Can’t Stop

The cover of Suite: Dreams, 3rd album by Scott Perry & the EastVangelicals

One result of the heavy focus on recording and pushing forward this solo project to tap into my large backlog of material was a sharp decrease in writing new music over the past 2-3 years.  I felt I owed it to my existing songs to try to make something out of them before going on a new creative tear and adding to the pile.  But as we neared the first studio date to record all the love songs I’d been hoarding for this album, most years old by now, I thought I should probably write at least one brand new tune to sum up where Brandy and I have gotten to at this stage in our lives. 

I found a bouncy Em-G progression on my acoustic, got a verse or two written and eventually transitioned into what felt more like a pre-chorus or bridge than the chorus every song needs.  That part ended strongly with the lyric “I don’t even know how to say…” and led into a D-chord that was so clearly the start of a big chorus.  I sang the first thing that came into my mind over that D, which not so surprisingly turned out to be “I can’t stop dreaming of you” and immediately followed that with “I feel more awake when I do.”  Bang.  I had my chorus, and my tidy thematic wrap-up to the whole album about dreams, sunshine, and love sweet love.  I unabashedly trod the same lyrical paths as other songs here, reaching back to our beginnings (“Started out / Didn’t know what I was looking for”), the magic of discovery (“…took my hand and parted new horizons”), and future contemplation (“Where we go / From here may be an unknown quantity / But I just can’t wait”). 

Recording this was a dream, partly because it was so fresh to us, every player and part fit right into place, including my own chicken-picked rockabilly-flavored electric guitar. 

Oh, and by the way, Suite: Dreams is officially released! Wake up, world, Love is here! Available at our own Shop, and soon on every music sales and streaming site. CDs coming in a couple of weeks, Vinyl a few short months after that. Thank you all for the support, and especially all my co-creators of this dreamy project: Adrian Buckley (drums, vocals, mixing), Eric Lefebvre (bass, vocals), Derek Macdonald (keys, vocals), Matt DiPomponio (recording/engineering), Jackson Gardner (steel guitar), Craig Waddell (mastering), Exploding Haggis (cover & design), Wendy D (photos), and Brandy Bernard (design, website, plus 14 years of inspiration and counting!)

Dream With Me

When I woke up from this dream, I immediately set about capturing what I’d heard on my guitar (as is tradition!), which wasn’t difficult as this is just about as simple as a song can get.  But when I sauntered back to bed still full of dream-feeling, I discovered that Brandy had just dreamt something very similar.  In the telling over the years, I’m not sure how much of the coincidence we’ve grafted on, but we couldn’t help but be impressed with the synergy.  In the dream, we’re in a white room, I’m sitting on the bed tired but stubborn and singing the opening lyrics to Brandy, imploring her to stay even if I should fall asleep.  I don’t act like this awake by the way, we’re both remarkably free of clingy tendencies (a key to relationship success, I feel), but dreams have their own logic. 

Taking the near-obsession a step further, this dream song actually has a dream section, which follows naturally from my line “counting sheep.”  The simple 4-count that sparked I decided to keep going through what I saw as a sleepy, washing break section.  Originally, the counting was in English, 1-12, and worked fine, but since Brandy and I were at the time taking a Japanese class together, I subbed in the Japanese numbers and felt that they were all the better at suggesting an other-worldly atmosphere.  Like the other dream songs here, this one pays tribute to the feeling of togetherness from a tight bond suggesting that even dreams can be shared. 

When we recorded the bed-tracks for this album, I decided to leave this song out and save it for an intimate, guitar-and-voice-only treatment.  Though I later added a 2nd picking guitar and plenty of vocals (all me; after all, it’s my dream!) to thicken it up a little, it still stands out as the simplest arrangement in this Suite of Dreams.

Tomorrow I am excited to present the final track on Suite: Dreams, and officially release this album to the world! After all the years-old songs, “Can’t Stop” is a brand-new tune written especially to close this album. One more sleep, lovers and dreamers!

All I Need

This was the song that finally succeeded in capturing my growing feelings for Brandy, after several failed attempts to write something for her.  As described before, I felt like I’d written all the love songs I could squeeze out of one lifetime, and fell flat trying to dip back into those rich (but well-worn) inspirations.  I was patient though, even to the point of deciding it didn’t matter if I ever wrote her a good song; the love was the real thing, whether or not it inspired a decent tune. 

