Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Doing covers

I woke up this morning to an artist talking about a project to redo a variety of covers, which was then followed by his version of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.” I was disappointed. It sounded almost identical to the original version, except for a longer break between verses (which I didn’t like) and vocals that sounded like a poor copy of Neil Young (which I liked even less). To be fair, I was listening to this on a clock radio at 6:30 a.m., so it may have some influence on my reaction.

The thought struck me, what’s the sense in recording covers that sound like the original artist. I can see this if you’re playing in a bar or similar venue, but as a recording artist you should paint the song with a fresh canvas. My favorite example is Manfred Mann’s Earth Band doing Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light.” Being from NJ, where we were huge Bruce fans, the redo helped me to better appreciate the song.

On my own songs, I love it when someone comes along and changes my song. As long as my message stays, they’re renditions shed a new light. On my website I have Marianne and Julie, singing my song “Ode to the Canyon.” When I sing it it’s much more introspective, their harmonies add a ton of energy. The first time I heard them sing it, it became theirs and the version I used for the demo. On “Storm Clouds,” Julie changed the phrasing on the lyrics. Same song, just more interesting…

To be fair in all this, I was never able to do justice to an original. I have to make it my own out of necessity. Going my own way helped me develop my interest in songwriting, “I can’t sound like somebody else, so I better sound like me.”



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