Hangin’ By A Thread (Or how we tried to write a song for the environment)

In this post, I’d like to share a little about how my band, “The Glad Stones” came up with an original song about the environment. But before that, you can take a listen to it in the video above 🙂

Writing a song about “green” issues is challenging. I say that because it’s so difficult to be fresh and original when your message is usually the same as everyone else’s.

I mean, how many times can people listen to a song about the Earth dying without tuning out, right? You really need to stand out from the crowd.

So, when Singapore’s National Environment Agency launched the second season of its Eco Music Challenge, a songwriting competition for aspiring composers to express their love for Mother Earth – and spread the Green message far and wide –  Jaye and I took some time to decide on whether to take part or not.

After all, both of us sent in separate entries for the first season last year, and neither of us won, so we wondered if we should do it all over again.

I must add, however, that the contest is quite a novel way to get people engaged with such issues, through the powerful medium of music. As a songwriter myself, I appreciate the fact that my government is including original music as part of its environmental campaign.

Finally, we decided to take part again, as a band this time.

I’ll go into that in a bit, but as I was saying earlier, it is pretty darn hard to write a brand new song about saving the planet…

That’s why I really like the song “I Need To Wake Up” by Melissa Etheridge, which she wrote for Al Gore’s famous environmental documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”. It was nominated for the “Best Song Written for a Motion Picture” Grammy in 2007. Take a listen to it below:

When I first heard it, I was moved because it spoke to me as a person. It was insistent without being preachy; it did not go into the details about what I already knew was going on in this world; it did not have the word “green” in it at all.

Instead, it appealed to a deeper sense of responsibility, a personal responsibility to change. That’s something I thought was fresh and unique.

Taking a leaf out of Melissa Etheridge’s masterpiece, we deliberately chose not to write an overtly environmental song.

Instead we wrote a love song, yes a love song – from the perspective of Mother Earth herself.

“Hangin’ By A Thread” is all about love’s ingratitude. A woman has given everything to the one she loves, but all she has gotten is hurt. She is empty.

Sound familiar? Yes, it’s a painful experience many of us can relate to.

And that became the premise of our song: Mother Earth pleading to us.

We are the ones she loves and she has nothing left for us to take from her. We’ve taken it all, and more. She’s hanging by a thread, and yet she’s holding out, hoping, knowing that there’s still time if we change our ways – now.

If you put yourself in Mother Earth’s shoes as you listen to the song, you’d come a lot closer to feeling her pain…

We chose the lovely Singapore Botanic Gardens to shoot our video. (One of the many “green” enclaves on our little island.)

In case you’re wondering how we did the outdoor shoot, both of us wore wireless clip-on microphones, which fed both our vocals and guitars directly to a receiver connected to Jaye’s MacBook. Everything was recorded in Logic Pro.

And as for the video, we propped a digital camera on a tripod and just let it roll.

After we were done, we went to a nearby cafe called “Hatched“, opened by a friend of mine, and sat there for a couple of hours mixing the tracks and editing the video.

There, that’s about it. It took us an entire afternoon and we were really pleased with the result!

Oh, and by the way, we performed the song in a single take with a small impromptu audience of kids and their parents who happened to be walking by.

If you look closely, a little girl comes into the frame somewhere after the halfway mark. Isn’t that adorable?

As I said earlier, I sent in an entry to the same competition last year, called “This Little Earth Is All I’ve Got”. You can check it out here:

I tried to write from the perspective of a child telling us that Earth is the only place he has, so please take care of it. I admit, however, that I was guilty of going into the above-mentioned descriptions of the planet dying, etc.

Plus, I did a slightly-cheesy picture slide show to go with the lyrics, and put it on YouTube.

Well, it didn’t get into the finals, but the video has over 10,000 views now!

Let’s see if the new song does any better…

So please, please, please visit the Eco Music Challenge 2011 submissions page and click “like” on our song, “Hangin’ By A Thread”!

(You’ll need to scroll through the entries to find our song, because there isn’t a way to link directly to it, but do listen to the other songs too!)

Week 25 – Haze Gets In My Eyes

I wrote the lyrics on Thursday as a joke actually, because the haze was so bad it was – quite literally – getting into my eyes.

So I sat down, banged something out in about 10 minutes, and posted it here. I didn’t want to record anything at first, but a friend suggested I put a video on YouTube, so I thought what the heck.

This is my first parody, and I wrote it because I was so sick of this environmental problem which keeps coming back year after year, and nothing seems to be done about it.

If you want to know what a parody is, check out Weird Al Yankovic, one of the world’s most notable parodists of pop music.

I’m sure you can tell I used a Karaoke backing track from the actual Platters’ song, which is why all the backup vocals are completely off. What I did was record my vocals over the track and mix them together using Cubase. Then I just pulled some pictures from the internet and made the video with iMovie.

Hope it’ll brighten up those hazy days!

Haze Gets In My Eyes

(Sung to the tune of The Platters’ classic)

They asked me how I knew
The air was grey and blue
Oh, I of course replied
100 PSI cannot be denied

Hey, can’t you see the skies
You farmers are blind
Oh, when the land’s on fire
You must realize
Haze gets in my eyes

So they chaffed me and they gaily laughed
To think I could stop them burnin’
Still today, the cops are M.I.A
And my lungs are churnin’

Now, I can’t go outside
Tears I cannot hide
Oh, so at home I’ll stay
Till their lovely flames die
Haze gets in my eyes
Haze gets in my eyes

***

P.S. If I’ve ruffled any feathers by using the music or pictures without permission, this is meant only as a joke and not intended for commercial use.

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