Taking the pressure off myself must have done the trick because when this song started coming, it felt like a whole new vista of possibilities opening.  When I sing “maybe / other times I’ve been in love were baby / steps…” I’m not just referring to past loves, but past songs I’ve written.  It was my way to take the most clichéd rhyme in pop music – Maybe-Baby – and twist it into a fresher image.  Plus, when I came out with “baby steps” it led straight into the lines, “…and now I’m walking next to you / Straight and tall and true” which suggested the lyric for what became the bridge or pre-chorus, “We’re on solid ground.”  The next line, “I’d like to keep you around” is deliciously understated and became the hook of that pre-chorus. 

I couldn’t resist incorporating further clichés like “bringing out the best in me” and “you complete me” – even old chestnuts can resonate with truth.  But my favorite lines are still the opening, which convinced me I was on to something when I first spontaneously sang them.  Though we’d been together only a few months, it was already true that we’d “had lots of perfect moments” and when I wrote 14 years ago that it was “easy to see that there will be a whole lot more,” I could never have predicted just how many more perfect moments we would experience.  And more will certainly come.

As for more songs, only two remain from Suite: Dreams! Tomorrow we’ll be back in dreamland listening to Dream With Me, the most intimate song on the album, just guitar and my voice (in about 8 harmonies)!

dreamsong

The cover of Suite: Dreams, 3rd album by Scott Perry & the EastVangelicals

Can you tell that this is another song that came to me in a dream?  Not very creative titling, to be sure, but in this case, the dreaming was central to the dream, if that makes any sense.  As is usual for my captured ‘chansons de rêve’ the whole first verse was formed by mysterious unconscious forces, including the lyrics, which were themselves all about the process of dreaming (“picturing perfection, barely glimpsed then left behind”).  I wrote the next verse in the liminal state between sleep and fully awake (that’s where the magic often happens), still very much in the spirit of the first verse, musing on the nature of dreaming, and the odd sense that you can commune with at least the person you love there. 

The challenge with such perfectly formed dream-nuggets that feel like they’ve come from somewhere else is where to take them in the harsh light of day, and I recall this one being difficult to graft a chorus on to.  It was a few months before I did, but I vividly remember when it finally popped out of me, strumming an unamplified electric guitar in the quieter backroom of The Railway.  As I hit on the winning chord progression (F-C-G-F), the words felt like they were there already, so obvious: “These dreams come true / Through you.”  There is a lot of musical imagery, from filling the “air” (a quaint word for song) “with melody” to the call to “sing along and harmonize” and even a reference to “[music of] the spheres.” 

The live performance we captured in studio was my favorite of the sessions at Echoplant – Adrian’s brushwork, Eric’s smooth cultured basslines and Derek’s phenomenal washing organ chords perfectly representing the otherworldly feel of the subject matter.  The atmosphere also suggested steel guitar to me, which was beautifully realized by Jackson Gardner adding his subtle touches to the chorus and a solo section I’d left free for someone to fill.

Sweetheart

I can’t remember how this song popped out of me (except that I was definitely awake at the time!) but it’s one of those tunes that came quickly and seemed to form itself.  I love the title word and back in 2006 when I wrote this there was a local band named Sweetheart that may’ve played a role in inspiring me to blurt it out over a country-ish C-chord.  The chord progression progressed of its own accord, and words clung to the obvious melody fairly easily to construct the verses (with a little help from my friends the Beatles, borrowing phrases like “Two of us” and “Love you more”). 

For me, the magic moment was later that day when I played what I had for Brandy: after the first two verses I spontaneously jumped to the relative minor and sang, quite literally, “And when you’re sitting in front of me…” – and next thing we knew I had a full song, and the feeling that indeed “everything will be … Alright.” 

The first time I played it for Eric, he said, “That’s a Top Drawers song!” and so it became.  The boys in that band added sweet back-ups and a full band arrangement that really brought out the dynamics, especially the percussive rhythm of that chorus.  We’ve performed this one many times, and it’s being released on the second Drawers album which (due to a series of delays) will be coming out after this one.  Awkward timing perhaps, but again, I had to have this song on my personal love album – I mean, I literally wrote the chorus with Brandy sitting right in front of me – inspiration doesn’t get much more direct than that!  Of course, I made sure the EastVangelicals version would be different, a slower, more intimate take on the song that with the Top Drawers jumps out as a rockin’ power-pop number.

