Songs come to you in funny ways. Sometimes a story is cobbled together from adventures that took place at different points in your life. Then, defying time and space they merge into one tale told in about three minutes and eleven seconds in a song you never expected to write. Really!
Here’s how this one came about…
The Bacon Brothers had been off for a few months. Converging from different airports at different times we arranged to meet at our hotel in Kansas City for a couple of gigs in the Midwest. I arrived on my own and headed for the gym. Kevin got in early from LA and was finishing up his workout when he saw me.
I said: “Hey man what’s happening?” (Followed by a Hollywood bro-hug). He said: “Oh, I’m OK. Doin’ what I can with what I got.” I thought that was an interesting response because the answer is left to the imagination of the person asking the question. “Doin’ what I can with what I got” could mean anything! Then I thought… that’s a great song title.
I told him that he ought to write a song. “Really?” he said. Yes, really.
Weeks passed. Several gigs later I checked with him and he still hadn’t started the song. Finally after a few months of me pestering him he said: “Why don’t you write it?” Well OK then. I told him I’d cut him in for giving me the title! I was off and running.
Where to start? I have no idea why but I thought about a particular incident from my scufflin’ days in Greenwich Village.
“Boom, boom, boom the bass filled the room when a fight spilled in from the alley outback.” I actually was in a bar fight at Kenny’s Castaways on Bleecker Street in The Village.
“A beer mug shattered the people scattered.” Unfortunately, the beer mug shattered because it hit my head. Dropped from a balcony above the stage in the middle of set I was playing backing up my friend Dan Daley.
“A riot, a rumble it got rough and tumble but we made it out of there with our pride in tact.” Brawlers, bouncers, fans and strangers went at it for a while but the show went on. Hey, this was rock and roll during the punk era in a bar run by a guy who was said to have ties to the IRA. What’s a little spilt beer and blood?
“Doin’ what I can with what I got!”
The first verse came easy but what should happen next with our hero? I imagined him going back to his girl friends house looking for sympathy… and a drink. Pay attention to the second verse and hear what happens, I don’t want to give away the punch line.
I think that everybody has a dream of hitting it big in some way. Most of us won’t but that doesn’t stop us from thinking about it or how to make it happen. That’s what the last verse is all about.
“Hey, hey, hey, I get up every day working on a scheme to beat the machine.” Whether it’s landing a career-making deal, developing the next hot app or writing a hit song we believe that as long as we stick to it and work hard, that big score is just around the next corner, or the one after that.
“It’s don’t hurt to dream you know what I mean.” Maybe that’s why people like to sing along with this one when I do it live. It’s a weirdly positive message I guess. We’re all striving to make the best of what the universe has laid out for us.
So here’s to all of us. “Doin’ what I can with what I got!”
I just finished a inspiring book called Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell by Katherine Monk. Creative people by their very nature tend to be risk takers. Wild Idea is a song about the fear of taking risks. I’m not in any way putting myself in her category but like Joni I along with many friends and colleagues are living at the intersection of the art and commerce in the music industry. Talk about risk! I collaborated with two of these risk-taking colleagues in the creation of this track. Allow me to explain.
I describe myself as an “electronic troubadour.” I like the alliteration of the phrase.
Today, for better or worse it’s a brave new world. The so called digital disruption of the music business has had many drawbacks and certain benefits. For instance like most contemporary musicians and songwriters I have a home studio and collaborate with other artists who have home studios. I have amazing digital tools to help me create. Better still, I can electronically distribute my music around the world and reach an audience that I could never have reached just ten years ago. I can even do a live concert from my living room to a few thousand Twitter followers and Facebook friends.
Which brings me to Wild Idea. I have always been fond of merging acoustic and electronic instruments. (See Chasing The Moon by yours truly.) Recently on radio and amazingly, even on country music radio I began to hear ever more compelling examples of DJ mash-ups and dance mix elements. Music fans and radio programmers were becoming more open to radical ideas. For example, Swedish DJ Avicii had a huge hit with a country/electronic song called Hey Brother featuring bluegrass musician and singer Dan Tyminski.
One day I sat down in my studio and began to work on a new song based on an acoustic guitar riff that was going around in my head.
Of the riff I literally thought: “This is a wild idea” so I built a swingin’ drum loop…
I began to sing along in the voice of a guy trying to convince his girl that they needed to be spontaneous and infuse their lives with a little more fun…
Let’s go to Paris honey
Let’s go to Berlin
Let’s go to Tokyo
Or some place that we’ve never been
We can run the rapids
Parasail the waves
Or explore a cave
You’ve got nothing to fear it’s just a wild idea
In this case music drove the words as they just spilled out to the rhythm. Not a bad start I thought, but where do I go from here? I had never produced a track like this and needed some advice. Plus, a shot of creative input couldn’t hurt. I knew just the guy.
