In 2019, I wrote a song called “Bound”. My original concept was that when you are young you believe you can only accomplish your goals by being dedicated to a destination. You have to strive to reach a specific goal and, in doing so, you are “bound” to get there.
I liked the concept and started writing some general lyrical ideas in Evernote. (I use Evernote for all my musical sketches). While ruminating on words and concepts I thought about how all of my successes have been a direct result of intense focus on a defined destination/goal. And it dawned on me, those goals were also something I became enslaved by. At that moment I knew that was going to be the main concept for the song; being “bound for” and “bound to” your goals.
“She went through some changes and never let the rain get her down”.First lyric on Bound
It took me two weeks to decide that the best approach with the song concept was to have the main character be a young, determined female from a country town. She had to journey through the seasons of life and various scenarios to reach her dreams. Only to find that when she finally got there she had potentially changed and grown apart from her original goals and destinations.
The musical concept centered around sparse instrumentation with a Nick Drake vibe. For about a month, I thought the song would be produced using only an acoustic guitar and an intimate vocal.
Here is the original concept recording. For this composition I had written the concepts I wanted to cover. So I had a “vibe” idea but no music yet. My approach was simply to grab the guitar and quickly record whatever came to me. I was just hoping that something decent would come out. The recording below is very rough with no defined words or melody. This was the very first pass on what would become the main framework for the song. Lots of mistakes 🙂
As I mentioned, I record these sketches with my phone using a note-taking application called Evernote. Evernote gives me the ability to just capture things quickly while also synchronizing across all my devices. I can record the audio right with the written lyric ideas and work on both things whenever an idea strikes. The image below is a screenshot of “Bound” in Evernote after the first few weeks. Notice the audio recording at the top and the words and guitar chords underneath that.
From there I began thinking about the arrangement of the song. As I mentioned, I originally thought this would just be a guitar and vocal song. The song topic and “vibe” lent itself well to an intimate stripped down arrangement. But I knew I wanted to have some rich vocal harmonies.
For the harmonies, I really drew on some of the Brian Wilson Beach Boy harmonies as ideas I could use. I knew that Brian Wilson was into the vocal styles of The Four Freshmen. So I spent a lot of time listening to The Four Freshman and The Beach Boys because I wanted to incorporate some aspects of that into the harmony parts for the song. And I ended up with my own four part harmony interpretation that I felt fit the tune. Take a listen below
Once I had the essence of the vocals I could focus on the instrumentation. As you might notice in the above example, I had began toying with other instruments. Most notably the above example includes a banjo. I moved away from that sound but aspects of the early demos still made their way into the finished product.
From there, the actual recording went very fast. Over the course of a weekend, I completed all the parts. Guitars, piano, bass and very lite percussion made up the song with alot of emphasis placed on getting the vocals right.
After I completed tracking all the instruments I sent the tracks over to Dave Voight, audio engineer extraordinaire, for him to mix the tune and make me sound good! Dave “eagle ear” Voight found some things that needed fixed. Most notably was a recording mistake I made when tracking the piano. What I had done could not be salvaged. So I set everything up and re-recorded the piano part in one take (far less takes than my first go-round). It goes to show that sometimes what just happens “in moment” on a whim is better than doing it 10 times!
Below are links to the finished product. I hope you enjoyed this deep dive, behind the scenes peek at what goes into the process.