A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Posts tagged ‘songwriter’

Its Music Night at #SMCAKL

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?

The Recording Studio

Hey guys, first of all apologies for the blogfade, I’ve been really busy, especially since my broken wrist has healed and I am playing again. I have a few great new songs ready to be recorded, well two of them are ready to be recorded, I’m still working on the guitar solo for the third which is a jazz song.

I’ve said many times that you should sign up to your Performing Rights Association. I’m a writer member of APRA (If you are in the USA you can join either ASCAP or BMI) which looks after Australia and New Zealand. Actually I wonder why it isn’t called ANZPRA? As well as making sure that you collect your performance royalties, they do lots of other things like putting on the awesone S3 Song Summit Sydney which I went to and blogged about last year. They also support and sponsor lots of seminars like the one I went to at Depot Artspace yesterday.

Now I have of course recorded in a studio before, but this was a great workshop with the opportunity to learn more about recording, mixing and mastering. There were a couple of things that I came away with that I thought I would share with you.

First of all, with the economy as it is, many studios are quiet and you may be able to negotiate a deal, even if its just some extra practice time. Rates seem to vary from $25 an hour to huge sums. Don’t just go on price because you may get what you paid for, although some people may be very good, but either getting started or just want to help fellow musos or gain experience. So cheap doesn’t necessarily mean poor quality.

A key bit of advice is to hear some examples of their work. Also see if they have experience in your genre.  Someone into electonica or heavy metal might not bring the best out of country or a solo singer songwriter with just a guitar. But then they might too. Anyway check what they have done and ask if they have testimonials or any hits under their belt.

Another good bit of advice is to collect a selection of tracks of artists whose sound you like and you would like your track to sound like. Then you can take those tracks to the studio for the team to listen to. You can say, I want my track to sound like that. The guys at Depot Artspace, said that if you do that, they will be able to come close, although of course a lot of it is up to y0u.

There was some discussion, instigated by me, as to what costs to expect for mixing, mastering etc. I wont preempt any pricing but you should be leaving at least a c0uple of hundred dollars. One of the suggestions was whether you were looking for a single or ‘just an album track’. I was surpised at that. Obviously some people want to put more into their ‘best’ tracks. The problem I have with that is that I want all my tracks to be the best they can be and often the track you like the best isn’t the one that becomes the hit. There is also the issue that in todays world of iTunes and downloads, its quite possible that most of your sales will be for single tracks. These days of most of the albums I buy, there are only a few tracks that I really like.

I’ve currently got my eye out for a few musicians that would like to record with me in the studio. I’m especially after a drummer and someone who plays pedal steel. I can’t pay them but they will get credit on the demos. I’ll do another blog soon about demos, this blog is about the studio.

For solo artists like myself (I do play with resident or jam bands but its been many years since I’ve been IN a band), keeping time can be an issue when you bring session musicians in. When  its you on your own people won’t notice if your timing slides a fraction and sometimes you even do it deliberately. I do that in my new jazz song Color Blind. If you can’t keep steady in a studio, it’s going to cost you time and money and annoy the other musicians. My Tascam home studio has a click track and I also have a metronome, but they are both so  boring and don’t give you the one beat. Fortunately my new Digitech Jam Man has a choice of 10 click tracks, they aren’t great, but much better than what I had before and I don’t mind playing with them. Maybe I’ll  be able to download some better samples. One thing the Jam Man doesn’t seem to be able to do is let you select the beats per minute, you have to tap it in, but I digress. The point is that if you make sure you are as ready as you can be, before you get to the studio, the better your result will be.

So shop around, do your homework, ask for examples of their work and ask liots of questions. People don’t work in recording studios for a job. They do it as a vocation. They do it because theyh love it. You will pretty much find all of them interested and happy to show you around and explain how they work. Remember, its about their reputation as well as yours.

How about leaving a comment and sharing your experiences in the studio?