Robert Bond is a really smart and sophisticated musician who made a name for himself in electronic music circles working with Japanese pop star Hitoe, the electronica group 3kStatic, singer and Peter Gabriel alum Joy Askew, DC Talk and vocalist Kevin Max. Plus, he had his own EM collaborations: The Project and Textures. Most importantly he has an eclectic background having worked in country, pop, rock, theater and jazz. Clearly, he’s open-minded and doesn’t shy away from anything! We became colleagues when he lived and worked in NYC in the 1980’s and have stayed in touch over the years. A true globe trotting musician, he currently makes his home in Warsaw, Poland and (where else?) Nashville, Tennessee. These days all roads seem to lead to Nash-Vegas!
I sent him a rough track with me singing the unfinished lyrics and asked him to consider collaborating long distance. Soon enough, my Dropbox popped open with some fresh tracks. He had written a distinctive musical bridge (something I would NEVER have thought of by the way) and modified my bass line to lay over the drum loop. Yay!
While working long distance is convenient there’s nothing like the energy of being in a room with someone working face to face. So I went to Nashville and met Robert at his home studio where we plotted the arc of the song, finished the lyrics together and I sang a rough lead vocal.
We had the elements but now I had to piece together the puzzle. I wanted hear some fun counterpoint to the relentless “four on the floor” of dance music and decided to add Latin percussion, specifically bongos. Bongos! Yes! I crafted several loops from a terrific program called Stylus and they became an important element in the track. The bongos danced over the beat with such exuberance that when my mastering engineer Butch Jones heard them he jumped up from his chair and said: “Bro we gotta to do a dub mix on this!” Nuff said. I sent Butch separated tracks of drums, percussion, bass, synths, guitars and vocals and he dug in at the studio of Matty Amendola’s 825 Records in Brooklyn, NY.
Butch has been an invaluable collaborator and colleague for years. I trust his ears and his instincts and I work with him whenever I can. His unassuming personality belies a serious Grammy Award-winning résumé: Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, Madonna, The B 52’s, D’Angelo, Gerald Lavert and countless others. Maybe it was his work with Kid Creole and The Coconuts that drew him to Wild Idea… those bongos really spoke to him. Here’s a ninety second taste. (Mix by B. Jones).
We’ll be releasing the full-length 6:00 mix as a bonus track on the CD of 3 – In 1.2 and it will be available as a single on line everywhere in the the known universe very soon. You can hear a minute of the original song Here.
Funny, but I didn’t realize how personal the lyrics were when we wrote the song, it only became apparent to me when I began writing this blog. Thanks to Robert and Butch for taking some creative risks and coming along for the wild ride.
Robert’s website – http://www.robertbond.net/music.html
Butch’s All Music Page – http://www.allmusic.com/artist/butch-jones-mn0000525381/credits
As my friends and fans know I gave myself a challenge to release one song a month for one year. This project has been keeping me on my toes. Like they say, there’s nothing like a deadline. But the deadline for my new release 3 in 1.2 was looming and I needed one more song.
My buddy David Buskin once told me that for him the actual song writing part is not a problem. The problem is coming up with a good idea for a song. Where to begin? I have friends who always keep a little note pad with them for whenever a title or a song idea comes their way either by divine inspiration or in a more casual way. Me? I listen. Hey, I’m a music producer. That’s my job.
We went to a barbeque on May 3rd at my nephew Nick Perfetto’s house. Nick and his fabulous wife Lauren were expecting their first baby in July. They were squeezing in some adult social time before the blessed event. Nick and Lauren are going to be terrific parents. Both still view the world with a child-like wonder.
Their home is a menagerie of classic toys, gadgets and gizmos. They revel in Halloween and Christmas festivities. Their wedding song was a tune by They Might Be Giants… say no more. Also, Nick is an avid bowler and loves karaoke. He even occasionally MC’s at a local karaoke bar!
After a few beers, he was gently bemoaning how his life was about to change and joked that: “I’ll never get the chance to sing karaoke in the motherland”! What? Say that again! That’s it! A song idea!!
That week I wrote and recorded music with a strong lyric idea of what the chorus would be. I was coming up short on the story and the verses. I began to sweat and not because my AC was broken, which it was, but that’s another story. A deadline was looming and my schedule was about to explode with Bacon Brothers rehearsals, touring and my own solo gigs. As luck would have it, we had our friends Paul Rolnick and his fabulous wife Karen Mason over for a barbeque on May 23rd. Paul and I have co-written a few songs over the years so I pitched him on this one and played him the unfinished track. He had a look on his face like I had just given him a surprise package. Which I guess on some level I did. Yes, he’d love to finish the song with me.
