Update on “Mississippi (and other demos)”

At the time of this writing, my demo reel, Mississippi (and other demos) has a total of 20 tracks. And I’m not stopping yet. Check it out on the Bandcamp player below:

This demo process has been great practice. My original goal for 2024 was to write music using the electric guitar. But it’s harder for me to record guitar with my current setup. Every track you hear on Mississippi was completed using sampled instruments on GarageBand with an iPad. I even used the built-in iPad microphones for the vocals.

Here’s the current track list:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Tame the Beast
  3. I Need a Camera
  4. Give Me Back My Angel
  5. Farmington
  6. Play Hard
  7. People Are in Love
  8. Break the Chain
  9. Chasing Ghosts
  10. Flex
  11. Madawaska Sky
  12. No Party
  13. Glory, Glory
  14. Brittle
  15. Lean Into It
  16. Cold
  17. Don’t Let Me Down Easy
  18. Waiting for the Thaw
  19. She Ruined Me
  20. Shit City

Writing songs using a DAW works much differently than writing on a live instrument. Traditionally, whether I write the lyrics first or with the music, I sit down and work out the song in real time by playing and singing at the same time.

But with electronic music, I program the music first. I have a ton of lyrics already written, so I may or may not program a piece with a lyric in mind, but more often not. Most of the music for these songs was programmed before choosing which lyric would be used.

There is a sense of chance, experimentation, and randomness in this method. Each composition is like a puzzle that I need to put together. I have to make a lyric fit to a specific piece of music. Sometimes, I might tweak one or the other a little to make it work, but not too much. I’ve even closed my eyes and opened up lyrics to go with music for a few of these songs.

Contemplating Style and content.

My songwriting style can differ greatly depending on the writing process I choose, and what instrument(s) is acting as my accompaniment. I’ll be the first to point out that I’m not being consistent in a given style here.

If you listen to the entire demo reel, you’ll hear music influences ranging from dance to new wave to synth wave to punk. You’ll also hear softer singer-songwriter pieces. In the end, it’s all pop. Instead of fighting the pop creep that always seems to find its way into my music, I decided to embrace it.

In the future, I may choose to focus on one of the styles you hear on the reel and release an album. But for now, it’s a demo, and demos are meant to show the variety of styles a songwriter can create.

I tend to avoid comparing my work to other (more popular) artists. I think it behooves us as artists to abandon emulation. We can’t avoid some similarities to other artists, but the less we try to emulate or compare ourselves to others, the more original our own work becomes. You might think it’s a compliment to say my work sounds like a Frank Sinatra or Metallica, but it’s actually something I want to avoid.

Still struggling with vocals and mixes.

Although I’m improving, I’m still struggling with vocals and mixes.

First, I haven’t been singing much lately. So my voice is pretty rough. I struggle with intonation and my range is limited. I’ve been focusing more on the deeper end of my voice, but that has its own set of challenges. Second, I’m using an iPad microphone.

As for mixes, GarageBand is not suited to do great mixing and I still have a lot to learn about audio frequencies and proper mixing techniques.

This project is also moving me toward switching to Logic Pro. I’ve had Logic Pro on my iPad for almost a year. I occasionally open it up and fiddle around. But while working on Mississippi (and other demos), I decided to learn how to program beats using Logic Pro. I have half or more of these songs’ drum tracks programmed using Logic Pro. That’s a start in getting familiar with the DAW. I did have some issues with glitching however.

That’s it for now. I’ll likely keep adding songs to the Mississippi demo reel until I reach a couple dozen or more. Keep checking back for new material. – dse

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Author: Dan Steven Erickson

Dan Steven Erickson is a great undiscovered American songwriter.