Week 40 – Dancing In The Storm

Somehow, amidst the festivities of the Lunar New Year week, I managed to write something… (Frankly, it was one of those weeks where I thought I wasn’t going to make it – so a big sigh of relief!)

This song was inspired by the spell of intense rain over Singapore just before Chinese New Year. For something like three days in a row, heavy rains and winds swept down upon us without any signs of stopping. Driving home one night, the roads were so wet that I couldn’t tell if I was in the right lane or not. All I could see were the reflections of street lamps on the waterlogged road.

“I’m driving on a road of mirrors”, I thought to myself – and that line was how I began the song.

You’ll notice that there isn’t really a chorus, just four stanzas telling a story, which I’ll leave you to listen to right now…

Dancing In The Storm
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 4 Feb 2011

Walking on a road of mirrors, we shiver as the rain pours down
We slip, we slide, we try to hide somewhere safe and warm
But the sky is like a waterfall, I’m glad I’m not alone
The crumblin’ world that scares us all don’t matter anymore

We are soaked right through the skin, and chilled to the bone
Yeah we don’t care, won’t care at all, no we won’t
Cradled by the heat of love, we wait till dawn
I take your hand and we begin dancing in the storm
Dancing in the storm

Arm in arm we watch the sun breaking through the mist
Gentle rays of gold and yellow touch us as we kiss
All is bold and new and true as the darkness retreats
Our love it stays as strong as the ground beneath our feet

Today we laugh at the rain, we laugh at the rain
We walk in the sun, we run with the wind
If the nights are long and things go wrong
That’s when I’ll take your hand and we’ll begin dancing in the storm
Dancing in the storm

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Week 39 – All Grown Up

As you can probably tell from the title, this is a song about growing up… or growing pains if you will.

It’s something we all have to do at some point. Part of it involves getting older, which none of us can help, and the other part involves learning to face up to the realities of life. (I’m sure you know of some people who, as they get older, refuse to “grow up”.)

As a guy who’s just gotten married, and who’s begun the thirtieth decade of his life, the feeling that I need to grow up has never been stronger. And yet, at this very moment, I’m writing a song about it. A walking contradiction perhaps?

Yes, some people might think I’m crazy, refusing to get real and focus on a career.

But I don’t think I have my head in the clouds at all, and both my feet are firmly on the ground. I’m living my dream, pushing myself as a songwriter, and as determined as I was when I first started this project, to launch my album.

I feel that in some ways, growing up involves knowing what you want in your life, and then going ahead and doing it. This is what I want to do, and boy, am I doing it.

Well, enough of that. I’ll leave you to form your own conclusions.

About the song itself… I stuck to really simple chords for this one. The intro is C Am Em (Capo 3), and I did a little riff on the Em chord, which I like. Also, I used a basic verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure – three verses, three choruses, no fancy bridges or anything. I just felt the need for simplicity I guess.

And on a separate note, notice the black background? I’ve received some feedback about my earlier videos that the room in the background was too messy, so I decided to hang some black cloth I got from Ikea across a bamboo pole to create a backdrop of sorts. I think it worked pretty well! No more messy clothes (if you’ve seen my other videos) hehe…

All Grown Up
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 26 Jan, 2011

All grown up, and wishing I could turn back the clock
To a time when I could do anything
When the road ahead was wide and free
And twists and turns weren’t that big a deal

CHORUS
The clouds roll by too fast
Sunshine never seems to last
My head doesn’t fit my heart
When I’m all grown up, all grown up

All grown up, gone are the days of learning to walk
Now life is real and bittersweet
I let go of the dreams that I once dreamed
To be the man that I must be

CHORUS
The clouds roll by too fast
Sunshine never seems to last
My head doesn’t fit my heart
When I’m all grown up, all grown up

Forever young, I cry each time I hear it sung
Thinking about where I came from
Does happiness grow, when will it show
And how can I learn to let go

CHORUS
The clouds roll by too fast
Sunshine never seems to last
My head doesn’t fit my heart
When I’m all grown up, all grown up

Week 33 – Dance, Dance, Dance

Please bear with me for this longish post, I just thought I’d devote more time to the inspiration behind this song 🙂

Lately, I’ve been reading a few books by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, described as one of the world’s greatest living novelists. His books have been translated into many languages, and sold all over the world.

The first of his books I picked up was Sputnik Sweetheart, which got me hooked. Then I read Dance, Dance, Dance, which inspired me to write this song, but I’ll go into that later…

At this very moment, I’m trying to read The Elephant Vanishes and Kafka On The Shore at the same time (because I have to return both books to the library soon!)

