
Bridge
The same could happen to you or me, if you see someone in misery throw them a lifeline if you can
It don’t have to be much, just a friendly hand and a loving touch can be all it takes to revive a weary soul, and she said
Chorus
God if you’re listening I sure could use some help, my husband’s tried most everywhere he can.
I don’t need no Christmas Tree or fancy clothes to wear, I just hope that you have a plan.

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