One of my recording/mixing mentors, Graham Cochrane over at the Recording Revolution website issued a challenge to his followers for the month of January:
Write, record, and mix one song in one month.
I figured 'what the heck, I need a few more songs to round out the album I'm recording anyways, so let's do this!' It helped that he was giving some really sweet recording gear away as a first prize to anyone entering a song. I have no hope of winning anything. I rarely win anything whether it's based on luck OR skill, but if I could finish a song in the time frame, it didn't matter if I got stuff, I would have a new song!
I've had the idea for the subject of a song for a few years now, but never got around to writing it, and I figured this might be the inspiration I needed. Well, it was. On the Sunday evening of January 31 I put the finishing touches on the mix of my latest song, called "The West Hotel".
Some of my Thunder Bay friends and family might recognize that as the name of a somewhat seedy hotel/bar down on Simpson Street. When I was first learning to play guitar and sing and perform in front of people I frequently played at The West Hotel. Not a paying gig, obviously, but since the patrons of the establishment were often too drunk or high to notice what was coming from the stage anyways, I was able to get a fair bit of stage time and practice not sucking as badly. There were some pretty scary times (I feared for my safety a few times) but I also met some pretty incredible musicians, including one Arden Bruyere, who to this day remains one of the most talented human beings I've ever heard or seen.
In fact, it was partly due to Arden that I decided not pursue music as a professional musician. I thought that if someone so brilliantly talented and amazing as he was wasn't making a ton of cash in the music industry, how the hell could someone as mediocre as myself ever hope to. So I got a job selling auto parts instead.
For years and years I've wanted to write a rough-and-tumble raucous rock song that could capture the feeling and the experiences of playing at The West Hotel, and with Graham's challenge the stars all somehow aligned. And with an actual deadline, I'll be damned if I didn't finish it!
This song also features a few firsts. I sing harmonies. I learned to play bass. I utter the word "ah-ooo". Four times.
So far I'm keeping the song from an all-out release. I'm offering it as a free download for anyone that signs up for my email list before the end of February, and of course you'll be able to hear it on my album when it comes out.
So thanks, Graham, for the challenge that got me off my ass to write and record this, and thanks Arden for the inspiration over the years. And thanks to The West Hotel for letting me play enough to suck less. And for allowing me to play Pipeline by The Ventures five times in a row one night.
For a bit I was worried that this song might be a little TOO specific for people to relate to, but a friend named Paul said "we ALL remember a West Hotel from some point in our lives". And I think he's right. Everyone's been to a few seedy dive bars in their life. At least, if you've lived a decent life you have!
The West burned down in 2010, but it will always be my favourite place I've ever played. Even if someone once threatened to stab me in the throat. In hindsight he might've had a good reason......
(photo by Derek Halstead-Silver. Used with permission)