The Ateliers: Moon: Many Lights
Hello! Welcome to our eighth entry! We’ll be discussing our latest release “Many Lights”. This is an older song from 2016 and marks the first time I collaborated with someone in making a song. I met Hailey Gold at No Future Cafe in Pasadena. She came up to me after I played some songs and told me she was a musician. She showed me one of her songs right there on a stage and I loved it. We started working together on music and one day, we went to a park, sat on a table, and wrote “Many Lights”. We wrote it on an acoustic guitar first and finished most of the lyrics in that first week following the park session.
She went to Oregon for school but I continued playing the song and realized I preferred to sing it in Cm. This didn’t work so well on guitar, so I tried it on piano and sent it to her. She loved it so from then on I just played it on piano. When she came back from school, we met up one time to rehearse for her show at Republic of Pie. During our rehearsal, we played “Many Lights” and started singing the last part "Don't you wanna sing forever" over and over with that chord progression. In that creative moment, we began to write new lyrics. The words that came out were these: “I’ve seen you over time, make peace with your mind, many lights I’m by your side, many lights I’m by your side.” It’s crazy how songs develop over time, we hope you enjoy it more so now that you know more about its development.
We’re gonna start by sharing a bit about the music theory. As I said before, it’s in the key of Cm. The first verse is Bb, Cm, Cm, Bb, Ab. In numbers I would call it a minor 7, 1, 1, 7, 6.
The chorus is Bb, Ab, Bb, Cm, Ab. So a minor 7, 6, 7, 1, 6.
The outro is Cm, Bb, Ab. So 1, 7, 6.
In the instrumental, at the start of the outro, I play a couple piano parts that borrow from other modes. I play notes B flat, B, and C.
“B” is not in the C minor scale, it is a sharp 7 so we are borrowing from Ionian mode. Later, I play a 2 note chord with C and F#. In this case, we are borrowing from the Lydian mode.
Let’s talk about the instrumentation. We released a solo piano instrumental track earlier on the album, but this marks our first piano led song with vocals. I had recorded the piano to a click a year ago when we planned to take it to a producer. I was hoping we could use the same recording and just change the outro so I re-recorded the outro not using a click. I took 3 takes all the way through and then I edited them together. Then when Sam and I listened to the verse/chorus section, we quickly realized how lifeless the parts were when played to a click. So I ended up re-recording the whole thing off the grid.
I layered a lot of vocals in the previous song, “Words in the Carpet”, so it was really nice keeping this one vocal all the way through. I had been singing a ton for 2 weeks straight and recorded this vocal at my voices’ raspiest point before it usually goes out. I thought I’d retake most of it but as I kept listening, I realized having some pain in my throat works with the song.
I hadn’t recorded Hailey’s vocals before and her voice has changed quite a bit since we wrote the song. She used to sing with a lot more vibrato so I was shocked and honestly pleased to hear how straight she was singing. It was our first time bringing in a violinist and definitely won’t be our last. I met Laura Wall at Republic of Pie when she was playing with another artist. She is so easy to work with. She’s probably the most focused person I’ve ever met when it comes to recording music in the studio. As we were nearing the end of our session, I was thanking her for being so easy to work with and was trying to understand what separates her from the people that are difficult to work with. As we listened back to what she played, I said, "you can hear it in your playing- the hours of practicing, the dedication, and the..." and as I struggled to find the last word I was looking for, she said “love.” I hear so much love in her playing. Next, Sam is going to explain a bit of the process that went into writing the clarinet part.
I first tried writing the clarinet part on my own. I tracked a bunch of takes, but it just wasn’t working. Eventually, Nathan and I sat down in the studio and wrote a clarinet part together. As we’ve continued to put clarinet on different tracks, I’ve found that the best parts are written collaboratively rather than by myself. After listening to the clarinet a few times, we realized that for most of the song, the clarinet functions like a bass line, which is interesting because we decided not to track bass for this track. I say most of the song, because in the instrumental, there’s a couple of lines where the clarinet goes into a higher register., which actually doesn't happen often.
We found the melody for the instrumental part with the clarinet before having Laura come in and compliment it. I love a clarinet and piano mix.. they both are such beautiful instruments and bring something unique. With a piano, you don’t hear how our fingers hit the keys or how our feet play the pedal, you just hear the notes and how long they sustain. With the clarinet, you hear the player’s breath so you get this unique and intimate sound.
As we listened back to the song after the piano and vocal, we all heard a need for something in the higher register. I just got Logic on my laptop so I was really inspired to work a bit at home. The only plug in I had was Massive by Native Instruments. I started creating sounds that mostly consisted of noise. The one we chose to use moves from left to right and when I hear it, I get the impression that I’m at the beach listening to waves. We have an album later on called “Sea”. I’m really excited to bring this back for one of those ocean inspired songs!
We tried to add percussion and didn’t succeed. The lesson here is that with this release schedule, it is important not to force things that don’t work well initially. We got some new samples and we were excited for something to fit well, but everything we tried sounded great by itself and added nothing when we put it in the track. It’s not completely disagreeable but we found that we kept turning the volume down and that’s a big sign that it just doesn’t really work and might not be worth the time. I imagine we’ll use the new samples on some other songs someday.
Alright, let’s talk about the lyrics. The song is about meeting someone you’re interested in and finding out how you fit into each other’s lives. Every time I meet someone new, I’m challenged to self evaluate and figure out what I’m looking for. I’ve made the mistake of only seeing those things in people that I want or need rather than seeing them for who they truly are. If I know what I’m looking for and I’m taking the time to listen and get to know someone for who they truly are, I find it’s easier to tell what kind of relationship dynamic we’ll have. I’ve found that I’m always looking for something eternal with another person. If it can’t last forever, it almost doesn’t seem worth it to me. The lyric “Don’t you wanna sing forever” has been one of my favorite things to sing with Hailey and with the band these past couple years.
Thank you so much for being apart of our story, we hope you’ll come out to a show and sing this song with us.