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A Project Full of “Real” Songs

There’s a weird and very annoying question people have asked me after shows. I’ll have just performed from 10-45 minutes—playing comedy songs of mine that are well-known, new, or somewhere in between, singing said songs and playing guitar—and people will ask “do you ever write any real songs?”

THEY’RE ALL REAL! I’m playing them! Can you hear them? The air molecules are vibrating and moving your eardrums! They’re real!

But I get it: they mean non-comedy songs. They don’t mean any offense by implying by contrast that comedy songs aren’t real They’re only unwittingly negating my entire life’s work!

Well post-pandemic life is gonna be a lot easier because I’ll be able to just say “yes” and point them to the new non-comedy album of 100% real songs I will be releasing this year under the name The Green L.E.D.s.

Why the name? To differentiate it from my comedy music stuff!

Don’t like it? Come on, it’s better than “Childish Gambino!”

I’ve been enjoying working on it and I’m really happy with the way the songs are shaping up. I’ve been inspired by early 80s post-punk and some Aughts rock but those were just the starting points and I’m going to wait until it’s done before I characterize it more. It‘s been hugely helpful for my mental state to have a creative outlet. Writing comedy during the pandemic has been really difficult for me because there were no live shows to test out the material, and with a global pandemic, a nationwide reckoning on systemic racism, and a dangerously contentious election year (that didn’t end at the election), I haven’t been super inspired to be funny. So what does a comedian/songwriter do when he doesn’t feel funny?

I guess he writes some “real” songs 😜

Look for the first single in July and the full album this fall!

Cover Tuesday’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2!

Cover Tuesday has been going strong every week on Twitch(Tuesday, 8:15 PM Eastern U.S.) and it’s been a ton of fun putting the setlists together and doing as many of your requests as I can! I posted the first selection of favorite covers back on May 13, and below are some faves from the next 11 shows!

The spotify playlist is currently (as of this writing on 6 August, 2020) is up to 224 songs, which means I’m averaging 12 songs a week. The Ridiculous Dozen!

I had to make two substitutions in the playlist: In Week 2 I had to substitute a different Mighty Lemon Drops song because “Inside Out” wasn’t available, and Little Richard’s “Scuba Party” from Catalina Caper, which I performed on June 30, was nowhere to be found so I swapped in “It Ain’t What You Do.”

So here are some recent favorites:

Wannabe by the Spice Girls

In cranking out this girl power anthem I somehow took a few detours through Howard Jones and Young MC, but it worked, trust me!

I Love It by Icona Pop

“I crashed my car into the bridge, I don’t care” seems to sum up Summer 2020 in the U.S. so I have deemed this song my summer anthem!

Ace of Spades by Motörhead, a la Johnny Cash

“Ace of Spades” was a request and in order both oblige and save my voice (singing like Lemmy hurts!) I reimagined this song as a Johnny Cash cover. Though it was born out of necessity it’s now the only way I can hear the song!

Tom Sawyer by Rush

Another song by request! This one came from a college friend via facebook and I did the best I could, even though I’ve always said I thought Rush used “too many notes.”

Trooper by Iron Maiden

Sometimes requests seem more like dares, like when my friend Jonathan requested the lyrically overflowing Hardware Store by Weird Al. Though the “heavy” and the “metal” were missing I think it still turned out OK and I should at least get an A for effort.

I Love Your Smile by Shanice

I love when a request is a song I somehow missed the first time around, and this early 90s R&B earworm was really fun to do. Even though it was stuck in my head for the whole dang week. It’s just too peppy and poppy!

Baba O’Riley by The Who

Tried to pull off an acoustic version of one of the best rock anthems ever and thanks to the Loopback plugin in MainStage I think I ended up with a decent rendition 🙂

Dang, that’s a great title for a song…

He may have lost touch with the working man, but Senator Chuck Grassley can come up with a great title for a resort rock song. “Booze or women or movies”? That’s just too good to not Buffetize!

Sometimes you just gotta put on your flip flops, pick up your guitar and make fun of the news. Enjoy the tune and remember, if you don’t have $5.5 in the bank when you die, you’re a bad person!

The Butch Vig of Comedy Music! Summer Summary Pt. 2

I started recording and producing my songs out of necessity and a DIY ethos, and over the years I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Which makes it nice to apply those producing and arranging skills to helping other artists get their music recorded and sounding amazing. This summer I worked with the hilarious musical duo Sam and Bill arranging, producing, and recording three songs for their EP Christmas in July, and together we had a great time kicking out some hilarious jamz.

Working with a duo as accomplished as Sam and Bill was rewarding because not only are they talented singers and experienced comedy performers, they have great chemistry between them and work incredibly well together. They came in with three well-written funny songs and a clear idea of how they wanted each one to sound. That clarity allowed me to really focus on how to execute an arrangement and production that would best suit each song and genre.

Sam and Bill in their video for Christmas in July
Sam and Bill in their video for Christmas in July

We started with a simple reference recording of them playing the song live on an acoustic guitar. From there I learned the song and started building the studio backing tracks with drums, bass, guitar, keyboards and whatever else the arrangement required. Each of the three songs had a different genre, era, and feel, and I enjoyed the challenge of getting the arrangement dialed in for the right sound.

The first song we worked on was “Kwanza” and they were looking for an OK Go power pop sound, which happens to be right in my wheelhouse with lots of guitars and a tight bass/drum rhythm section. The really fun part was when the end of the song takes a strong psychedelic turn with strings, choral backing vocals, and even a gong.

For the title track, Christmas in July they wrote a Jimmy Buffet-esque resort rock song which required a more laid-back feel—acoustic guitars, and a steel drum part that Sam played (via synth, as my studio’s steel drum was not available). I got to break out my lap steel guitar and fill in the production with some twangy licks, and we even recorded several tracks of us clapping live for the breakdown section.

We went with a retro, Phil Spector Wall of Sound for the track “Crystal Lake Christmas” and I got to pile up piano, horn, guitar, and more in a shuffle arrangement in my favorite challenge of the project. There were lots of pauses and breaks that we worked on together to get the timing right and the final product really clicked.

Another fun aspect with working with a duo is blending the two voices together. Sam and Bill create great harmonies and sing together throughout most of their songs, and I had to mix their voices to create the right balance and blend, sometimes bringing Sam to the front a bit, sometimes Bill, and using the same stereo compressor on both voices to unify their sound.

In addition to the tracks on Sam and Bill’s EP I produced a track for Noam Osband, which involved a lot of MIDI orchestration, and I wrote and recorded some music for the Iron Mule Film Festival and for video on the travel site Travel Tales Podcast. So I guess I’m saying “it’s not always about me!” I enjoy creating and producing music with other people too!

It’s all part of my master plan to turn my apartment into the Sun Records Studio of comedy music!

© Paravonian