Category Archives: Artist Interview

Two of Us (Behind the scenes)

On October 3, 2019 a version of the song Two of Us was released as a joint project between Barley Station and Minneapolis band Radio Drive (Two of Us is from The Beatles Let It Be album)  You can now find it on most digital retail outlets.

And THIS is a little behind the scenes story on how this composition was formed. It is a fitting release considering it is the 50th anniversary of when The Beatles actually finished the final version of this song – which was during the Jan. 31, 1969 session.

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Now, when you sing harmony with someone you really have to be a good listener not just a good singer. You need to hear all the nuances of the other person’s voice. Which is why sometimes people will say to an artist “you sing like siblings”. And usually it is people who have been singing together a long time.

Or in our case, listening in the studio over and over until our voices match properly since we were doing this as a distance project. So making music isn’t just about playing it, it is about listening and feeling it. If you are a musician, producer, or songwriter/arranger, etc., you might be interested in how the rest was put together.

I sent the finished vocals over to Kevin and we were very pleased with how that part turned out and we had lots of comments of how our voices blended so well.  That part was easy enough.

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Kevin Gullickson

One of the biggest challenges of the song, was trying to find the right arrangement. The first idea was to make it a bit contemporary alternative rock. That didn’t work.  Sonically, it was like the song demanded a simpler arrangement. So I went back in time and dug up what was going on when the Beatles were working it up. And not to my surprise, they had tried something similar but it ended up being what Paul McCartney phrased as “too chunky”. I knew exactly what he meant. It was too chunky.

At its core this is a folk song. I believe if you look up the genre of the original on iTunes it is classified as folk/rock.  Keeping to that original concept and also making it into something new would prove to be challenging but we didn’t know it when we started on it.  My approach has always been “let your ears guide you”, as the Beatles’ producer George Martin might say.

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Randy Wayne Belt

I listened to the original and dug up outtakes, including an outtake of the song, recorded on 24 January 1969, which was released on Anthology 3 in 1996. The chief difference to me was whether the bass lines were more ascending or descending but it was clear; those lines were important to the song and oddly enough to its integrity. With the basic rhythm track finally decided upon and liked by both Kevin and myself, I had to shelf the song again until the rest of the arrangement came the way it needed to.

There had to be a way to keep it a simple arrangement but add our own flavor. So I experimented. For months and months I would go back to it to try different things. By the last time I came back to it, it finally hit me. It needed to be mixed similar to what a 4 or 8 track recording would do and it needed a guitar part on the electric end to give it more body but not interfere with the melody or the overall feel.

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And then, the bass guitar part was really crucial to keep the songs integrity. In the album version, The Beatles’ George Harrison played the bass lines on a Fender Telecaster. No one knows exactly why but it could have been done on Sir Paul’s Hofner bass just as easily, but since he was playing acoustic guitar, to keep it with a live feel, George ends up doing bass parts. Imagining being there and knowing a bit how the Beatles worked, I would guess that George picked up his Telecaster and doodled along making bass notes to fill the song out and John and Paul said “lets keep it like that, it sounds cool”. And if anyone would do something of that kind of unusual nature, it would be The Beatles.

So when I lay down bass tracks, I went to my own Viola Bass, the same style McCartney used in the Revolver/Rubber Soul mid sixties era and it was definitely what the song was lacking for its low end.

Then the bongos were scaled back. In fact, everything was scaled back to make it simpler. At one point Kevin even had a Rhodes keyboard track if I remember correctly. And slowly we brought everything back in to see what fit right. The decision was finally made that Kevin’s crunchier electric guitar track would be brought in panned far to the right or left and my tremolo guitar would be far the opposite leaving the basic rhythm and vocal in the middle.

The easiest part to do whatever we wanted with was the double bridge “you and I have memories…”, probably because that part was more “open” and easier to experiment with without messing things up.  The tremolo guitar and the crunchy electric are allowed to stand out more there with the simpler rhythm and bass line.  I think that’s probably the part where you hear our input more – along with the original ideas that probably emanated from the brain of Sir Paul McCartney.

