Friday, August 9, 2013

"The Elephant Diet" Day # 127 Last minute changes can be good!

Yesterday morning I had a baseball bat size zucchini to use up.  Today I have zucchini bread....or 'bat bread' as I should affectionately call it.  Tomorrow I should buy a baseball team.  After all, I could supply them with lifelong bats with the zucchini I grow!  (see day # 126 blog).

At the last minute, I tried substituting applesauce for the oil in the recipe as I've heard others suggest for a healthier bread. I just sampled the bread and it's very good. That was a good last minute change.  Would you like a piece? (hee hee).

Yesterday I sent another 'take' of the song "you with me" to my producers.  I tried to shift from 'broadway' to 'pop' as my executive producer had suggested, even though I wasn't sure what that meant.  The response was interesting and brought forth some last minute changes.  And they are good ones I believe.  Here are their responses.

Eric Copeland:  (Executive producer) "Yes, better. But this is one of those situations where you can tend to get jazzy/expressive with it, and it should be simple and honest.  I'll let Phil take it from here."

Phil Naish:  (Vocal producer) "Beautiful song and I like all the bgv ideas.  My only comment is the one line in the chorus "within my reach when you touch me" feels just a little rushed with too many words.  See if it bothers you but I wonder if one syllable could go.  I don't know which or where or if at all but it might feel better.  It just feels like you have to hurry to get to "I know He cares".

Aha.  I had trouble understanding the difference between broadway and pop, but all Eric had to do was use the words 'simple' and 'honest' and I got it.

This song is a very tender song.  As I said yesterday, I think it's my favorite on this album.   I originally wrote it to go with a christmas drama about a homeless man and the loneliness he felt.  I wanted to capture that deep loneliness that many people feel, including me sometimes.  It was a cry for us to realize that Emmanuel means "God with us", but God with us is best seen by how we treat each other and being present with each other in times of need.  Because it is a tender song (with beautiful acoustic guitar that expresses it so well) I guess my 'belting' out some of the notes put it over the top.  The only time we 'belt' to each other is if we are upset, usually.  That's not what needs to be communicated in this song.  I have to say though that the orchestra and piano behind it are so beautiful when they swell, that I was partly responding to them and just letting it all go!

But though I didn't quite get the musical difference, I do understand the emotional difference and that's all I needed.  We'll see what their response is to the new interpretation.

As for the lyric changes that Phil suggested?  Oh my!  I'm so glad I asked for his input.  I took one whole line OUT and it makes such a difference.  (the line in italics is the line I removed). It gives room to breathe.  I'll be curious to see if the changes are what he had in mind.

So here's the before:

God with us
is you with me
His hands, His feet are in my reach when you touch me
I know He cares, when you are there
God with us
is you with me.

Here's the after:

God with us
is you with me
His hands and feet are in my reach
I know He cares, when you are there
God with us
is you with me.

Both accomplish the same goal and tell you that I can feel God's touch in my life when a human being touches me with their love by their presence.  It's not as easy to tell the difference when you read it, but when you sing it, it flows so much better.  I also changed "his" to "and".

They always encourage us as songwriters to get critiques of our songs, but to beware because those are always subjective and every person has a different opinion.  One person might think your song is great and the next person thinks you should get rid of it.  I've had that experience with song critiques and it is very frustrating.  But one piece of advice I heard that has changed things for me is this:  If you start hearing the same advice over and over from different people, you need to stop and pay attention.

One criticism I have heard over and over about my writing is that I try to say too much in a song.  Now that I'm aware of it, I've tried to get better at simplifying what I want to say.  This song is a perfect example of a line that was easily cut out without losing the meaning of the song and it opens up the song so much more.

I haven't heard back from the guys yet, but I'm going to guess that they will like the last minute changes.  Morgan Cryar once told me that no song is permanent until the moment it is recorded.  Anything can change until then.  I have learned that even after it's recorded, I can adapt it to my live concerts and still change it, but in general, once it's recorded, that's pretty much it.

I remember years ago when I was first contemplating doing a christmas project, I sent this song to Eric for consideration.  His feedback was something like this: "leave it to Frances to write another sad, suicidal type christmas song."  That might seem harsh to you, but Eric knows my writing very well and when he first listened to all my songs for the project "Inside Things", he quickly pointed out that I was writing a lot of songs about death.  That opened up a whole new path to me because I didn't even notice that I was doing it.  Years later in counseling, it became quite evident that after losing 9 significant people in my life by the time I was 35, (the last one being my father) the only way I seemed to be able to process death was to write songs about it.  It was my way of dealing with the sadness.  So it became a joke between us that I can write dark and sad songs pretty easily and lots of them.  (and yes, I've been to counseling, probably could use more).

I took Eric's comment about this song to heart years ago and began to re-write the tune.  Years later, I feel it says what I want to say without being such a 'downer'.  And just for a point of's the only closest song to a 'downer' on this project you'll hear and it's far from being a there.....mission accomplished!

Now I just have to learn not to be so wordy in my songs.  That's not a last minute change I can make, but I sure am trying!

Morgan Cryar
Eric Copeland
Phil Naish


  1. I will be recording vocals with Phil Naish next week also.... Mon-Wed. and will be in Nashville from Sat. evening through Friday morning. I'd love to meet you!

  2. oooh, I don'[t know what I was thinking... I am going to Nashville this next week on Sat. and recording the following week Mon-Wed. You aren't still in Nashville Sat. evening are you?