As many of you know, I’ve worked with producer Gary Gray a lot over the last few years. When we collaborate, we have one singular mission in mind for the music we’re working on together, which is to optimize each track for licensing opportunities. We’ve racked up quite a few syncs the last few years and recently had our biggest ascap payday yet, for several dozen tv placements in 2019.
We recently completed and signed a publishing deal for a track that I feel is one of the strongest overall tracks we’ve done together. I thought I’d share what the collaboration process was like to give you an idea of how songs can evolve and go through a few different stages, until they are ultimately completed and ready to shop to licensing opportunities.
Our latest track, Lost And Found, took several months to complete, from its inception to the final mix. We recently signed this one to my primary publisher in LA and I’m confident, as confident as one can be in this industry, that this track will get syncs going forward. We sent this one to our publisher and she responded right away, enthusiastically, that she would love to sign it. That’s always a good sign. As opposed to when you submit tracks and weeks or months go by and you ultimately never hear anything. Submitting music is sort of like going out on dates with prospective partners, if someone is really interested, they’ll let you know sooner or later. On the other hand, sometimes people just aren’t that into your tracks.
I started writing this song last year and made a basic guitar/vocal demo that I sent to my friend and frequent collaborator, MJ. A few weeks later MJ and I got together in person and we spent about a week creating a full band demo and fleshing out all the parts. MJ came up with a great 2nd hook, the line “gonna turn this thing around”. (See below)
After MJ and I finished our version of the track we sent our mix and the stems to Gary to start his process. Like I said, when Gary and I collaborate, our main goal is to create tracks that have the best chance of getting placements. Sometimes this could mean making changes to the track’s arrangement. Sometimes it could mean changing certain lyrics or re-writing tracks to make them more “universal” in terms of subject matter. Other times, like in the case of Lost And Found, it could mean doing a completely different version of the track with a different vocalist and even different instrumentation. I give Gary carte blanche to make whatever changes he feels necessary to optimize each track for licensing.
At the time Gary and I finished this particular track, Gary and I received a playlist of the types of songs my publisher is most in need of for a variety of shows she pitches to. Gary used these tracks as reference material when it came to arranging and mixing my track, “Lost And Found”. Based on this playlist and the style of production these songs had, Gary ended up completely re-doing Lost and Found using a different vocalist and also re-doing the guitar parts in a different style.
When I got the track back from Gary, I was a little surprised at first, because I didn’t realize he was making such drastic changes to the song. But, when I put my ego in check and just objectively listened to the song, I was blown away. Of all the tracks we’ve done together, this might be the one I’m most proud of and excited about. Gary’s mix and production sound so solid on this one that I would be really surprised if this one doesn’t get some great syncs.
You can check out my demo version below I did with MJ, as well as Gary’s final version below. I’ll probably do another fully produced version with MJ at some point as there are elements of our version I really like, but I can’t deny how undeniably great Gary’s version is. Listen for yourself below!
Lost And Found Demo Version
Lost And Found Final Mix By Gary Gray, featuring Joseph De Natale
2020 is one of those years that will go down in the history books, for all the wrong reasons. A pandemic, a recession, record unemployment, mass protests and riots, lockdowns, curfews and mad hornets! Just when you think things can’t get any crazier, the world seems to somehow keep one-upping itself. At this point, if we had an alien invasion I don’t think I’d even bat an eye. I’m sort of half expecting one.
As I’ve discussed in several different blogs and podcasts, I’ve been essentially trapped in the Caribbean the last few months, due to the airports here being shutdown in March. It looks like, if everything goes as planned, there will be flights available again in July. I feel relieved at least knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I have a tentative date of when I’ll be able to leave.
It’s reassuring, sort of. I say sort of because it’s clear that the USA I will return to is not the same USA I left, when I flew here in January. Chicago, where I’m from, has been particularly chaotic the last few days. Buildings have been burned. Police cars have been set on fire. Stores have been looted and vandalized. There have been multiple fatalities. Several of my friends have lost their jobs.
I try not to spend too much time watching the news these days. I do my best to stay informed, but not overwhelmed by the state of the world. It’s a difficult balancing act. I spent last weekend in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere, on an island in the Caribbean, with my band and a few friends. It was my first trip since March outside of the small beach town I’ve been stuck in the last few months on lockdown. A few hours after we arrived, I received a text message from a friend in Chicago. “It’s crazy in Chicago! There are riots, buildings on fire, a curfew has been imposed. Check the news!” Here I am trying to get a small respite from the madness of the world in one of the most remote places imaginable and I still can’t escape the craziness.
Of course, putting your head in the sand and ignoring the state of the world isn’t the answer. My friends and I spent several hours discussing everything that was unfolding. In the evening, we even wrote a song inspired by the protests and the death of George Floyd. One of the great things about being a songwriter, is that no matter how crazy the world gets, there’s always something to write about. In some ways, the crazier things get, the more there is to write about.
Adversity and hardships force you to dig deeper and find strength that in many cases, you didn’t even know you have. Here’s what one of my favorite authors, Eckhart Tolle, has to say about adversity and what we’re all living through at the moment:
“Adversity forces you to awaken to the deeper dimension of who you are. Why does adversity force you? Because life becomes almost unbearable when you live only on the surface, the surface of sense perceptions, and your conceptual mind.”
The last few months has been, strangely, one of the most productive periods of my life. Once I realized I was likely going to be stuck here for at least a few months, I got into a really productive rhythm and have since written and recorded dozens of new songs, many of which have been inspired by everything going on in the world. I have, you could say, dug deeper and discovered a fortitude and strength I didn’t know I had. I’m working harder than ever to realize my goals in one of the craziest times we’ve ever known. Something about that feels comforting and right and to be honest, despite everything going on, I wake up excited every day to get to work. I can’t change the entire state of the world, but I can at least be in control of my little slice of reality.
If history is any indication, what is happening in the world and everything unfolding will eventually come and go. Eventually the pandemic will come and go. Eventually the protests and rioting will stop. New challenges will arise. Those will also come and go. The sun will continue to set and rise.
I don’t know how to change the world at large. I wish I did. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make all the injustice, inequality, anger, frustration, sickness, political corruption, sadness and rage come to an end. I wish I could. There’s so much I would change if I had that kind of power.
All I can do is focus on what I can control. Things like how to be a better friend to my friends, how to be a better partner to my girlfriend, how to be a better son, how to be a better songwriter and musician, how to be a more compassionate and empathetic citizen of the world. These are the things that motivate me to keep going every day, in spite of and in many ways, because of all the craziness unfolding.
Maybe, just maybe, if we all focused on making our little piece of the world we live in better, we could slowly change the world into a better place, one person and one day at a time.
Check out my newest song inspired by the lockdown, Killing Time, performed with my Caribbean lockdown band, Bandits Of The Apocalypse.
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.