Thought I'd drop you a line as I thought your 'solicitation for input via dedicated website' idea was a novel and interesting one. It's worth saying that I am a guitarist / singer-songwriter myself.
Firstly, I really don't think there's a lot wrong with your songs that a little simple editing down won't sort out. Also, I think your lack of faith in your lyrics is misplaced. They are perfectly well turned and seem to reflect your intentions very well.
The following comments are totally subjective, and of course feel free to disregard them if you wish. They are solely intended to be constructive, and I proceed with the overarching assertion that I think your music is 'good'.
a) Although I am a guitar player / songwriter myself, I really don't like guitar players that go on for ages, just strumming away flatly in a melancholy fashion. I think it would benefit you to keep instrumental passages to a minumum unless you make a strong melodic musical statement within them as 'hooks'. I think that a single guitarist working alone has to consider 'pop' techniques even more than actual pop bands. It's rough, but guitarist / singers can lose out attention pretty quickly. I know...I've done it.
b) A lot of the songs are too long. Maybe you create a mesemeric groove in person, I don't know. But, 'kill your darlings'. Try and keep things no longer than 3.30 in length wherever possible, and improve your lyrics but brutally chopping out all that is not absolutely necessary to the narrative of the song.
c) Explore subject matter outside o fyour personal experience. Working solely from the self gets to be incredibly limiting over time, and storytellign about abstract concepts can be immensely libverating. Rest assured that whetever you write about, it will be about you oin some level anyway.
d) While one cannot strive to be 'upbeat', too many melancolic / introspective songs are off-putting for audiences. I used to write almnost exclusively downbeat material - it was my life, my self expression - but now I keep the number in my set down to about two. My two best ones, actually. Sounds harsh, but - 'people don't want to hear about your f*cking misery' as no less an autority than Lady Ga-Ga said recently. She's right though.
e) With one voice and one instrument, the old pop technique of having 'something new happening every ten seconds' comes in again. Use a bag of tricks - employ dynamics, silences more, etc. You are of course already using altered tunings and picking some songs while strumming others, but feel free to mix it up more!
f) it's telling that you say you've always been a bit shy about putting your songs out to people. I empathise profoundly - I've had this problem for years. But you MUST get over it. Putting some demos online is not tthe logical end point for your creative work. These songs need to be sung before an audience. Then they will come alive and then you won't have the issues any longer that you're facing at the moment. HAve a stiff whicky and get yourself to an ope n mic night or ten. It may not be glamorous, but it will help you tremendously. You clearly have a great deal of talent - don't sit on it, or you may regreat it the rest of your life.
I couldn't agree more slim rich. Glenn thankyou so much for your feedback extremely comprehensive and really really good advice. Thats the kind of help I was hoping for and I will bear all your points in mind when I go away and re-write/record a lot of the songs.
I really like your point about writing narrative to abstract concepts, I'll have fun giving that ago :)
You're very welcome - I'm glad my blatherings were of some use! Best of luck with it Owen.
Sep 14, 2009 - 2:12PM
Re: Your songs
The uptempo tunes are excellent - musically and lyrically - and theres not much wrong with the arrangements either. Glens post hits the nail on the head. Seems to me you have an abundance of tunes that need to be edited down to a core - maybe 8 or 10 - and just concentrate on getting those how you think they should be. Honestly - unless your'e Bob Dylan - anything over three minutes ish for just guitar and voice is pushing it a bit. My shortest tune is 1 min 20 and my longest is 2 min 40. Cut the chaffe and nail the tune !
Are you trying to get a set together for live or for recording ? - because as Glen said thats where you'll get a feel for whats working and maybe what isn't.
Have you listened to Malcolm Middleton at all ? he gets the balance nearly right.
Yep just listened to a few of them again - playing is more than adequate and theres definately a good live set in them tunes.
Also a couple of days in a studio with someone familiar with acoustic recording ( plenty of them around and quite cheap these days ) will give you a good boost - a bit of feedback from someone involved in the production can help you focus a little more than just recording yourself endlessly - took me 10 years to work that out as well.
Good luck - youv'e got more than enough talent to perform for people - just go and watch a couple of open mic nights and you'll see what i mean. Better still pick 4 of your tunes and go and blow those fookers away!
Sep 19, 2009 - 1:11PM
Re: Your songs
Nice little website and nice tunes, but i got to reinforce the point that Tony made.. get yourself some recording gear. a digi 4 track or free recording software, a cheap keyboard or a midi keyboard.. and a cheap electric bass.. it's all you need and i can tell you've got the talent to make something nice out of whatever you get. Good Luck!
Oct 14, 2009 - 7:25AM
Re: Your songs
Hi there people,
Well I got back yesterday from being locked in a small cottage in brecon with my laptop, a condesor mic and boot full of instruments. I've tried to take all of your points into account. It took some pretty harsh editing but I've got the songs down and added the instruments and harmonies that I hear in my head. I must stress that this is simply just the next step in the songs and I'd love to get more advice on how I can make them stronger.
I've just lost my more detailed feedback somehow, but in a nutshell, it might help if you mentioned your intentions for these songs. Are you just trying to make them the best they can be, then see how they fare in the world? Or are you honing them hoping to find success in a particular area: local live scene, national folk scene, pop market?
If its the former I think the addition of two empathic instrumentalists to add harmonic and dynamic interest and progression to the songs is all you need.
If its the latter, its a different story and different feedback. They're splendid and lovely songs and if you happen to have a gorgeous face someone might fancy launching you on the pop market, with the inevitable 'new james blunt' reductiveness. They're also conventional songs. There are obviously thousands of massively gifted acoustic acts honing unique, creative approaches, and still struggling to stand out. Songs that are conventionally themed, structured and presented are only memorable if they're unforgettably brilliant. I'd work on creating a sound-world that is your own. Your webpage graphic is excellent and suggests you understand the importance all the aspects working together to present a persona. Finding arrangements that befit your wonderful voice would help to this.
Just my opinion!
All the best!
Nov 18, 2009 - 2:19PM
Re: Your songs
Hey Owen, all of the information above may be right, but really its irrelevant
When you get to the point that you dont have to ask anybosy elses opinion, then your there
It doesnt matter if your Mozart, Jay Z, Damien Rice or whoever
There will always be people who like your music and people that dont
Just put your music out there, however you wish
Thats the main thing
Oh, and by the way I think your songs are awesome