Updated: Jan 18, 2021
I am not complaining about having to work alone these days because of the virus. Yes, I really miss doing live performances. A whole bunch of mine were canceled or postponed, including Carnegie Hall, a multi-week tour from the northeast to Miami and back again, playing along and in the spine of Appalachia, and a tour of Scotland. That one really hurts.
But writing for me has always been a solitary thing - something that I am very comfortable doing alone. 99% of my songs were written without a co-writer, so this is nothing new for me. A few weeks into this voluntary isolation I was noodling on the guitar and I started writing something in 3-4 time, which I don't do very often. An hour later I had a first draft of a song about being isolated, called "Waiting For The Good Old Days Again."
I really liked how it was feeling, so I immediately laid down a guitar track in my studio and did a rough vocal. Then I started building the track, adding some percussion elements and a bass. Then I pulled some fiddle tracks from one of the songs on my Dust Bowl album, using Melodyne to repitch them, and Pro Tools warping to bend them on the time axis. A virtual cello from Kontakt followed, and after 2 days of working I had a track.
I really wanted to share it with everyone, so I thought I needed a video. This is much harder to do alone than recording, because it's difficult to video record yourself when you can't see what the camera is seeing, but I rigged up my phone as a camera and did the best I could. Normally I would not do all this alone, because music and videos come out MUCH better when you get other talented people involved.
There was a lot of experimentation, but I finally discovered that the thing that worked the best was not using my expensive video camera (because of the lighting), but using my iPhone 11. And the lighting? A $3 flashlight taped to a cymbal stand. And to focus the light I put a piece of paper over the lens with a hole in it. Really, really low tech.
I wanted a very stark look, and that really did the trick. I was imagining just my face in shadow floating in a black frame... and I would put the outline of a house around me at different scales, to underscore the isolation aspect of the song.
So I imported all of my takes into Adobe Premiere Pro and started editing something together. I added a few snippets of stock video for drama, like an empty subway car and a man sitting in front of a TV in the dark. I drew the house outline in Photoshop and brought it into Premiere. It's amazing that a song that's 3-4 minutes long takes many hours to produce, both the music track and the video.
Please have a look at the video and tell me what you think. You can click the picture above and it will open in YouTube at this link: https://youtu.be/BFzwfVtMkq8
I hope you are doing well despite everything that's going on. The good old days will be back again! They might look a little different, but they'll be back.