Blog Entry #3: Writing "Rise and Believe"

When Mike Marshall was playing mandolin in the band, he would frequently come over on non-practice days for songwriting fun.  A lot of it we threw away and never even played with the rest of the guys.  But every now and then, something would work out.  One beautiful day in the Spring of 2016, we moved my piano outside and he and I fumbled around with a few song ideas on my back patio.  With beers of course. 

I would say we played around with four or five songs that day.  One of his we really liked, and at one point later on, we played it with Mike Brown on acoustic guitar Brad on the drums too.  There’s a recording of it somewhere, but it just never went anywhere.  This happens from time to time.   Plenty of my song ideas have ended up on the floor as well.  But another one of the songs we played that day ended up being “Rise and Believe.”  I had been playing the intro on stage sometimes as a way to let the crowd know that we were coming back from a break.  But I had come up with ideas for music for a verse and a bridge.  I didn’t have any words, just a basic structure of the song.  Mike and I must have played it ten to fifteen times that day.  Mandolin was the original call back for the intro when we were trying it out on stage.  Mike Brown now plays that part with the acoustic guitar. 

I’ve always liked the song “My Way” from Frank Sinatra (written by Paul Anka I believe).  I decided to put a spin on it and make it more about being frustrated that things aren’t going well rather than being proud of it already having happened.  So the theme of this song is, “I’ve had enough with not getting ahead, I’ve been wasting my time waiting around, it’s time to make some changes and make things happen.”  I hope that comes across when you listen, but you never know. 

Songwriting is definitely not a science.  When I’m sitting at my piano by myself writing lines and trying them out, I imagine the band playing along.  But when they play it later, it never sounds like what I have in my head…it’s so much better.  Tony takes the chords I play and creates his own rhythm for them.  He hits the roots notes on his bass (which is what I hear him playing in my head), but then wanders up and down the scale of the song and creates his own melody within the structure of the song.  It does two things: it makes the song much more interesting (and better), but it also creates more of a rhythm and feel than what I had imagined.  And Brad feeds off this and plays the drums much more creatively than I could ever imagine.  Those two are the power behind every song we play.  So while I do play my original structure, Brad, Tony and Mike really create the rhythm of the song.  That’s what makes it drive.  The strumming pattern Mike picks then adds another dimension.  Yes, he’s playing the same chords I am, but he’s also adding percussion to Brad’s drums.  

So I can say I wrote the song all I want, but in the band space when we are arranging it as a group, we recreate the entire thing together.  And it’s always much better than when it’s first introduced. 

The last piece to this puzzle was Jeff Cali’s solo.  In the first place, listen to how much he adds during verses and bridges throughout this album.  Jeff is outstanding at finding space during verses and adding little fills that transition from line to line of the lyrics.  Maybe not so much on this song, but on songs like “Drink a Little Whiskey” and “Trying to get a Win,” he takes all of that structure of a song and puts a great signature on top of it.  

But when it’s time for a solo in a song, we just agree on what structure the rest of us will be playing and kind of get out of his way because he's so damn good at what he does.  What I like in particular about the structure for this song is that the rest of us play the same thing we play for a verse and also the bridge.  Jeff’s transition during the solo from the verse chords to the bridge chords (along with Brad’s energy) is one of my favorite parts of the album.  We do that trick again in a song called “I’ll Hold You Up.”  Jeff likes to say that he’s trying to tell a story when he’s playing a solo.  If you listen, you can hear it. 

Now the funny part of putting this song together.  We had it pretty much written as an arranged Bare Hambones Song, and I had one more idea.  That solo has so much energy in it from all of us that I didn’t like the idea of just going back for a third verse after the solo is over.  As I was originally trying to write this song, I had two different melodies for singing the verse.  The opening line melody of “I want a life, where I finally get things right,” is not how I originally intended to sing it.  Originally, all of the lyrics were going to be fast-paced, like how I sing right after the solo.  I had scratched that idea months before in favor of holding some notes longer.  But when it came time to finish the song, I asked the guys what they would think of all cutting out at the end of the solo and having me sing this line: “There was always time for me, things that you might not believe, baby, in between you and I,” which was originally the first line I wrote for the song.  I didn’t think they’d go for it.  Like, it might be too much tinkering.  But we tried it and all liked how it added a dynamic for the song after that solo, so it stuck.  In the end, we did add that third verse after the solo, but made it completely different which finishes off the song nicely.  Brad does a great job of cutting out immediately after the solo and then slowly building the energy back up during that verse.  

And then one last note, that’s Mike Brown singing along with me for the last time around on the song.  He’s hollarin’ 

Well there you have it.  Nothing more than a story about us creating a song.  We very much enjoy the process, and we hope that you enjoy the result.

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