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.

U-Turn

Here is another track for the Lost and Found album.

download: mp3, tablature, lyrics &  guitar chords

U-Turn

words and music by Alan Sanderson

I was lost on a lonely highway
Trying to find my place in the sun
And when I thought I’d found my destination
I found my journey had just begun

I wasn’t looking for adventure, oh no
I was just looking for a place to live my life
But I didn’t know which way was home anymore
I didn’t know which way was home

So I turned myself around
I did a U-turn on that highway
And I said to myself,
“Where are the mountains that I love?
Where’s the smell of rain in the desert?
And where are the people that I call my own?
Where are the people that I call my own?”
So I said to myself,

“I’m gonna find my way back home
I’m gonna find my way back home
I’m gonna find my way back home
I’m gonna find my way back home
Here I come!

“I’m gonna find those mountains that I love
I’m gonna find those people that I call my own
I’m gonna find my way back home”

About the Song

The guitar riff that that this song is based on was literally lost and found. I recorded a sketch of it on a cassette tape and mailed it to my cousin before I left on my mission, and then forgot all about it. After I got home my cousin sent the old recording back to me, and I relearned how to play it. (Thanks, Tom!) Here is that old recording, if you would like to hear it:

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Seeing mountains again! Picture taken on my move from the Midwest to Utah in 2015.

I had a basic idea of what the song was about, and had the second verse mostly worked out years ago, but I made a big breakthrough on the lyrics in 2015 when I was moving back home to Utah after living in the Midwest for 11 years. The first verse came to me at a rest stop west of Indianapolis. The lyrics capture a lot of how I felt at the time, but they don’t quite express how much I felt that I was guided by God to move when and where I did.

About the Recording

This was the quickest recording of the album so far, taking a little over a month from start to finish. I had initially planned for more aggressive drums and an electric lead guitar, but opted for the lighter acoustic sound.

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In my new studio!

The recording was done in Ardour on Linux Mint, in a downstairs room of my house that I recently claimed as my studio. The drums were programmed using Hydrogen, and a brush kit sound bank. This song was my first attempt to use Ardour’s MIDI function, which took a bit of time to figure out, but I am pleased with the result. I used the “rock organ” sound from Christian Collins’ GeneralUser GS soundfont.

About the Album

Only two more songs to record for this album! Here is my goal: Finish it during 2019!

Healing Heart

I just finished another recording for the Lost and Found album, a song called “Healing Heart.”  (Download the mp3)

Look within your own heart
There is always another open part
This burden, can you forgive?
Oh, please forgive!
I sing for you and your healing heart

Deep within my own heart
Can I open another broken part?
This burden, I will forgive
I will forgive!
Oh, pray for me and my healing heart

(Dedicated to the memory of John M. Stang, MD)

About the Recording

This recording is based on a song which I have enjoyed since I first heard it in 2004. It was written by Andrew Vavrek, who recorded a sketch of the song in 2002:

Andrew Vavrek is a major proponent of the Free Music movement, and this song was released under a Creative Commons license which specifically allows redistribution and even derivative works. One of the rules of this license is that derivative works also use the same or equivalent license, and so my recording is licensed using the same. Feel free to share, redistribute, and make derivative works, as long as you give appropriate attribution.

My idea to record this song dates back to about 2007-2008, when I was reflecting on the healing power of forgiveness because of a few personal experiences. I took the liberty of altering the song’s lyrics to reflect this. (For more info, read my story about Dr. Stang.)

This song was next on the list for recording in 2008, but my music hobby was derailed and all but extinguished by my busy schedule that year (and for the next several years). I did program the drum part in 2008 using Hydrogen, and when I decided to recommence work on the recording in 2017 I found the old Hydrogen file in my archive, dusted it off, and used it with only minor changes. This was my first recording which used Ardour from start to finish, and I learned a lot about the software during the recording. The more I use Ardour, the more I like it.

About the Album

While working on this recording I also struggled with a decision about the album, which had the working title of “Moldy Oldies.” This is not the most attractive name, so I toyed with some other options. Eventually it dawned on me that I could simply re-open work on the Lost and Found album, and finish the project I gave up on so long ago.

