ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Back now with Day to Day.
(Soundbite of "California Dreaming")
THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS: (Singing) California Dreamin' on such a winter's day.
CHADWICK: This week, we are concluding our labor-intensive summer series, California Dreaming. Every week, we brought you stories from the Golden State about how the economic slowdown is affecting all of us all across the country. We based it in California because one in nine Americans lives here, and the California dream is really a version of the American dream, a little more sun and sand thrown in for good measure.
(Soundbite of "California Girls")
THE BEACH BOYS: (Singing) I wish they all could be California girls.
CHADWICK: So now, part of the quintessential California dream is making it as an actor or as a musician. We have asked struggling musicians from all over the U.S. to send us their original California song to end this series.
(Soundbite of country song):
Unidentified Man #1: California here I come.
CHADWICK: There're a lot of struggling musicians out there, and we've heard from them.
(Soundbite of pop song):
Unidentified Man #2: On this day of winter, California...
(Soundbite of lyrical song):
Unidentified Man #3: On this California day...
CHADWICK: Thanks to all who submitted their work. This was a tough decision, but we have picked a winner. That's Quinn Kiesow's "Los Angeles," and every single sound that you heard, Quinn recorded right here in L.A.
Mr. QUINN KIESOW (Winner, California Dreaming Blog Song Competition): Obviously, there's a lot more to L.A. and a lot more to California than what you are hearing. But everything you are hearing right now and every single noise you've heard in the past three minutes was recorded in L.A. with one microphone, the one I'm holding right now.
CHADWICK: Madeleine and I spoke with Quinn last week.
Quinn, welcome to Day to Day.
Mr. KIESOW: Thank you, I'm glad to be here.
MADELEINE BRAND: OK, tell us a little bit more about where you're from, you're from Wisconsin, and why you moved to Los Angeles?
Mr. KIESOW: Yes, I'm from Wisconsin, and I moved to Los Angeles with a band a couple of years ago, with three of my best friends. We all loaded into our 24-foot shuttle bus, put all our stuff in there, and basically left with a little bit of money, no jobs, no place to live, all of our instruments.
We didn't really know how to go about it in Los Angeles. It was kind of experimental rock, and we just didn't know how to do that and be popular in L.A. So then that's when I started kind of working on music on my own.
CHADWICK: You describe yourself in an email to us as an audio-recordist, an adventurer. You said you created this song, and it's not a song like most people are going to associate with songs. Where did you come up with this idea?
Mr. KIESOW: You know, where I'm from, I grew up in a town of 3,000 people, so days are really quiet there, you know. You can hear a lawn mower across town, and that's about it. So when I got to Los Angeles, it was just, like, knock me on my heels with sound.
BRAND: So then you get yourself a microphone and some kind of recording device, and you go out there. And tell us how you actually made this song.
Mr. KIESOW: I decided to just go all over the place. And I went down to, like, the very downtown areas where they had the warehouses and train yards, and I recorded that stuff. And then I would just sit at the bus stop and wait for the bus to come, and the tough part...
BRAND: You looped some of the beats?
Mr. KIESOW: Yes, that's the tough part. I looped the subway. If you've ever been on the Los Angeles subway, the train makes this great noise when it slows down. It sounds like strings. It sounds like violins. There were other things. Like, I was up on Hollywood Boulevard. And if you've ever been on Hollywood Boulevard, that sidewalk is crazy. It's shiny, and it really sounds weird when you walk on it. And I got this great recording of a woman walking by in high heels, and I looped that. And that's basically what set the tempo for this song. She was walking at this really quick pace, and I cut it, and I found a place where I could loop it, and then I built the whole song around this woman walking in high heels.
(Soundbite of looped sounds)
CHADWICK: You know, you said people could try this at home, and I wonder if other musicians would really go about trying this if they knew how much work you put into this. I read the notes. I mean, you had 80 hours in the studio working on this, plus hours and hours of time spent making recordings.
Mr. KIESOW: After I did this, I went to Europe, and I did it all over Europe in cities that I'm still working on. I was there for six weeks, and I just recorded the entire time in, like, London and Paris and Barcelona and Madrid and all these great cities.
(Soundbite of urban sounds)
Mr. KIESOW: I knew that the sounds there would be entirely different than they were in Los Angeles. The streets are made of different things. The buildings are different widths apart. You know, they have different engines in their cars. The people speak a different language. There's a totally different culture. So I knew that it would be really different.
But, like you said, I mean, I'm still, this is over a year later, and I'm still sifting through all of this noise that I have from Europe. I mean, so it definitely is very labor-intensive. But it's a lot of fun. It's what I enjoy.
BRAND: Well, excellent. You're in Wisconsin. It's the end of the summer. You coming back to California?
Mr. KIESOW: Yes, I will be back. I'm actually taking the train from Wisconsin to Los Angeles, which is going to be quite an experience, I think, two days on a train.
BRAND: And you'll be recording on that train trip, right?
Mr. KIESOW: Definitely, definitely.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CHADWICK: Audio recordist and adventurer, California dreamer, winner of the Day to Day Musical Challenge, Quinn Kiesow. Quinn, thank you so much and good luck.
Mr. KIESOW: Thank you guys very much and thank you. I really liked being on the show.
CHADWICK: OK, and I have to say, I have really liked listening to the California Dreamin' series.
BRAND: Me, too. And, you know, I learned a lot doing some of the stories and listening. We kicked off the series way back in June - it seems so long ago - with this.
(Soundbite of previous story)
BRAND: Our first story was about how people were selling their gold and other valuable possessions just to pay their mortgages and other essentials. We heard from people going elsewhere to find their California dream.
Unidentified Man #4: You know, Andy and Barney are not in North Carolina anymore.
BRAND: How could we talk about California without talking about, wow, marijuana. We reported on the fight between the state and the feds over medical marijuana and just how much money California brings in taxing it.
SHEREEN MERAJI: I've stopped getting regular pedicures...
BRAND: And finally, I want to give a big shout out to Shereen Meraji for producing this series and contributing one piece on how the dream of looking hot is being affected by the economy.
MERAJI: I have a long commute to work and paying for gas trumps getting my toenails polished.
BRAND: So instead of pedicures, Shereen made sure we looked hot on the web. She oversaw the creation and implementation of the California Dreamin' blog. It's called Daydreaming. And that blog will morph, well, you know, actually it already has. It's morphed into the show's permanent blog, and you can check it out, contribute, read, do whatever, npr.org/daydreaming.
(Soundbite of "California Dreaming")
THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS: (Singing) California Dreamin' on such a winter's day. California Dreamin' on such a winter's day. California Dreamin' on such a winter's day.
CHADWICK: Yes, you know, every time I look on there, your posts, and you've got a lot of them, they get a lot more comments than mine. I'm not sure what's going on there.
BRAND: OK, well, log on, and please comment on Alex's postings. He's getting a little lonely.
Day to Day is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.
CHADWICK: And I'm Alex Chadwick.