Jenna Marotta - Gypsy (Sound In The Signals Track By Track)

Jenna Marotta recently did a track by track for Sound In The Signals for her album Gypsy. Check out the full track by track after the jump!

1.    Back It Up

Sometime around the Fall of 2010 I think I was on a binge… had been drinking for hours socializing from place to place killing time…waiting to hang with someone I was involved with at the time…  I was getting discouraged because I hadn’t heard from them and wandered into a club with a kid I knew.  It was a house club and on Sunday nights all the great dancers of New York come to have communion basically.  I was inspired by them having my drinks as they danced on water… and as the beat went on I started making up music.  I was playing  on my friend’s Cajon and took a set of drum sticks and was making beats while dancing on the railings in the club.  It was truly a spiritual moment and I overcame my negative emotional baggage and moved on from the moment through music.  I had an ongoing thing with another friend and our quote was always “You betta go back it up!”  So that’s where the song was birthed. 

I took the melody, and added it to the guitar.  When I made the album I got together with my band of core musicians (bass, guitar, drum, keys)  and producer up at Dreamland Recording Studio just outside of Woodstock NY, and we re-worked the order of it.  We added a little bit of a different melody at the end, thanks to Jerry Marotta, and laid down a solid track.  The guitar dubs were done right after, back in the city, at the Log Cabin studio.   I previously decided to add horns to this track and also another, so I got together with my friend Frosty and he laid down a KILLER arrangement.  Then I got Richie Cannata, Shareef Clayton, and TJ Robinson together with Frosty down at Platinum Recording in Manhattan and really made it happen for this track.

 2.    Gypsy

Gypsy, to me was the pivotal moment in my career as a songwriter.  I started the song on the beach in Daytona FL in at my Dad’s house.  I was trying to re-introduce myself to my Dad as an adult, and realized I had been through a lot and was really coming to my own.  I only wrote a few things down as far as the song was concerned and put it on a shelf for about 5 years.  Sometime around 2009 when I had been playing guitar a while, I took to the song again, and added in something different.  At this time I had been on the NYC scene about 2 years and learned about an epic local artist named Robbie Gil.  I fell in love with Robbie’s spirit on stage.  He moved me more than I can explain.  First, the emotion he poured into his performance, and the vibe from the crowd was absolutely captivating…but I got a real feel for brilliant lyrics and said to myself “I want to have more deep lyrics like Robbie Gil”…and Gypsy was re-written.  About six times, before studio. Haha  I got in there with the group of players and they took me to a new level with it.  Someone suggested adding in a minor chord to just vary it up a little, saying it would make it sound a bit less folky. 
Then Dave Clauss, my producer added his magic touch and extra layers of guitar and ukulele and went to town.  This song is me, simply put, a late bloomer.

 3.    Never Forget

In 2012 and early 2013 I not only lost my brother, but my father, an uncle, and my best friend’s grandmother, and a mentor from high school.  Needless to say I was pretty much completely tired of ‘death’ when my friend Kelly passed away in August of 2013.  ‘Kelly’ was a legend.  He was the doorman at The Bitter End (the famous songwriter club in NYC).  He was not only a friend, but a truly amazing human.  He touched so many people for many years.  When Kelly died, I gave birth to Never Forget.  The song wasn’t quite finished yet, but when I was selected to perform for a benefit for Kelly’s wife and children. In fact, the words “Never Forget” hadn’t even been part of the song yet.  The benefit was on September 7, 2013, and a few days later when the 911 anniversary was being honored I realized the key words missing from my new song. 
At the time, another uncle of mine was coming closer to passing, and I really started thinking what it would be like to lose a mate.  I had lost a brother, lost a father, friends, friends of friends and so on…but not a mate.  I really felt like that would be one of the hardest things ever to go through.  Especially in the case of my particular aunts who had been with their husbands for sooooo man years. 
We took Never Forget to the studio (ironically) on April 3, 2014, the 2nd anniversary of my father’s passing.  I wasn’t planning it that way, it just happened. Danny had the idea to palate cleanse at the end of the bridge and just change my chords a little bit.  We laid down the track that weekend and the master was complete by about 1:30 am on May 28th…3 days before the release.

 4.    The Restaurant Song

I actually started writing this song as a reggae number.  I was just playing around on guitar and started strumming a beat in G.  I reworked the hook a little bit with long-time friend Alan Schwartz who would later add the guitar parts to the track.  He had a great solo on this song! 

