Week 31 – Bad Stuff Got You Good

This song initially started with the title “Don’t Let The Bad Stuff Get You Good”, and I built the verses from the phrase.

I wanted to play on the words “bad” and “good”. “Get you good” can mean someone’s going to beat you up, as in: “You’d better watch out, I’m gonna get you good!”; Or it can also mean someone wants you real bad, as in Shania Twain’s song “I’m Gonna Getcha Good.” What I wanted to do was to encourage people not let the bad things in life get them down, and say it in a slightly unconventional way.

I finished up what was to be the first draft of the song, and played it for Carol. (She’s always the first one to hear a song I’ve written ;))

She didn’t really like it. There were too many “ohhhs” in the middle, and the verses were repetitive, she said. And she also suggested I change the title to make it “less obvious”. I agreed with her. Plus, the initial version was about 5 minutes long and could do with some tightening.

The next day, I spent the entire afternoon doing major rewrites. I made the verses less repetitive and cut down the breaks between each line to make the verses flow better. I also changed the title to “Bad Stuff Got You Good”. I felt it was more punchy, less obvious, and still got the message across.

Here’s the final result:

Bad Stuff Got You Good
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 2 Dec 2010

Rain clouds comin’ in too fast
A shroud of sadness that never rests
Find a shelter on your windswept way
Winter’s troubles fade in May

Put love and hope on your speed dial
They’re trying to get to you, my child
Like birds of spring singing at your door
Let them in, don’t cry no more

CHORUS
Oh… when the bad stuff got you good
Never worry
More than you should

God won’t give you what you can’t take
Won’t break the promises he’s made
When all else fails you’ve got me, don’t forget
I’ll do my best to pick up the slack

CHORUS
Oh… when the bad stuff got you good
Never worry
More than you should

BRIDGE
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Like you haven’t got enough
To care about

So smile for me and steal my breath away
You’re amazing and I want you to stay
We can face each day as it comes
What good is life without the sun

CHORUS
Oh… when the bad stuff got you good
Never worry
More than you should

Week 29 – Be A Duck

I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase “like water off a duck’s back”, which basically means something has no effect on you, like when insults are hurled at you and you don’t feel even the least bit annoyed.

Of course, when it comes to hurtful words, they can – and usually do – hurt…

A while ago, I was trying to console Carol about something someone said to upset her; and to cut a long story short, I told her to “be a duck” – let the words roll off your back. They are just words after all.

This week, which was a very long and trying week for the two of us, I guess I felt the need to be a duck myself, and ignore some of the things people were saying to me.

So… this song is all about being a duck. Next time, if you know somebody who’s feeling down because of criticism, tell ’em to be a duck too 🙂

By the way, if you think you heard me sing the F-word, you heard right. Completely intentional – and the first time I’ve used an expletive in a song.

I actually think this song should be called “Be A Duck (Don’t Give A F**k)”, but I’ll stick with the current one for now 😉

Be A Duck
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 19 Nov 2010

Try not to think about
The silly things that people say
A thunderstorm of cruel words
Can ruin a sunny day
The cold chills fill your soul
And nag you as you pray
But they’re not true
I know you

Look the face in the mirror
Straight in the eye
Say hi, give a smile
It’s worth a try

Chorus
Don’t drown yourself
In whining over your bad luck
Be a duck, be a duck, be a da da da…
Shrug the water off your back
Don’t give a fuck, yeah

Words, they are just letters
Stacked together in a made up fact
And the labels stuck on you
Are not stuck with superglue
Like post-it notes on a tree
They soon fall away
Relax
You’re okay

Look the face in the mirror
Straight in the eye
Say hi, give a smile
It’s worth a try

Chorus
Don’t drown yourself
In whining over your bad luck
Be a duck, be a duck, be a da da da…
Shrug the water off your back
Don’t give a fuck, yeah

It’s easy to stumble
When you’re in doubt
Stand on a cloud
That’s allowed

Week 26 – Save Me (A Song of Hope)

Recently, the John Lennon Songwriting Contest announced a special competition in honour of Lennon’s 70th Birthday.

They sent out a call for songwriters to submit songs of peace, love, political activism and free expression, all in the spirit of the man himself. What’s more, the winner will be selected by none other than Yoko Ono!

I just knew I had to take part, despite the US$30 entrance fee.

