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Midnight Queen

When I started the Write, Co. project, one of the artists I contacted was a supremely talented singer/songwriter called Luna Keller, who luckily liked my music too and agreed to write a song together. As was the case with most of the other people I've written with she lived in a different country to me, but thanks to email and Skype we were able to able to write together without ever actually meeting in person!

Luna came to me with the basic idea of the song - a tragic character called the Midnight Queen who has been badly hurt in the past and doesn't feel brave enough to love again, so she embarks on a series of one-night stands, leaving a trail of broken hearts in her wake. Luna already had the main chorus hook and some ideas for what the rest of the lyrics could be - I took these ideas and shaped them into the verses, I finished off the chorus, and together we came up with the middle 8/bridge section.

 

Once we'd finished writing the song, we both knew it was strong enough to release as a single rather than just a demo, so the next step was to record it. You would think recording a song in different countries would be complicated, but it was actually quite simple. I recorded the piano part on my keyboard and sent it to Luna, we then agreed which lines we should each sing and recorded our vocals separately in our own homes. Luna's dad added the bass and the atmospheric guitar parts, and then we all decided the song could really benefit from having a cello on it, so we found a cellist in New York called Yoed Nir who did a wonderful job.

We sent the song to be mixed by Uli Pfannmüller at TonUP studios and mastered by Andreas Balaskas at Masterlab Mastering in Germany (such an international production, this song!), and the finished version was as hauntingly beautiful as we hoped it would be when we wrote it. The artwork for cover was provided by Luna's friend Lara Gimeno, a wonderful graphic artist. 
The single was released on March 20th 2020, and on it's premiere date the music blog NeverEnoughMusic.com gave it a lovely write up, which you can read here.

I really cannot recommend Luna Keller's music enough - below are the links to her social media pages, so please check them out...

 

Luna's website
Luna's YouTube channel

Luna's Twitter account

Luna's Instagram account

Luna's Bandcamp page

Luna's Soundcloud page

Luna's Facebook page

Luna's Spotify

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Winter Sun

While I had greatly enjoyed the co-writes I had done with other songwriters for the Write, Co. project, writing and recording 'Midnight Queen' with Luna Keller was the most creatively satisfying collaboration I had done so far - we could share our opinions and feedback on performance and arrangement whilst always being on the same page regarding what we wanted the song to be, and we were also able to combine our musical resources to produce a professionally recorded single that we were both very proud of.

I decided I wanted to write more songs with singer/songwriters and bands, with the end goal of hopefully producing an album's worth of collaborations (this decision coincided with the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, which actually made finding collaborators much easier, as there were a lot of musicians with home recording equipment who suddenly found themselves in quarantine with a lot of free time on their hands!) When I went back to Twitter to search for people, I quickly came across Stage Parades, a band who did instrumentals. They posted this video of 'Winter Sun', a track from their album 'Open That Trap Door', asking if anyone wanted to try writing lyrics for it. I loved the tune and so I asked if I could give it a go.

I started by thinking about what the title 'Winter Sun' meant to me, and the first thing that came to my mind was an occasion a couple of years ago when I was driving to work very early on a winter morning and the sun was so bright I had to pull over because I literally couldn't see through the windshield - this became the inspiration for the first verse. The second verse was inspired by the last time I visited my grandparents' old house in Denmark, and we actually ended up using a photo my dad had taken of that house many years ago as the cover of the single.

The process of recording the song was quite easy, since pretty much all the instrumental tracks were already recorded by the band - all I had to do was record my vocals, and I ended up recording seven layers of them! I then sent all the individual vocal and instrument tracks to my regular producer Joe Lonsdale, and he did a superb job fixing and mixing them until we ended up with the polished final song. Both me and the members of Stage Parades were very happy with it, and the single was released on July 3rd 2020.

Below are the links to Stage Parades' social media pages - they make beautiful music, so please check them out...


Stage Parades' YouTube channel

Stage Parades' Twitter account

Stage Parades' ReverbNation page

Stage Parades' Facebook page

Stage Parades' Spotify

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Sunny Days

I discovered Jake Haws' music when I was searching on Twitter for other songwriters to collaborate with. When I read about his musical career on his website I found out that not only was he part of an acoustic Beatles tribute duo called The Fab Folk (which I thought was awesome) but he had done many collaborations with other artists in the past. I listened to an episode of his podcast 'Making Music With Jake Haws' where he and singer/songwriter Cody Butler discussed their music and then wrote a song together - they wrote a great song called 'Moving Forward' (you can hear the episode here, and the song here) and it sounded like they had fun doing it, so I got in contact with Jake and asked if he'd like to write a song with me.

Jake agreed, and we arranged a video call during which he would interview me for his next podcast episode and we would try to come up with a song - you can hear the episode in the player on the left. Inevitably, when we were brainstorming possible song topics, our first thought was the panic and chaos surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic, which was happening at the time. I was hesitant to go down this route as it seemed too obvious and easy, but Jake came up with the good idea of making it less about the pandemic specifically and more about wishing for the return of less troubling/fearful times, and for sunnier days (which was ironic, as the UK was going through a heat-wave at the time!). I came up with the riff that starts off the song, Jake suggested the chord variations that became the bridge and the end of the chorus, and we both had equal input on the lyrics. The whole thing took us about an hour to write, and we were both keen to preserve the simplicity and optimism of the song when we went to record it.

What I've loved about the collaborations I've done is how different every experience has been - 'Midnight Queen' was written over a period of several weeks by sending emails back and forth, 'Winter Sun' was me on my own trying to add something to an already-written piece of music, and 'Sunny Days' was written in one go during a video call! As Luna Keller and I did on 'Midnight Queen', Jake and I recorded our parts separately in our own homes - me providing vocals and keyboard tracks, and Jake providing backing vocals, guitars, bass, drums and percussion. Jake was very patient with me, as it took me quite a while to finish my parts and send them to him - in my defence I was in the middle of moving house at the time, and my wife was about to give birth!

The final song may sound like it has a simple arrangement, but there many more layers and tracks than you would think, and the disadvantage of Jake and I living in different countries and different time-zones was that changes and tweaks to the song weren't always easy to do. Therefore, rather than drive Jake mad by giving him constant notes, I took the great initial mix that he had done and finished it myself. After that, I sent the final track to my regular producer Joe Lonsdale for mastering, and the song was finally complete.

I wasn't sure what the cover of the single should be, so Jake suggested looking for inspiration on pexels.com - I went on there and found a beautiful photo taken by Adrien Olichon of a sunrise on an empty street, which we thought was perfect. The single was released on July 17th 2020.


Jake Haws is a great singer and songwriter - below are the links to his social media pages, so please check them out...

 

Jake's website
Jake's YouTube channel

Jake's Twitter account

Jake's Instagram account

Jake's Bandcamp page

Jake's Soundcloud page

Jake's Facebook page

Jake's Spotify

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