Creating the Sky View album
Updated: Feb 4, 2022
A while after I self-published my debut novel, Sky View, I had the idea to tie my music into it somehow. I thought, maybe one song referencing the story would be cool, but had no ideas as to what that might actually look like. It didn’t occur to me to use these five songs for that purpose until after I started writing the music.
This album is another great example of me setting out to create something, then it going in a completely different direction! That’s not a complaint. The creative process, for me at least, is something I keep fluid and let it go where it may (I still want to do what I tried to do this time, so I’ll give that another attempt in the future). Things started as I planned, though. First, I created a couple simple guitar riffs. Then while tinkering around with other sounds I toyed with some that play in reverse (think a cymbal swell that sounds like it’s sucking up, then ends abruptly. It’s a pre-recorded sound, flipped around and played backwards). That was when my plan got derailed. Cuz that shit just sounds cool!
Also, I only planned to create one song, but accidentally made five.
The first idea I started with was the song Sky View, even though it had no name or lyrical concept at the time. I created the few opening guitar riffs and was playing around with chorus ideas when the aforementioned reversed sounds took over. I searched through the library I had access to, trying them out, discovering things that sounded neat and immediately inspired something. Before long the song became more electronic based/sounding than something guitar driven (Not a bad change for me to try, to be honest. And on my to-do list anyways). And once that took hold I just kept exploring more sounds I wouldn’t typically access. I searched for epic pads, haunting pianos, weird ambient effects, and some really cool swirling metallic sounds synced to the tempo of the song. Before long I found myself with something somewhat cinematic in its soundscape.
I spent a lot of time experimenting. There were times I’d just go from one sound to the next down a long list of names that didn’t clearly describe what it’d sound like. Patches that are actual instruments, or based off actual instruments, are generally quite easy to guess how they’d sound from the name. Like, “3 bright cellos”, for example. But when you get into synths, pads, and other electronic sounds or effects, you rarely can tell from the name. It could be something like “unicorn sparkles”, or “nowhere to go”. There’s not a chance in hell you can guess, so you just spend time testing them out. When I run through all these unknown sounds I tend to do it pretty quickly. I load the sound, press some keys on the keyboard controller, and know within a couple seconds or less if it’ll fit. If it does, it usually inspires something immediately, and then I create. So, sometimes the sound inspires the melody/riff, instead of me writing a part and then looking for the right sound.
There were a couple times I’d try a piano or other sound with one song to find it didn’t quite work, but in the experimentation create a new part that became a new song. This is how three of the five songs started, and why they begin with something other than a guitar (There are actually two other songs I started in this way, though I decided they didn’t quite fit this release. When these tangent ideas form I try to follow them enough to capture something concrete and useable for a later date. I’ll quickly record it for safe keeping, and maybe make a couple notes as a reminder).
These songs were written in the order they appear on the album. This wasn’t intentional from the beginning. I think each song in a way developed as I thought about the progression of Jake Asher through the story. Jake goes through a lot. He suffers loss, meets some interesting people, witnesses death and destruction, sees and experiences things that seem impossible, and grows in a way he never expected. And most of the time he doesn’t know who to believe, or who is there to help him. Then everything slams together for an epic ending and a major plot twist. I tried to follow that story arc, but still stick to the character’s perspective. So, some songs are about something intimate and specific that occurs, while others are about opinions and feelings. But even though they’re from a fictional character I think they are still very relatable.
I won’t get into detail about the lyrics for each song here in case some of you have not yet read the book (Shame. Shaaaaaaaame!).
That was a hint, by the way. :)
The reason I first started playing with the reverse sounds was because of the sci-fi element to the Sky View story. It made me think more of unnatural sounds (i.e. not pianos, violins, etc.) than anything else. This is why the album is driven by electronic drums and bass, and full of other synthesized sounds. But at the same time, I also felt like I was creating a musical score for the book (maybe someday it’ll do it for the Sky View movie!!!), so I wanted to include that orchestral vibe as well, and marry the two at times. It was fun trying to balance the soundscape vibe that musical scores sometimes have, while simultaneously creating songs that would still feel song-like in format and arrangement (i.e. verse, chorus, bridge, etc.). And now that it’s complete it makes me wonder, could this be the first ever soundtrack to a book?!?!
Working on this album really got my motivation and excitement fired up for continuing the Sky View series. Originally it was only to be one story, but I had so much fun I now have a trilogy planned. Book 2 has been waiting for my last editing pass since late fall of 2020. Music and acting adventures put it on the back burner, but I’m looking forward to putting my focus back to writing as soon as I can.
As always, thanks for reading.
P.S. - Buy my book. My mom says it’s awesome.