Making ‘The Year, She Turns’ – September
September 22, 2017. No comments.
“Which comes first the music or the words?” Fay asks me in the podcast this month. I mumble something about how I usually sing around an idea until it takes shape, and then I hone the melody and the lyrics from there. However, the song for September was different. I wrote the tune on my big harp and then added the words later. For me this is a much more difficult process. I often approach songwriting from the point of view of the lyrics and the phrasing and melody they suggest. The rise and fall in natural speech translates into a tune, longer notes occur on open vowel sounds – the more ‘conversational’ the better. When writing to a simple tune like ‘September Rain’, I had to make sure each word really counted; was ‘singable’, sounded right and of course expressed what I wanted to say.
Some would say it is a sad song…. but I like to feel it is really about transitions and renewal. September is a time of change… children go back to school or off to university. Summer activities fade into memories and the year turns. It’s also about letting go. What didn’t bloom this time, waits in the wings for another season.
The other tricky thing with writing the tune first, is the key. It sounded beautiful in Am on the harp, but to get the best out of my voice it was a little high. Yes, a semi-tone does make a lot of difference! Any musician who complains the singer is being awkward needs to understand this… In this case, I was both the singer, and the musician that had to transpose it! Not only transpose, but also re-tune the harp. Ab is not a natural key on the lever harp and it meant I had to re-tune a number of strings in order to perform the song. I complained a bit, but then agreed with myself that it was best.
This was the fourth song for the ‘song-a-month’ project that I recorded myself, and I was particularly pleased with the sound I achieved. I borrowed some great mics (as used on the harp for my previous album) and a good vocal mic, and I got the close intimate sound I wanted in both cases. Add some dreamy string synth chords, and a bit of rain (thank you Stephen)… and the track was complete.
A case of less is more, all round.
It is simple, but I hope you will find it beautiful.
Listen to September Rain