Fight to Stay Alive
"She put the kettle on the boil /
I thought we'd have a quiet conversation /
She had a few things on her mind /
Some of which were acts of desperation..."
In one way or another, at some time or for some, all the time, we all fight to stay alive. On the one hand, this song is essentially about the struggles of everyday life we all face and how we do our best to keep it together so that the veneer doesn't come off and cracks start to show, but inevitably they do to varying degrees at some point, in some way. On the other hand, this song is about finding some level of comfort in knowing we all do struggle, and to do our best to face it and move on, though obviously some of us have greater problems or challenges than others.
On a songwriting note, I had the opening verse lingering around for a long time but just could not find anything else to follow it. While playing various songs and bits and pieces in the pre-production stage to Eric, the producer of the song, in order to choose which songs to record, he remembered liking this verse which I had played to him some time before and he suggested ideas as to where to take the song, which then inspired me to write the pre-chorus and chorus. What I came up with, and that I hadn't done before, was to use the same chords in the pre-chorus as the ones in the verse but with a totally different effect and melody. Applying a new approach like this is what keeps me challenging myself to come up with something new and in the process it keeps things fresh and interesting.
A recording anecdote; after a few attempts, we still couldn't find the proper backing vocals and harmonies and it wasn't until a couple of days before we were to be done with the final mixing of the song that we finally found the proper parts, which was a lot of fun for me to record them all, with great collaboration from Eric, as they just sprung out during a few inspiring hours.
Do I Deserve This?
"... Do I deserve this ? /
This happiness that I feel when you're not around..."
The title and subject matter of this song were initially about being mistreated or not appreciated in a relationship when you've been giving your all, and it was going to be a serious take on this, but once I got into writing the lyrics, I took a more lighthearted approach and began looking at it in a more humorous and double-entendre sort of way. So the tone of the song then changed to "what a relief to be away from the negativity" and rejoicing once again in the company of those who truly do appreciate you for who you are; your friends. It was a song that came to me rather quickly with the melody and sections really flowing, and the horns really bring out the joy of feeling good again after such unpleasantness.
As I was recording all the vocals, I kept imagining that I was in a Beatles/Chicago hybrid recording session and Eric and I had fun exchanging ideas to get the vocals down, as they just poured out, just like they did on "FTSA". And, Eric's horn arrangement really elevated the song to another level.
Finding Myself Again
"…Raise a glass to all the ones
who've helped you forge a sense
of purpose on this earth…"
Well we all go through periods when we don't quite feel like ourselves and have been non-productive and stagnant. When we come out of it and reclaim ourselves it is a beautiful thing, and that is what happened to me on one occasion which lead to the creation of this song. I wanted to write an upbeat, acoustic guitar based song that touched on that to which people could relate to and hopefully be motivated by.
The lyrics touch on some of the themes that are close to me: hope, renewal, inspiration, rejuvenation, etc… and appreciating the good people in your life by acknowledging them directly.
Musically, I like how when you get to the choruses it changes key as a sort of audio version of a pick-me-up and that really cool electric guitar riff kicks in as well. Moulding that riff from a rough idea to its finished state is an example of one of those things I just love doing in the studio; when you've got the germ of this idea and you're slowly sculpting it so that it fits just right in the groove of the song. And with a great player like Dan Ranallo on guitar, it's a joy to work on that. Michael also came up with very cool production ideas for keyboards and percussion parts that really brought the song to life from its initial demo stage.
"…I'm Sick of you wasting my time /
feeding me lines /
till I just can't swallow no more…"
There I was, finally getting better and off the couch after a bout with the flu (which lo and behold, directly influenced coming up with the title) as I latched on to the main guitar riff, wanting to write a radio-friendly, simple tune with a "hooky" chorus. And it all came together really well in the studio with the musicians, working out the bed tracks all together huddled in a small circle creating the groove of the stripped-down arrangement.
