“Everyday I Write the Book” (Elvis Costello cover) [Ep 5, Fall 2011]

By The Pete Walter Band:

The London, UK based pop/rock band cover a favourite track by one of their main influences, Elvis Costello.  Featuring an interesting beat-box breakdown.

[Editor’s Note: This is, without argument, one of the coolest Guest Sessions we’ve ever had the honor of featuring.  It takes a classic Elvis Costello track and somehow reproduces it flawlessly without being derivative.  This is also an interesting cover song music video because it is performed by a five-piece arrangement, a setup that is fairly rare on the Laptop Sessions yet always interesting and exciting (see videos by mOu and Chris, Jim, and Becky).  They nail this acoustic performance, which we know you’ll appreciate.]

“My First Song” (Chris Moore Original Acoustic Song)

By Chris Moore:

Well, never let it be said that I was entirely original when I first started writing songs.  This song is proof positive that I had a lot of emotions that needed to be expressed, but that I had a long way to go before I could release songs and not be embarrassed of them.  For instance, take the title of tonight’s original contribution, “My First Song.”

Anyone willing to guess when I wrote this song?

As you may have guessed, this is the first song I ever wrote.  Now, I had written poems and stories, and I had even written lyrics for which I had tunes in my head.  Some of those I would even go back to later on and add music.  But, at the time, this was the first song I wrote as a complete piece.

I clearly recall that afternoon, sitting in front of my sister’s keyboard and awkwardly positioning my fingers on the keyboard, playing with chord progressions and lyrical possibilities.  On this particular afternoon, I was particularly consumed with conflicting feelings of obsession and revulsion for a girl who I spent the better part of four years idolizing.  Now, the lyrics may be simple and the words may be even simpler, but it was true.  It was from the heart.  And, for better or worse, it was probably the most openly honest I have ever been — or ever will be — in a song.

If you pay attention, the lyrics are subtle but have interesting aspects.  For instance, the first verse ends, “I know that you want-“.  This abrupt ending is deliberate; I meant to give the feeling of being cut off, perhaps to invite the girl who is the subject of the song to be curious.  To want to find out what I know and if what I know is indeed what she wants.

The second verse is somewhat enigmatic.  From where I sit, pushing seven years after I wrote this song, I’m not sure if I meant what I think this line means:  “I feel that you want something that will get you there.”  My question now is, where is “there”?  For that matter, what did I mean by “something” rather than “someone”?

Regardless, I had a lot of fun dusting this classic off.  Thanks to the Chris Moore Songbook, I was able to recall the chords and lyrics to this song, as well as several others that I played as part of a “tour down memory lane.”  I hope you enjoy this brief and simple, but landmark (for me!) tune.

As a final note, because I’m posting today, Jeff will be taking my place on Friday.  I know you’ll enjoy Jim and Jeff’s work in the coming days (and I certainly will, as I now have the weekend off!), so I’ll see you all on Monday.

See you next session!

“Moment” (Chris Moore Original)

For Chris Moore chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Good evening and welcome to what has become a Christmas tradition for me here at the Laptop Sessions.  Each year since 2007, I have posted one yuletide original during the month of December.  Last year, I wrote and recorded a song on Christmas eve, so this year I wanted to post another on the last Original Wednesday before Christmas Eve.

This year’s selection is one I wrote years ago and was first included on the Chris, Jim, and Mike holiday album Our Christmas Gift to You.  To be honest, I don’t remember exactly when I wrote this song, but I certainly remember my first recording.  I had never recorded using a multi-track mixer, so Mike lent me one that he had inherited from a local photographer.  In its day, it had been a really nice system.  Unfortunately, some of the controls were off and there were certain tracks that would become spliced together — I’m not sure how else to describe this.  Essentially, I couldn’t lower or raise the volume on one track without another following it.

That being said, it felt like Mike was handing me a portable professional studio!

I rushed home late from Mike and Jim’s house that night, quietly snuck into my house (my parents were fast asleep), and set up in the small bathroom in the basement.  After about twenty minutes of silent trips up to my bedroom, the mixer had been set up on the toilet, the microphone stands near the shower, the keyboard by the towel rack, and I was sitting on my stool with my back against the sink.

