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Table of contents for Woo Hoo
This is the third post of a series that looks at the songwriting process as practiced by Kelli and Andrew. This time we look at the actual genesis of the song Woo Hoo
I’ve always liked the concept of the butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil causing a tornado in Texas, well, apart from the actual tornado bit. When working with another human being to create something new, the slightest change in input from one can evoke a new response in the other. Early on in this clip Kelli and I are just scatting – using the groove from the guitar to try out different vocal expressions: “Woo Hoo, Yeah, Hey, Hey…” – you get the idea. When we change “Woo Hoo” to “Boo Hoo,” Kelli immediately runs with it – producing a whole new set of words to play with. Suddenly she’s singing about not wanting to cry any more and the song takes on a whole new lyrical direction – more somber – before you know it – Kelli’s developed that lyric into something a little more disturbing: “Woo Hoo – I know what you’re thinking…” you’ll see where that lyric takes the song later on in this series.
There’s a wonderful book by Simon Singh called Fermat’s Last Theorem that was at the core of a television series by Nova. The story is amazing and well worth a look but the bit that really got me, involved the relationship between two Japanese mathematicians called Yutaka Taniyama and Goro Shimura who together created a conjecture that allowed Andrew Wiles to deliver his proof. On their working relationship Shimura commented that Taniyama was such a good mathematician because of his brilliant mistakes.
This is an odd concept to wrap your head around but has huge application to songwriting and problem solving. It’s tough to create something new when you’re playing an instrument because, well – you can only play what you know. For real “newness” to appear – you either have to conceive of a new direction – try something different that you don’t know will work and in doing so, often produce something that sounds labored and manufactured – or you can wait for the mistake.
A mistake is a beautiful thing – it is something that you didn’t mean to do, that came with no intent and no direction – it literally creates something that you would never have naturally thought of. You can check out Kelli’s original take on Bobby McGee here – the whole concept of doing it in a minor key came from a simple mistake. Towards the end of this clip I play the wrong chord on the guitar – and in doing so open up a whole new direction for the song to go in. – we love mistakes.
Songwriting is listening
We’re always suspicious of people who insist on handing out advice - particularly when it comes to songwriting - however one thing that I wish someone had told me earlier in my career is this: “Listen as much as you play.” This is particularly important when working with another person as you get an opportunity to focus on what you have created together, rather than focusing on your personal performance. I love the end of this clip when we both agree that there is “something there,” of course - in order to establish that - we need to stop playing and start listening.
At this stage, we’re not worried about recording perfect sound fidelity - we just want to be able to listen to what did - we can then discuss, check that we’re on the same page - point things out that we like, that we didn’t like, etc, etc. We use probably the simplest microphone around - a plugin for my iPod - the sound quality isn’t great and there are pops and noise all over the place - but it is simple, easy to use and it works.
The next post will look at how we start to carve the track up into different sections - starting with the chorus first.
- Woo Hoo - Part 2 - Are You Having Any Fun…?
- The Maestro…
- Songwriting, that’s the ticket!
- Long Day Ahead….