Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Journey of a Song

I know very little about music. I like to play around on the piano every once and a while, and sometimes I write little pieces of music just for fun, but I don't really write songs with words. I can barely read music and I've heard so many other talented people out there who are so much better than me. I have friends who amaze me with their musical abilities. However, I did write a song with words a while ago and I had the amazing opportunity to record it professionally. I learned so much about more music a long the way. Anyway, I would love to share with you about how this song came to be.

It was more than a year ago (it could have been almost two years ago), I was staying over at my cousins house that weekend and on Sunday afternoon, a beautiful relaxing Sunday afternoon I stared to play around on the piano again. The Winterton's had an electric keyboard in their front room. I was just playing some chords - I really liked the combination Bb F C Dm! My cousin Parker Winterton came over to see what I was doing, soon some notes came together. At this time I didn't expect it to be a song with words, just another one of my silly piano songs.

Almost a year later my friend Brandon Cluff invited me to go see "Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader." That movie was so inspiring, especially when your think about the symbolism that C.S. Lewis intended. I'm not afraid to admit that I was crying when Aslan (symbolic of Christ) is talking to the children at the end! I was thinking about  how Jesus gives us the power to really change and how he wants us to reach our true potential! We are all spiritually children of our Heavenly Father and Christ know what our potential is. I started playing my song on the piano and words just kind of came out. I quickly grabbed a piece of paper and started to write.

Mean while at work I was in contact with a guy named Robert Elliott who did a lot of the music for Mormon Messages and Mormon Messages for Youth. I didn't think my song was that great, but you see I want to be a movie director someday and I decided if I could get Rob to help me record my song professionally it would help me to learn how to work with composer and I would be able to see the process. Songs are different than scores, but it would give me some kind of idea. I also firmly believe in a healthy sense of risk taking - if you don't try or ask then you'll never know.  The worst that could happen was he would say no.

I decided I would try and synthesize the song before I e-mailed him so that he would know the kind of feel I was going for. I found out my friend Lacey Furner had some awesome software that would work. I went to her house and synthesized my song - it didn't sound that great, but it was a good attempt.

I e-mailed him the two versions of the song. He told me that he would lower his usually prices a little bit for me to do it. The next thing he needed was a chord lead sheet, so it forced me to write out the music on paper, which took me a little while to get done because I can barely even read music, but I learned so much by just writing out the music.

I e-mailed him the sheet music along with the kind of instruments I wanted him the synthesize and other notes about the feel I was going for. He got something done and invited me over to listen (he just lives in Kaysville so it wasn't that far to get to). It was one of the funnest things I've done! I got to tell him what I liked and didn't like about the instrumentation and melody. He made important changes to the song and made a new version for me to hear. There were still a few changes that I needed him to make in that version, but we got it done.

Next I needed a singer. I wanted a male singer (because the beginning of the song was from Christ's perspective). I thought about using two singers for the two different perspectives, but I decided I didn't want to do that. Anyway, I e-mailed a bunch of people I thought I might want to use, but I didn't find what I was looking for yet.

One night while working on another video project for my parents, I met Daniel West (17 years-old). I had time to talk to him alone while we were driving. I told him I liked his name, it was a good Hebrew name. My name's Hebrew too and I love learning about what some of the bible names mean, so I asked him if he knew what Daniel meant. He did (it means God is righteous judge) and we stared talking about scriptures. From those first moments talking with him I knew I liked Daniel. 

I found out he could sing and later asked him to try and sing my song. I never thought about using a base, but I thought his deep voice fit the song pretty well. Later he told me he knew a girl named Mylie Johnson (16 years-old) that had such a pure, beautiful voice and he wanted me to hear her. I told him I didn't really want two people singing the song, but then he introduced me to her and I loved her voice, there was no way I could say no! I also stared really liking the idea of having two people sing. I'm glad I did too.

Up until the day before we were to record Mylie had no idea what lyrics I was going to have her sing at the end of the song. A couple days before recording I thought hard about what I wanted to write. In the original version of the song I just had "Thou art the Path. Thou are the Sun. Thou art the Living Water," and I didn't quite like that. I came up with this:

Thou hast bled
For sins so red
Thy blood doth wash me clean

Thou art the Light
That gives me sight
I could not see without Thee

When I am lost
Lost and alone
When no one else can relate

I talk with Thee
Then I can see
My purpose is greater than me

Both Daniel and Mylie didn't like the first stanza. I have to admit that first stanzas was one of my favorites, but I had to agree with them, it didn't fit in well with the rest. We decided to replace that with the original "Thou art the path . . . ." bit. 

Recording was so fun! I loved giving direction to Daniel and Mylie. I went in to the room they were singing in (sound proof with a window) and talked to them privately during their singing, we talked about how it should sound and feel. I remember privately asking Daniel how he was feeling. He tenderly told me that he was thinking about Christ singing to him, he told me he was hoping that these are the things Christ would tell him. I told him to keep those thoughts in his head.

When I went in to talk to Mylie I told her that her part needed to sound really humble. I told her to pretend that she was on her knees praying. Mylie was singing the last part the way we planned, but I decided I still didn't like the "Thou art the Path. Thou art the Sun . . ." bit, so I went in to talk to her again. I asked her what she would say to or about the Savior if she could say anything. She said she would say something about joy or warmth. Then she said she would say something about being home. It took us a little bit, but we came up with a better stanza.  Here's what Mylie and I came up with:

Thou art the Sun
Thou art my warmth
Where I can always call home

Here is the final version of the song.  I hope you enjoy it. Think about the words and what they mean to you. What would you say to or about your Savior if you could say anything? What would you want to Savior to say to you?

I had lots of fun making this song. I learned so much more about music and I'm so grateful to do it. It has really spiritually uplifted me and I hope this song touches at least one person out there. Thanks everyone who helped me make this a reality!

You can download my song for free by clicking here.