Dance First, Ask Questions Later, Then Dance More

I write and record music. I suppose you could call me a musician if you felt so inclined. In fact, you could even lean on something if you felt so inclined. Get it? You do get it. You’re sharp. It’s why I like you so.

As it happens, the fact of creating music – and recording it on my own – has fundamentally altered my relationship with it. I listen for the bassline, for the little guitar riffs, I pay close attention to production, to melody lines, to harmony, to mistakes. I recognize that Taylor Swift is a legitimately talented songwriter even as she irritates me sometimes with her cutesiness, for instance. I see songs as a complex tapestry of moving parts, of all the little pieces that need to fit together to make a great tune.

Well then – that was pretentious. I apologize for that. My intention was just to elucidate my experience with music, and I ended up gettin’ all snitty on you.

I recently upgraded my home recording situation, going from the free Garageband that comes on every Mac to Pro Tools, a lighter version of the program that is used in many (most?) recording studios. For, like, real musicians. It’s vastly more complex and powerful than Garageband, and my learning curve has been steep; for the first couple weeks, I’d often find myself in a situation where I’d click on one little thing, then everything would stop working, and I’d spend an entire day trying to figure out just what I clicked. It was deeply frustrating, as anyone who’s ever tried to learn a complicated computer program can attest. I’d troll all the gear messageboards, call my friend John, and pray to Gods I don’t believe in just to alleviate my mounting anger. “BRET ANGRY!” I would say in a deep voice, pretending to rip off my shirt, Hulk-style. Jessica pretends not to like it when I do that but I know she loves it. Don’t you baby.

Me, in the throes of a hott jam

Now, I’ve gotten to the point where I feel like a kid in a candy store – a store filled with very complicated candy that seems overwhelming to try and figure out how to eat. Weird, unintuitive candy that looks beautiful but tastes foul; candy on the higher shelves that will only be attainable once I can fashion a structure of footstools and boxes.  Candy with strange Asian hieroglyphics, beautiful saturated colors, intoxicating aromas but a deadly poison center.

Um… what?

I know enough of the basic functionality of the program that home recording is exciting again. I can, at the very least, set up a slew of tracks, record-enable them, set the appropriate levels on my microphones, and sing sweet lullabies into my computer while my guitar gently weeps. It’s insanely exciting for me, and I’ve really only delved into maybe 5% of the functionality of the program.

The point here is: just as I get excited to consider nearly everything about my wedding to be DIY-able, so too have I wanted to incorporate my own music into the event somehow. For a time I thought I wanted to compose something for Jessica to walk down the aisle to, but we’re so taken with the song Home by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros that we now can’t really imagine having anything else. The song is perfect, lovely, exuberant, and though I don’t know that we’ve decided 100% to use it, I don’t see anything else supplanting it. Unless someone happens to write a song called “Bret & Jessica Get Married!” or some such. Bu then if that happened I might feel a little creeped out.

I’ve written a few songs for Jessica. The first one was a light-spirited song that highlighted some of our early dates together, our first moments as a couple, and I played it to her a few times while sitting on the bed. She dug it pretty good. There were references to hot yoga, which she used to do a lot, for instance. Later, I wrote a song called “It’s A Love Song, Baby,” a short tune that was a little more, say, heartfelt. I have a longer version of it that’s been dancing around my head for a long time now and I have a full set of lyrics for; I also have a third song about me and Jessica that has been sitting in the recesses of my computer for a long time but that I will finish one day soon. It’s called The Spinning Wheel. Yeah.

In any case, I realized the other day that there is a pretty ideal spot for an original tune: our first dance. When the thought entered my mind, I got excited. Very excited. So excited, in fact, that I actually showed it on my face and in my actions, which is not common; that’s Jessica’s department. You may or may not know this about Jessica, but she is a professional at getting excited. When the muses take her, and something tickles her just so, she will out-excited you by a healthy margin and make you feel silly for ever thinking you could even compete. She jumps. She dances. She claps her hands. Her eyes shine like a hundred moons orbiting a thousand suns*. Her face lights up like a firefly and she gets even prettier somehow. She emanates an ethereal aura, a gossamer glow, a celestial lambency. It’s a thing to behold and I do hope one day that you, Gentle Reader, have a chance to witness it.

*[Yes, I know that moons orbit planets, not suns. Maybe large asteroids sometimes. But that’s JUST HOW EXCITED SHE GETS.]

Anyway, she and I are in steadfast agreement – I will be composing and recording the music for our first dance. I don’t know yet what it will be like; if it’ll be instrumental, say, or have lyrics. I’ve been toying with the idea of updating “It’s A Love Song, Baby” and making it more danceable. I’ve been trying to figure out a practical way of having our first dance lead directly into a dance party; like say, start it off all slow-like, then have it gradually build to a hott, dance-tastic, pulse-pounding booty-wiggler and simply force everyone onto the dance floor. The issue with that, though, is that usually the first dance would be followed by Jessica’s dance with her dad, which is definitely something that’s going to happen. But I’m determined to figure something out.