DIY Record Album Production lessons

Almost every time I’ve played a live gig, I get asked if I have a CD that people can buy and the sad and sorry answer is no, but here’s my card and you can visit my website at MySpace. Now there is my first error, you really should have your own website, but I haven’t found a CMS yet that is easy for me to use, but I will do soon. Anyway, even if you can’t afford to visit a studio, there are plenty of low cost tools that you can purchase, either software or hardware. I have both.  Now you can create your own CD.

I will also visit Go Daddy one of these days and get my own URL, which you can easily link to your MySpace or other page until you have your own. They only charge $9.99 for a .com domain. If you listen to the great Musicians Cooler Podcast, he has a number of promo codes that will give you a discount off Go Daddy services.

I’ll wait until I use up most of my business cards which have the MySpace address on it.

Anyway, back to the story. I bought myself a Canon iP4500 printer which will print directly on printable CD’s. It was very cheap and did a great job, except it doesn’t print all the way into the hole of the CD, which is a minor dissapointment. I checked the settings and they are set to the closest it will go.

I spent quite a lot of time on the image I wanted on the label and also making sure it was consistent with the insert cover and the theme of the Album which is Greenhouse. I thought I’d be able to find some good templates on Microsoft Publisher but was sorely dissapointed. Fortunately at a sale last week I found a software package called CD Covers and Labels for Dummies, which was as simple and simplistic as you would expect, but awesome value for $5! So I as able to use their templates and my images.

I put the title on the CD label and also in smaller print on the bottom Copyright Luigi Cappel 2009.

I worked out the order of the tracks I wanted, which I listed on the Album insert. I didn’t put in the song times, which I will probably do on the next batch, because if any of these do find their way to a radio station, they will want to know how long the tracks play for.

When I went to burn the CD’s using Sonic Digital Media Plus v7, I found (having wasted 3 CD’s) on testing them that the software had reordered the tracks alphabetically which meant I had to solve this problem because I wanted the tracks in the specific order to keep it relevant and interesting to the listener and I had already printed the inserts including the track listing. To solve this, I used the Rename function and numbered them in front of the song title. Now we were sweet.

Printing the labels was easy, although cutting them to size was a pain. I used fairly heavy paper so that it would look professional and not try to slide out of the case when it was opened. I used a guillotine and found it really hard to get the edges exactly right. Next time I’ll use a straight edge and a craft knife, which will be much easier. Also you need something for the back to fold the little edges which are the titles that you can see from the side.  Detail is important as even though the CD’s are home made I want them to look professional. The only thing missing is the shrinkwrapping, which I will have done later when I create more volume. There are plenty of places that will shrinkwrap for you very cheaply.

So just to go over the presentation. The front cover is consistent with the concept of the album. This album is called The Greenhouse Demo’s, because the songs are demo’s and Greenhouse is the title of Track 4. The cover art is a picture of a big block of Franz Joseph Glacier ice that is melting at a rapid pace. The title is very easily read on both the CD label and the insert.

On the inside of the isert I have a photo of myself (because the listener can’t late to you if they don’t know what you look like and the album is about building a fan base) holding a huge block of glacial ice which has melted and been washed away in the icy river.

On the back I put another picture of myself, this time standing on White Island which is an active ocean volcano and represents the global warming and the yin and yang of hot and cold. The other crucial data I put on the back is my email address and URL so that people can make contact with me, probably one of the most important things of all.

All in all, it was pretty simple. Everyone should have an album available, even if it’s home made, whenever you perform. I’m really pleased with how mine turned out and it looks more professional in my humble opinion than some that I have seen, made by ‘professionals’.