But the title and lyrics allude to more than just about being physically ill. As the lyrics in the chorus express, it is about being sick of a situation and it's also, sadly, about some people who are uncomfortable with themselves and have self-serving ways, and feel the need to manipulate others in order to get what they need or want, to feel some semblance of control in their lives, when in fact their lives are in disarray. As the saying goes: "Hurt people, HURT people". I have met a couple of people like that in my life with whom I became close, as they temporarily rattled my spirit and left me quite shaken (and stirred). When you are "in their grip", so to speak, you can't see clearly because all you're trying to do is understand what is going on and to help them, when actually they need to want to truly help themselves first. It is only once you have been removed from their presence and some time has passed that you can realize what was actually happening. Still, these relationships have been very educational for me in my life and in some spiritual way, I needed to go through them. As they say, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.
For As Long As We're Two
"…Let me come in and I'll show you what real love can do /
what happens to few /
For as long as we're two…"
The bulk of this song came to me very quickly in about half an hour's time being very inspired one night. It was one of those times when I latched on to a chord pattern while playing something else and off I went. Over the next couple of days, I wrote the bridge and polished up the lyrics. One of those songs that just "wrote itself" following a short but intense romance. It really captures my thoughts about it at the time.
Production note: it was actually written in a faster tempo in a kind of Billy Joel style but producer Michael wisely thought it best to slow it down. He and Albert did a fantastic job on the arrangements and singing the bulk of the backup vocals and it was Albert who produced the lead vocal session where he got a performance out of me that was different from anything I had done before. That session is still sort of a haze to me, but I love the outcome, lol!
I then added my two cents' worth of arrangement ideas afterwards, including extra backup vocals and strings. I also love Michael's piano part and the double-time feel that the banjo brings to the groove. Certainly a favorite of mine on this album.
Off The Top Of My Head
"... Well you're the spirit of freedom and harmony /
It just lives on inside you /
like an icon of beauty who sets me free ..."
It's about lust at first sight… and what can ensue afterwards. I wanted to write a simple, mass-appeal Latin-flavored song, so it had to be about love of course, or as I mention, its naughty cousin, lust. It was not written about anyone in particular, though there are a couple of references to experiences I have had with a couple of women. And in a sort of prophetic way, some lyrical references apply to a then-not-yet-happened relationship. This has occurred to me on a couple of occasions, where I write lyrics about a fictional story to then have it actually happen later on. Freaky… This is but just one of the tracks where bass player François Marion lays down such a groovy bass line, over a driving drums part from Gilbert Fradette complemented by Nick Fulleringer's original and melodic guitar solo.
On an overall note, producer Michael Litresits took the demo version of this song and really brought out the Latin flavor with great, full Latin piano chords and percussion. The song has a simple structure with room for improvisation, and a groove to make you dance…and sweat…
"…And there's a time to be bold /
and there's a time to know when to shut the door…"
The musical inspiration for this song came about from purchasing a new keyboard and fiddling around with it, not knowing how all the functions worked. In the first couple of days of playing it, I accidentally hit upon a polyrhythmic beat patch and sound that immediately inspired me to write the music and melody. Love that! That is a perfect example of how and when you never know what can inspire you.
Part of the lyrics came from a good lesson reflecting upon a then recent relationship (relationships are indeed great teachers) and feeling empowered to apply that lesson in the future - but the lyrics are mainly about finding that one (or more) thing that we each are or can be good at, bringing it out in each of us, and rejoicing in the rewards and sense of accomplishment. It need not be a world-changing thing, but simply a talent or a love for something that gives us pleasure and the inspiration to enjoy life - something to look forward to and bettering ourselves in the process. A little anthem I suppose, to inspire people to get up and go.
Again, this song has a great bass line and a sort of soundtrack-ish arrangement, which was fun to work on, especially the strings and rhythmic/percussive ideas. Another favorite of mine on this album.
Flying On Top of The World
"…We're in sync with our reasons /
in dealing with all our treasons…"
This song is about alienation and the need to escape, pure and simple, which we all must do in various ways at times; in this case, escaping the people who think know us well, inviting someone else doing the same thing who does in fact know us well, and finding solace, comfort and solidarity in that union.
I had demoed an earlier version of this song but with a different format and sections with just me and an acoustic guitar, but when came time to record the song properly some time later, my producer Eric suggested we make a change, which turned out to be just right. We took the music and melody from a pre-chorus from an another song of mine that was uncompleted (which I had played to him in the pre-production stage, searching for which songs to work on and record) and it worked out really well and effortlessly after I adapted new lyrics to fit this one's story. Eric played all the instruments in this song, including some tasty lead guitar fills, as well as adding some terrific and original backup vocals. Recording the lead vocal and my harmonies after that was really a great collaborative and fun effort between he and I once again.
