ENVY

Envy Cover JPG

The first single from “Anhedonia” is called “Envy” and it is out now. Links to the popular streaming services and some info about the single release are on that previously linked page.

I wanted to write a little bit more about the song and the single release – to give some insight into where it came from and what producing it was like. “Envy” was both an easy song and a hard song to put together, depending on the time you’re talking about, and if it hadn’t been for feedback from my friends and family it never would have been the single. “Envy” made me uncomfortable from the day I wrote it, and there were many times I almost scrapped it – though, I’m glad I didn’t. During the writing of “Anhedonia” I kind of had my emotional antenna up, trying to catch those fleeting feelings we all have 100 times a day to try and observe them and give them voice. “Envy” came from that sort of place. I caught myself having this feeling – this sort of mix of envy, attraction, jealousy, and sort of petty enviousness – and thought “Wow, that’s pretty powerful. That’s definitely a universal feeling, but something no one would ever want to admit to.” So, I decided to explore it.

If I recall correctly, the music for “Envy” came fast and easy. I sat behind the piano, picked a key, thought about the feeling I wanted to go for and started playing. I think it basically came out almost exactly as it appears in the album (from a music perspective, not arrangement) right away. Where it got challenging was with the lyrics. I remember working on the middel-8 first – I remember playing that sort of major and bright chord progression and just started singing over it. I often sing nonsense over my playing just to start feeling-out the melody space – and the first words out of my mouth were “You’re such a bitch” in exactly the melody that would become part of the song. I remember having to stop and laughing out loud. I thought “There’s no way I could put that on a record, its ridiculous.” But, I went back to it – “I can’t stand that we breath the same air” – and more giddy laughing. I alternated playing, singing, laughing, and jotting down in my notebook. By the end of the writing session I remember thinking “This was a lot of fun, but there’s no way I’m releasing that bitchy song.”

And that’s how it was for a long time. I kept my distance from “Envy” – it wasn’t going to be on the album. But, in practice sessions it was always part of the rotation. I liked playing it, I liked singing it, and it felt honest, unflattering, and unique. I liked it. There’s just no way I could release it – I couldn’t show that side of myself. However, over time, I warmed up to the idea of including it on the record. I’d been playing it for months by that time and it was well fleshed out. I could picture how it would sound arranged, and I decided it was worth the risk – but I still winced at the idea of people hearing it.

“Envy” was recorded fairly late in the process. I still felt ambivalent towards it and kind of put it off. It was the 6th song recorded, and it came well after the hardest recording sessions (“Criminals”), so by that time in the process I was pretty well in the groove of things and was making good progress. But “Envy” halted me in my tracks again. I did multiple arrangements at multiple tempos – I went back over sound design time and time again. Nothing felt right. I had to push through it over the course of weeks before it really came together and I felt good about it. And then it was time to record lyrics – and it was arduous. Take, after take, after take, never feeling like it was going well – it took days to get the lyrics down. By the end of the recording session I felt like I’d recorded a mediocre song and wasn’t at all happy. The initial super-rough mix from the recording sessions sounded terrible and I thought the song just wouldn’t work – “Envy” was yet again on the chopping block.

I put it away for a while and didn’t come back to it until mixing. To my surprise, when I heard it again I actually liked it. Sure, it was a rough mix, but I saw in the song what I felt in practice. I liked it again. And the mixing session, unlike the experience for many of the songs, went very well almost straight away. As I cut away the rough parts, and sanded it down to a smooth polish the song that emerged sounded great, and I’ve loved it ever since. Some additional elements were added during mixing that I think help to liven the track up, and the middle 8 was given a lot of attention from a post-recording arrangement perspective – it was such a fun part I just wanted it to be perfect. By the time the demos were in good shape and and album was getting close to done I was happy with “Envy” and never again considered cutting it, but I was still a bit uncomfortable with the idea of people hearing it and never considered it for the single.

After the mixes were basically done I started asking friends and family to listen to the album and give me feedback. One of the questions I asked everyone was “What should the single be?” I expected maybe “Curtain Call” or “The Imitation Game” – the answer was “Envy” every single time. And my reaction was the same every single time: with a wince, squinted eyes, and a high questioning tone “Really? Envy? Are you sure?” They were all sure. Everyone though it was the most fun, and was the most likely to draw them in to listen to more. I committed to heading this unanimous advice, though I never liked the idea.

From there it was time to put the single together. I did a lot of photography for the “Anhedonia” cover, and had hundreds of shots that didn’t make the cut. I thought that some of the pictures with the blonde wig were striking, and the one with the obscured face and down-turned glance fit the song really well. There was something artificial about the shot; with the wig there’s a sort of feeling of pretending to be something I’m not, and with the averted eyes an air of shame or discomfort. I felt that went really with with “Envy” and decided to use it. And of course, the always wonderful Laura DeBiase helped me take the photo from pretty good to release quality. For the single release itself I decided to do a single edit – the album version of “Envy” is a bit long for a single, and that was something I heard from people about it. The version on the single cuts about a minute of the song out to help get to the vocals faster and to grad the listener’s attention. I don’t like this version as much, I think the musical development it omits is worth-while, but I do think it helps at least give the impression of the song and the sound of the album, while leaving the listener wanting more. I knew I wanted remixes on the single to increase the value – who want’s to download a single song? – so I reached out to my good friend Kenny James of The Outsider and A Beautiful Curse, and my prior collaborator on “Fragements” to provide a remix, along with one I did myself. The total package is, I think, interesting and provides not only a fast-paced version of the original song but also some cool alternate versions of the track that show what else can be done with that musical space.

That’s about all there is to know from a behind the scenes perspective. I’ll confess I’ve never gotten completely comfortable with “Envy,” but I have learned to love it for what it is, and to tolerate the discomfort. And, in a way, that’s what “Anhedonia” is about on a larger scale – learning to deal with difficult things rather than ignore them. So, I think on the whole, the experience of writing, recording, and releasing “Envy” was worthwhile, and I sincerely hope you enjoy it.