G’day music lovers!.. Here is my demo of the last track written for my next album. This one is called “Uber Blues”. The mix is rough and ready (but hopefully listenable), but the arrangement is pretty fully-formed.
This started life as a very simple acoustic guitar and vocal song that was originally much slower. It transmogrified into something much bigger and meaner, with a fairly dense arrangement (in parts).
Anyhow… have a listen and have at it!
Something interesting to watch also - Here is me playing the acoustic solo from the song:
…well, the keen-eared will probably notice it’s not the exact one from the mp3 posted above, but a version that I managed to get filmed
…and for interest’s sake, here is the original rough songwriting demo of the song:
I dig the vibe Andrew… and that opening lyric grabs the attention!
Also really enjoying the tones on the guitars and how they’re panned. Kind of a cross between Neil Young and Tom Petty kind of sounds. The one thing that’s too much for me is the tremolo effect during the choruses-- I’d consider backing off the depth on it, I found it a bit distracting, especially the first time about a minute in. Absolutely love that acoustic guitar solo, and the following bit on electric is a nice counterpoint.
When the drums start driving on every beat at 3+ minutes in though, not sure about that, it kind of threw me out of the groove I was boppin’ to. It’s making me search aurally for whether things are going from 2 and 4 to 1 and 3… kind of lost my bearings for a bit in that section.
As usual, your “rough” mixes are way better than my finished products! Looking forward to the album release!
If this is rough, I will eat my shorts. Boy, this vibe really changed at the minute mark. Pettyish to whatever?? When it goes “crazy” I lose a bit of the vocal. Your voice’s are awesome dude. Please tell me this is a recent track. Love the break guitars. That chorus is in your face good. I absolutely love the vibe at the start form the guitars to the vox delivery. Might want to use this vibe on another track? JS
I like this one, Andrew, you really are a master songcrafter! The story is sneaky, like a modern taxi driver tale, this time with a big rock motif. I can imagine that original slow acoustic being inspired by Harry Chapin as that kind of intimate recounting, but now instead it is full blown and nonstop.
I had to listen twice to understand what the song was about- not a problem with your diction or anything, just my brain so distracted by the intensity of the music. Never a dull moment, and I am amazed at your prowess. Everything was good, though not giving me any cathartic feelings for the character’s predicament, his trade off for his money making Uber job, but it did give me a sense of the craziness that may come from any ride.
I guess there is some possibility for more arranging still, maybe toning down the drums for a verse or something, just to give it even more dynamics. But that is nitpicking, dude, this is a strong track!
Cool! Yeah the verse groove has a bit of a Neil feel.
Aw dang - that’s my favorite bit! (and my wife’s)
Funny story with that. I originally recorded my acoustic “writing demo” of the song much slower, and I played an acoustic solo in that same spot. When I recorded the electric version. I put placeholder vocals from the original version just by speeding them up in reaper, and I did the same thing with the acoustic guitar solo, imagining I would replace it with electric later. Then I got to liking it and decided to re-record it “proper” and lengthen the guitar solo with the electric part.
That’s to move the song along. The song needed a change of scene there. It was either cut that 2nd prechorus down to vocal and acoustic and then bring it all back again or do it the way I did. It seemed to work better by creating a pace change. It’s a 5 minute song, so I think it needs some variety.
Thanks Paul! This was a bit of an experimental approach for me vocally - more layered and textured. It was quite a bit of work, but I quite like how it came out - it’s a little bit different!
Hey Steve! I’m really glad you caught the story! As I said above, the original demo was much more “folky” sounding, but the choruses didn’t really capture the atmosphere I wanted to convey in that context, so I decided to go for a more “rock” approach. I guess there is no real catharsis, save the character keeping his family alive… and for him that is a better option than staying where he was! I’m close to quite a few people who have been through absolute hell in the places where they came from, but you’d never know until you ask them - That kind of inspired this song.
Yeah, there is still room for that - I plan to get real drums on the song eventually.
Thanks for the listens and comments - much appreciated!
No worries - I actually experimented with the depth of the tremolo, but somehow less just didn’t seem to have the impact I wanted. It’s a novel sound, I guess… maybe I’ll fall out of love with it at some point!
OK, second listen, the trem is not quite so jarring when it first kicks in. Still more than my taste, but that’s what taste is all about eh? And on second listen, the way that first instance of the trem fades away as you move into the next verse is working better in my ear. I think I can dig it.
Well I’m a tremolo fan so I’d say the more the better! But the riff kind of interferes, so . … not sure what to say. Vocals are strong, guitar solo is good, it could even be acoustic all the way, be a nice change of pace. Other guitars sound great but I think you are over guitarred (is that even possible?) and for some reason I’d like to hear some B3 in there. I’m sure you’ll figure it out! Good work as always
Always a pleasure to hear one of your songs. And I agree with the others, that mix sounds more ready than rough to me! There aren’t a lot of things I heard that I would change.
