Let's Walk

The title track of Madeleine Peyroux's new record began with a set of lyrics Madeleine came up with and then recorded. She sent me a very dark, slow, slightly surreal sounding recording which included her lead vocal and some very bizarre sounding background vocals. The bizarre quality was the result of some sonic processing that made her voice sound doubled, lower pitched and quite alien sounding. In spite of how odd the recording sounded, I realized right away that the essence of the song was already there. It had a clear rhythm, and it had a clear "call and response" design. Musically, it had a repeating two note melody, the droning response and nothing more - no chords or accompaniment of any kind. But it did feel like it worked rhythmically with the lyric in a very natural way, and I started to realize that because it was so simple and had so little musical material, it was a beautiful, wide open opportunity for me to create the musical “stuff” from the ground up.

Immediately I began to imagine music. I knew I needed a treatment that employed the call and response technique and I wanted to create a harmonic context that would somehow allow that simple melody to repeat again and again but still feel interesting. I knew I'd have to find a way to turn that limitation (the melody) into a strength (the chord progression and the form creating different contexts for the same notes) to make it work. I wrote three or four eight bar sections that I thought worked nicely behind the melody, and considered each one's merits. After finding that some were more basic and others more unusual, but liking something about each of them, I realized that I could create a design using several of them one after the next, starting simply and gradually growing more complex.

It was probably around this point that I began to record some tracks, and I really dove deep and didn't come up for air for a couple of days. (Madi told me later that since she hadn't hear a word from me for about three days after she had sent the demo and the lyrics, she had assumed I didn't like it or that I didn't think there was anything worthwhile there!) But I had gotten lost, of course, and I got a little carried away - I created a fairly elaborate demo in GarageBand with a full rhythm section and then added 5 or 6 vocal tracks plus guitar and organ fills. I was having fun.

Finally I sent it to Madeleine, and I remember getting a voice message from her - she was in tears. Soon after that we realized we had our title track.