"... Oh, on Acceptance Day... everyone will be A-OK /
learning to live with each other /
In harmony and deeper understanding..."
I had recently bought a new country CD from a band whose song I really liked, and as often happens with me, I just heard a few seconds of one of the other songs on it that I'd never heard and out came the inspiration for the beginning of this song. Man, I love when that happens. Another thing that often happens with me is that while I'm working out a melody for a song and I'm singing whatever comes to mind for lyrics, I hit upon a sentence or word that I just like the sound of in a particular spot that I know I have to keep, as I usually see it as fate that it should remain where I first sang it. In this case, it was the word "middle" - songwriters out there will understand this kind of odd, little idiosyncrasy!
I use a capo on this song, and I like the sound of a capoed guitar because it evokes a certain feel and sound for writing that often sends you in a different direction. I didn't have a bridge or end section for it when my producer Michael and I started working on it, so we finished it together during that time. One of the great moments recording this album occurred when we were recording the fiddle for this song – it was without a doubt one of the highlights of these sessions. Neither Michael or I had met violinist Tommy Gauthier prior to the session, we had only heard him online after he was suggested to us. But after hearing him, I had a hunch that it would work out really well and in fact, it even exceeded my expectations, both in terms of his talent and how easy it was to get the parts down, but also his easygoing personality. Great stuff.
This song is about creating a holiday when we can all cast aside our prejudices and discover more of who we all are in the hopes of seeing and appreciating the human side that we all inherently possess. Though it is every individual's life path that shapes who we ultimately each become, I'd like to believe that we all start off with more, if not only, goodness in us. And though that goodness may erode or disappear for some depending on their individual experiences, we all need and desire the same basic things.
I Don't Wanna Be Alone Tonight
" ... It's so hard to be alone tonight /
And not tell you I love you just one more time..."
The inspiration for the beginning of this song arrived to me in my sleep, just before waking one morning. I woke up and it just kept playing in my head so, groggy and half-asleep I had no choice but to go to the piano and find the chords for the melody if I wanted to get back to sleep again or get on with my day, though I only got the first few lines. I presented it to my producer Michael, and we wrote the rest of the song together. I didn't want it to be a straightforward love song; I wanted it to have a subject matter that could be universally felt, even if not experienced first hand. Though it is a deeply tragic story, what I wanted to express through the song was that a severe experience of loss in life can be, in some small way, somewhat outweighed by being grateful that at least we were fortunate to share a part of our lives with someone special who was dear to us, and that those memories and those people can live on in us in a beautiful way no matter what, as we cope with moving on.
Though it is essentially a country-flavored song, which is of course a very honest and down-to-earth style of music, I wanted to take the bridge to a different feel and thus came the idea to demonstrate some gratitude with a gospel-tinged bridge. For the recording, this song was but one example of the vocal arranging talent of Michael Litresits which appears on this album and I like how both our voices blend well together in tone and feel as he and I were the sole two who handled this task on many of the tracks.
…Viewing the world from in front of a screen /
Bewitched by the cover of a magazine /
A cell phone witness to each other's follies /
Time to let go of what clutters your head…
The world we live in today is one in which we are constantly being bombarded with various information and stressors, creating a sensory overload that we seemingly cannot completely escape. Various medias or situations bringing us the news, sports, obnoxious salespeople, gossip, unsavory leaders, etc… and this song is about wanting to get away from it all by tuning into or turning to mundane, I-don't-have-to-think "fluff" -something we all need to turn to at times, ever more increasingly as we go on. It is another form of escape. Some people choose a trashy magazine, others fly to the tropics…
The opening lines came from a period of time when I seemed to be getting involved in a few road infractions in a short period of time and how it was frustrating me and draining my finances which luckily, I have gotten better at, lol !
I like how the album opens with just my voice and ends in this cacophony of sound coming from this song! The intro collage for this song was a blast to put together as we pulled in many of the elements that make up the lyrics to create this aural vision of what makes us go for the "fluff".