A song 6 years in the making, Part 4/4

I had lyrics, a form, an opening lick (though I almost changed that a few times), a concise ending, a solid groove and a sloppy solo.

Time to fix the solo.

The previous recording of Mr. Wrong had a rather lazy (and often tacet) left hand, and that’s all thanks to one sad fact: I’m not very good at improvising. I knew I had to write out what I was going to do and actually practice it. This applied to everything I was playing once I started recording back in June of 2011. I had to write down virtually every note I was playing so that I could edit takes (What?…). Thankfully, writing a solo was significantly easier than writing lyrics. I had already written the solo for Picture Yourself, and I had transcribed a good deal of songs and solos by Elton, Billy and Ben. I also knew I was going to be recording this very soon with drums and a bass so I wasn’t afraid to write a solo as if I was a jazz player – let the bass player play the bass notes, I’ll play a little “rhythm piano” (a little joke for your rhythm guitarists out there) with my left hand and play the actual solo with my right hand.

Here are the licks I came up with:

I ended up using almost everything on this page for my solo. You can listen and follow along – the solo begins in the very bottom left with an implied walking bassline under it. The lick towards the end of the line (just before the left hand stops walking) that you can’t read is a variation of a lick from the lead guitar in Elton’s Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting. From there the solo jumps up two lines, where you can see left hand and right hand written together. I liked the idea of taking the upper spelling of the D chord (playing A minor in my left hand) and letting the chord descend, and idea I got from the solo at the end of Ben Folds Five’s solo at the end of Underground. After four measures you can see the left hand continue while an arrow points to a lick written another line higher for the corresponding right hand lick, a simple mordent (?) with more upper spelling of each chord (G minor while playing over the C chord, and F Maj. 7 while playing over G7).

I love music theory. tee hee!

The solo was finished probably 2 days before I was to fly to Portland, OR. I went there to get a grip on myself, my music career, my goals, and to see my long-lost High School best friend, Steve Giedosh, who was getting me a great deal on musicians and recording producers so that I could make quick demos of three songs. In 9 hours, we rehearsed and recorded Mr. Wrong (You Aren’t Me), Another Day (also available on reverbnation), and another song that no one has yet to hear (because it’s freakin hard to sing and I need to get another take). That song is called Tomorrow Never Knows, a Stevie Wonder-inspired contemplation about whether life should continue as is or take a sharp turn.

Would you like to hear Tomorrow Never Knows? It’s not ready for release just yet, but you can hear it live at any of my performances:

NOVEMBER 11, 8 pm at Lickity Split
6056 N Broadway in Chicago


NOVEMBER 17TH, 6 pm AT Metropolis Coffee Company
1039 W Granville in Chicago

or my latest addition to the schedule, the one you should go to if you can’t go to any other shows:

DECEMBER 18TH, 8 pm at the Elbo Room Cocktail Lounge
2871 N Lincoln in Chicago
I MUST BRING AT LEAST 20 PEOPLE TO THIS PERFORMANCE! If you’d like to show your support, the best way to do it would be to attend this show, say hi to me, grab some drinks and tell all your friends about it.

Thanks again for reading. New songs are on the way – hear them first this Friday at Lickity Split.

A song 6 years in the making (Part 3/4)

At the request of the powers that be at the dueling piano club I was playing at in 2008, I started taking voice lessons. My friend Pete Wilson referred me to Patrick and Bonnie at the Arizona Music Project. I started taking voice lessons, and even started teaching piano lessons. I could have easily gotten paid for these lessons, but I had found a new muse in life and I decided that it was time to record some of my songs, so I traded lessons for recording time at the AZ Music Project. The end result would be a rough (see: ROUGH) demo of three original songs and a cover that I could give to my new muse (see: GIRLFRIEND) as a Christmas gift. The track list was

1. Picture Yourself
2. Mr. Wrong
3. Digging
4. The Luckiest

For legal reasons, at least one of those would never be released to the public. But I had bigger fish to fry: Mr. Wrong only had half of a verse, no solo, and no bridge.

Step 1. The verses

Aside from adding “don’t tell me” to the hook at the end of the chorus, I hadn’t touched the lyrics in three years or so. I’m glad I took so long though. I had many experiences in those three years that honestly shaped where the song went. I knew the song had to be about rejecting immature advice about playing the field in favor of sticking to my own goals, so the pre-chorus (see: Part 1) became a sarcastic jab towards those who would tell me that I’m approaching my post-dumped rehabilitation incorrectly. Apparantly they thought that following my dreams and goals about relationships was incorrect (not to mention dreams and goals about horn playing that had fallen behind since becoming a pianist). The line “Security makes all my doubts so strong” was easy enough – living on your own and buying your own insurance and checking on credit reports and our society’s acceptance of things like pre-nups told me that security is only for the insecure (see: DUH).