The final result was a balanced non chunky semi-rock version but keeping the song’s original integrity. After all, this is the Beatles. There has to be musical integrity mixed with experimentation. I think that’s how they’d have done it.

Listen on YouTube: https://youtu.be/BPZoxP8E2WU

Listen to Two of Us on Spotify

Buy it on iTunes

Buy on CDBaby

Two of Us by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Copyright Sony/ATV Tunes LLC dba ATV o/b/o ATV (Northern Songs Catalog)

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Review of “Christmas For Two”

Review and Interview with Olivia Penalva

by Randy Wayne Belt

(first published in Starlight Music Chronicles Magazine)

As a connoisseur of original Christmas music it’s always great to find something new that is full of festive joy, delight, and fabulous vocals!   “Christmas For Two” by Canadian recording artist Olivia Penalva is just one of those songs.  With a fresh clean sound that has a somewhat Jazzy and R&B old motown rhythmic feel combined with a very contemporary vocal and lyric, Olivia delivers a song that reminds us of the joy of the season, and just enjoying life and having fun.  It is the perfect Christmas feel-good song!

 

As a singer, not only on this song, but in all of her work, her voice  has a timbre and character that make one think of a voice like that of Andrea Wittgens, Nora Jones, or Colbie Caillat.  Olivia’s voice has a mature tonal quality to it and a special warmth with a sultry yet innocent character to it that will capture your heart and ears.

Perhaps it’s that innocence of youth that can best create the atmosphere of a joyous life-is-good Christmas song.

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At a mere 15 years old, Olivia has already begun making a splash in music, and the addition of “Christmas For Two” to her repertoire will only further the ripples created by the waves she’s already making.

This new Holiday song has already gained some radio play alongside other well established artists with Christmas songs on this years Christmas playlists such as 103.5 QMFM in her home area of Vancouver, BC; Majic 100 in Ottawa, ON and more. But this isn’t her first airplay.  

Then there is Miss Penalva’s recent single “Ferris Wheel”, a song that has a carefree atmosphere with a strong rhythm section, once again, giving a solid beat behind the song which is, more than less, a celebration of life.  With another powerful vocal performance, the song will simply leave you in a good mood!  The control she has over her voice allows her to naturally move around her notes and move in and out of vocal inflections with great ease.  This is a very note worthy song also garnering airplay support.

(Official video for “Ferris Wheel” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMcmCV9-aBM    )

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Another song I should mention is a song called “Forgettable” which Olivia co-wrote and collaborated on with a Canadian DJ Group called Project 46 who released it as part of their own album called “Beautiful”.  And indeed it IS a beautiful!  At this stage in her career, the music seems to be defined by strong rhythm section and very powerful vocals.

(Listen to “Forgettable” at this link:   https://soundcloud.com/djproject46/forgettable-ft-olivia-free-gift-info-below  )

So don’t shrug off the “fifteen years old” part because her voice is like that of an experienced 20-something, and one only needs to be reminded that when LeAnn Rimes came out with “Blue” and floored everyone with her mature sounding voice at age 14, they said the same thing with a similar “Wow” effect.  Her voice simply commanded respect and admiration.

So naturally, one of the questions I wanted to ask leads right into my interview:

Click Here to read my interview with Olivia in Starlight Music Chornicles Magazine

Review/Interview of Naomi Psalm

Interview With Naomi Psalm and Review

of Naomi Psalm’s new single “Now You See Me”

You may remember awhile back I did a review of the music of recording artist Naomi Psalm titled “The Musical Art of Naomi Psalm”.And remember that section that talked about looking for a song by Naomi Psalm in October that was to be in a movie titled Ghostumentary?

Well, it’s here! The title of the song, “Now You See Me”, and the atmosphere created in the song were made to fit perfectly for the film with the line “Now you see me – now you don’t”.

And as always, with Naomi’s consistently good songwriting, it is not only a good fit for the film but is also a very catchy song that will definitely be stuck in your head!  Psalm has proved once again that she is a consistently good songwriter and vocalist!

