Randall Goodgame – Bluebird

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If you haven’t heard the news yet, Randall Goodgame’s new album, Bluebird, officially releases today. About six weeks ago, as they were nearing the end of the recording process, Randall asked if I would write some string arrangements for it. I thought I’d write a little about the process here, for those interested in seeing behind the scenes. (I’ll leave a song-by-song commentary for someone else (Curt?) saying only that it’s a great record, from the opening downbeat to the last B3 organ chord.)

At first, Randall, Quinlan (the producer) and Winn (Randall’s manager and the B3 player on the record) wanted strings on just one song, California. After Andy Osenga added electric guitar parts to the existing tracks of bass, drums, keys, and vocals, they sent me an mp3 of a rough mix. And over the next day and half, I wrote the string parts. When I finished, I created an mp3 of a string mockup using some of the string samples I have on my computer and sent it to them. After they’d had a chance to listen to it, we decided to postpone the string session (which was scheduled for that evening) so that we could make some changes to the arrangement. They felt that what I had written gave the song too much of an orchestral feel, but that that style of orchestration would fit perfectly on another song, All the Years. So a couple days later, I met with the producer to talk about the kind of arrangement he wanted for California, and then started rewriting it that afternoon. (He’s a fan of Bjork and wanted it to sound a little like the string arrangements on her albums, so I downloaded her ’97 album, Homogenic – she describes it as featuring “beats, strings and voice” – from iTunes and listened during breaks from writing throughout the rest of the day.)

After I finished the arrangement for California, about 7:00 that evening, I started in on the chart for All the Years. I had rescheduled the string session for 10:00 the next morning, since we were already a little behind schedule for when the album needed to be mixed and ready for mastering, so I knew it would be a long night.
The first time I heard All the Years I fell in love with it – it’s always nice when your work and the music you love match up. The song starts with Randall expressing his weariness of long years on the road, his desire to be with his love. In the chorus, he sings, “Take me away, take me away, my love. Can you find me a road I’ve never known? Take me away, take me away, my love. I’m tired, can you just take me home?”

When Quinlan and I were talking about the song earlier in the day, he said he wanted the strings to evoke that sense of longing for home, of homesickness. So throughout the evening, with the lyrics running through my head, I kept remembering the numerous passages Buechner has written about home, our efforts to find that place we remember from our childhood or perhaps to create the home we never had. I thought of the passages from Andrew’s novel, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, that express that longing for home so poignantly (see the comments on this post). And I did my best to try to convey that feeling with the strings, trying to match the range of emotions in Randall’s voice, from the almost desperate pleading in the bridge to the fragile, broken petition in the last chorus.  I finished writing the arrangement a little after 4:00 in the morning, (helped along by a couple large cappuccinos,) got a couple hours of sleep, then printed the parts and headed out the door to hear the Love Sponge string quartet play what I’d been hearing in my head.

For the last couple weeks, Randall has been offering All the Years as a free download on his website. You can listen to it below, click here to download it, or buy the full EP in the Rabbit Room Store today.


11 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

    Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Congratulations, Randy! Beautiful songs. This is from Randy’s blog at http://www.randallgoodgame.com, about the record, and about the title track in particular:

    So I’ve got this new record that I’m pretty juiced about. It is called Bluebird, and there are only 6 songs. I was hesitant about making a mini-record, but in this brave new world of music production and duplication and distribution, in the end it seemed like the right thing to do. (that’s a different blog post!)

    I remember the morning that the melody for Bluebird (the song) came into my brain. It was a really pretty day, and this is so rare, but I just started singing it. I wrote the whole chorus in the length of time it takes to sing it. It was so familiar that I racked my brain trying to figure out what song I was stealing these notes and syllables from. Stumped, and with a killer harmony part in mind, I gave thanks and started the work of figuring out what this song was about.

    I don’t know exactly where the guitar part came from either. My best guess is that I had recently spent some time in Houston with my brother, John Goodgame, Esq. Even after years of gift neglect, his competence as a guitarist quickly reveals itself when he finally does take a moment and strap on his pretty blonde Larrivée and pick a ditty. And subconsciously or not, I wrote the guitar part to Bluebird with John’s picking style. I’d never written a song with that classic pseudo-Chet Atkins-thumb-to-thumb-and-middle-finger bounce before, and the major-to-minor changes just sorta fell in there together with the melody that was coming out as the song worked its way to the surface.

    I have written complicated songs with many words, and I love Bluebird because it is so simple, that I am able to enjoy and rest in the musical moments as they pass by a bit more than I am used to. I loved the production ideas that came out of Quinlan as he stepped in the stream, and one of my greatest joys upon completing the record has been hearing my 7 year old daughter walking around the house singing that last line of harmony-become-melody that Amy sings to end the song. It is just right for her range, and it stops me like the lights going out when I hear her sing it.

  2. becky

    This song really touched my heart tonight. Someone I love is in the process of going home to Jesus. She was a beautiful singer, and if she still could I think she might sing something like this. Thanks for posting it.

  3. Jud

    I feel privileged to have been able to enjoy this album for the past couple of weeks. It’s been a pleasure! I gotta give the nod to “Heaven Waits” as my favorite song.

  4. JIm A

    Echoing what Richard asked, is this a digital only release and will it be available here in the Rabbit Room store soon? I’m one of the neanderthals that has yet to join itunes, doesn’t have an ipod thingy and still likes to tote his CD’s and even Record albums around.

  5. Winn

    Stephen… I know I’ve said it 1,000,000 times before, but dude. You did some great work. Your arrangements really gave some finality to the songs and took them exactly where they needed to go.

    Richard & Jim, you can purchase a copy of the physical CD via Randall’s store (we sold out early this AM, but they have more now!) It will also be available here soon.

  6. Profile photo of Randall Goodgame

    Randall Goodgame

    @randallgoodgame

    Thanks, Stephen, for sharing your inside scoop with the Rabbit Room readers. You indeed did fantastic work on both of those songs. Those brilliant counter-melodies in California raised up the whole track, and the bridge on All The Years became one of my favorite moments on the record after hearing your string arrangement.

    Thanks rabbit roomies for listening. I love this place.

  7. Jeremy

    As soon as I ask my wife if it’s okay, this CD is definitely ordered. I have been waiting for Blue Bird for a long time (saw this played at the Ryman a year or two ago)….I CANT WAIT!

    Thanks Randall. Now, please get to work on another one 🙂 Just kidding, I’ll take whatever I can get! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  8. whipple

    To second Jeremy, I remember you and Amy singing “Bluebird” a couple years ago and “Heaven Waits” last year. I felt the warm front-porch melodies of Randy Newman come through in the piano part. But instead of his tongue-in-cheek abandon in the lyrics, there was your black and tan synthesis of pain and crazy hope, carrying the self-same endearment and empathy that tucked us all in between the covers of War and Peace, as we fell in love with its characters.

    I have also waited with great expectations for your next project Randall, and I’m going to be drinking this one in for a while.

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