As a footnote, I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts yesterday while I was vacuuming the pool. it is Music Business Radio. The interview was with Meiko, who I strongly recommend as a good listen. I love the song Boys with Girlfriends. Anyway, on the podcast they have a section called Dave’s Demolition Derby where they get their guests to review 3 songs hat listeners have sent in for critique. I can’t remember her Manager’s name but he used to be an A&R man and made the comment that Record Companies and others get loads of unsolicited CD’s in the mail and some of them look really cheap and nasty.  If you hae to pick a few of them for a quick listen, which one do you think will get an airing, the one with a CD which someone has written on, something like My Cool Song, or one that looks like it was purchased of the shelf of your favorite CD store?

one-cube2

Another Stretch in Iraq, my Christmas Song

December is only hours away and I have just entered my song Another Stretch in Iraq into the Paramount Group’s Christmas Song Competition. Why enter a song about a soldier going back to the Iraq War?

I couldn’t think of anything more poignant than soldiers in the field opening up a parcel from home which has a miniature Christmas Tree in it. The men and women will be thinking of home, wishing they could be with their friends and family, just as they would have at Thanksgiving. Just as their families and friends are thinking of them, wishing they were at home, hoping they will come home safe, sound and soon.

The concept of soldiers going to war with pictures of their loved ones helping them keep it together and coming home finding their loved ones have moved on in their absence is not unusual and while it is tough, the strength and security of knowing your fellow soldiers have your back is in a sense even stronger than your home relationship because their support can be the difference between coming home alive or in a body bag. The memories of experiences in the field can not be fully understood by those who have not served in the field of war. The worry of those at home waiting and praying for their men and women is also a unique feeling, worrying every time the mail is late or the doorbell rings late at night.

So while my Christmas song is not about sleigh bells ringing or Santa coming down the chimney, it is about love and family, about fellowship and trust and about being alive, that special way of feeling alive in a world of uncertainty.

Now I haven’t been to war, I’ve been lucky to have come of age between wars, but plenty of my family members have served in times of peace and war.

I did spend 6 months or so researching it and the reaction of men who served in Desert Storm when I performed it in the US last year suggest that I managed to capture some of the feelings.

It must be pretty tough for someone to want to go back to the Bradley (personnel carrier)

Id rather have my Bradley

I'd rather have my Bradley

and the MRE rations (Made Ready to Eat) having gone home to the girl or guy they felt they were fighting for and finding they now love someone else. But the story has probably happened a hundred times to soldiers in the last year and to thousands before them.

So, I give to you and the judges of the Paramount Group songwriting contest, Another Stretch in Iraq and hope that they see my Christmas Song entry as a piece written full of respect for the men and women whose blogs I read and commented on at the Milblogging Site and the diaries of Desert Storm which told their story in their own words. This isn’t a song of war, but a song of people who do what they feel they must and what they feel.

Merry Christmas to all those brave people fighting and peacekeeping on their missions around the world. You and your families have my deepest respect. May your stretch be short and your Christmases with your families holding each other around  the tree be many.

Another Stretch in Iraq

(you can listen at MySpace)

©Luigi Cappel 2007

1

I was walking on an empty street

My feet were marching to a lonely beat

I had you on my mind.

I kept on walking though my feet were sore

There was no procrastinating I could take no more

I wanted to leave you far behind.

I served my time on the sand in Iraq

While you were making hay with my good friend Mark

How could I have been so blind?

Thinking of you helped me keep my cool

Little did I know you played me for a fool

Feel like I’m gonna lose my mind.

Chorus

I might as well sign up for another stretch

There’s nothing left to keep me here aint life a bitch?

At least in the army I know where I stand

Serving my country in a foreign land.

Sit-rep says its all haywire

Its home where I got shot by friendly fire

I’m going back

Home is where I thought I wanted to be

Now I’d rather have my Bradley and an MRE

Even in Iraq

Bridge

It’s a strange old world we’re living in

Don’t know who you can trust

Don’t know where to begin

Now I’m gonna live my life one day at a time

So its Christmas time and the desert is cold

My life is with the army if the truth be told

They’ve got my back

My mom and dad sent a little Christmas tree

They said that they were praying for the boys and me

They said get yourself back on track

Chorus

I might as well sign up for another stretch

There’s nothing left to keep me here aint life a bitch?

