I’m letting you behind the curtain. This is the story of how “Tiny Grass” was made, and I want to tell it right. So, for the optimal experience, follow the tour guide, patiently, instead of running straight for the main attraction (for the impatient, the link to the finished song is at the end of the blog post).
A blond guy, gløgg and a piano — like many good things in life, that’s how “Tiny Grass” began.
“Tiny Grass” is the first officially released song from a band called Mutually Anchored (website to come). Half the band is a guy called Alrik Fallet, the other half is, well, me. We’re more of a duo than a band, I suppose, but it sounds more serious to say we’re off to band practice than that we’re going to “play some music with a friend”. So, a band we are, albeit a tiny one.
We started playing together last winter, but took our time (this is going to sound so hipster-y) finding our sound. Our first original song actually wasn’t “Tiny Grass”, but one called “This Is Golden”. I sent Alrik the lyrics with some notes on how I pictured the music, and he created a four-handed piano piece with intricate vocals on top, something we still haven’t managed to play successfully more than a handful of times. So, to rein in our ambition a tad, we made something tiny. Except it’s not tiny at all.
I got the idea for the lyrics while walking home from one of the aforementioned band practices. It was winter, and absolutely freezing. Like the stubborn northerner I am I had no gloves, so instead of recording the melody on my phone (and risking losing a finger or two), I repeated the words to myself all the way home, whispered rhythmically down the hills, through the streets, up the stairs, straight to the piano, where I (after some fiddling with chords) recorded this:
Can you see it, too?
The tiny grass is growing,
Let’s see what will happen,
Let’s watch it transform
This tiny grass
it might be —
That’s the chorus, actually. Though you might not recognise it later. I liked the feel of it, but it was too slow, too ballad-y. It wasn’t supposed to be a ballad, because it’s about exciting things. Things that are growing. So, I sped it up, and added a piano pattern that did a relatively fast waltz in the verse:
As you can tell, the song was still a rough sketch. With just a single voice and some basic piano it’s so… bare, and it takes a certain kind of person to imagine how it might transform. Because of this, the next bit was the scariest: sending it to Alrik. I’m not exaggerating when I say that sharing unfinished work makes me feel more vulnerable than getting physically naked. But I sent it. He liked it. Phew.
I told him to do whatever he wanted with it, which is my favourite part — seeing (well, hearing) something I made transformed through someone else. There’s a lot of trust involved. Fortunately, my trust was not misplaced.
Getting to know Alrik, it quickly becomes clear that music plays a major, major part in his life. Some aspects are easy to put your finger on. There are instruments everywhere. He has a playlist for everything. He has a musician’s hands. Then there are the things you only discover after a while, like how he speaks the language. I don’t mean that he knows fancy words for tempos and certain beats, but rather that he can talk about music in a way that makes sense musically, and the words can then be translated into actual music. For instance, we talked about how a certain bit of vocals should be like something silvery, clear and shiny on top of everything else, and I think we made it happen (it’s the four words at the very end of the lyrics below, if you’re curious).
In short, Alrik picks up both concrete instruments and abstract musical concepts the way others pick up a pair of dropped socks: quickly, casually, naturally. I’m a very lucky girl (who’ll now stop singing his praises so his head won’t grow too big).
Our first session on “Tiny Grass” was like a door opening. It happened at band practice, actually; we decided that now was the time to work on “Tiny Grass”, and re-recordered my sketch on a click track so the rhythm would be consistent (I tend to… take liberties with the beat when recording an idea, as you can tell from the early recordings). Then Alrik started working. He moved some of the piano around, deleted a few notes here and there. Instead of a steady, predictable pattern, it now sounded much more like music. Clearly in the flow, he fetched a cigarbox guitar, adding a roughness over the piano. Next came drums, some other bits and pieces. At the end of the day, we had this:
Quite a change, huh? And it just got better and better. The major breakthrough came when we decided to go for a full studio production, instead of something we’d be able to play live as well. Suddenly there were a lot more strings. A bright piano. A fearless electric guitar. One day I came home to an e-mail where a whole choir of bearded Alriks had been added. New details, different rhythms, layer upon layer. The core of the song was the same, but it had (dare I say it?) grown.
So, it’s finally time for some absolutely shameless self-promotion. Listen to the finished song here:
Do tell us what you think! Comments here in my blog, or on our Facebook/YouTube channel are welcomed with open arms and a cup of tea. Oh, and if you’re interested, here are the (click-to-enlarge) lyrics: