Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chasing The Duck/Dark Lyrics

I haven't blogged for so long! I have been chasing the dark of my own for the last month before recording final vocals, trying to find more and more of a connection with my material every day, revising lyrics, rhythms, writing and refining bridges, melodies, etc. etc. Its been a great month before the final stretch to understand the shape and themes of the album and my songs. I've even taken out a guitar and really worked on rhythms and how to play things at open mics and showcases if there is no piano.. this will still require more work, but its been great as i find guitar to be such a rhythmic instrument with an upstroke and down stroke and its woody percussive feels with muting and other slapping techniques. Got so much work to do, and really look forward to developing my guitar skills over the next few years to use it as a writing base as well as piano. Its amazing how three chords played rhythmically on the guitar can create so many melody and song ideas in my head- perhaps more than just sitting at the piano!

So i finished the basic lyrics for one of my favorite songs on the album called Chasing the Dark, and i thought i would post them. I think i blogged before that i love this idea of Chasing the Dark, my girl's sister misunderstood me this afternoon and thought i'd written a song called Chasing the Duck!! My accent certainly throws Canadians off, so better make it clear when i come to record the vocals

The song really sums up alot of the themes of the Album in general, which is really a young musician/artist trying to figure out his place in the world, and embarking on a journey to find who he is, and what the world means to him, and hopefully this will connect with people who can relate to my journey and the things i see and how i interpret them in lyrics, melody and rhythm. Chasing the Dark really means that we all have plans and destinations, and so often they are so carefully planned, but things change constantly, we change constantly, illness happens, tsunamis and earthquakes happen, the dollar drops and rises, relationships change.. just when we thought we were in control we're not, so we think we are chasing something, a dream, an idea, but really in the end we are chasing what we don't know and what we can't control.. we are chasing the dark.

Take a ride on a different point of view
See the city lights turn on beneath the clouds... feel them rising
Surrender your control
Slipping from your hands and losing hold... feel it going

We don't want to admit we're just chasing shadows..

Across the void
Through endless skies
With no destination
Holding on
Against the Wind
Reaching out
With no destination.
We're just chasing the dark

The Sunsets in your eyes
Blinding you with faith in perfect lies.. like lightening
You try to cut the noose
That binds you to the careful life you choose.. But your hanging

We don't want to admit we're just chasing shadows..

Across the void
Through endless skies
With no destination
Holding on
Against the Wind
Reaching out
With no destination.
We're just chasing the dark


IF WE LOOK DOWN, IT'S SO FAR TO FALL
IF WE LOOK DOWN, IT'S SO FAR TO FALL
IF WE LOOK DOWN, IT'S SO FAR TO FALL...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

MENTORS

Everybody needs them. Nearly any success story that you have ever read or aspired to follow will have that 'success story' having had a commanding influence in their life and on their life. Mentors are those that we find on our path that are inherently necessary to reach the next level, to push beyond where we think we can go, because they see in us a potential that generally we can't see ourselves, or are to sacred to take the chance too reach. They are great teachers.. they might not specifically be teachers in a professional sense, but they are teachers nonetheless.

Luke Skywalker had Yoda...
Leonardo Da Vinci had Verocchio..
and..Justin Bieber had USHER!!!!!!!!!

All i have learned is that there are certain people i have come across that have inspired me and taught me great priceless gifts.  You can learn from nearly everything in life, i learned today at the Royal Ontario Museum that in the 1780s, boys before the age of five wore dresses with small pantaloons. However, facts and figures are useful, but real mentors give you inspiration (that may well come from facts and figures.. but inspirational in their application). I have been fortunate over the last few years to get a real KICK UP THE ASS by a few people, especially a great Acting teacher in Sydney called Annie Swann. Any aspiring actor/artist out there should get over to Newtown in Sydney, Australia and see her, and in one hour your life will be totally changed and pointing in a much more fruitful direction.