I really like the song overall, it’s a solid rock tune with a very good production.
Things I especially enjoyed:
The overall “rock” sound/production (I’m tempted to say american rock), nothing groundbreaking here but when it is done in a professional way it is always pleasant to me.
The vocals are strong, great tone, great performance and the arrangement with the backing vocals sound great all along.
That acoustic guitar solo! Love it… we need more of these in this world.
Things I didn’t like
The drum pattern shift at 3:25. It is a great idea to change it here, but to my ear this particular pattern is not the best choice. Shifting to a basic rock pattern kind of breaks the groove for me. Not sure what would work better though, maybe a more “motown-like” feel with the snare on every beat? Or maybe turn the song around entirely and swap the 2 patterns, because I’m pretty sure it would work better the other way round. But I’m also pretty sure you are not keen on trying such a massive overhaul lol.
Despite the numerous and well thought out arrangement changes that kept me engaged until the end, I did notice at one point that the song was a bit longer than the standard practice for this genre. Not a real problem, I’m just mentioning it because it came to my mind, maybe around the 4 minute mark or so.
Lots of good stuff going on in the arrangements and instruments. There’s so much to digest that it’s really hard to give a comprehensive bash without listening to the song many times.
I seemed to gravitate to all the guitar parts and the effect choices, such as the thick chorus effect and the prominent tremelo, as well as the different tones that you use throughout the song and the acoustic guitar solo. I kept telling myself to listen to the bass and drums so I could hear what you were doing there. A few times I did focus on the bass…for about 4 seconds, and then was drawn right back to the guitars. Everything I heard sounded good. I have no idea what you were singing about because I was so focused on the music. I don’t usually pay much attention to lyrics anyway. Usually I’m more into the melody, phrasing and vibe of the vocals. There’s so much to absorb! It would probably help to listen to this when I’m not so exhausted and tired. So forgive me for writing a convoluted review.
I love all the guitar colours and flavours in this song. The bass and drums sounds pretty damn good for a demo too. Oh, and I like the lower background vocals on the chorus, also. Nice simple intro and the song builds nicely throughout. I really like the tremelo on the chorus too. Good song!
I might come back to this song later to listen to it as a casual music fan and not with a critical ear because I find that when I’m dissecting the music I tend to miss the song, the heart, and the feeling. Ultimately that’s the most important aspect. I could feel it here, but I think I could get a clearer idea of just how good the song is if I turn off my critical ear.
No worries - I’ll have a bit more of a play with the drum patterns there - maybe get some input from my live drummer. Momentum is what I want for that part.
For some reason, I’ve been writing longer songs this time around. I think possibly it is because they are by and large, more “story”-based, and sometimes it takes a little longer to flesh out the story… Or maybe I’m just being totally self-indulgent!
Thanks for the comprehensive critique, Jean-Marc - Much appreciated!
Thanks man - I appreciate the comments! Thanks for noticing the guitar colours - I find it’s fun to get into some subtleties that reward a bit of a deeper listen… but I agree… It can be difficult to switch of the analytical side of the musical brain. Hopefully, it works on a casual level too.
I love it Andrew and I really can’t think of anything that needs to be improved mixingwise. (Even though I know you’ll have it sounding even better at the final mix)
My two comments will be on the “artistic” side of things and that, of course, is a personal taste thing.
The bridge (before the marvelous ac. guitar solo) starts great at 2:15 and until 2:27. At that specific part I would like to hear another elevation of the music tension to go along with your voice singing higher notes. Could be a grungier open guitar chord or something in the rhythm section.
My 2nd comment is also at that part. I don’t particulary like the melody at the lyrics “my eyes” and “despise”. I would try cutting the last note of “eyes” and maybe only keep longer the note of the syllable de"SPI"se and fall at “me”. If that makes any sense at all… Singing it myself sounds better in my ears. Try it and see.
Hey George! Great ideas - especially for the bridge vocal part. I’ll have to experiment with your suggestions. I think I may add some additional instrumentation to the bridge part as well, as you’ve suggested.
Thank you so much for your ideas - much appreciated!
Hi Andrew, this is sounding GREAT! Listened at first through my laptop speakers and was immediately struck by the clarity width and separation. I then had to try earbuds and that really notched things up … in particular the fabulous shifting shaky/twisty sort of bits that build up to a wonderful sense of barely suppressed crazy that is awesome. Some lovely twists and shifts, melodically and production-wise. Love how you managed the instrumentation in the bridge, it’s so different and yet it fits in so very well and then grows… There is a lovely edge of discomfiture, not obvious, it just made me feel kinda edgy… Vocals are sounding great… love the contrast between intimacy and full chorus effects.
