It’s difficult to write a good rock song on anything other than guitar. I don’t play the guitar and that’s why even though I’m a big fan of hard rock and heavy metal, the influence isn’t really obvious on most of my tracks.
But once in a while, I’d like to think that I come up with a good rocker, and I think “Today” is one of them. Nothing too heavy, nothing angry, just a fun, uplifting, guitar-based rock track!
I came up with the gist of the song a couple of years ago – I remember it very well: I was on a train in Germany (what I was doing there is another story for another day!). As soon as I got off the train, I sung the idea into my mobile phone recorder. I basically had the main riff, the full verse, the full pre-chorus, and first chord of the chorus, and I knew exactly how it was going to sound. It really felt right and exciting, and over the next few days those elements got really anchored in my brain.
The basis for the verse is this 3-chord riff (A-E-D) – and of course any 3-chord riff is bound to have been done thousands of times. I’m sure “Today”’s is no exception, but at least the parentage isn’t obvious. Plus, the song takes a few different directions from the pre-chorus onwards, so I think there’s enough originality there…
I wanted the chorus to lift up and I found a melody and another 3-chord progression that did that well, but I wanted to keep going up, and keep progressing, rather than repeat that chord progression 4 times and back to verse, which is what most songs would do… So I managed to take the melody up on the 2nd chord cycle and then instead of repeating the cycle a third time, took the chorus to another chord progression and melody. To me, it now sounds natural and obvious and the only possible progression… but getting there definitely required challenging my comfort zone, i.e. always looking for the next satisfying chord/melody, and then taking it up one level to surprise myself and the listener.
After the key changes in the pre-chorus/chorus progression, I couldn’t get back into the verse. So I found a way to get back by inserting a modulated version of the riff (C-G-F) between the first chorus and second verse that sounds really cool in my opinion: the chorus flows naturally into the modulated riff, then the key change back to original A-E-D riff/verse creates an element of surprise that satisfies the ear.
The song structure is very standard but works, I think. There’s no bridge, just a short guitar solo then back to pre-chorus. The final chorus is extended, once again to one-up the listener’s expectations and create some excitement until the end.
Lyrics are always the hardest, but I decided to give it a go on this song. As always, the original melody came to me with mumbles and sonorities that sounded good with the music but made no sense! The first word that came repeatedly was “Baby!” – how original! It sounded good, but you can’t have a song called “Baby”, that’s just ridiculous (well, unless you’re Justin Bieber, sorry Justin, you’re a cool guy!). So I started to think – what sounds like “Baby” but is slightly more original? “Today”. I don’t really know any others songs called “Today” – again, I’m sure there’s a thousand of them out there, but none comes to mind. And I felt the word “Today” went well with the uplifting music: the word conjures up a host of possibilities: a new day, seizing the day, etc. It’s full of hope, opportunities, immediacy and action!
So I told a fun little story about a guy who’s about to take this girl on a date. Today’s the day, and it’s all about the optimism, anticipation and excitement as he prepares for the date and runs the scenario in his head. I tried to make it very pure and almost innocent. It’s a feel-good song and you’re supposed to root for the singer…
The core of the production is the guitars. Ben Treeby played some great parts and I think we got a pretty good sound with just the Line6 Pod, double-tracking and some compression.
For the guitar solos, I usually let Ben do a bunch of takes, and then “compose” the solo but cutting and pasting the best bits together afterwards – that’s how we did it on “Today” and I think it turned out really cool (you can see on the YouTube video where the cuts are!)…
I had a lot of fun doing harmonies and backup vocals – which I guess are one of my production “trademarks”…
Finally the drums… the first version of this track had drums played on the keyboard and using XV-3080 sounds, and it sounded a little limp… So when I bought my new Roland TD9K2 V-Drum kit last summer, the first thing I did was re-do the drum track by actually playing it live. I had a lot of fun doing it and I think it came out alright and pretty “realistic”. I had a really hard time mixing it though, particularly getting a good kick and snare sound. I spent forever on it, and even then we found some problems at the mastering stage. Luckily, Jon Astley came to the rescue…
I think this is one of my best songs. I suppose it sounds a bit like a cross between Kiss, Bryan Adams and McFly (what do you think?)… so I’ll be paying tribute to those guys in my next few blog entries.
In the meantime, enjoy the song!
Words & Music by A. Robin
Produced by SuperCool-Guy
© 2012 – All rights reserved
The sun is out, it's a new day
I'm gonna try and just maybe
Get a hold of your love
I've been thinking of you lately
You've got me, you captivate me
I want a taste of your love
I turn around and there I see
Your pretty eyes keep calling me
They tell me to get there while I can
You won't be waiting around
I'm gonna see you today!
And when I see you today will be the day
For a new beginning
A special feeling between me and you
I'm gonna seize it, it's my day
You're calling me and I'm ready
I'm so ready for your love
I'll pick you up, we'll drive around
No better time for getting down
The time is now so take my hand
We're gonna turn things around
I'll drive you home, we'll kiss goodnight
You'll say "don't go!" and hold me tight
Show me the things you wanna do
When there's no-one around
Start a brand new story
Me and you
We'll make it last cause the feeling is true