My current singing teacher is also a constant inspiration and source of advice. Little gem's like 'there is no up, and there is no down'.. 'don't think too much, god, what are you thinking for, just do it!'.. 'just the good bits dear'... and just the giving over to the natural process of development. We are all born with a voice, and then go and give it a whole lot of problems and agony (well some of us over the years anyway). As my teacher says, you already got the voice 'kid', you just don't know how to use it properly yet.

The other big mentor in my life, who probably would never describe himself as a mentor, is the producer of this Album, Dave Thompson. The guy is a fucking genius. But also a real person. He probably knows deep down he's a genius, but he just gets on with it. He expounds truth from every angle. Truth is 360 degrees around that guy. If you are putting shit on, or not being genuine, then get the fuck out of the house. We now have a sign on the studio door which says "CROONER FREE ZONE". He's trying to beat the fake and bring in the real Alex Hopkins. It's a daily challenge, but one which he continues to undertake day in and day out tirelessly.

There is one common link between all three of my major mentors. They all have a wealth of experience in so many different facets of life. They have a universal grip on the ways of the world, but would always admit that it's impossible to have a universal grip on anything, as the more you know, the more you have to learn, and the better you get at something.. well you can get a whole lot better at it than that! They keep searching for truth, honesty, and integrity in the pursuit of life.

Leonardo Da Vinci's goal in life was to search for Truth and Beauty, he never found enough it, not even one iota of as much as was out there (he admitted that on his death bed), but he spent everyday trying to be better, more knowledgeable and trying to find more truth and beauty in the world. Not a bad way of living really...

May the force be with you!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chasing The Dark

It's been a while since I've written anything. I have been meaning to write, and every time i sit down to, something else comes up which distracts, usually something useless and not fruitful, nevertheless distracting.

But here i am. Just got back (a week ago now) from a short contract doing piano bar stuff for Disney down in LA and Mexico on one of their cruise ships- The Disney Wonder. A few immigration scares that could have put a real dampener on my future career, but other than that it was a good chance to get away and get some space and breathe in some warmer air. Again a stark reminder that playing in a lounge is not really what i feel i am destined for long term. However, it is still a cool thing to get paid to play music and see places, and have your washing done, and meals provided, etc. etc, so it could be a hell of a lot worse. However, every time i go down there i come back as loungey as ever. I have to sort this out. Do i want to lounge or do i want to create an organic Alex Hopkins sound and msg. In my heart i want this, but it's scary, with nowhere to hide. I have come to this conclusion.

The lounge gig for me is being in my lounge room, chilled in front of the TV, not simply going through the motions because i give 100% everytime i go on, but really it is something now that is within my comfort zone, time or place- doesn't matter, i'm at home living in the world of other people's songs and the 'is anyone really listening or does anyone really care beyond a nice sound and a few beers' kind of atmosphere. Dare to be bigger.. it is important to think that, and bigger doesn't mean better. Better is a state of mind, and to be honest the lounge might seem better to me one day.. you never know.. unlikely but it just might.

So the Winter lives on here in Toronto. Ebbs and flows between -15 and 0 here and there, depending on the hour or the day. And it's time to get this ALBUM DONE.

We just put down some ideas for Song number 8, which is a lyric/theme i wrote many years ago in my bedroom while finishing my degrees in Ottawa. It's about being stuck in that state of mind that is unhealthy, and breaks down your spirit and soul. It's not self indulgent, but it's that you are too scared to face the unknown and what it would be like to be happy and to be home.. to be home with yourself. The chorus still needs words, but i like the metaphor of being home at last.. safe with yourself, that feeling of.. fuck, i've been living out of a suitcase for so long man, living just all over the place, clinging from thing to thing, idea to idea, pain to heartache, to dreams, all over the place, i just need to be home. Home can be anywhere, but it's a place of peace, or some degree of certainty, or accountability to yourself. You can't run away from this home that i am talking about. It's not where your parents live or where you grew up (it might be that, if that is the place where you feel at home with yourself), it's just that place that your true passion and spirit needs to fly out of. And i think it's inside... it has to be, it's your center.

