Close My Eyes is a song about one of my favourite things in the world, the moment when you start to drift off to sleep. Why not have a listen to it here:
I set it up playing a chord that I liked then just started singing whatever melodies came into my head. After a while I came up with a number of melody lines that I liked that went well together and I went about recording them.
After this I removed the Shruti Box and started playing chords on the piano that I felt fitted the melody nicely. Once I had the chords in place I added in vocal harmony lines that followed the piano chords. I then removed the piano sound so that I was just left with a blocks of vocals.
Then I had a slightly strange, but very nice turn of events. I got talking to the comedian Rufus Hound on Twitter. He’d had a listen to my music and read one of my previous blogs about my harmoniums. He thought that it was all very interesting, but he wanted to hear some of these harmoniums that I’d been banging on about!
Okay, I thought, no problem. In fact this song may well just be the perfect thing for that. So I sat down at the harmonium and recorded the chords to section I’d been working on. However my mind being the way it is, I then got immediately distracted and started improvising some other parts. I came up with a new chord sequence and a new melody that followed on from the original section. However because I wasn’t playing to a click track or anything like that, I’d written it in 4/4 time signature as opposed to the first section, which was in 6/8. Despite a premonition of things to come, I liked this as it seemed to be where the song naturally wanted to go.
So now, as I mentioned above, I had two different sections. At first I tried to make the song transition between the two sections with an instrumental part that tried to introduce the timing change subtly. I produced a semi-complete version of the song this way, but I just couldn’t make it feel natural enough for what I was hearing in my head.
Then in the spirit of The Beatles I decided to cut the sections up and glue them back together thereby creating a new structure for the song. I split the first 6/8 section in half and that became the two verses, whilst the 4/4 section became the chorus. I must say that performing this kind of work is where modern studio technology really starts to come into it’s own. Every time I cut, copied and dragged a bit of the multitrack audio around the song I thought about how difficult this would be if I were recording to tape.
After only a few hours work I had come up with a completely new structure for the song and the good news was, I thought it was awesome. Now I just needed to add all the instrumentation and vocals to make the song sound the way I wanted.
At first I came up with a little concept in order to try and encourage some creativity from myself. When I had written the blog on my harmoniums, I had called it Windpower. This was partly in reference to a Thomas Dolby song that I really like, but also because of the bellows you pump with your feet that generate the harmonium’s sound. I thought that this would be an interesting concept for the recording of this Close My Eyes, if I could only use sounds that were windpowered in some way. I also thought that saying a song was powered by my own wind was funny, because I’m very childish and stupid.
I pretty much recorded everything I could that was in some way powered by wind. I recorded my smaller harmonium playing a variety of parts.
I recorded my melodica playing chords and also a lead line during the middle instrumental section.
I then started recording any other noises I could find. I recorded the noise of pedals on the big harmonium being pressed, the creaking noise of the wooden bellow moving on the smaller harmonium, the sound of air being blown down the tube on the melodica. I went back to an idea I had used previously on Tonight and recorded lots of sounds of breathing. I used these sounds to build up percussion and rhythm parts. I also recorded lots and lots of wordless vocal parts in harmony which I used to build up a kind of human harmonium sound.
Although the song was coming together quite nicely, something wasn’t right. This song felt like it needed to build up more as it went along and I just couldn’t make that happen with the instrumentation I was using. So as quickly as I had taken to the concept of windpower, I decided I that I needed it no longer. I’m shallow like that.
I began to add instruments to the song that filled it in dynamically the way I could hear in my head. I added some bass guitar (using Spectrasonic’s Trillian) and then broke out my Telecaster to add a number of guitar parts.
One of the guitar parts was a repeating upwards scale, I felt that this part really helped to make the transition in time signature between the two parts and also provided a great counter-melody to the lead instruments in the middle and end sections of the song.
I also added lots of other percussion and drums sounds to help to beef up the rhythm of the track. I added foot stomps, hands claps, timpani and other drum sounds. I wanted to add a shaker part, but I couldn’t find anything that had the right clunkiness I was after. Then I grabbed hold of the rainmaker that Wanda had got me for Christmas.
I found that when I shook it gently the little plastic wheels inside would turn around and squeak and all the balls at the bottom provided an excellent shaker sound. This was exactly what I was after and it became the central point of the percussion tracks that all the others hang off. It’s this noise that you can hear right at the beginning of the song and again at the end, although it is in fact playing all the way through.
For the second chorus I started playing around with drum loops. I started adding more and more drums loops on top of each other as the chorus moves along. Each drum loop is more heavy and compressed than that last and by the end of the Chorus there are about 15 drums loops playing simultaneously, which I’m quite happy to admit, is bit over the top. They make a great noise though.
This is one of the first string libraries I have found that seems to sound amazing as soon as you play a note. Then once you delve into it, you can fine tune the sounds to be exactly as you want them to be. I used this for the string section at the end that mirrors the melodica solo in the middle of the song.
And that was that. A mere 3 months after I had started, I was finished. I guess I’m not exactly a fast worker.
I hope you enjoy the song, Wanda told me it’s her favourite. I wonder if Rufus will like it?