Not that I’m rushing through them; I’m reading the books slowly, paying attention to the wonderful way he describes everyday objects.

Take, for example, his description of an unused alley behind the protagonist’s house in The Elephant Vanishes. He ventures inside in search of his missing cat:

“Oh, well, I think, might as well look for that cat. Leave later developments for later. Anyway, it’s a damn sight better to be out and about than to be cooped up indoors waiting for the telephone to ring.

The spring sun cuts clean and crisp through the ceiling of overhanging branches, scattering patches of shadow across the ground. With no wind, the shadows stay glued in place like fateful stains. Telltale stains sure to cling to the earth as it goes around and around the sun for millennia to come.

Shadows flit over my shirt as I pass under the branches, then return to the ground. All is still. You can almost hear each blade of grass respiring in the sunlight. A few small clouds float in the sky, vivid and well formed, straight out of a medieval engraving. Everything stands out with such clarity that I feel buoyant, as if somehow my body went on forever. That, and it’s terribly hot.”

Amazing isn’t it? Anyway, back to Dance, Dance, Dance, the novel.

I won’t go much into the story, but anyone who’s read this book will remember the mysterious Sheep Man, a being who lives somewhere between worlds and who’s task it is to help the book’s protagonist, who’s completely and utterly lost in his search for answers, get connected. This is what the Sheep Man tells him to do, and by the way, this is exactly how he talks:

“Dance,” said the Sheep Man. “Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. Yougota dance. Don’teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, yourfeetstop. Yourfeetstop,wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, gottakeepthestep. Yougottalimberup. Yougottaloosenwhatyoubolteddown. Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou’retired, tiredandscared. Happensoeveryone, okay? Justdon’tletyourfeetstop….Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays.”

Yup, when you get stuck, you gotta dance. Dance like your life depended on it.

Dance, Dance, Dance
Inspired by a novel of the same name by Haruki Murakami
© Marcel Lee Pereira, 17 December 2010

I get lost sometimes
Walking down the street with a blindfold on
Confused by the things that have come and gone

I think I think too much
Staring at shoelaces come undone
Tripping me up when I want to run

I gotta tie it together
I’ve got nothing to lose

CHORUS
So I’ll dance, dance, dance (x 2)
As long as the music’s playing
Stepping to my own beat, swaying
Dancing like my life depended on it

You see I won’t ask why
I’ll just keep my body moving
I won’t stop till my world is grooving

Round and round I go
Spinning like a ball of clay
To find my shape on the potter’s tray

Wishing’s not gonna do it
I’m gonna get to it

CHORUS
So I’ll dance, dance, dance (x 2)
As long as the music’s playing
Stepping to my own beat, swaying
Dancing like my life depended on it

Dancing to my music
Dancing to my own beat
Dancing to my music
Dancing to my own beat

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

Week 23 – Easy Come, Easy Go

Easy come, easy go. Something that applies to everything in life, I think. If you get something without putting in any effort, you don’t treasure it as much as something else you worked really hard for.  Generally, it refers to money, wealth, inheritances, material goods – and love of course. Easy love is just like easy money, it flies away.

Easy Come, Easy Go
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 8 October, 2010

Stuck my hand out the window
When I was just a boy
A lucky coin landed on my palm
It fell from the sky

The very next day I lost it
I started to cry
Daddy wouldn’t let me
Instead he told me why

Chorus
Easy come, easy go
That’s life for you my boy
Easy come, easy go
Look hard and you shall find

Some people expect
Luck to fall on their laps
You’ll find them hanging around
At the bottom of the pack

Others are climbing a ladder
They have to watch their backs
They pick each other’s pockets
To write their fancy cheques

Chorus
Easy come, easy go
That’s life for you my boy
Easy come, easy go
Look hard and you shall find

Women flock to my side
Like seagulls by the bay
They fly from ship to ship
Don’t you expect them to stay

Your hands may lose their strength
Your mind will set you free
But your heart is still the king
Inside it lies the key

Chorus
Easy come, easy go
That’s life for you my boy
Easy come, easy go
Look hard and you shall find

***

I opened the song with a story about a coin falling from the sky. It really did happen, you know. Not to me, but to my young nephew who told me about it and showed me the coin. I don’t know if it’s true, or if he was just making it up, but in any case it’s a great story. Anyway, he gave the coin to me and now I carry it around in my bag.

Another thing about this song is the father-son dynamic, where a father figure offers life lessons to his young son. My song, Take The Highway, deals with a similar topic: