52 Weeks, 52 Songs: Looking back on “A Song A Week”

I thought I’d spend some time to reflect on my songwriting journey over the past year in this post. (Warning: It’s going to be a long one so please bear with me :))

Honestly, I am still in shock over how fast the 52 weeks went by. Scrolling through my previous entries, I ask myself sometimes – did I really write all this?

Now, I’m not the kind of guy who talks about his feelings that much (I’d rather much sing about them ;)), but this blog has become more than a place for my music. It is my personal diary, and that’s saying a lot because I have never kept one. Every week, I’ve written about the inspiration behind each song, and shared a little of my life in the process. Putting your own music on the world wide web, baring your soul with each song… it exposes you to both the compliments and the barbs. It takes getting used to.

“Songwriting is a stream of creation that flows faster and stronger the more you give”

… That was what I wrote on 3 May 2010, the day I started this project – and I’ve found it to be true.

I’ve always felt a burning desire to express myself through songwriting, but because of work and other commitments, I knew I could never do enough unless I threw myself entirely into it.

It’s funny how life gives you what you wish for.

Last year, I lost my job, thanks to the financial crisis. Lo and behold, right in front of me was a real opportunity to launch myself into what I was truly passionate about – with the blessings of my wife of course, without whom I never could have done this.

And so for the past year, songwriting became my life. I lived and breathed it. One song every week, for one whole year. Frankly, I didn’t know how I was going to do it; I only knew I had to compose something by midnight every Sunday.

The only thing I could do was to keep going at it, week after week. I kept my eyes, ears and heart open. I tuned in to the smallest details; everything around me became a potential song idea: a newspaper article, an overheard conversation, the book I was reading, even my dreams at night…

After several weeks had passed, I realised that I had unconsciously developed a system of sorts. It went something like this: brainstorm an idea, write the lyrics, put them into music. I’d divide my week into writing days and recording days. Generally, I’d spend the early part of the week crafting the lyrics and music, and the weekend recording the video. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

Far from it.

Coming up with ideas was a big challenge, of course. Some people say you can’t force an idea out, no matter how hard you try. You have to wait for inspiration to hit. While that’s true to some extent, I firmly believe that being disciplined and consistent about creativity stimulates us to do more good work at a faster rate. That is, the more you create, the faster the flow of new ideas, and the better and quicker you become at creating something. That’s one thing I’ve learnt from this project.

Ideas aside, the biggest stumbling block I faced in this entire journey was – me.

… You see, I had one entire week to devote to a song, but I’d find myself getting distracted easily, going online, eyeballing my Facebook page, obsessing over how many (or few) views I was getting on YouTube. I had to constantly push myself, no, discipline myself to write.

Always, I heaved a sigh of relief by the time Sunday came and I had a new song uploaded. Then, I’d worry about the next song, and the one after that. Often, I’d find myself crippled by self-doubt… was I doing the right thing? Was I wasting my time chasing a silly dream instead of settling down and looking for a job? These were the demons that I battled, day-in, day-out.

Isn’t that the way with any dream, any creative endeavour? Perhaps, but I know I needed a lot of encouragement. My wife was a major inspiration to me of course. I also drew strength from the positive comments I received from complete strangers about my songs. Lastly, I believed wholeheartedly in my music – and I still do.

All this kept me going.

As the weeks went by, I began to pay more attention to the videos themselves. Before this, a passable recording was all I needed. I didn’t really care much about how I looked, whether the audio levels were too soft, or if the lighting was bright enough. I began to realise that on a platform like YouTube, I was competing with songwriters who were churning out professional-sounding recordings and classy-looking videos all the time. I certainly could do a lot more.

Thankfully, I had a pretty decent audio/video recorder – the Zoom Q3, which was able to give me good sound levels, and pretty okay video quality.

I experimented with different camera positions and settings. I remember once placing the device at a corner of my room to allow sound to bounce off the walls. I hoped that it would create a natural reverb, but I felt the difference was not noticeable in the end. So much for that.

At another point, a friend told me he was tired of watching the same old room in the background. So If you check out some of my later videos, you’ll see a completely black background, which I created by stringing a black cloth behind me to hide the mess. To add some variety, I also experimented with photo and lyric slide shows in my videos.

Yes, slowly but surely, I was writing one song every week. But if you ask me now whether I have a formula for writing a song – I’d say no.

… Sometimes, I’d finish a song in an hour. Other times, I’d spend days crafting the lyrics. It always varied. And do the lyrics or melody come first? It really depends. I often started with the title, which gave me the general theme of the song, and then went on to write the lyrics, coupled with a rough melody which I would fine-tune once I had the lyrical structure in place. That was one approach.

However, my recent collaborations with Jaye Foo were done using an entirely different method. Jaye would come up with a basic chord progression – we would “feel” the rhythm and the music, and think of the kind of song we wanted it to become. Then, I would focus on developing the lyrics and let him expand on his chords. After that, we’d finalise the lyrics and chords; and finally, sing countless melodies out loud until we heard something we liked.

Like my dad always says, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

If you look at the past 14 or so weeks of my project, you’ll find that they’ve been collaborations.

… I’m thankful that towards the end of my journey, I found a fellow songwriter to come along with me. The Glad Stones was born early this year, and I’ve been nothing short of stunned by the feedback we’ve received.

Interestingly enough, we both initially felt that our styles were worlds apart. When we tried writing songs, however, it just worked out. It’s been a blessing to have such a hardworking and talented songwriting buddy, especially on the last leg of my journey, when I felt that it was getting harder and harder to produce fresh material. Plus, with Jaye’s home studio, we were able to produce videos that not only sounded good, but were entertaining as well!