Wow, thanks Emma! I’m glad it translates to a few different systems… If only I can get the final mix to work as well!
This is a superbly accurate description of exactly the type of effect I was after - “melodic unease”, if you will…!
The song was actually inspired by a number of different things:
First, I was listening to the radio one day, and the announcer made a call out for those with stories to tell from their work to call in. I normally don’t listen to this sort of stuff, but for some reason I stopped and listened to the story of one guy who was a taxi driver. He said he did the night shift and was often called to a part of Brisbane (very near where I used to live) notorious for high unemployment, social problems and various criminal activities. He said he was often called on at all hours of the night and very early morning to pick up a customer and drive them to an address. The customer would then tell him to wait outside while they went in to the house, did what they had to do, then returned to the taxi and asked to be driven back to their homes. He said he felt so conflicted because he knew they were doing drug deals, and as such, felt almost complicit with what was going on, despite his complete detachment from that whole world. He found the whole situation was genuinely scary, but said that it was par for the course in his line of work.
After that I sat down with my guitar and wrote the first chorus you hear in the song. That was all I had at that point, but I kept coming back to it, because I felt it was good.
The words I wrote kept bringing back to my mind was my own experiences as a young adult living in the inner western suburbs of Sydney in the late 80s and early 90s. Due to other priorities in life, I was working early morning shopping centre cleaning jobs, which started anywhere from 2-4am in the morning.
Now if anyone else has done shiftwork, apart from circadian chaos wreaking havoc with your fragile sleep-deprived state, the sheer feeling of utter insecurity - or “discomfiture”, as @Emma put it - is palpable and constant.
It seems the only people awake at those times are criminals, drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, strung-out, inveterate hard partiers meandering their way catatonically and incomprehensibly from night clubs… and of course, other sleep-deprived, slowly-going-insane, night workers. The point is, whoever you came in contact with were almost certainly untrustworthy and possibly dangerous. And the thing is: you’re there just wanting to do your job and get it over with. You’re totally detached.
It’s an experience you don’t quickly forget, so that was definitely part of what I wanted to capture.
So that is where the idea sat for quite a while - probably 6 months or so…
Then I had a conversation with a friend I know. He is a refugee from Rwanda who escaped with his family to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, and eventually made it to Australia.
I got talking to him and asked him about his life. He is about 3 years younger than me. He is highly educated and told me that he had once held a diplomatic post in his country.
Then war broke out and he ended up fighting in the army. He told me how he was so badly injured in battle that is fellow soldiers left him for dead. He stayed alive for 2 days in this state and was eventually rescued. It took him two years to recuperate from his injuries (he still walks with an obvious limp).
During his convalescence, he decided to change his life and completely break with his political affiliations. Unfortunately, by this time however, the opposite side to the one he was aligned with had ascended to power, and they were determined to search out all their former enemies and kill them… And so he was forced to flee for his life…
This encounter got me thinking about all the refugees we have in Australia. Like me in my early 20s, they are all the people driving taxis, Ubers, doing night cleaning etc etc… All the jobs most middle class Australians disdain and make the butt of their humorous cliches. Like my friend, many of them have incredible stories of survival to tell, that would horrify most white-bread Aussies.
They are often also highly educated, but since their qualifications aren’t accepted here, they are forced to do what they can to feed their families. (I had another friend from Nigeria who was a very well paid Engineer back home. Despite having been here 3 years, he still can’t yet get a job in his field due to lack of recognised qualifications)…
Which brought me full circle to the idea of an immigrant driver being thrust into this “crazy nether-life”, not of his own choice, only to be viewed with suspicion and scorn by the very people who choose to exist in it…
So that’s the story behind the song. Incidentally, here is the original, bare bones “songwriting demo” of “Uber Blues”. I was literally thinking of lyrics on the spot while recording this vocal phrase by phrase as I thought of them.
I thought everyone my find it illuminating and amusing to hear it in it’s very raw state:
What an amazing set of stories Andrew!! I can definitely relate to that discomfiture. I worked graveyard shift for a couple years, throwing stock in a grocery store, and I absolutely recall that sensation and that it simply was constant, regardless of whether it was a work day or whether you were on vacation… Even 20 years later I would still sometimes have a recurring dream, waking up in a panic because I was supposed to go clock in…
The refugee story is particularly poignant in today’s context… thanks for sharing this fascinating background.
Just you and your guitar and all that emotion. Totally awesome. Wow. Ballsy to grab those high notes. What a pro you are. That guitar solo
It’s early and I don’t usually read much. I started your story and couldn’t stop. You have a book in you bud. Big fan here as you know.