If you find home, you find who you are.

And Song number seven that i am really excited about is on the surface about my fear of flying.. but serves as a msg to all control freaks out there that you gotta let go at some point, you will not always be able to control things to survive and keep going.. and in alot of ways we are chasing the dark through our lives. Keep going and going and striving, and do we even know what we are heading towards?? Is it forever??

Is it the Disney Happy Ever After where the woman meets the prince?? Yeah the chick's self sufficient and usually appealing, however she only gets to the happily ever after line when she meets the prince that allows that happen.. who the fuck says a prince is necessary for the chick to be happy ever after. Belle could have been just fine reading Jane Austen, Marx, Freud, John Grisham, Richard Dawkins for the rest of her life.. guarantee they will fulfill her more than the singularly layered prince.

This concept of chasing the dark is a cool thing to me, not sure if it resonates with anyone else. But i took off from Los Cabos mexico, and you are flying against the Earth's rotation, away from the sun, the warmth, and from the light, into the darker time zone, and you are just flying, 600km/h totally out of your control towards this ominous dark ahead... and the sunset comes up and tempts you into a little bit of warmth, and then you keep going and it's pitch fucking black and you are totally out of your control in a capsule flying into the unknown. It seemed like a metaphor for life in general for me.

Whatever your dark is, and whatever dark means to you. To me it means all the questions i want answered about the world (which will NEVER be answered most likely.. but it's still good to ask them), all the questions i have about myself, about people i know, about situations, about why F maj to F min resolving to C gives a depression into a positive release.

Anyway.. that is Song Number 7.. chasing the dark, and also a possible name for the album as a whole. All these songs reflect the journey i'm on, and the situations i've encountered and been faced with on that journey.. and let's face it, i got NO idea where that journey is going..


So i am certainly CHASING THE DARK

Hope everyone has a great Valentines Day.. if you believe in it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wall of Sound.. Layers and Chilling Out

It's been a a wild ride this album so far. Song after Song, lyric after lyric, sound after sound. How does it all come together, and how does a song come together more importantly. This is the stuff i am learning. It's hard to not impose yourself on your own project every second you are in the studio.. no 'that doesn't sound right'... 'too much'.. 'too little'.. that snare isn't right.. that kick is too hard.. that this, that that. I am a pretty engaged pain in the ass in that way, and elements of that will lend itself to creating a great final product, but elements of that also can degrade from possibility too.

I guess when i started this project i envisioned, only what i could envision through my past musical experience- a very bare album with a Piano, maybe a guitar, a voice, maybe some harmony, and a synth string in the background. Who knows, maybe a simple drum beat as well. But you turn on the radio, listen to any great song, even the simplest kind of beatles song, or a simple singer songwriter song, and there is generally more to it than that. Especially in today's world, and especially from the late 60s onward. Even Bob Dylan went from Folk to electric with a band and got heavily criticized for doing so. But it's important to experiment and push boundaries. I do it everyday with my voice. I couldn't sing half the notes i can sing now, with five times the ease, just one year ago- i challenged what i thought i could do and went to a better level. And i need to keep that same open mind with sound and production. I do feel blessed i have a producer that can play any instrument better than some of the most virtuosic players I've heard- but then i have to step back and let him do his thing too. I will never let him take over, as it's my stuff.. but during creativity and building and development, you have to let ideas fly, and the soundscape and song to build.

We have been layering parts of a great song called Mine. What i saw as a simple piano vocal, Coldplay Scientist-Esq kind of vibe, has become so much more, and has become just a scape of sound and feeling and evocation of the themes of the lyrics. There is also more possibilities for vocal harmony parts, and an almost string like vocal harmony arrangement to give even more body to the songs.

When we build, i think in anything in life we start to realize the importance of process and layering and development and fine tuning. I was reading a book lately, albeit fiction, and the ageing rock star in it said, 'how can anyone fucking like the acoustic rough bootleg recording of the original sessions better than the final product that fine tuned and fine tuned and brought out everything the song could offer'. He knew what the fine tuning process could bring. I only know the opposite in my life. Just setting up a mic doing a one take live put down, adding some reverb and e-q on the vocals, a compressor on the keys, and bouncing to my Itunes.

Give over to the opportunity to create amazing, layered art. Beethoven didn't just write the fucking melody line and hand it to his master of the house- here you go.. done. What?? WHAT IS THAT?? That is not a masterpiece. A masterpiece in any art, or even a fucking water right pre-nuptial agreement or business contract (not saying that i write masterpieces however, but i still want to learn from them) has contrast, chiarascuro, layers. The great symphonies have melody lines that go one way, and harmony lines that follow then dip. The horn arrangement sitting behind everything if solo-ed on a mixing board might sound like a syncopated horn section of a black eyed peas song, but when blended, that syncopation of the horns actually layers the overall feeling of a hugely smooth driving orchestral masterpiece. By itself something totally different, but when combined a sensory explosion.

It's better to have more to choose from on your palette, because i am learning you can always take it away in the final product. But if you stifle creativity by limiting potential then you don't have the freedom you could have. It's like singing lessons. If you have a 3 octave range, doesn't mean you use it all the time, then it become annoying and disjointed.. but maybe in one certain song it will blow it out of the park, so it's much better to have it there than not. And the top that you don't even use in your voice if strong, can heavily influence the bottom and make it sound five times as good, even if you never actually use the top in a final product.

Don't stop yourself from creating a big sensory product if it serves the art because you don't think yourself as capable of being big, or being overwhelmed by big. And by big i don't mean, huge for the sake of huge, i just mean layering. You don't have to play the bass and the guitar and the drums. So don't imagine you have to. You hire people to do that, and they'll only focus on that. You focus on the soul and the voice and keys, and the other sounds will once pieced together, create the whole, beautiful thing..

That is what the Last Supper Is About, Beethoven's 9th, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, and even a car engine. Parts working together..

Bring it on!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blow on Strong

This is a song i recorded tonight. I started writing it a few days ago and i posted the lyrics. I doubt it will go on the album, that's why i posted it. But its a tribute to my girl Kait, who has a pretty tough time of it at the moment, as red tape has caused us a few issues and is forcing us to make some big decisions for our future. The lyrics are as follows. They explain it best...

video


BLOW ON STRONG

Standing on the crossroads
Of these uncertain times
Had the wind at my back for so long, had my head in the sky

The bad luck catches up with you
If the good runs on too long,
You have to chose, either way you lose, where has my wind gone?

Blow on Strong
Blow on Strong
Blow on Strong
I'll go along
Take me on your breeze...

She's eternal beauty
Reflected in her seams
Is the one, or just another love,
Left behind in memory

The best i've ever had
She understands me
If its over, is it really over?
Will that ever bring us peace?

Blow on Strong
Blow on Strong
Blow on Strong
I'll go along
Take me on your breeze

Where i blow, i don't know the answers anymore
Where i'll stand, five years from now, i don't know for sure..

Monday, January 10, 2011

Inevitability.. that ticking time bomb.. Blow on Strong

Inevitability is a bitch. Time is a bitch. What does one do with the bitch.

I am faced tonight with so many questions, with very few definite answers, endless possibilities, and paths that could lead one way into the wilderness, and another way into yet another wilderness. The national guard has been so carefully constructed that the future looks bleak for our foreign friends. So what do you? What do you do when you are in love with a beautiful girl, but want to do things for the right reasons and not the wrong ones, or the semi-right or semi-wrong ones. But what if doing things purely for the right reasons isn't necessarily an option as its not in your make-up in this point in your life. Nothing is ever 100% black or white, this way or that. But it's hard to know you could be throwing away something so great because your path may need to go in another direction so you can keep moving forward. Really that is inevitability. If you sit on your ass, its inevitable you are going to get fat and get ass sores. I would rather try and outrun inevitability every time than get the ass sores, although i know the inevitable consequences of outrunning inevitabilities eventually come about.