I spent a bit more time and effort on this song than I usually do. I was trying to think of a message that would be true to the spirit of John Lennon, something that called for change but was not overtly preachy.

I also wanted to record it properly at home (with the limited equipment I have) instead of doing my usual video of me and the guitar. What I did was record the guitar track on Garageband, and add some drum loops and effects. Then I recorded my voice over the track and mixed everything together on Cubase.

I decided to write from the point of view of the people who needed us, and the words “save me” came to my mind. My intent was not for the song to be a forlorn cry for help, but rather a rallying call by the oppressed to you and me, the people who are able and willing to help them.

This song is a cry of hope, and my hope is that it will inspire people out there to do something for the less fortunate among them.

Save Me
Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 2010

I am the one who sleeps on the streets
I am the one who has nothing to eat
I am the prisoner of my neighbour’s hate
I am here because my skin seals my fate

I am the one who cannot use my eyes
I am the one who’s never learnt to write
I am sent to war for a stranger’s sins
I am down but hope lives within

Chorus
Save me
Save me
Give me something to believe
Hang a star up there for me

You are the one who can heal my heart
Only you can get me back on my feet
You hold my hand, I feel your love
Teaching me how to forget and forgive

Chorus
Save me
Save me
Give me something to believe
Hang a star up there for me

Bridge
Why do I see violence
Why do I shed tears
No I won’t sit in silence
I won’t give in to fears
Stop breathing in possessions
They make you lose direction
Fill your wallets with pictures
Instead of notes
I am a friend and not a foe

Chorus
Save me
Save me
Give me something to believe
Hang a star up there for me

Against all odds: Musicians who truly inspire

Yesterday, I came across someone that truly humbled and inspired me.

His name is Liu Wei, a 23-year-old Chinese man who lost both his arms in an accident when he was only 10. He plays the piano with his toes – yes, his toes! – and he made headlines when he won the “China’s Got Talent” competition on Sunday for his rendition of James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful”.

I’ve linked the video of his performance below. It’s in Chinese, but there is an English summary on YouTube.

What struck me was Liu’s determination and his fighting spirit. He started learning the piano at 19, and four years later, he can play pieces that even I with two hands can’t manage. (The only thing I can do with my toes is pick up things on the floor when I’m too lazy to bend down!)

Watching Liu perform, I could see the immense concentration on his face as he guided his feet across the keys. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to play the piano this way, but Liu does it with so much grace and determination. And at the end of the video, he says to the judges: “At least, I have a pair of perfect legs.” Wow.

He dreamt of becoming a musician, and he did. Truly amazing. My hat goes off to him.

It brought to mind another musician whom I heard about only earlier this year: Tony Melendez, a singer and songwriter who plays the guitar with his toes.

According to his biography, Tony, a Nicaraguan American, was born without arms because of the effects of thalidomide, a drug his mother was prescribed to treat her morning sickness.

Despite that, Tony became an accomplished guitarist in church, and rose to fame in 1987 when he sang and played for Pope John Paul II during the Pontiff’s visit to Los Angeles.

In the video below, Tony recollects that day. It was a really touching moment when, straight after Tony’s performance, the Pope himself climbed into the audience to embrace Tony and give him a kiss.

Tony and his band play actively today. (For the record, the band is called the “Toe Jam Band”!)

In all seriousness, though, Liu and Tony are both truly a testament to what we can accomplish if we give our heart and soul to our dreams.

Sometimes, able-bodied people like you and me take for granted the blessings we’ve been given. Liu and Tony, faced with such tremendous odds, overcame them – and more.

Like them, we should never lose sight of our dreams. No mountain is too high to conquer, once our eyes are firmly set on the summit.

Week 20 – It’s A New Life

As most of you know, I left the working world in April this year and decided to plunge full-time into songwriting.

I think it’s too early to tell if this has been a success or not, but anyway, after five months of staying at home, I began to feel the effects (and I believe it’s something that many people who are out of a job go through). My mind and body slowed down, I started to lose touch with the world in general, my social life plummeted… I felt like quite a bum, really.

Yes, I was making headway with my songwriting, devoting more time to music, writing one song a week, performing more, gaining confidence. All of this was very heartening to me.

