Gaya Erlings

Anatomy of a Song - Part One

Gaya Erlings
Anatomy of a Song - Part One

The piano has been that person that everyone was always convinced I'd get along great with. That we'd make a handsome couple, soul mates even! I was apprehensive to believe this at first mainly because I hadn't gotten a chance to meet piano and really get to know him. But when I first laid my hands on him back in 2009, (my first real encounter with a baby grand,) I was infatuated beyond comprehension. Like a great person, a piano brings out the best in you. It forgave my limited skills and made room for my ideas. It let my fingers go places that the guitar never did. I love the way our sound filled the whole room and when the melody ran out of gas, we came to a slow, graceful halt. It was unavoidable, this was going to be a lifelong bond. 

The first gift Reiner and I gave ourselves from our wedding loot, was a Kawai Upright Piano. It was one of the happiest days of our collective lives. At first, piano took more to Reiner, but over time, he developed a real friendship with me. He moved in with us to our first home and I spent many afternoons hunched over the keys, writing lil' fragments of songs; sometimes we finished them, but most times we abandoned them half way when we knew they wouldn't make it.

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It was one such afternoon when a new permutation of notes came to be and suddenly an entire song took shape in under 5 minutes. This was a big moment for piano & me. The only words that kept pouring out of my mouth were 'Fake it till you Make it', 'Fake it till you Make it'. I knew immediately that this was going to be the chorus. I had all these other verse melodies rush at me like a memory from a past life. Like I had always known the song and I just managed to tune in to the right frequency on that given day. Luckily I recorded this moment on my dictaphone.  

Later that day, I played our creation to Reiner, asking if he'd sit at the keys and extricate the chords under the grouping of notes, punctuate the verse from the pre-chorus and the chorus itself. He immediately took to the song as well and we started to work on it bit by bit. 

Lyric-writing has always been a strange process for me. I've seen many of my songwriter friends have notebooks filled with poems, lyrics that they've compiled over the years. This makes me jealous. I employ a rather strange method of writing lyrics. It's a three-part process. I will, at first, sing any random words that fit in to the melody. Usually these words will have some clue about what I'm yearning to say with the song. During the melody session, I will start to write a few words/lines that I want to use as a jumping off point. I will then sit down to write the verses as I playback the crude recording of the melody on a loop. Listening back to the melody also helps me figure out what I need to cut, what I need to add etc. I will then return to piano with lyrics and we articulate the song together. I live for these 3 steps. 

A few months later, as I was preparing to record the new EP, this song was the obvious first choice on the track listing and also became the first song we started to record in Reiner's then studio at Tone Town (R.I.P.)

We brought in the amazing Fox Faehrmann on drums who got the song at first listen and was just really up for having a monster playdate where we collected sheets of MDF and other scrap building materials we found lying around in that Al Quoz lot. We created a makeshift foley pit in the live room on which we stomped to get that fat sound we were after. We worked on the drum patterns and came up with something that made us all giddy! The pulsations of the drums were super important to bringing the energy of the tune to life. Fox was totally meant to be the person on this song. Listen to some isolated drum trucks and sounds we created with our fingers and Fox's cheeks!   

During this period I was hearing horns constantly in my head. Mostly muted trumpets, playing smooth solos in a dimly-lit alleyway. So I was adamant about getting horns on the song. I was doing a set every weekend at The Music Hall at that point where I played with a house band with some wonderful horn players. I convinced a couple of them to come play on the song and the result was so exactly how I imagined it.

The production process of a song can be as thrilling as writing it. Especially when you work with a Producer who has a brilliant aesthetic but allows for yours to shine as well. Reiner & I besides our personal relationship, have been finishing each other's musical sentences ever since we started working together. Our studio sessions are charged with equal parts synergy and conflict and the end results are songs we have literally unearthed together out of those tectonics.

I believe the song is still on a journey, going places, taking new forms. In the beginning of the new year, it will take the form of a music video and other exciting film-related avatars. Piano & I are just just happy to have been the first people it met.