Nerds!

Hear How A Song Takes Shape

Jordan Geiger of the band Hospital Ships.

hide captionJordan Geiger of the band Hospital Ships.

Adam Smith/Courtesy of the artist

Did you want to hear how a song evolves? How a single spark of inspiration transforms into words and then melody and finally a fully produced complex production?

Jordon Gieger, known by the moniker Hospital Ships, has unveiled his journey as a songwriter for us. "Desolation Waltz" is a song Geiger began writing in Columbus, Ohio after "listening to a very fiery preacher on the radio, who would break into little melodies in the middle of his sermons. I decided to write songs a capella, in my car."

He recorded a short demo of "Desolation Waltz" right into his laptop, just an acoustic guitar and his voice. Below you can hear the evolution of the song from that acoustic demo to the version you'll hear on Destruction in Yr Soul, the album from Hospital Ships that came out this summer. It's a surprising evolution from simplicity to complex production done with the help of famed producer John Congleton. Jordan Geiger provided us with this SoundCloud, a mix that cuts back and forth between three different demo versions of "Desolation Waltz" and the finished full-band version, as well as commentary on how the song evolved.


:00-:35: Original vocal/guitar demo. No chords.
"My original inspiration for this song came at a time I was living in Columbus, Ohio and listening to a very fiery preacher on the radio, who would break into little melodies in the middle of his sermons. I decided to write songs a capella, in my car. One of the songs that came out of this experiment was 'Desolation Waltz,' originally a 1:36-long demo recorded into my laptop. I had only a melody and words, no chords, so I played my guitar along in order to stay (somewhat) in tune." (see also 1:39 - 1:48)

:35- :55: A cappella melody added over electronic drum beat, with chords added later.
"A few weeks later, I was playing with my drum machine and made a beat I liked, and decided to sing this song over the beat, more or less in free time, with no underlying chords.After that, I went back in improvised a synth part to make an impromptu harmonic structure for the song." (see also 1:20 – 1:27)

:55-1:12: "Folk" demo given to rest of the band
"About a year later, I decided to revisit the concept once I had returned to Lawrence, Kan., so I learned the improvised chords and transposed them to acoustic guitar, because I was playing a lot of folk music at the time." (see also 2:45 – 2:55)

1:12- END: Final full-band version tracked live on tape in studio and produced by John Congleton
"Once the rest of the band became involved, we returned to a more aggressive repeating drum beat, and added all the attendant bells and whistles you hear with the full band playing, including a drone section in between verses, and a long build which leads into the end section. We tracked the principal instruments live to tape in the studio, and added vocals and the overdubs:(1:28-1:39) Taylor's backwards/harmonized vocals — my favorite overdub on the whole record! — and(1:48-2:25) the synth tone which rises over many octaves, simulating a plane taking off."

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.