And that lead to the insecure line that would round off the first verse: “I’ve my own insecurities to feed”

Where the first verse was speaking directly to those who had hurt me, the second verse would speak to those who were giving me therapeutic advice that I didn’t want to hear. Thinking with a man’s second brain turned into “Your heart can’t lead you where you need to go”, and my urge to be Mr. Right instead of Mr. Right Now gave me a great title for the song (see: TITLE), as well as my favorite line “Mr. Right can’t make it to the show”.

All that was left was the bridge. Given that I have a tendency to find a recording or artist I like and listen to it for many years, it was not unusual that I was still basking in the audio bubble bath that was Radiohead’s In Rainbows, specifically the second track from the bonus disc that came with the LP that cost a lot more than the LP or extended version of the album that would follow, King of Limbs. Though I wish the release date of the two had been switched – then I could have sold KOL instead of Rainbows to pay rent.

Anyhow, the second track from the CD of songs that didn’t make the final album cut had a great progression I liked – Yep, the I – bVII – IV that I was already using for half of the tune. What was the difference? Radiohead had it in Ab, not D. How was I going to modulate?

Well, that may be the way a real composer looked at it. I was honestly just playing the Bb7 to the A7 pre-chorus section and decided to continue descending down a half step and start a new (see: old) chord progression in Ab. After playing it I immediately recognized it as the progression (and key!) that Radiohead had used.

So I had my bridge (musically, anyhow). The lyrics came from my own reaction to the advice I was being given and my general reaction to it, which went something like this:

“I don’t want to hurt a girl, and I can’t fake my way into a casual relationship just to help me get over someone. I’d rather meet the girl and not waste her time by being who she isn’t looking for”…

These jumbled self-righteous thoughts became the lyrics of the bridge: “Am I only one man’s hero? Maybe a villain who’s misunderstood”

Either way, the recording went well. Not great, but well.

I still didn’t have a solo I was happy about.

And I wouldn’t until June of 2011, two and a half years later (see: PART 4!!!!).

A song 6 years in the making (Part 2/4)

*for part 1, click here*

I’d been dumped. I was mad. She was crazy. I was moving away from my hometown for the first time in my life. I wasn’t quite sure how to put this into lyrics, so the first line was stream of conscious.

“Give me a sign, are you out of your mind for giving me exactly what I need?”

I had many more dummy lyrics that I thought at the time were actual smart lyrics. Lines like “you’re running away, not scared of today but frightened of where the day may lead” and “one foot out the door, when you can’t take anymore, yous lip away and label my good name”. These were all things I thought were spiteful to the person who had just “broken my heart”. I put that in quotations only because in hindsight its hard to believe I really felt that way.  But at the time (September 2005) I felt angry. I didn’t feel as rejected as I felt abandoned, left to the devices of whomever would be my next best friend in my new home from home.

I got a lot of advice at the time, usually encouraging me to play the field, avoid commitment, and make bad decisions for the sake of having something to do, or having something to distract me from whatever I told myself I was feeling.

Well I mostly told myself that I didn’t know how to do all of these things I was encouraged to do, probably because I didn’t want to do these things. My song had turned into a love song, of sorts. I was only interested in being some girl’s Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Now.

It would be three years before I would put these feelings into verse, finally finishing the lyrical portion of my song. 2008 rolled around, and I was in a very different place than I was three years earlier. I was still in Tempe, AZ, but I had a job as a dueling piano player, I had a cool roommate who, for all intents and purposes, was my best friend, and to top it all off I had just started a relationship with a girl. I really hoped that I could be Mr. Right.

So while recording a song I had written for her as a Christmas gift (see Picture Yourself), I guess I thought I would reflect those Right feelings by also giving her a recording of Mr. Wrong

The next chapter, Recording Mr. Wrong for the first time!

And for all of you Chicagoans, here is the poster for my upcoming performance at Metropolis Coffee Company on November 17th, 6 PM.

Come see me November 17th!

1039 West Granville, Chicago IL 60660, 6 PM

“Mr. Wrong (You Aren’t Me)” now available for download!!!

Whereas, Adam A Nelson has reached over 100 fans, and

Whereas, it happens to be a national post-mortem holiday, and

Whereas, I have never had anything available for download before,

the Interwebs is happy to bestow upon you, the fans, the first downloadable song from Adam A Nelson!!!!!

Visit the BRAND NEW WEBSITE adamanelson.bandcamp.com and name your price for Adam’s first downloadable singls, Mr. Wrong (You Aren’t Me). For the first time ever, you can download one of my songs, and it is all thanks to you for helping me reach over 100 fans and supporting me online.


All week I will be celebrating with entries on the trail I hiked just to get this single to you. From inception to final edit, how to take an idea, turn it into a song, and release it to the public. A story 6 years in the making, written down over four days of blogging.