The first draft of the lyrics came later that week and we were on our way. A tweak here a fix there and we were heading to the finish line. On June 1st I played the track as I sang the song for my fabulous wife who is also my numero uno sounding board and creative partner.
She had a big smile and started to sing along at the second chorus. That’s a good sign. But, when it finished she paused and said it could use a better bridge or maybe no bridge. Uh oh, back to the drawing board. But, she was right. It wasn’t done yet. Oy! I wanted this to be out in July and it wasn’t finished. And I still had to mix this song and master the other two.
On June 11th I was in my hotel room in Annapolis while on tour with the Bacon Brothers when I had an idea for the bridge. I emailed it to Paul while he was on tour with Karen. He liked it. I would record it when I got back to NYC on Tuesday. Paul added some background vocals on Wednesday. I checked the final mix on Thursday morning, then back on the road to Infinity Hall in Hartford that afternoon with the BB’s. Pheew!
As fate would have it Butch Jones and I mastered Singing Karaoke In The Motherland on June 21st, Father’s Day! The song began with a title from Nick who was about to become a father.
On July 9th Nick and Lauren became the proud parents of Abigail Emily Perfetto.
3-in 1.2 was released on July 7th online in all digital formats through CD Baby and on this website. Along with Singing Karaoke In The Motherland are two other songs Wild Idea which I co-wrote with Robert Bond and Doing What I Can With What I Got, the title of which I got from my band mate Kevin. I’ll write more about that in another post. Remember, I’m always listening!
Flaunt your “carpe diem” spirit!
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Cue the fireworks! 3 in 1.2, the next trio of songs in my yearlong project, is now out and available RIGHT HERE and on all digital services!
I have to admit, the idea of giving myself a deadline to write, produce and release a song a month scared the heck out of me. But it also lit a fire under my butt. So, my left brain was seriously duking it out with my right brain for quite a while. (Right brain: “This is cool!” Left brain: “This is impossible!”)
Some experts refer to this process as left brain/right brain collaboration. Whatever you call it, taking mental measure of both the practical and the creative at the same time is tricky and maddening business. As the veteran minor league catcher, Crash Davis, said in Bull Durham: “You’re thinkin’ too much, Crash. Get out of your head.”
Since that great baseball movie has given me more than one solid piece of advice, I took Crash’s words to heart. I got out of my head by actually collaborating – with other humans. It wasn’t always intentional. Sometimes it began with a simple conversation. But the right brain opened its door at the right moment and let the inspiration in.
So, here’s to those who collaborate with me in a variety of ways. And here’s to a brain that tilts just a little to the right. The results are here for you to enjoy on 3 in 1.2:
Wild Idea – an acoustic-guitar, electronic dance jam with an infectious groove, this was a long distance collaboration with Robert Bond who lives and works in both Nashville and Warsaw, Poland. Yes, he’s an interesting guy.
Doing What I Can (With What I Got) – this hard rocking stadium sing-along was inspired by a quote from my band mate Kevin Bacon. I’m sure our Bacon Brothers fans will want to hear more about that one.
Singing Karoake In The Motherland – a quirky alt-rock track that began in a conversation I had with my nephew Nick Perfetto and took shape with the help of my colleague Paul Rolnick. Paul and I have a shared history in the music biz with many adventures as session singers, writers and producers.
All three tracks were mastered masterfully by the aurally awesome Butch Jones. Check out his list of credits!
I’ll be blogging about the creation of each of these tracks in the coming weeks, so watch this space for stories about the songs and the collaborators who worked with me to bring them to life.
For now, you can hear clips of all three tunes RIGHT HERE on my web site. You can, of course, stream and purchase them all over the web on sites like iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora and the rest.
Some of our close neighborhood pals were keeping my wife Mary Ellen busy last weekend while I was on the road with the Bacon Brothers. One friend was bemoaning the fact that she had driven back from kayaking that day with no radio and only one CD in her car – mine ( 3 in 1.1) – and it only had three songs on it! She now knows every word of all three. So, I’ve actually reached the saturation point with at least one member of the public. The good news is, she ended her story with the words: “I want more!”
Well … comin’ up! I just finished mixing the next batch of three and will be shipping them via the internet to my awesome mastering engineer Butch Jones.
The new digital release 3 in 1.2 will be available in July. You’ll have three new fun, summertime tunes to blast over your car stereo system, computer, iPod, or other listening device of your choice. So, stay tuned!