Tim Tunes

4-8 Greg Chastain - 2 - Writing the Song

October 09, 2023 Tim Rose Season 4 Episode 8
Tim Tunes
4-8 Greg Chastain - 2 - Writing the Song
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When people ask if the lyrics or the music comes first when writing a song, I say, "Yes, it’s both". It’s very seldom that I’ll have the concept of the song and the lyrics written before I start writing the music. 

Songwriting is a messy business. You bring together a bunch of disparate things into a cohesive whole and the process can be a little convoluted. It becomes more complicated as you add others to the process.

Also, you can’t be too critical of what you are doing at this point. As Paul McCartney famously sang in outtakes from the song “Yesterday”, “scrambled eggs”. Paul used “scrambled eggs” as a placeholder until he had a better word. Had Paul been very critical of what he was writing he may have abandoned the song, and we wouldn’t have the song “Yesterday”. 

I’m Tim Rose and this is the Tim Tunes podcast. This is part two of our songwriting sessions with Greg Chastain founder and president of Voices of Hope. Listen in now as he and I  write and record a song together about Greg and his mom. 

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[Intro]
[Intro Theme – Motor]

When people ask if the lyrics or the music comes first when writing a song, I say yes, it’s both. It’s very seldom that I’ll have the concept of the song and the lyrics written before I start writing the music.

Songwriting is a messy business. You bring together a bunch of disparate things into a cohesive whole and the process can be a little convoluted. It becomes more complicated as you add others to the process.

Also, you can’t be critical of what you are doing at this point. As Paul McCartney famously sang in outtakes from the song “Yesterday”, “scrambled eggs”. Paul used “scrambled eggs” as a place holder until he had a better word. Had Paul been very critical of what he was writing he may have abandoned the song, and we wouldn’t have the song “Yesterday”. 


[Pod Lick]

Welcome. I’m Tim Rose and this is the Tim Tunes podcast. This is part two of our songwriting sessions with Greg Chastain founder and president of Voices of Hope. Listen in now as he and I continue to write a song together about Greg and his mom.

[Pod Lick – Big D]




[Stumbling Through]
In our previous episode we began to put together the idea of the song. I had a prejudice that we should write a song about Greg’s Mom since she is such a profound influence on him. We didn’t want to hide that he was adopted, au contraire, we wanted to celebrate it. We decided to focus on the fact that she chose him as opposed to just getting what you get naturally. Also, we wanted the song to have a country/rock/choral musical theater vibe to reflect Greg’s love and skill with these genres. 

When we last left our itinerant tunesmiths, they had just finished the preliminary interview with Greg. We took a break to clear our heads and when we came back Greg and I jumped the gun. We started writing the song while Dan Tang, who was engineering the session, was out of the room. We started the process before we started recording. We were ready to go and inadvertently started without him. Ooops, my bad. I’ve edited out the long pauses where we were trying to think, but nuthin’ was happening. By the way, the voice off mic with the occasional wry comments is Dan Tang.

{Songwriting with Greg}

[Podlick – End of Hogjaw]

We continued like this for a while, going back and forth. Reworking the lyrics and melody.  We kept trying new things until finally we had sort of fleshed out the 1st two verses and the chorus. Here is the first version of the verses and choruses.

{First version of the verses}

[Greg’s recording session]

Greg and I continued to work on the bridge before calling it a night. In the following weeks I got to work formalizing what we had done. I wrote out the song in my computer using my Finale composition tool. I decided to add a key change up one whole step after the bridge. This meant that the ending would be very high and not necessarily difficult for Greg to so sing, but it would not be in the opimal register for his voice. So, I decided to lower the song by a whole step so that the end would be in Greg’s sweet spot voicewise.

A few months later we got together again and made Greg’s final voice recordings. But first I reviewed the lowered version of the song with him. Here is the recording of Greg and I reviewing the scratch version of the song.

{Greg Listens and responds to scratch version of song}

Before we get into the final recording. I just wanted to take a minute to highlight some of Greg’s vocal work. We entered out session with out any vocal harmonies being written out. What you are hearing is entirely created on the spot. I gave Greg minimal direction on what to sing for harmony. He just naturally seemed to know what to sing. Listen to this…

{Greg Vocal 1}

And then there’s this….

{Greg Vocal 2}

And finally there’s this…

{Greg vocal 3}

There’s plenty more great harmonies but I didn’t want to give away the whole song. As it happened I forgot to have Greg sing the harmonies after the key change so I did them. I added some guitar and asked Dan Tang, an incredible drummer in his own right, to add a drum track. And here at long last is the final mix.


{She Chose Me.flac}




[Outro]

So, we come to the end of our songwriting journey with Greg Chastain. Special thanks to Greg for participating in my obsession and to Dan Tang for the use of his studio and for the stellar drum parts.  

Also, if you feel so inclined, please make a donation to vohboston.org to support cancer research. And finally, if you’d like to support me you can stream my songs online at whatever music streaming service you use. If you’d offer a comment or review that goes a long way towards increasing my reach. If you’d like an add-free version of the podcast you can find one on Patreon.com by becoming a subscriber. If you would like to make a onetime contribution, you can do so @rimtoes on venmo or paypal. That’s rimtoes R-I-M-T-O-E-S. It’s an anagram of Tim Rose.

Thanks for listening. I’ll be back in about a month with a completely new podcast. Until then toodle-ooo!
[Outro Pod Lick]


[After Outro Pod Lick ends, very softly]

Intro
Stumble Through
Recording Session
Scratch Version
Gregs Voice
She Chose Me Final Mix
Outro