So visit adamanelson.bandcamp.com and download the song, send it to all of your friends and tell them to help me get yet another 100 fans, and keep checking back to adamanelson.com for more information on previously released songs and what is yet to come from Chicago’s newest piano rocker!


…will be uploaded tomorrow. Got some new mixes, with brand new vocal takes, for Another Day, Picture Yourself and My Greatest Wish. Listen to the current mixes while they last! You will be able to stream AND purchase some of the tunes. Until then, come out to Downer’s Grove, IL and see my performance at Ballydoyle’s Irish Pub. The fun starts at 8:30. Come by and say “hey”, and tell your friends to come out too. Thanks so much for the support!


My hurdle for the day is finding out how to re-record a vocal track to an instrumental track – mind you, this instrumental track is ALL of the instruments already consolidated into one mp3 (yes, compressed) file so there is very little I can do for it. Eq’ing has made the instrumental track sound like its truly happening in the background, but the voice has to come out somehow.

So I think its a perfect time for a break to work on my other re-recording for My Greatest Wish. By the end of the week I plan to have all three of the songs on my myspace page updated with their new mixes and vocal takes. I think I’m finally happy with the takes I’ve got, though I still have to get another shot for My Greatest Wish – I changed some lyrics that now need to be changed back.

I’d love to start working on a new song but nothing worth developing has occured to me lately. Sometimes it does, while I’m listening to another song, and of course I don’t have a pen with me. I have so many notes for songs and it seems like I spend all of my time just finding them and putting them in one place – once that procedure is done, I’ve overloaded my brain and I can’t put it all together.

Who needs an energy drink?

I’m also going to try and to an impromptu photo shoot tonight. I think I already know how its going to turn out, but its worth a shot. Look for a new website header shortly!

The checklist

I’m a champion list maker…Not list checker-offer, mind you, but I’ve got notes everywhere reminding me of what I should be doing and what I should have gotten done yesterday, yestermonth, yesteryear. I have word documents (still not a mac person….too soon?), text documents, notebook paper, even a dry-erase board above my laptop listing off all of the things I need to do if I want to reach whatever goals I’ve decided to reach this week

I want to write songs. I want people to listen to them. I want to make a living doing this. What needs to happen? I end up getting stuck on one step and all of the other steps get ignored, or never quite get traction. I can’t decide if some of these things can be done simultaneously, or if one task requires accomplishment of the previous task on the list.

I thought about writing out my huge to-do list here, but then I thought better. I’m not sure if list writing even works for me. It just seems to catalogue all of the things I haven’t done with myself. And when I do get to cross off something, I don’t have time to even start something else. Lord knows I don’t have the concentration required to finish it anyhow. OCD and laziness are supposedly traits of great artists…or complete losers. For now I’m stuck somewhere in between. Time to cross off a few things and get out of the middle of the road.

Anyway, I went to my second open mic last night. It was another piano bar, and another night filled with people singing showtunes and standards. I don’t mean to make that sound like it was lame or a bad time, because it definitely was not. These people I’ve met over the last few nights are all great entertainers, and a very good audience. It may have been the perfect way to get me started here in Chicago. Made a few good connections too, which could yield some very exciting things in the future.

I’ve got some edits to do on Picture Yourself and Greatest Wish, then I’m sending them off to my guest mixer to have it tweaked a bit, make it sound like I know what I’m doing. Look to the links on the right of the website to hear the current mixes of these songs on myspace.

Thanks for reading, all!

Second shot

I just finished editing the piano parts to two of my songs, My Greatest Wish and Picture Yourself. The gains were a bit high when I first recorded them in late June so I turned the gains down significantly and spent the last three days re-recording them. The fun part was last night and this morning  – taking at least three takes of each and mixing them together into one *mostly clean* sweep of each song’s piano parts. I’ll re-record the vocals this afternoon. I tend to be pretty picky about the vocals, so I doubt this afternoon will be the end.

I could keep recording and editing to achieve the flawless recording (in terms of notes, not edits – the edits ARE flawless to my ears), but *mostly clean* I think leaves room for the human connection. Vulnerability, adrenaline, and perserverance are all relate-able (does that word seriously have a hyphen?!?) traits, and none of those qualities are present in a perfect performance. I admire people who can do something perfectly, but I also admire someone who is constantly trying to improve themselves, often at the expense of perfection.

OK GO’s Extra Nice Edition of their latest album “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky” includes an interview with the band conducted by Ira Glass (let him tell ya’ll what its like bein male, middle class and white). The lead singer, Damian Kulash the second, admits to a vocal crack in a song that was recorded in one take outside of the studio – his producer Dave Fridmann (of Flaming Lips fame) told him “if you try to fix this error, your record will suck”.

I’m not trying to say I’ve got a spectacular recording in the works

…but I sure as shit don’t want it to suck.


ps totally wanted to put up the instrumental file of the song, but wordpress was being a bit of a diva – next time!