I’m tremendously grateful for the many high points of my journey, one of them being my first solo showcase at the Esplanade Library in August last year. I was really encouraged by how it went and the audience turnout was larger than I expected. The show was such a confidence-booster for me; after that I continued to perform whenever I could.

My performance at TAB early this year, as well as the gigs at the Maestro Acoustic Lounge, were some of the ones I enjoyed tremendously. (In fact, it was at my second Maestro gig that I met Jaye, who performed immediately after me.)

So, what’s next?

Well, Jaye and I will be working on a Glad Stones’ album! It will include some of the songs we’ve written together, plus others that both of us have written individually. I’ll keep everyone posted on our progress in the weeks to come.

We’ll continue to write new songs and upload videos on YouTube, that’s for sure. We’re even planning some outdoor shoots, so look out for that on our channel!

“A Song A Week” has well and truly come to an end.

Looking back, I have no regrets whatsoever. I’m glad I did it. I’ve met so many people on this journey, and learnt so much from it. It’s a cliche to say that this is only the beginning, but it is.

Thank you for being a part of it, and please continue to walk with me.


Upcoming gig – The Glad Stones @ Scape 30 April 2011

We’ve entertained you on YouTube. Now, you can watch us live.

The Glad Stones and rapper BBS will be performing this Saturday @ Scape Mall in Orchard Road, as part of the Maestro Guitars Be Heard Project. We’ll be playing some of our best original songs and our favourite covers. One set only. If you’ve been following us on YouTube and like our style, please come! We’d love to meet you 🙂

The show starts at 4pm with a couple of other great acts, so do come early for an entire afternoon of good music!

When: Saturday, 30 April 2011, 4pm onwards
Where: Maestro Acoustic Lounge @ Scape Mall, Orchard Road

Week 38 – Rainbows And Butterflies

This song is our second collaborative effort called “Rainbows And Butterflies”. It’s about how we all need to be careful when we take things at face value.

We decided to try something new this time. Jaye’s into rap and hip-hop, so I asked him if he could write a rap verse for this song, and he came up with two! I think this gives an added dimension to the song, a blending of two different styles… something I’d like to call “acoustic-rap” 😉

Like our previous video, we recorded at the Maestro Acoustic Lounge. The song’s structure is slightly complicated, and after maybe 10 takes we got tired and started messing up more and more haha… but that’s the nature of a live recording, isn’t it?

In the end, we went with a much earlier take, which we thought was okay, but could be a lot better 😉 Anyway, here goes. Let us know if you like it!

Rainbows And Butterflies

Pretty, pretty little things walking down the street
Sweet perfume and big wide eyes meet
And you tingle from your head to your feet
You wanna be in their perfect lil lives

Cause rainbows and butterflies
Are there to catch your eyes
Cause rainbows and butterflies
Don’t be fooled by their disguise

It’s the way you be looking at me like (My oh my)
Mystical Magical hips swaying (Side to side)
Thinking about the jazz from our past (It didn’t last)
Better forget about it (It’s all turned to dust)

Pretty, pretty little things walking down the street
Sweet perfume and big wide eyes meet
And you tingle from your head to your feet
You wanna be in their perfect lil lives

Cause rainbows and butterflies
Are there to catch your eyes
Cause rainbows and butterflies
Don’t be fooled by their disguise

Cause they’ll getcha
You better watcha

Hey life ain’t supposed to be all (Glitter and glam)
Falling in love and losing your mind go (Hand in hand)
But is she for real (I don’t know)
Maybe just another high heeled girl (Oh I don’t know)

Pretty, pretty little things walking down the street
Sweet perfume and big wide eyes meet
And you tingle from your head to your feet
You wanna be in their perfect lil lives

Cause rainbows and butterflies
Are there to catch your eyes
Cause rainbows and butterflies
Don’t be fooled by their disguise

Cause they’ll getcha
You better watcha

Week 37 – Epiphany

This song is my first collaboration with a fellow singer-songwriter. His name is Jaye Foo, a Singaporean as well. His style of music reminds me a lot of Jason Mraz, very rhythmic and catchy. He’s quite into rap and hip-hop too. (You can check out Jaye’s site here.)

We met at the Maestro open mic at Scape Mall last August. His slot was just after mine and we said hi and all that. Then, we bumped into each other again when I was working at Scape, and got to talking about our music… and we thought yeah, let’s jam together and see what we come up with.

Both of us have quite different styles (Jaye says my style is very “flowing”), and I think interesting things are bound to happen when two different musical styles get together.

Do check out our song “Epiphany” – all about finding one’s destiny in life. More to come! 🙂

Music and Lyrics by Jaye Foo and Marcel Lee Pereira, 13 Jan, 2011

I wander like a kite
Tossed by the careless wind
No string to tie me down
No hands to pull me in
I kissed the galaxy
And wished a star for me
A light upon my way
That I will find my destiny

You asked for me
Now I’m ready to be singing
To the universe
And beyond
And beyond
So wouldcha come with me
And getcha Epiphany

Look at how I fly
A bird who’s found it’s wings
I follow my own path
I do not fear a thing
I kissed the galaxy
And wished a star for me
A light upon my way
To take me to my destiny

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

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


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

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

Save the date! Aug 7 and Aug 15

Hi there, this is just a quick post to remind everyone of my two upcoming shows!

The first is happening tomorrow (Aug 7), 3.30pm, at the Maestro Acoustic Lounge located at the new *Scape Mall in Orchard Road, near Orchard Cineleisure.

And next Sunday (Aug 15), also at 3.30pm, I’ll be playing at the Library@Esplanade. More details here and in the poster below, courtesy of the National Library Board.

Singer-songwriter Marcel Lee Pereira performs at the Library@Esplanade on Aug 15, 2010, in his first-ever solo showcase.