“Ghost Town”

Your heart’s a ghost town
Drive by baby, ain’t a soul to be found
Think there’s a hole in your chest
‘Cause the beating’s at rest
Let me give you a temporary fix
To start it up again

~ Cafe <3

Song Interpretation 101: “Leaving for France”

 

Hey cafe goers!

I finally got a new song up!  Feels really great to have another creation out there :)

So, I thought I would write today about one important aspect of my songwriting process: song interpretation.  For me, this is all about genuinely telling the story behind the lyrics through very conscious decisions I make on how to deliver my vocal performance.

Originally, this post laid out the entire process for the making of “Leaving For France” from starting with the lyrics to recording the vocals.  But I really just want to focus on song interpretation here because I feel like it was the number one thing I had to work on for this song.

And there is just so much I want to say on this one topic!  In fact, I’m only going to get into the very first part of what this song interpretation exercise is all about.  More to come in a future post!

I’m also really interested in knowing what other people’s creative approaches are as well.  So stay tuned ’til the end for my question to you!

Song Interpretation

돌아온 피겨여왕 김연아

For every song I write, I work through a song interpretation exercise to take my songwriting from a more technical to artistic level.

I always think back to figure skating as an analogy.  You know how in figure skating the judges will give the skater two separate scores — a technical score and a program component score?  (I like to call the latter the artistic score).  Well, I view performing music in the same way.

In figure skating, technical skills like the quality of execution, technique, and height of a jump would be considered when giving a skater a technical score for their performance.  When it comes to performing a song, you also undoubtedly try to nail all of the important technical aspects, like singing the notes in pitch, having the right voice placement, singing all the words by memory, doing your correct breathing, and so on.  But this is only one aspect of performing.

In figure skating, the program component score brings in the artistic elements of the skater’s style, individual personality, how well the movements match the phrasing of the music, and how well the skater expresses the music’s style and character.  With respect to singing, you can score big artistically by bringing in emotion and expression to the lyrics, using dynamics to create variation throughout the performance, using the best melodic phrasing possible to enhance the song, and bringing something original and genuinely you to the table!

Here’s a great tip from Everything Figure Skating on skating and interpretation that is also pretty relevant for singing and performing: “The best way to ‘rehearse’ interpretation is to show a willingness to open yourself up to the audience. … In every program, the music and story is portrayed through the skater’s interpretation of that piece, and that is eventually what separates the good artistic skaters from the champion artistic skaters. Elite artists in the sport perform with honesty, sincerity, and an almost vulnerable spirit. Performers who genuinely touch the audience and the judges take a risk by putting all of themselves—heart, emotion, and soul—on the line every time they compete.”

Who Is the Singer?

paris-france-eiffel-tower-city-buildings

So the first thing I have to figure out, as part of this song interpretation exercise, is: Who am I as the “character” singing this song?  When was I in France and why?  Where am I now?

In my story, I’ve been employed as a waitress in New York for the last couple of years, working hard to pay the bills.  I picked New York because, in my mind, it’s as city as you get and quite a huge contrast from the image I have of France.  My free-spirited, spontaneous nature led me to go to France on a whim three years ago to travel and work.  During my year-long stay, I grew to adore the country and its lifestyle.  Unfortunately, I had to return to New York as it was difficult to keep up with the cost of living in France.

So, this is the character I’ve created for myself for “Leaving For France.”  Keep in mind, I’ve never actually been to France in real life.  But it’s my job as the singer to make the listener believe that not only have I been and lived there, I am in LOVE with this country.  Vive la France! *salutes*

The Moment Before

full-moon-city-buildings-apartments

Another key consideration I have to make is: What happened right before my first line that provoked me to sing about these amazing memories about the vineyards and such?

In my story, I’m just getting home from a really long shift at the restaurant.  I shrug off my coat, change into something comfortable, tie my hair up and pour myself a generous glass of red wine.

I climb out my window to sit on the stairwell outside (hm, not sure why I’m climbing out a window …).  Not the greatest view, just drab, grey concrete all around.  But there is a huge, glowing moon in the dark sky to greet me.

I take that first sip of wine as I gaze at it hanging overhead, and feel that wave of calm wash over. [Musical intro plays].  I start to remember about those beautiful summer nights in France … [“France i-i-in summer …”].  And off we go into the song!  Yup, the story gets that specific!

What’s Next?

As the song continues, the listener should hear and feel that it’s actually progressing from this starting point — both lyrically and musically.  This is what the rest of the song interpretation exercise mainly focuses on.  But we’ll have to get into that another time!

What I do love about this exercise is that it forces encourages you to make conscious decisions about how, as the singer, your emotions and thoughts are changing throughout the song.  In turn, that continuous progression will lead to some interesting things to happen musically — for both you and your listeners!

What’s Your Creative Process?

Because this post was originally about my entire creative process for writing songs, I asked you, my dear readers:  What is your creative process?  What or who is your muse when your stuck for inspiration?  

- Cafe <3

P.S. I have to give massive credit to my previous singing teacher, Veronik Fournier, who changed the way I approach singing songs by giving me this amazing song interpretation tool that I’ve been able to incorporate into my songwriting and performances.  Much love and thanks, V! xoxo

The Art of Collaboration

The first time I collaborated with someone on writing a song together was about a month and a half into my songwriting journey, just over a year ago.

It was such a nerve-wrecking idea that I would be adding my own creation to someone’s else’s creation in the hopes of making it bigger and better!

Well, I have to say that partnering up with Adam Boddy was just about the best introduction I could have asked for to the art of collaborating.  What makes an awesome collaboration partner?  Someone who is a good communicator and responsive (both in a timely sense and in giving you constructive feedback), as well as encouraging and honest.  It also helped that we both just happened to be on the same page about a lot of things!

It doesn’t always come that easy though.

Some of you have heard our song “For Simone” before but I’m putting it up now as I’m currently into a new collaboration and needing to find some inspiration somewhere!  Anywhere!

I guess it’s this way with anything in life — sometimes you have to work with people who maybe don’t do things the way you normally do.  And you’re given a challenging task and could use all the encouragement and feedback that you can get … but, instead, there is silence on the other end.  [Cue the cricket chirp].

Well, we can always learn something from the experience though and use it to better our half of being a collaborative partner.  Always a silver lining to everything!

Have you ever had a challenging collaboration that you worked your way through?

~ Cafe <3

I Will Rise Out of the Fire

In the dark corner of my life
I hide in my shell
Escaping the stabs of your blade
But they still penetrate
Keep cutting me down.

Try to run, you won’t let me run
Pull me back into hell
Drowning fast into emptiness
I can’t see myself
You’re cutting me down.

But hold on, it’s not over yet
I will rescue what’s left
This crumpled heap of dreams
Will be rebuilt, redeemed
The fearful whisper that was my voice
Will echo loudly through the noise.

I will rise out of the fire
You can burn down alone
I am free
I’m finally free.

~ Cafe <3