Then there were the realities of life, expenses, bills, you know what I mean. Initially, I tried to get a permanent paid gig for my band, Raised On Radio. I made cold calls to bars and other places to see if they’d like some ‘live’ entertainment. So far, I’ve had little luck. I could see the strain of supporting me take its toll on Carol. It broke my heart.

So, I made a decision. This week, I opened a new chapter in my life.

I’ve started working part-time at Maestro Guitars, a homegrown guitar manufacturer. (Yes, the same guys that have been hosting the open mic performances at their outlet in *Scape Mall.)

I received an email from them one day looking for part-timers, and after thinking about it for a while, decided to send in my resume. To cut a long story short, I started training this week. (I have zero retail experience, mind you, so it’s been quite challenging!)

From next week onwards I’ll be stationed at any of their four outlets.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still dead serious about my dreams, taking my songs to the next level, and eventually cutting an album, God-willing. Of course, the song-a-week project will continue.

The good part about working in a guitar shop is that I get to meet all sorts of people, and I get to learn all sorts of things, like the different kinds of guitar strings available, what kind of sound different woods produce, and other things like pickups, accessories, and all the cool stuff in the world of guitars – stuff I’d never get a chance to learn about otherwise.

I mean, I can play and all but I’ve never been one to get into the nitty-gritty of my instrument. I’m just happy to buy whatever strings are available, you see… So, yep this is a fantastic learning opportunity for me.

This week’s song is all about new beginnings:

It’s A New Life
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 18 Sept, 2010

It’s a beautiful thing when you smell the rain
And a flower on a branch gets swept away
A thought springs from a little seed
From nothingness comes a new belief

Blazing a way with nothing but desire
Don’t know my destination but at least I’m tryin’
GPS won’t lead me to the land of my dreams
And the path that I’m takin’ ain’t nothing like it seems

Chorus
It’s a new life
It’s a new life
It’s a do something different kinda day
It’s a whole new point of view
And I won’t let it slip away

It’s getting real hot under the collar
If we can’t stand the pain then why the hell bother
Take your old pictures to the edge of the cliff
Tear ’em up and begin to live

Chorus

Bridge
I’m waking up, waking up to
A new reality
Another face in the mirror
Staring right back at me
Feeling like my feet are way too small
Before we can fly, we have to crawl

Chorus
It’s a new life
It’s a new life
It’s a do something different kinda day
It’s a whole new point of view
And I won’t let it slip away

Week 18 – With Both My Hands

There’s a Nigerian proverb that goes: “Hold a true friend with both your hands”. I think it’s a lovely saying, and when I came across it while looking for ideas for my song this week, I knew I just had to write something based on it.

A pair of hands is a very powerful image, don’t you think? They invoke love, support, comfort, friendship, and all sorts of positive things. When you pray over someone, you stretch out both your hands over them.

Carol mentioned this song is a departure from my usual style, and I agree. It’s spiritual, and I make several Christian references in the lyrics. Something I don’t usually do, if you’ve been following my songwriting so far.

I think it’s because Corrinne May’s recent performance rubbed off on me a little. Her spirituality and faith inspired me to write this song, really.

Lyrics below. Comments are welcome!

With Both My Hands
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 3 Sept, 2010

Don’t go anywhere, I’m coming over now
I heard all about it, and I know you’re feeling down
I will be with you in your hour of need
When everything around you has crumbled to your feet

Chorus
With both my hands
I will bless you
For you I will lift them up in prayer
I will hold you
With both my hands
Wash your feet and comb your hair

Sit back for a while, let me do all your  dishes
Put on a comedy, relax in your favourite chair
Start looking forward to building new bridges
Put your worries in heaven’s care

Chorus
With both my hands
I will bless you
For you I will lift them up in prayer
I will hold you
With both my hands
Wash your feet and comb your hair

Bridge
It’s the least I can do
The least I can do
To protect and defend you
With both my hands, with both my hands

Chorus
With both my hands
I will bless you
For you I will lift them up in prayer
I will hold you
With both my hands
Wash your feet and comb your hair

Week 16 – This Little Earth Is All I’ve Got

This Little Earth Is All I've Got

Visit the link and click Like to vote for my song!

This week, I decided to throw my hat into the ring and take part in a nationwide songwriting competition all about going green. It’s called the “Eco Music Challenge” and is organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA), the government body that oversees environmental issues on our sunny island.