So if you live like i've been living, and you feel you are on the right path, you have had the wind at your back so to speak. It's been there, you've always felt it. But what happens one day when you wake up and you have searched the channel far and wide and as deep as you can go, and the wind at your back suddenly changes. It starts coming from the side.. then all of a sudden its coming from the front, head on, pushing you backward.  Then it might stop all together and you don't know where it's coming from next, and that's the scariest, because you can't fight something that's not there. Where are you being pushed? Who fucking knows.. you are on your own. You just want to reach out and pray to whatever thing or god or higher power or mentor and tell them to get that wind blowin on strong so you can go along again on your way.

That's how i feel tonight. The wind has stopped blowing. And this is the song for it

BLOW ON STRONG

Standing at the Crossroads
In these uncertain times
Had the wind at my back blowin' strong
My head in the sky

Bad Luck catches up with you
If the good runs on too long
You have to choose, either way you loose
Where has my wind gone?

Blow on Strong
Blow on Strong
Blow on Strong
I'll go Along
Take me on your breeze

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Being your own Boss

I AM THE WORLD'S BEST BOSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was walking down the street yesterday realizing that i have achieved most people's dream: being your own boss. Being your own boss kicks ass. Seriously. I worked in this law firm for a summer (they will remain nameless, as it wasn't the worst time of my life) and i learned what working for corporate ladder is like. I went a played golf with a CEO of one of the firm's biggest clients (a friend of the family). One of the Senior Associates (fucking loser from the highest order- slammed the door in one of my friend's faces and broke her nose- this shit actually happens) got fucking pissed off that i took a half day to go play golf with a senior client that she worked for (but of course was too much of a tool bag to get invited or to participate in anything worthwhile like this). Man did i get a fucking belting in front of my entire floor. How dare you this, and how dare you that- FUCK YOU! She was one of those examples of a lady just wanting to get to the top so bad to cover up all of her childhood, teenagehood and adulthood insecurities. Don't deal with them ever, just take them out on other people through your anger. Fucking pathetic.

I now don't have to deal with people like that on a daily basis. Everyone has to deal with people like this no matter what you do (even if you are begging out the front of McDonalds). It is true working for a corporation like Disney there is alot of htis type of behavior, but generally if i did my job i was left alone. But now in a big city where no one really gives a fuck about you, i really have complete freedom. I was playing my Xbox today, thinking there is 'some' money in the bank at the moment, nothing is to stop me from sitting on my ass and playing my Xbox all day for the next month really- if i really wanted to do that. It's nice to feel you can have that kind of freedom of mind, to chose to do what you want to do at any given time. There are still girlfriends and commitments to obviously honor and care for, but generally my life is my car and i can drive it anywhere i want. And today, although contemplating an onslaught on World Cup 2010 Soccer on Xbox, that car drove me straight back to my piano to write some lyrics to a song i had been 'penning' (i love that!) over the xmas period. And it really is about this very issue. Being free. And this is how i have been feeling over the Christmas period.

Be your own boss. As much as you can- even if you are stuck behind a desk working for the man, find ways to be your own boss. There are lots of pitfalls, no one to keep you on track except yourself, so you got to know or keep heading in some direction otherwise you might just stop altogether, but if you get that sorted, life is so much more fun. There is so much more life in the lattes i drink than hearing that screachy redheaded lawyer bitch across the room imposing herself on me everyday. 

FREE AS A BIRD

Snow is falling down it's christmas
Children playing hockey in the streets
Signs of hope and joy in the windows
Call to me..
Fill me with peace.. And i See..
Just where i am..
Where i'm mean to be..

I'm free as a bird
I'm walking undisturbed
Through this city undeterred by the signs..
That the life i'm living doesn't feel like mine