Notes on an EP

Throughout my time at Gallatin, I aimed to pursue my passion for simple songwriting within an interdisciplinary context. What is folk music? How does it relate to the technologies that capture and circulate its songs? For my Senior Project, I translated three of my original songs into three digitally recorded tracks that could be easily dispersed through cyberspace and on compact discs. First, we made traditionally inspired music delivered typically only in a live and “rustic setting.” Second, we captured it in a studio operating on the most modern and fast-firing music recording technology, including a completely digital sequencing interface (with the gracious help of someone far more tech-savvy than I).

I hope these tracks transport the listener to the point that the method of delivery is rendered irrelevant. This to me is “timelessness” —allowing our acute awareness of where and when we are to wash away into something elative, humbling, introspective. I can only hope that I have brought listeners close to this state of being with my songs, but I know it is this sensation of “timelessness” I have described that keeps me bound in spirit to the music I love.

Velvet

Jess Clinton: Vocals, guitar
Stefan Weiner: Vocals
Ben Sigerson: Mandolin
Nick Lenchner: Bass
Spencer Marin: Percussion

Produced by Jess Clinton and Veronica Wyman
Recorded at Clive Davis NYU Studios and Braund Sound

“Velvet” is the most recently written song of the three, and the most representative of the direction I will be heading in the future. The plot of the song is fictional and intentionally allusive, but revolves around romantic turmoil between the secret relationship of a young woman and an older man. It is performed as a hushed duet between a male and female singer, but the close harmonies over the sparse mandolin and guitar lines give the tune an Appalachian feel, while low drum and bass lurk, barely heard. Inspiration for this song’s production was largely Joni Mitchell’s “The Priest.”

 

Even Shiva

Jess Clinton: Vocals, guitar
Sarah Haines: Backing vocals, viola
Nick Lenchner: Bass
Spencer Marin: Drums

Produced by Jess Clinton and Erik Braund.
Engineered by Erik Braund at Braund Sound.

“Even Shiva” was written in the open tuning of DADGAD, which is one of the most common guitar tuning of the current-day Celtic music tradition. When all the strings are played open in DADGAD, the guitar resounds a Dsus4 chord (think the “Ah” part of “Amen!” in church music). Many common chords that accompany folk tunes, which tend to be simple and traditional, are easily played in this tuning, hence its popularity in the folk scene. However, for this song, I wished to turn the guitar on its head — I wanted to play all the chords that sound brilliant and dense in this tuning, while the home key of D still drones in the background. There is still that root-note connection with more traditional guitar tunes.  “Even Shiva needs a helping hand,”  meaning that no one is perfect, not even our deities. I loved the sound captured of a choir of sirens singing the message, upon Sarah’s lovely viola and Spencer’s integration of Latin rhythm.

 

First Day of the New Year

Jess Clinton: Vocals, guitars, harp
Sarah Haines: Backing Vocals
Nick Lenchner: Bass
Spencer Marin: Drums

“First Day of the New Year” is the oldest song of the lot. It was written originally for the Gallatin Songwriting class in 2010, the prompt being “write a holiday song.” Who among us will not admit to having had overblown expectations of New Year’s Eve in the past? Especially in a city like New York. I can remember every New Year’s Eve as a kid in California, watching on the television as that giant ball dropped in Time Square. Upon moving to New York, the mundane life of the city sets in, like residing anywhere else. I wanted to integrate all these feelings and memories into what is by far the “Poppiest” song of my repertoire, but still one of the most fun, clap-and-sing along numbers to perform. Given the opportunity to use a great band on this small record, I couldn’t pass up the chance to push this song to its most energetic potential.