And yes, I am holding myself back from making the obvious stool/bathroom pun here…

The version I recorded that night was quiet and a bit sloppy, but it really wasn’t as sloppy as it should have been for my first recording.  To be certain, many songs that I would record later on more reliable equipment seemed, at least to me, to be inferior to the overall feel of my first “Moment.”

The next version that I recorded was for the November 25, 2004 release of Our Christmas Gift to You.  I felt very much like the rawer, indie cousin of my future bandmates, as my two songs weren’t as fully produced as Jim and Mike’s were.  Still, it felt — and still feels! — exciting and, to be honest, like an honor to hear “Christmas Cards” and “Moment” alongside some of my all-time favorite Christmas originals, like “The First Snow” and “Christmas Evening.”

Although “Moment” sounds very quirky and I salivate just thinking about a day in the future when I might re-record it with a minimalist drum kit keeping time, I always liked it (and, of course, I’ll always have the MoU Christmas Concert 2006 CD to hold me over…).  “Moment” is one of those songs that makes me feel something when I listen to it.  Even now, years and years after writing it, I remember exactly how I felt the day I wrote it.  It’s like being able to pick up a guitar or put on a CD and go back in time to the end of high school/beginning of college.  As you’ll hear, it’s a song about a person who has just learned that the love of his life is returning to town after being away for a year, ostensibly as a journalist overseas.  The narrator hasn’t heard from the person, only rumors, and is frustrated that no one seems to understand how important this news is to him.  As the song continues, we get some flashbacks to the previous Christmas and a vague but satisfying real-time encounter set during a Christmas eve church service.  The final line explains the title: “Hay was all they had in the manger — hay was all that Mary had; but that didn’t matter none to Mary ’cause Mary had Joseph to share each and every moment…”

If you’ve ever found yourself at Christmastime, connected to what used to be close friends merely by rumor and third-hand report, then you’ll understand where this song is coming from.  For this recording, I tried to harken back to my first off-the-cuff, essentially one-take recording by staying in my pajamas and simply playing it once to rehearse it before hitting the “record” button.

The result?  My third Original Wednesday post on the eve of Christmas.

The problem?  I’m fresh out of original Christmas songs for next year…

I’ll just have to hope inspiration strikes before then!

Merry Christmas, and I’ll see you next session!

“Time” (Ben Folds Cover- Jim’s 1st on Piano!)

By Jim Fusco:

Welcome to another edition of the Laptop Sessions on the best music video blog on the web.  Tonight, I bring you my first Laptop Session on the piano, which I actually learned to play before the guitar.  In fact, I taught myself piano- it’s actually very logical in the way it’s set up, so once you learn some of the chord patterns, you can just go from there.

Anyway, tonight’s video is a cover song of the piano master, Ben Folds, and probably my favorite all-time song from him: “Time” off “Songs for Silverman”.  Weird Al joins him on the choir-like backing vocals, which is one of the reasons that this track is my favorite.  I realized, though, that the song is great on its own, so that’s why I wanted to do a Laptop Session of it.

You may notice that the vocals are a bit “airy”.  Well, you see that microphone in front of me?  Perfect placement.  I even make sure to sing directly into it most of the time.  Well, I wanted to get the whole piano sound.  My ZOOM H2 microphone actually has 4 mics in it.  The two on the front are put in a 90 degree angle and the two on the back are placed at 120 degrees for a “wider” pickup range.  I wanted to use that 120 degrees to pick up the piano and my voice.

That only works if you turn the freakin’ microphone around!

So, you couldn’t hear my voice at all and the piano was very muffled.  But, through the magic of equalization, I managed to brighten the piano sound and bring my vocals out of the mix and salvage the video.  I had two others I recorded at this session (originals) on my fiancee’s piano, but those had to be scrapped.  I’ll go back again and re-record those, making sure this time to turn the microphone around…

I hope you enjoy tonight’s music video.  I guess I can’t plug the word “acoustic” tonight, but I guess it’s considered an “acoustic piano” as opposed to an electric piano.  Have a great Sunday and make sure to stop on back for another video the Laptop Sessions acoustic guitar AND piano music video blog!