I wrote this song when I was working at a well-known seafood restaurant (I won’t mention any names so I don’t cause a commotion) . Anyway, the chef had been known to piss off a few, but this time it was evident she did it one too many.  9 cooks dropped their hats and aprons and walked out on a Friday night in Times Square Manhattan.  It was insane.  At the time I envied those cooks!  I wanted out sooo bad!  Many of us did!!!  

I wanted a song that everyone could sing to.  I wanted a song that made everyone feel like they COULD get out one day!!! 

It kind of took a country route after.  The lyrics were meant to be fun and inspire people.  It’s only life, afterall, so get over it! Do You!!!

 5.    Diesel Woman

This was another song which I didn’t write all at the same time.  I started it when I was living at my father’s in my grown up years on the beach in Daytona.  I had been known to drive a big truck once in a while with my Dad he was an over the road truck driver when I was a kid, and I started learning on his old Chevy pickup.  I had family who drove big pickup trucks and one was a massive diesel I had driven to work a few times.  That’s when I gave birth to the hook of the song.  It was later that I added all the verses and bridge.  I know I speak of breaking rules, so I will say that I always find it remarkable that the teaching profession doesn’t require drug tests.  I knew a few creative teachers in my day, and bet they wouldn’t have been so good without it!  So I created the second verse as if I was a teacher…  and later added in the trolley verse.  Daytona beach has a trolley that runs up and down the A1A and it’s a great ride home so that you aren’t caught drinking and driving there. 

 6.    Take It or Leave It

We all have one of those past relationships where the girl wants the boy more than the boy wants the girl, or vs. versa.  I wanted a boy…he let me down.  But I got up again with this song.  I took a personal experience with a  guy who once owned a Lincoln. 
At the time, I had been performing and writing outside Chicago, and bought a KORG Triton synth and started writing on it for the first time.  I selected a beat and sang it out in about 3 days.   During this point in my life I had been writing for about 5 years and hadn’t yet started using any instrument besides my voice to write with.  I had been performing and studying the art of hip hop dance and wanted to do something with that.   I thought I would be a bluesy trip-hop singer..that’s what I was into at the time.  Dancing.  Well I picked a beat and went at it.  I thought I was going to have something that would end up like the song ‘Kiss’ by Prince.  I loved that song and this is what that started out to be.
There were a few life events at this time and the song was just an a capella.  Then during my time in Daytona Beach I won the Backstage Pass Magazine’s ‘Daytona Discovered’ contest for singing and had the opportunity to sing at the Daytona Thunder football team’s halftime show.  I, being the rebel I was at the time, didn’t want to sing any Karaoke cover song like I did for the contest, because I wanted to be my own thing.  So, I took to the computer.  I used Reason and creaded some beats for the song.  I set it down on a track and  sang it live for everyone… my beats, my song, my GOD, was I on fire or what?  haha
So the song went on a list to record one day and years later I started playing guitar.   I wrote the song but never knew it would go a different way.  One day I made a joke at an open mic and said I was going to do a “musical interlude” and threw in a little mouth harp thing that was really welcomed by the spectators of my performance, so I did it every time.
I took to the studio not knowing what would end up being one of my favorite songs on the album.
Since I had the mouth horn thing, the only answer to me was to have a brass section in on it.  I wanted someone to be call answering with me so to speak on the bone, and was recommended TJ Robinson.  He really landed Frosty’s arrangement in the studio.  However, I must say, the core team up in Woodstock really was exceptional.  Previous to recording, I decided that whatever went on up there was an act of God, and decided to let it form organically without trying to control it.  I chose seasoned musicians and said that they knew more than I and I should just let them do what they thought was best.  Dave threw in the sound of the Tack Piano and Danny really knows how to play keys, so it was ON!  It’s like an old bar room whiskey drinking cigar smoking night club vibe and I love it…and am going to do a video with this one for sure!!!