Like probably all musicians, and all artists in general, my creativity comes in fits and starts; right now, I’m in a lull. I haven’t written or recorded a new song since Oh Greg, and my tendency is to start to panic when it’s been a while. But this idea has me really, really pumped, and I can’t wait to get started, and I will most certainly update my Bloggership as I go along.

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10 responses to “Dance First, Ask Questions Later, Then Dance More

  1. That is such an amazing thing to be able to DIY. I love it when people incorporate their individual talents into their wedding planning. Oh, and we had Home for our recessional. I love that song so much and it makes me almost tear up with joy every time I hear it now.

    • Wow, that’s so great that you used it for your recessional! It’s just really one of the best songs I’ve heard. Jessica also gets teary almost every time it plays, and I’m not far behind.

  2. Ahh! There’s so much here that I want to high-five you about.

    I’m a singer-songwriter, too (if you want to be all fancy). But I should probably break that down for you: I’m a good singer, a lazy songwriter, a terrible guitarist, a frustrated recording artist, and a bad ass air guitarist. And I FEEL YOU on the Taylor Swift thing. I keep tellin’ people but they don’t believe me. (Although I’ve heard that my songwriting hero, John Mayer, agrees with us about her.)

    I think it’s awesome that you’re writing and recording your own music to incorporate into your wedding day, and that you’re starting this project NOW. I was going to do the same but I ran out of time and that made me sad.

    I have 2 ideas for where you could put your song so that it flows with the rhythm of the reception. One thing you might consider is putting your “first dance” at the end of the night. I know that sounds crazy, but we had this idea of bringing the focus of the party back to the focus of the entire event by doing our dance at the end, sort of like the cherry on top. It can be quite a magical way of settling into each other at the conclusion of a wonderful day. You could also put your song after another event in the reception where you’ve got everyone’s attention – the cake cutting. Just some thoughts.

    Good luck and can’t wait to read more updates on this song you’ve got up your sleeve!

    PS. Moving from Garageband to Pro-tools kicked my ass, too.

    • I was feeling guilty for liking Taylor Swift until finally I was like: “Bret: you can like whatever you want. You can like Taylor Swift. You can like Marilyn Manson (even though you don’t. But you COULD).” So I started to admit that I like her. And realizing that she’s actually a for-reals songwriter made it easier to admit.
      I love your idea of saving the “first dance” for the end of the night; I’ll have to talk that one over with Jessica. And now I’m starting to think that in addition to a first dance tune, what if I also wrote a cake-cutting song? Like something semi-silly and short that’s all about cutting cake. Or is that too ridiculous?

      • About Ms. Swift, right after I left you that comment I put on her album as I did construction on the house. (I admit to having both of her albums.) She’s pretty damn witty and thoughtful for a 19 yr old in (some) interviews, so I feel justified in my obsession…err…admiration.

        Ahem…now back to grown up wedding stuff. We were going to actually do all the speeches, the “first dance”, and a slideshow of our zombie-boy -falls-in-love-with-girl engagement photo shoot (to be played during the first dance) all at the end. It was an attempt to end the night in a super sentimental way, kind of like what some of those videographers do where they play indie music video-style footage of your ceremony at the end of the reception for you and your guests to enjoy and shed happy tears over. That’s how we wanted to end the party but for some reason we went the traditional route. (Don’t remember why.)

        I think a funny cake cutting song would be hilarious!! My only issue with that is that people often don’t get to appreciate the cake cutting song because it’s drowned out by the carb-tastic masterpiece being brought out, the ooh’s and ahh’s over its sugary goodness, and the desire to run back to their seat and grab their camera before you’re finished feeding each other. If a funny song I wrote were playing, I’d hope people could actually hear it. But if you’re less vain about your music than I am (hehe), I say go for it.

        Keep us updated and good luck. 🙂

      • Fearless is absolutely my #1 bad-day-pick-me-up album.

        TS 4 LYFE. But you knew this about me.

  3. Oooh! I love this sooooo much! From what I know about you, you love figuring things out on your own and you are totally talented enough to do it. Buuuut… I’d be willing to bet that if you asked Paggi very nicely, he’d be willing to help you out. He may know a lot about the program you’re learning and he may just have some ideas about making your song very dance-able. He loves all excuses to work with music AND with you, so you just say the word!

  4. That sounds awesome and like the best kind of DIY possible! I’m excited to hear how it comes along!

  5. Pro Tools?! WHAT. jealousy. How much do I believe we should jam sometime? Like, at least l____________________________________________________________l this much.
    I also am a frequent sayer of: “Lizzie Angry!” But I WON’T be saying it at ALL once you post some of your jam-a-thons up, homes! I want to heaaaaar. (And I can whine like that all day…so it’s your funeral if you don’t, eh?)

  6. Ahhh!!! Coolio!!!! This is way cool. Did I tell you how cool this is?!!!!

    I lurve Home! It’s just so freaking hippie-happy-dance -like-no-one’s-watching sorta song. We used it for our ceremony exit. I thought it was a nice touch. It made me smile real hard. “ANGIE SMILEEEEEE!!!!” Ahem. I can only imagine it as a processional song. You and Jessica would we all smiles, too!!!!

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