Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dirty Engine


Listen to the home demo:

Two more In the Morning songs left upon which to reflect...

Today's focus: Dirty Engine.

I suppose any song from which the title of an album is culled deserves some special attention.

Dirty Engine was the first new song completed for In the Morning. It was written at the very beginning of my early a.m. writing experiment in the spring and summer of 2009. I actually wrote about it more contemporaneously on a friend's blog, Head Above Music.

I guess I'll rely on that post for the creative details (although I notice I called it "In the Morning" and not "Dirty Engine") because I think it captures nicely the feel of the environment from which Dirty Engine and really all of In the Morning sprung.

Harmonically, there's nothing to this tune: it's probably one of the simplest I've ever written. It started as more of a blues thing, with a chugging shuffle-ish guitar that wound up being jettisoned once the rhythm section got involved. Check the home demo above to hear me aping Pete Yorn.

Lyrically, I was really pleased with how I tied together the work of writing with the work of being in a new relationship. One of my favorite lines I've ever written is "the days of easy love are gone." At that time, I was simultaneously struggling to write from a place other than pain, and also coming to understand how falling in love at the age of 30 is vastly different from falling in love at the age of 20. Connecting the two through one line really resonated.

The recording process was one of my favorite... we rehearsed this tune once or twice the night before the sessions, and then went out to the bar for some band bonding. The next day when we reconvened to track, the Springsteen-shuffle of our rehearsal version was replaced with... synth-electro-pop.

I loved watching the band create this completely unique sound seemingly out of thin air. Jay and Drew locked in on a fantastic little melodic feature around Darren's drum hook, which was created on the rim of a tom tom.

All I had to do was piece together a little guitar part for the verses and then bash the shit out of a Telecaster on the choruses. We overdubbed only a keyboard pad and a little piano so the sound of this song is essentially the sound of us playing in the studio getting the arrangement right for the first time. We even got Darren to do (much to his chagrin) a "drum feature."

There's one moment in the last chorus where we all hit the same accent pattern... it just tickles me. Really. Hard to explain. I love the unrehearsed moments that come out of the live recording setting... it's energy captured on tape (or Pro Tools). So cool.

After some layered lead vocals, we got a good mix and there you have it: Dirty Engine.

Go listen in your car and bob your head like some Europeans on their way to a discotheque.


And in the morning this dirty engine's turning over
Breaking the silence, the hardest part is letting go
Is giving in

Hey this room is full of noise
And voices hanging in the air
But if you listen now
You just might hear the sound
Of moving on

And in the falling light there must be something more to see
The days of easy love are gone, we're gonna have to dig a little deeper
And deeper

Hey this room is full of noise
And voices hanging in the air
But if you listen now
You just might hear the sound
Of moving on


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