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Writing and recording “I’m Told You Never Sleep” (reposted from Facebook)


This track is probably my favourite piece to listen to off the new "Hotel by the River" EP. Not that it's necessarily the best written song, or the best recording, but because it has an amazing energy, most likely because it was recorded live rather than one track at a time. But that's skipping ahead...


Like "Ars Poetica" and "The Bed That Froze," "I'm Told You Never Sleep" had a very short gestation period. I wrote it while visiting my godson in Irvine CA during the final week of January 2015 and we recorded the song by March, I believe. The trip to visit Alexandros and his mom was a very fruitful one: I wrote three of the six songs on the HOTEL EP whilst there, as well as three other songs that will go elsewhere.


The lyrics for this particular song came to me before bed, because in the span of 24 hours, both Joy (my godbaby mama) and Katya (my sister) had said the same thing to me about LA: It wasn't the place where I was going to find a community of songwriters who would embrace me. LA is about image and marketing, but even more so about using and getting used, as opposed to making connections and finding kindred spirits. Oh, I'll never have trouble getting a gig in LA. But LA will never be a sanctuary, and I will never have a home there. And they should know. Joy used to be a songwriter and backing vocalist for the band Riddle the Sphinx (originally Elyn), and Katya had been an original member of LA death doo wop band Jail Weddings.


Both had felt the burn of the LA music scene.


So that was the spark that got my creative fire burning that night.


The basic recording of this was pretty simple: I'd laid down a piano part just to get the chords charted, and then the band showed up in the studio and played along to the recording a few times just to get the feel. However, they were exuding a lot more energy than the piano part I'd recorded, so eventually we turned that off and recorded drums, bass, rhythm guitar, and vocal live. Paul Galiszewski had already more or less perfected his drum part before getting to the studio, and Jacque Jobes picked up the bass quite quickly and made it his own. We probably had to play it through half a dozen times to get the right take, but once we did, that was it. I re-added piano from my home studio, as well as backing vocals. Tom Briant came to add some electric lead and fills to complement his guitar work that he'd done in Jankland studio with the band, and then a week later he came in to add mandolin -- a choice that really took this song a step further, in my opinion.


The only snag in the entire process was that after hearing the mastered version, I noticed one point in the song (3:22) where Paul had slipped up a bit in the drums and nobody had caught it during mixing sessions because it was so slight -- but mastered, it stood out. So we had to go back into prior takes and find a replacement snippet to edit in, and that was costly because so many hours had already gone into mixing and mastering and editing already, and this required the process to be repeated. Blast you, Paul Galiszewski! Ha, just kidding... It happens to everybody. That's why most bands take months to finish an album instead of a few days like we did with this EP.


So, again, no real drama, but I do like to point out that the live recording of the foundation tracks -- drums, rhythm guitar, bass, vocals -- is very rare these days. Most songs are recorded track by track, if that -- often they are done a few bars at a time within instrument, and then layered on. Live recording may have its drawbacks (imperfections), but the level of energy you get from a live recording is unmatched by any of the Frankenstudio Engineering one gets with pop music (and, sadly, even a lot of "country" music) these days.


With nothing else to tell you of the writing & recording process, I give you a link to purchase a copy of this standout track (seriously: call your radio station and insist that they play it!) followed by the lyrics. (Incidentally, the photo in this blog is not of LA since I took no photos on my trip, apparently; it's from Melbourne UK.)

I'M TOLD YOU NEVER SLEEP

I drove away like I'd done a hundred times before,

Skidded across desert back to my Atlantic shore.

Can't say I was rejected; can't say I wasn't treated right,

But I knew I never did belong and it's a feeling I just couldn't fight,

Like I simply lacked the proper tone or didn't have the right veneer,

And when my imperfections' novelty wore off, so did my welcome here:

Like I wore out my welcome here.

Oh Los Angeles!

I'm told you never sleep -- too high on coke and ego,

Your beauty just skin deep.

And I know, I know I never did belong to this,

Living on the surface of the fault lines like Los Angeles.

She's an unforgiving mistress. You must do as she commands,

And she may grant to you your wishes if you fulfill all her demands.

And her lovers all are actors, each one a rising star,

Or they're rock gods striking poses in the sand, burnished guitar,

Burnished tan, burnished smile against a panoramic view

Of the desert and the ocean, but there's so little left of you.

There's so little left of you.

Oh Los Angeles!

I'm told you never sleep -- too high on coke and ego,

Your beauty just skin deep.

And I know, I know I never did belong to this,

Living on the surface of the fault lines like Los Angeles.

If I come each time you call, will you catch me when I fall,

Or will that always be a promise that you never follow through?

I have no vacancy in my heart yet I always find room for you,

Despite what anyone can recognize as a lack of reciprocity,

Because I can't start being everything you need

Until I cease being me.

I drove away like I'd done a hundred times before,

Skidded across desert back to my Atlantic shore,

Not for the last time -- I know I'll be back for more:

Babylon and I couldn't ask for a more lovely whore,

Couldn't ask for a more lovely whore.

Oh Los Angeles!

I'm told you never sleep -- too high on coke and ego,

Your beauty just skin deep.

And I know, I know I never did belong to this,

Living on the surface of the fault lines like Los Angeles.