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.