I reorganized the website to merge “Moldy Oldies” with “Lost and Found” and I have updated the mp3 tags for Alpha, Lullabye, and Omega to reflect this. The track list is currently in flux, but is starting to take shape. Right now it looks something like this:

  1. Alpha
  2. [TBA]
  3. [TBA]
  4. Rising Sun
  5. Something Wrong
  6. [TBA]
  7. Lullabye
  8. [TBA]
  9. [TBA]
  10. Standing On High
  11. Healing Heart
  12. Omega

Check back here for updates or follow the blog to hear new songs as they are finished!

The Unfinished Album

Last night I posted the Lost and Found recordings. I was very disappointed to leave that album unfinished, and at the time it felt like I was walking away from my music forever. Some of the tracks intended for that album have made it on the list for Moldy Oldies, including the song Lost and Found. I thought you might want to hear my sketch recording of that song from 2006:

I also looked through the archives and found a working draft of the track list for the Lost and Found album, last updated in 1/2007:

1. Rising Sun (02/06)
2. Lost and Found
3. Something Wrong (08/05)
4. The Battle of Bull Run
5. Standing on High (06/06)
6. My Abode
7. (But I didn’t know which way was home . . . anymore)
8. The Queen of Public Transportation
9. My Hydroxide
10. Lost. . .
Oasis?
Song of Odysseus?

I will eventually get around to recording all of these, I hope.

Rising Sun

I could be your older brother
I could be your friend
I could be a new beginning
I could be the end

Am I a rising sun?
Or am I setting sun?

I could be your pruning hook
I could be your sword
I could be your humble servant
I could be your lord

Am I a rising sun?
Or am I a setting sun?

I could be a new beginning
I could be the end
I could be a burning sunset
It’s up to you, my friend

“Rising Sun” is a rewrite of an old Claudia song called “Sunshine Sets,” written during the fall of 1996. We played “Sunshine Sets” only once, at our last concert in November 1996 before Jake went to Japan on his mission. In 2005-06 I thought the lyrics needed a rewrite. I was pleased with the recording, especially the guitar parts. The vocal arrangement was influenced by Toad the Wet Sprocket, and the drums were influenced by The Police, as I was listening to both bands a lot at the time. The original composition was heavily influenced by The Cure (especially the guitar parts from High and Mint Car, which were favorites at the time but I have a hard time listening to these songs now). My one regret about the song is that I didn’t mix the bass high enough in the final version, and I couldn’t go back and fix it because I lost the source files for the song when my backup disc failed.

These lyrics were written in 2005-06 during a turbulent political time when many people in both parties were unhappy with the trajectory of government. The song is based on a famous quote from Benjamin Franklin at the United States Constitutional Convention.

Something Wrong

I haven’t seen her for a while
I used to see her every day
And when I ask, “What has happened to her?”
I can’t get anyone to say

Is there something wrong with Alyson?
Or is there something wrong with me?

And I was troubled at her leaving
I thought that I had caused her shame
And the way that people wouldn’t speak about it …
I would have taken all the blame

Is there something wrong with Alyson?
Or is there something wrong with me?

Did you know that I loved her?

“Something Wrong” was written in 1997-98 about a high school friend of mine that suddenly disappeared from school. After a few days I realized that other people seemed to know where she was, but they wouldn’t tell me. It turned out that she was in a psychiatric hospital for a few weeks due to a psychotic episode. When she eventually came back to school she even showed me some of her delusional writings. I love this recording, and consider it to be one of the best I have ever made.

Standing on High

Standing here on High
Wishing that the rain would leave me dry
As it’s falling from the sky
And I wait …
And I hope I won’t be late

Standing on High

There’s a memory here
I can feel it near
Is it hope or is it fear?
Oh, no! We won’t give up this fight
We’ll make it through the night
And someday, whatever happens, it’s gonna be alright

Standing on High

Will you meet me here?
I’ll meet you here on High Street

“Standing on High” was about a tragedy which happened in my medical school class. One of my classmates disappeared and has never been found to this day. He was last seen at a bar on High Street the night before he was to go on a spring break vacation. I pieced this together from a few musical scraps I had been working on that year. The first verse was originally about standing at a bus stop (on High Street) in the rain on my way to school. The chorus guitar part was adapted from a beautiful riff written by my friend Joseph Wecker. The second verse borrows a chord progression from an old Claudia song called “Lint in my Pocket.” The chorus was influenced by John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High,” Radiohead’s “High and Dry,” and John Mayer’s “Not Myself.” This is the final arrangement of a recording that went through a few iterations, and I was pleased with the final result.