Anyway, I was on the fence about this competition because I wasn’t sure I could pull off a “green” song without sounding too cheesy or preachy. Then, I thought, shouldn’t I be challenging myself to write songs about any topic under the sun?

So I did.

This song really is my wish for the planet – that people all over the world will take our environment more seriously, and begin to make changes in their lives. We only have one Earth to call home, and I hope that this will inspire people to be more eco-friendly.

No matter how small the change, it still counts.

I wanted to produce something more than my usual YouTube videos, so I brought out my makeshift (and under-utilised) home recording equipment, and with the Garageband and Cubase LE 4 softwares, I put the song together. I know it’s not the most professional-sounding track, but hey, I tried!

Then, using iMovie, some of my own pictures and others I got from the internet, I did a simple slide show to accompany the song.

So if you dig what I have to say, please click the “Like” button on this link. Lyrics below.

Thanks for the support!

This Little Earth Is All I’ve Got
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 18 Aug, 2010

Verse 1
The world is such a wondrous place
Filled with all my favourite things
Like raindrops falling on my face
And all the beauty nature brings

Verse 2
But I see people doing as they please
Taking what they want, not what they need
Killing the trees, the land and the seas
Breaking my heart as I watch them bleed

Won’t they spare a thought for me?

Chorus
This little Earth is all I’ve got
This little Earth is all I’ve got

Verse 3
I may be on a tiny isle
Or in a city far away
But I will walk that extra mile
I know I have a part to play

Verse 4
I’m gonna change the way I live
For our dear planet so fine
So to my children I can give
A world as wonderful as mine

So come and join me as I sing

Chorus
This little Earth is all we’ve got
This little Earth is all we’ve got

Bridge
What are we waiting for?
From California to Singapore
The time has come to take a stand
While the future is still in our hands

Chorus
This little Earth is all we’ve got
This little Earth is all we’ve got

This little Earth is all I’ve got
This little Earth is all I’ve got

Week 4 – Why Wait For Life

I found this week’s song especially challenging.

My good friend Jeremy, who’s the keyboardist of my band, and the founder of the Songcraft Songwriting Circle, organised the inaugural “Songwriting Idol” contest yesterday. He asked me to sign up, and of course I did.

What made this contest interesting was that we had to write a song to fit the theme “Inspirational”. This was the brief given to us two weeks before the contest: “You are to write a song that has inspirational meaning. It could be a song that encourages people, to enthuse them towards a good cause, to promote peace, unity and harmony, or to promote change in the world.”

I feel it is so hard to write “inspirational” lyrics that don’t come across as clichéd and cheesy. I tried, I really did. I spent two afternoons with my guitar trying to write, but nothing came.

Then, on the day before the event, inspiration finally struck. I thought about all the people I knew who wanted to make a change in their lives, but were always waiting for the right time to do it. They were always resigned to their situation; they never believed they could be any different. And I thought of my own obstacles, doubts and challenges I battle every day in doing what I’m doing now. Then I realised that if I had waited for the stars to align, I might always be doing just that – waiting.

So if you want to write that book, pick up a new hobby, get that degree, visit the places you’ve never seen, or do something new, now is as good a time as any.

This song is for you. I hope it will inspire you to start living.

Why Wait For Life
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 26 May, 2010

Can you laugh
Like a child
Can you run like the wind
Is in your stride
And dance, with your eyes closed
And not feel shy

Won’t you cry
If you feel like crying
Go where the wind of change
Is blowing
And if it feels right, then take flight
Why wait for life

Chorus
Why wait for life to begin
When it’s right outside your door
Why wait for life to begin
Time wears thin, then it’s no more

So sing
While your music’s still inside
Don’t let your dreams
And fear collide
The sun doesn’t need
Your permission to rise
You don’t need mine

Chorus
Why wait for life to begin
When it’s right outside your door
Why wait for life to begin
Time wears thin, then it’s no more

And if it feels right, then take flight
Why wait for life

Chorus
Why wait for life to begin
When it’s right outside your door
Why wait for life to begin
Time wears thin, then it’s no more
Time wears thin, then it’s no more

***

P.S. If anyone out there’s interested in attending or taking part in the “Songwriting Idol” series, I believe it’s going to be held at the Library@Esplanade once every two months. The next one should be in July. Stay tuned!