Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Collaborations Are A Lot of Fun

It was a cold day in December, the day I received an email from my good buddy Jay asking me to check out a little ditty he had been working on and let him know what I thought. I sat down at the computer and downloaded a video file that he had sent. As the video started I planted myself firmly in my chair and listened intently. After giving one full listen, I immediately played it again and fired off an email to Jay letting him know how much potential I thought the riff and lyrics he put together had. Fast forward a few months and I asked Jay how the tune was coming. To my surprise he told me he hadn't done anything with it and asked if I wanted to give a try at finishing it out. That is how Let It Shine came to be my latest project.

Jay had handed me a great riff, a first verse and a chorus to play with. He told me I had free reign to change anything up, but I honestly loved the lyrics he put together and felt there was no need for a change in that department. Instead I focused on the musical side of things and how to go about playing the guitar parts. I made a few minor adjustments and then took on the lyrical side of things. In order to complete the song, I needed to know more about what Jay was thinking when he wrote it.

Jay had been talking to a long time friend he lost touch with until recently. They threw around the idea of writing a song about how much things had changed since their high school days, and about how different kids are today. Jay came up with the riff on guitar and the words just came out for the first verse.

Armed with this knowledge and my interpretations of the words Jay had written, I set out to write up a second verse. My inspiration was based on the idea of what it would be like to walk the halls of my high school again one last time. What kind of things would I see? What kind of emotions would I feel? What kind of feelings did I have in when I was walking these halls as a teenager? All of those questions were in my head as I started jotting down the words that would make up the second verse.

After the second verse was complete, I created a video for Jay to hear the progress of the song. While playing and singing it, I got to the end of the second chorus and just went into a new bridge that I hadn't planned. What I played actually seemed to work out with the song and suddenly we had the bridge music written; all we needed were lyrics. Jay came up with some lyrics for the bridge, and after I changed a little of the phrasing, shortened the bridge section, and took out some of the words, we had a complete bridge and song.

I began laying down the song on the Tascam shortly after and soon had a demo version ready for guitar solos. I once again enlisted my good buddy Matt Graunke to provide the lead for the song. After a couple of attempts we had a solid sounding song and solo. The demo was unfortunately full of poor timing and terrible audio levels that caused a lot of distortion in the speakers, so I decided the best course was to re-track the song. With the help of a drum machine beat, I recorded a new version that was in time and had guitar, bass and new vocals. I sent off the raw recording to Matt and he recorded another take of his solo. It all came together well; it was time to put the finishing touches on it.

Abasa, a friend from work, suggested adding backing vocals to the song for the chorus. Up until that point I hadn't really thought about backing vocals, but what he said made perfect sense. With that suggestion, I went home and loaded up the song on the Tascam to record some backing vocals. I layered in two backing tracks to the song during the chorus sections. Abasa was right! The song seemed to come to life with those backing vocals in there.

With vocals and instrument tracking complete it was time to produce the song. I found some sweet free plug-ins on the internet and added a nice Fuzz Box to the guitar track that gave the song a nice pop. For Matt's solo I added a small amount of flanger to smooth out the high ends and give it a killer new wave of British heavy metal sound. A little chorus on the vocals rounded out the production side of things and after a couple of weeks of hard work, Let It Shine was complete.

I am very excited to share this song with you. Not only is it my first real collaboration on a song in many years, but I truly believe it is a great song. I hope you as the listener will agree with me on that. So without further ado, I present to you Let It Shine.

Let It Shine
Words & Music: Brian Bartholow & Jay Skipworth
Vocals/Guitars/Bass: Brian Bartholow
Guitar Solo: Matt Graunke

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