Tomorrow’s track 7 from Suite: Dreams just might be my personal favourite, dreamsong. Catch you then, lovers and dreamers!

Both Got Lucky

Another important theme to this album, which should be clear from the title, is dreams.  Part of that is a simple play on sayings like “girl of your dreams” or “dreamboat”, but more directly it stems from the fact that I have been blessed by more than a few songs coming to me in a dream. 

“Both Got Lucky” played in my sleeping head as a fully formed verse, and I actually remember in the dream thinking, this sounds a lot like Steve Earle (specifically, “I Ain’t Ever Satisfied”), although the actual finished verse might be a little more akin to “Summertime Blues.”  The key to capturing a dream song is to get it down as soon as you wake up, or it will disappear quickly, never to be recalled.  And it helps to take it somewhere else right away, as I did here when I plowed through from the dreamed verse to a pre-chorus and then chorus that spawned the phrase “We both got lucky.”  Since I wrote the chorus consciously, that is obviously the significant point of the song – any good relationship is reciprocal.  The somewhat crass expression “Get lucky” (all due respect to Loverboy and Daft Punk) is expanded and enriched to include both parties as subject, not object.  This is how it feels to be truly in love with someone, so lucky to have found one another and fit so well. 

I had also heard the call-and-response vocals in my dream, and made that a key feature, flipping back and forth between the lead vocal and answering harmonies.  The lyrics hark back to the song’s origins: “Like I was dreaming and you made it real” and one of the final lines, “Woke up and realized that I’m happy.”  There is another form of reciprocity between dreams and reality – both contribute to a unified whole in life.

End of Side One (when we finally get this on vinyl later this year)! Tomorrow, another song with a previous life in another band – The Top Drawers – my ‘solo’ version of “Sweetheart” kicks off what will be Side Two. Tune in then, lovers and dreamers!

More Than Friends

This photo was taken the day that Brandy and I ‘declared’ ourselves a couple, a day that became such a central part of our story it grew to near-legendary status – at least for us!  More than any other this is the song that tells that tale, our origin story if you will.  As such it also would have made a great starting point for the album, but bringing it in here plays into a strong narrative tradition of starting in the middle and peeling back layers to get to the beginning. 

The first line I wrote was “it’s starting to get too hard / to explain to our friends what we are” and everything flowed out of that.  The lines about “coming on over” and “keeping it casual” describe that build-up where you’re dating, but not exclusive, and just beginning to question how “casual” it all really is?  Until other people start commenting on it, your own thoughts can sleep quietly, reluctant to burst out and crystallize the obvious.  I’m sure part of that is wondering if the other person feels the same way, which can make you hesitate to declare yourself too openly.  However, falling in love has a certain inevitability, whether you’re actively participating or not – there’s a reason they call it “falling” not “jumping” or “leaping”.  I play with that sense of falling despite yourself in the line “…as we fall / with our heels way over our heads,” giving another little twist to a famous cliché. 

Musically this song came straight out of my love for folk-infused acoustic rock songs typical of the early 70’s, as I strummed that G chord very much in the spirt of Led Zeppelin’s “That’s The Way” or even more, Pink Floyd’s “Fearless” (from Meddle).

Tomorrow, track 5 will end the first side of the album with my ode to mutual ‘conquest’ – “Both Got Lucky“! See you then, lovers and dreamers!

Suddensweet

Full disclosure: this song is the only one to predate my relationship with Brandy, having been started shortly before I met her.  It was one of those flights of fancy, not referring to anyone specifically, more a reflection on love developing suddenly, with no predictability or pattern, subject to vague concepts like “chemistry” or “destiny.” 

There may have been an element of wishful thinking or longing in my initial lyrics, and although I spent some time reworking them after the fact, the chorus retains that vulnerable uncertainty: “I want to believe / You feel the same way too / Do you?”  No other song on Suite: Dreams expresses any doubt about reciprocated feelings, and being the oldest composition it had a solid claim to kicking off this album.  It is still early in the order, but as mentioned I found a better opening track, and the second song I wrote for Brandy, “Sunshine”, flows so well out of it that “Suddensweet” settles naturally into the third spot. 