(Click here to learn about the film at: http://www.ghostumentary.com/)

Produced by Scot Alexander (from the band Dishwalla), the big thumpy beat that comes in and the thick bass sounds drive the song home accenting, pulsating and drawing you into all those little nuances, such as the effects on the vocals, which in spots will leave a haunting impression as you hear it in stereo. (Yes, stereo is still the best way to listen to music) The mixing job and effects on the vocals are perfect and helped lend to the song the haunting effect that make the lyrics come alive.

IMG_8238The depth of Psalm’s songwriting will always intrigue as you wonder what some of the deeper meanings of the lyrics are when she sings “I’m not only in your dreams, but that’s the way it seems”. If you are a fan of the song “Ink”  from the Stare album, you’ll also be a fan of “Now You See Me”, which is in the same creative vein.

Click here to preview and purchase “Now You See Me” on iTunes here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/now-you-see-me-single/id1046929061

So on the thought of creativity, I was able to get in a quick interview with Naomi

and being a visual artist myself as well I had to get into that right away.

Randy: What other creative arts are you into?

Naomi: I’m also a visual artist using the medium of water acrylics. I got into that in 2003 when I didn’t want to pay someone else to design my album cover.

Randy: I also paint (oil paint), so I have to ask, was there any artists (visual) that have inspired you or that you look up to?

Naomi: No one in particular. I just really like artists that paint abstract and colorful.

(Click here to view Naomi’s art on her homepage)

Randy: How did you get started in music?

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Naomi: I began writing poetry when I was 8. When I was 13, I inherited my grandfather’s guitar and started playing. I am self taught, and would glean inspiration from friends of my parents that would come over and jam all the time.

Randy: Explain your passion for music:

Naomi: I am deeply passionate about music. It is what makes me feel alive. The world seems right when I am performing music, writing songs, and creating art.

Randy: Do you have a “pet” instrument? (your favorite guitar, a ukulele, etc.)

Naomi: My takamine is my favorite guitar and has been with me since my dad bought me it in 1993. It gets better with age.

Randy: Yeah, the older the instruments the better they sound. So, who are your biggest influences and musical role models?

Naomi: Brandi Carlile is one of my biggest influences. She’s is an incredible singer/songwriter who really moves me.

Randy: What are you working on and what’s in the future for Naomi Psalm?

Naomi: I am finishing up an EP right now, as well as 2 music videos. I also just released the song that is in the movie Ghostumentary.

Randy: Does the EP you’re working on have a title yet? And can you divulge any of the song titles from the EP?

Naomi: I have a title rolling around in my head, but it’s top secret at this point.

“Hole in the Carpet” and “The Postman” are 2 song titles I’ll give away.

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Randy: How did you get hooked up with doing the song for Ghostumentary?

Did you write the song specifically for the movie? Or did you have something you

were already working on that you tailored to the movie? How did it come together creatively?

Naomi:   I am friends with one of the movie directors and he needed a theme song. I watched some rough footage for inspiration, and wrote the song specifically for the movie. That song came together really fast for me. The lyrics and music happened simultaneously.

Randy:  Awesome!  Do you have any collaborations going on or planned?

Naomi: There are 2 newly released songs out on YouTube that I have written with a local musician Ryan Bayne.

Randy: Cool! Link us up.

Naomi:  “Not My Kind” at http://youtu.be/929nhRF_cW4

and  “I Don’t Know Why You Love Me” here:  http://youtu.be/uf2-53R51Sc

Randy:  Great!  My two top favorite videos of yours thus far are “Ink” and “Already Hit Send”

(hint: click the song titles to watch the videos)

Randy:  Thanks for taking the time to interview!

Naomi: Sure! Thank YOU

Connect with Naomi Psalm here:

Website: http://www.naomipsalm.com

YouTube: http://www.YouTube.com/naomipsalm

Twitter: https://twitter.com/naomipsalm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/naomipsalmmusic

“Now You See Me” on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/now-you-see-me-single/id1046929061