At least in the army I know where I stand

Serving my country in a foreign land.

Thanks so much for reading my blog. If you know someone who would appreciate this blog, please send them a link. Please feel free to leave a comment, I always welcome feedback. If you are inspired by this, check out the links, its not too late to contribute to a Christmas Parcel. The guys who blog at Milblogging also appreciate feedback and knowing that even total strangers are thinking of them. Finally wish me luck with my Paramount Song Competition entry, I’m keen to grow my career as a songwriter and a competition like this could be a leg up.

How to write a Christmas Song

I’ve noticed that a number of people who read my blog recently found me by putting in a search query on the search engine, asking how to write a Christmas song. They found me because of a blog I wrote back in August, saying that was the time you needed to write it.

That blog covered lots of topics you can write about, but I just wanted to add one for those of you who are now inspired. It’s too late to record something to go into a Christmas stocking unless you are burning it yourself, which is a good idea. You could also send a song as a Christmas present to your friends, family and fans as an MP3 Musicgram, which is a cool idea. This site allows you to upload songs and send them to a friend. I’ve tried it myself and it was very cool.

Anyway, I just wanted to add one very important point. If you disect the songs that populate the hit charts, you will find a major difference between the average singer songwriter song and the hits. That is that a hit song usually has a happy theme, like “I’ve got a new guy/girl and I want to tell the world.” “Now that I’ve found you”. “I’m in love”.

Many singer songwriters write about the one that got away and are being what Ralph Murphy calls the typical singer songwriter, a self indulgent writer who writes to get things off their chest (which is fine if that’s what you are after), but most people want to listen to songs that are uplifting and what more uplifting is there than “I’ve got you and that’s all I need for Christmas”. Think about the songs that you have on your stereo or listen to on the radio on Christmas Day to set the mood.

Sometimes you can do something a little more melancholy with a Christmas tone, but it probably won’t become a popular Christmas song. There are ways to add some special sentiment. For example in my song Another Stretch in Iraq, there is a mention as follows (about the tradition of sending miniature Christmas trees to the troops):

‘It’s Christmas time and the dessert is cold

My life is with the Army if the truth be told

They’ve got my back

My Mom and Dad sent a little Christmas Tree

They said that they were prayin for the boys and me……..’

Check out this list at Lyrics Vault for the top Christmas Songs of All Time and you will see that they are pretty much all uplifting happy songs full of Christmas Cheer. Of course there is a place for sad songs, but if you want to write a hit, write one in a major key with a lively beat and chuck a few sleigh bells in the chorus.

If you really want to be a little melancholy, you can still turn it into positive. Live Aid’s Do They Know Its Christmas did a great job of telling the sad story and what people could do about it into a happy one. It is just as popular today as when it came out in 1985.

watch?v=stNGHiscETo

Books are full of song ideas

I don’t usually suffer for a lack of ideas to write songs about because I am always open to them. I read lots of books and always find a way to keep notes or make sure I can find my way back to lines that caught my attention.

I recently found a highlighter that also has a Post It flag dispenser in it. This means that with just the one device you can highlight your notes and put  flag on the page so you can find it again. Many of the books I read, especially non fiction, are full of Post It flags.

I also found a card of different colored Post It flags which is like a bookmark, so I often carry that with me as well, especially when I am travelling. Really handy when I’m on a plane and I’ve forgotten to take a pen out of my jacket which is now in the overhead luggage compartment and I have thewindow seat.

Something else that you need is something to take notes on, or even write lyric ideas. You need to have this anytime, anywhere. I have 2 lyric books, which are A5 (half an A4) and ringbound, so I can easily fold it around and write on both sides easily. Sometimes, such as the previous example, I don’t have quick access to it. I often carry around a blank A4 sheet of paper in my jacket as well. If neither of those work, I use anything and a common one for me is the back of a business card. It’s amazing how much you can fit on one of those if you are desperate.

