What I Did Wrong

Here is the latest track from my album-in-progress, called “If You Remember (What I Did Wrong).” (Download: mp3 | lyrics & chords | tablature)

If You Remember (What I Did Wrong)

(words and music by Alan Sanderson)

It’s really forever, this life that we live
And if you remember, then I hope you forgive

You said it’s forever, but time proved you wrong
And if you remember, it didn’t take long

But memories live on
They tell me what I did wrong

It’s really forever, this life that we live
And if you remember me, then I hope you forgive
Forgive me

About the Song

Alan - wide hallway to the garageDuring the fall of 1994, when this song was written, I was a moody teenager who had been playing guitar for just less than a year. Songwriting was an outlet for the intense and raw but very private emotions that seemed to be clawing me apart from the inside. Back then the focus of the song was on the guilt I felt (the original title was simply “What I Did Wrong”).

The song was more or less forgotten until about 2002, when I was listening to a lot of Chet Atkins and trying to work out my own fingerstyle guitar technique. I found that I could play the vocal melody at the same time that I played an arpeggio on the chords, so this song was added back to my repertoire as an instrumental.

For this recording I decided to bring back the lyrics, in a slightly altered form. Rather than focusing on the guilt of past actions, the revised words focus on reconciliation and forgiveness, which are the last steps in the process of being Lost and then Found. I had several specific people in mind as I recorded this song, and if they remember, then I hope they forgive.

While working on this recording the thought struck me that my 15-year old self is a great songwriting collaborator. He has some good musical ideas, and he doesn’t complain at all when the direction I want to take them isn’t exactly what he had in mind. I think the collaboration works better spanning across the years than it would in real time; I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t like what I’ve done to his song.

About the Recording

I originally intended a hybrid guitar/synth fusion sound for this recording (think New Order), but a few things made me stray off of this intended course.

First, I discovered Guitarix, a software guitar amplifier for Linux systems, and I think this piece of software will change my life forever! All of the electric guitars (including the bass) used Guitarix plugins, and it was so fun that I just wanted to add more and more guitar to the sound and less and less synth. Eventually I took all of the synthesizers out, with the exception of the drum samples (which were sequenced using Hydrogen).

Second (and related to the first), I got thinking about some other songs which use the same or similar chord progressions, which tend to be guitar-based songs. (The chords are I – vi – ii – V; actually, these chords are also used in “My Abode!”) “Earth Angel” has a similar progression (I – vi – IV – V), and the tremolo guitar in the verse kept reminding me of the scene from “Back to the Future.” Adding too much techno to that sound just didn’t seem right.

Alan with guitarThe resulting arrangement became something of a sonic retelling of the song’s history: The opening chords on acoustic guitar are largely as I would have played them as a beginner in 1994; the body of the song salutes a few of my early guitar influences: Peter Buck, Robert Smith, Simon Gallup; the fingerstyle acoustic version I worked out in about 2002 forms the coda. The result is very satisfying for me personally, as an homage to where I have come from musically, and where I have gone. I also think it harmonizes well with the evolution of the song’s meaning.

This recording was done entirely on Linux Mint using Ardour and Hydrogen, with Guitarix plugins, and the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface. With each new recording I discover more useful features of Ardour, and new plugins. Desktop Linux has turned into a wonderful, rich environment for audio recording.

About the Album

I am getting really close to finally finishing the album I started nearly 15 years ago! There are just one or two more songs to record, and I am also working on remastering some of the previous tracks. It is still my goal to finish it by the end of this year, so stay tuned for updates.

When I Was Lonely

I just finished a new recording for the Lost and Found album, a song called “My Abode.” (Download the mp3)

My Abode

words and music by Alan Sanderson

The road is my abode
It will love me — it will kiss me
The road is my abode
It will hold me — hold me

I turned to you when I was lonely
And you sent me on my way —
Your way

The street is my retreat
And I go there when there’s nowhere else to go
And I know
I belong — I belong

I turned to you when I was lonely
And you sent me on my way —
Your way

And I don’t know which way I’m going
And I don’t know which way I’ve been
And I don’t know where you want me to be
But I know I’m far from home

I turned to you when I was lonely
And you sent me on my way
You said my way was your way
But your way —
Your way is my way home

(Dedicated to the memory of Meggan Mackey, 1974-1999)

About the Song

This song was on the original track list for the Lost and Found album, and I feel that it is one of its most important songs. I wrote it when I was 18 years old, and it captures the emotions and thoughts I had during an important transition in my life. Over the previous year or so I had suffered the loss of some important friendships, including a girlfriend who broke up with me. The first verse is about the loneliness and bitterness I felt about this, and it was intended to be a little melodramatic.

EPSON MFP image
Picture I took in 1998 on my bike ride home from work. This stretch of road is where the song was written.

After I graduated from high school I started cycling 50-100 miles a week, which I found to be very therapeutic for my loneliness. (I actually composed the song during my 7-mile ride home from work one day.) The second verse is about cycling, and the chorus is meant literally in that context.

The third verse is about the spiritual changes that were starting to happen in me as I studied the scriptures every day and prepared to serve a mission. It was becoming clear to me that the Lord wanted me to give up my pride and turn to him. I had been spiritually lost, but the Lord had found me and shown me the way home. This was the first song I ever wrote on a religious theme, and at the time I found it to be an uncomfortable subject to write about plainly, hence the somewhat obscure language.

On the day when I wrote the lyrics I went to visit my cousin‘s apartment and worked on the fingering for the song on her roommate Meggan’s guitar. Meggan died of cancer about a year later while I was serving my mission, and so I have always connected her memory with this song.

About the Recording

I made a rough analog multitrack recording of this song in early 1998, which had a faster tempo and more raw guitar sounds. (My nose was a bit stuffy from a head cold that day.)

My Abode – 1998 recording

My Abode-edit
Picture from my sketchbook, 1998.

In about 2005 when I was teaching myself fingerstyle guitar I reworked the fingering and slowed down the tempo, which turned the song into more of a ballad. The new arrangement sounded like it needed a mandolin part, so I bought one and learned to play it for the new recording. (I have been wanting to buy a mandolin for over a decade.) I think you will agree that the new recording beats the old one by a fair distance.

The recording was done on Linux Mint using Ardour and the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. The more I use this setup, the more I like it.