The title is obviously a coinage, a key hook that I hung the concept of the song on when I was coming up with it.  A made-up word seems apropos for an imagined relationship, but both were based solidly in truth, and of course the ideal connection described in the lyrics quickly became real.  The third verse expounds generally on love, how it must be a reciprocal experience, it is never exactly “free” because both parties have to give, and put in effort.  The line “Love’s much more than charity” reinforces that while playing on the modern meaning of the word (giving to others in need) compared to the older English usage of Charity to mean simply Love.  Love is the best thing in the world to give, because the more freely you do, the more you receive in return.

Tomorrow we’ll hear album track #4, that really tells the story of how Brandy & I became us: More Than Friends. Stay tuned lovers and dreamers!

Sunshine

I came up with the basic form and melody of this song out on my patio one gorgeous sunny day hanging out with Brandy and drinking in the sweet ecstasy of fresh love and sunshine in a city not famous for it (we appreciate it all the more when we get it!) 

The riff emerged from messing around with a drop-D tuning on my acoustic guitar.  The words that popped out originally ran, “Sunshine is here / Everything is fine / You and a beer / All I want is mine” which was a bit literal, including my favorite beverage in the list of ecstatic elements.  As I was in my first, very productive, year with The Orchid Highway, I played this for Rory and he loved it and immediately started working it.  He came up with the middle part (“And it’s never going to rain again”), and Jamie then advanced that into the awesome transition of “Sunshine… Sunshine” over a D-minor before triumphantly returning to the main refrain in D-major. 

We developed the song further as a band and next thing I knew I had my first contribution to the TOH songbook, springing out of a spontaneous collaboration that felt so organic and right.  One day, to my surprise, Jamie handed me a sheet of paper with a completely re-written set of lyrics for the song.  Gone was the silly “beer” rhyme, and overall, the words had been greatly simplified.  I tweaked them further, and the resulting lyrics were all the better for it. As that version (recorded partly at Mushroom studios) was never completed or released by the band, this is officially the first (so far, only) Macdonald-Perry-Macdonald composition to see the light of day. 😉

Take a listen, see how sunny it sounds to you!

Tomorrow, the preview and story behind song #3, “Suddensweet” – stay tuned lovers and dreamers!

All & Everything

Early in the process of collecting songs for this album I struggled with the order I should be putting them in.  I am a surprisingly logical person (for such a hopeless romantic!) so I was drawn to a chronological order to tell the story as it developed in time.  Problem was, it didn’t really work like that.  The earliest songs I wrote for Brandy were already full-blown lovesongs, while some later ones went back to treat the way we got there, describing early impressions, the hesitance, the interesting factors that pushed us toward being a couple, often in spite of our own awareness or intentions.  One song from that first year, “Sunshine”, did have more general lyrics (partly because my Orchid Highway bandmate Jamie had a hand in writing them) that fit an early perspective, but I didn’t like it as an album opener.  So I landed on a compromise, deciding to arrange a song order that followed a narrative arc as far as possible, building to our current mature – and I might add, very happy! – relationship.

            One song turned out so good as a recording, and just felt like the best introduction to the whole album that I could not resist promoting it to the lead-off position.  I wrote “All & Everything” a few years in, another full-blown ‘Mature Love’ song.  It does reach back to early origins in the line “you’re what I was looking for / when I didn’t look for anything” – a sentiment that creeps into other lyrics, as does “Kept me coming back for more.”  The idea of being overtaken by love almost passively (“Till I wasn’t leaving anymore”) is found in several other songs as well.  The refrain that grew out of that “Anymore” I made a key to the song’s structure, following it up with sections singing “Anyway” and “Anyone.”  The chorus (“You’re my be-all…”) and the title itself are my usual plundering of well-worn clichés from the long tradition of love lyrics.  All in all, this song is a pretty good summary or microcosm of the whole album, so in the end a good starting point after all!

Tomorrow, a preview of song #2 “Sunshine” – stay tuned lovers and dreamers!