Sometimes you are in a position where you have to memorise what you have written, such as when you are in the shower.  Then I go back to the rote memorisation I learned at school, just repeating it over and over again and hope that I don’t get distracted by anything or anyone before I can get pen to paper. That’s what I did with my new song that I am still writing, ‘When Madison Smiles’, but now I’m digressing.

Basically what I wanted to share is that the books you read are full of ideas that you can write songs about. The key to me is a subject that touches you strongly, or that you have a strong opinion about. Good songs are written with passion and from the heart. If you keep that in mind when you are reading, writers block should not be an issue. Of course if you don’t read books, magazines and newspapers are also great building materials to grow ideas from.

The most importand things are:

  1. Be open for new ideas all the time
  2. Have a way to highlight or find the idea again later when you need it
  3. Keep paper or books and a pen or pencil handy at all times, even when you are in bed asleep, especially when you are in bed asleep and this is often when you are most creative.
  4. If you are really organised, find a way to catagorise the texts you have highlighted. Coloured tags could be a way to do that. Most songwriters though don’t tend to be that well organised in my experience, but you should consider whether you are writing for fun or as a hobby or as a mental health tool, or whether it is a business or career, If it is the latter then you should treat it the same way as you do a job. If you are doing a job, of course you have the right tools on hand.
  5. Finally, if you do become successful and maybe even famous, the paper you originally scribbled your lyrics on could become very valuable, as collectors items although not necessarily to you personally, but perhaps your children or other important people in the future. For example someone made 1,000 prints of the John Lennon song ‘Little Flower Princess’ from his original writing and is selling them for $150 EACH at eBay right now!

Give Pump Audio a try

Some time ago I was told about Pump Audio, but I hadn’t checked it out until now. I’ve been using Sonic Bids for some time and I suspect if I lived in the USA, they would be really good for me, but I haven’t seen any gigs in New Zealand to aim for and very little in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, I think Sonic Bids is great, it just hasn’t been able to do anything for me.

My focus and goals are as a songwriter rather than a performer, although I do love playing to an audience. This means that my needs are to get my songs to a market, but my market is performers more than listeners which presents a problem for me. I’m not sure whether Pump Audio can do anything more for me, given that they are really looking for high quality finished product. My recordings are samples and I typically look for a way of presenting my songs that opens a door for the artist / singer to put their own personality and interpretation into it and l feel that by recording to the highest quality makes it more difficult for it to fit into someone else’s style, thereby reducing the size of my potential market.

The thin with sites like Sonic Bids is that you pay for each submission and that can add up pretty quickly. I must say that they give real value for money and the work they do is worth every cent they charge. The problem for my needs is mostly that they are US centric and more gig and song competition focussed. I will continue to use them for competitions or opportunities when I plan to travel to the US again.

So back to Pump Audio. First of all from a credibility perspective, they are owned by Getty Images, who purchased them in June last year. Getty are a world leader in photography and imagery and having just received a healthy check for a photo they bought from me recently, I know at first hand that they are serious about their business.

You can’t send Pump Audio MP3’s (except for the first couple which are an audition to see if they good enough), they are looking for high quality CD’s. The first benefit in my opinion from this is that it removes the tyre kickers who submit every song to anyone who they think will listen, and of course most of them don’t. You have to make an effort to send them your music.

You don’t pay unless they sell your music and then you get paid 50% of what they sell it for. This sounds a lot, but when I think of the money I have paid for other submission services that got me no money, this way they are motivated to move your product and if your product is good, you will get your return.

You keep your song rights (IP) and their deal is not exclusive, so you don’t have any barriers to also offering your music to other buyers. They cover a variety of media and say that last year alone they placed over 80,000 items to TV alone!

If you have high quality recordings on CD, I would highly recommend giving them a go.

In the meantime I am working on my latest song which is another song about dads and daughters, really about babies. It’s called When Madison Smiles and hopefully you will find it on my MySpace and Music Forte sites before too long.

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