7.    Rainy Day

This is one of the first songs I wrote.  I was in a severely abusive relationship in my early years.  I have been through the mill, let me tell you! I am living and working in Chicago and had to get to my apartment with a shared key after a long bumming rainy day.  I walked into work that day without a smile on my face and my hat pulled really low down on my head.  A kid who was really awesome said to me “hey Jenna, what’s wrong with you!?”  I said “it’s raining, and I’m sick of it”.  He says “yeah, but you know what they say…”.  My reply was “yeah April showers, blah blah, but it’s MAY already!!! I’m sick of it”. 
All day I thought of that wanting to get home to my apartment and it seemed like it would never happen.  Then I finally got there, and I was STILL not able to go in.  My asshole ex had our keys a few blocks away at his brothers.  Bummer.  So I walked to a pizza joint I used to work in and I picked up the pay phone….yeah…a pay phone. Lol  I called to get him to come home and he said he would be there in a few minutes. 
I walked home to meet him and stood on the back walkway outside looking out at the rain. FOR AN HOUR.  A few minutes wasn’t as quick as I had hoped and I started singing…”rainy rainy day… rainy rainy day…don’t want to get outta bed, don’t wanna come out to play, cause it’s a rainy rainy day.” That song stuck to me like glue and I added another little lick onto it and sang it to everyone for about 20 years (well, not quite 20) before finding my guitar and moving to New York. 
It took a couple of years to write more lyrics and organize it so that it had true form for a song.  I spent countless hours on that, making the verses just right.  I had a little bit of help from a good friend at the time.  I was new to writing, so I didn’t realize that I needed to structure it more properly.  I guess that’s just Songwriting 101! Haha

 8.    Goodbye

I started writing Goodbye in Chicago circa 2004.  I was walking around the city at night, thinking about someone who fell out of love with me, and gave birth to the song a capella style.   I only wrote up to the first “Goodbye” and put it on a shelf.   A few years later, when I had been playing guitar for a couple of years, and was starting a new relationship, I was still holding on to that past memory of “the man that got away”, and realized I needed to start fresh if I wanted to be in a new relationship.  So, I picked up my guitar, and finished writing the song. It didn’t take long to finish at that point, but it’s funny how some songs just take years to move into the emotional place where it’s time to finish them. 

We brought “Goodbye” into the studio, and Dave (my producer) wanted it to be mainly a piano song.  Danny plays some brilliant piano, and since most of the album featured guitar, it was important to us to vary it up a little bit.   Also, it was important to me to find live musicians other than putting synthetic strings.  I wanted everything on this album to be the real deal. 

 9.    What’s Left?

What’s Left is not only one of my favorite songs from the album, it was a turning point for me.  I mentioned before that my writing changed sometime after the completion of the song “Gypsy”, and this happened to be the first song I didn’t sing out of personal experience so much.  

I was on a trip to play music out in Chicago and had an argument with someone I was dating and wrote the first 2 lines of this song and the beginning guitar melody.  I wanted a “funeral dirge” kind of song.  Something that was melodic, but meant to entice you. 

A few months after, I took a trip to Nashville and met some really amazing women.  One of which was a middle aged, recently divorced, mother of three.  She really reminded me of my own mother.  Many women of that generation married right out of high school.  They settled down quickly to start having children, before they realized how much life was left out there.  Many of these women are now in their 50’s starting over again.  I couldn’t imagine being with only one man for 20-30 years and then having to start over again.

That’s what this song is meant to represent.  What’s left after you’ve given your life to someone, and now they are gone.

When we began to record this number it was actually a surprise.  Originally it wasn’t going to be a part of the album, but I changed my mind and added it in.  Dave and Alan put nylon guitar on the track and it gave it a somewhat Spanish flare, and instantly won me over.

 10.    The Bitter End

I got a call one day letting me know that someone I was close to was getting a divorce after 20 years of marriage.  This particular couple was very close to me, and I always thought one day I would end up married like them.  So, needless to say, when it didn’t work out for them I was completely devastated. 

I hopped on the bus from Weehawken to 42nd street in NYC and walked.  I walked and walked and walked … all the way down to Bleecker Street where the clubs are.  I spent about an hour or two meandering in and out of the music clubs down there, and sang at a couple of open-jams, then walked back to 42nd street.  Sometime during that walk, I started to write a melody.

The next day I picked up my guitar and started a little rhythm technique in D, and out came the song.  Seriously, I think I wrote this song in 3 days from start to finish.  Because I had been somewhat of a family member at the club “The Bitter End”, I found the lyric appropriate to signify my personal loss.  Personally speaking, when I devastatingly realized nothing lasts forever.  I thought that particular relationship would eventually be me one day.  When they didn’t last, I was really lost.  The Bitter End was quickly becoming like family to me, and music is my only substitute for sadness.  It fit perfectly.

 However, acoustically speaking, this song was nothing until we got to the studio.

The band decided to really turn this into a jam session.  Jerry Marotta (my drummer…and owner of Dreamland where we recorded)  used his indigenous drums and it really gave it a nice sound.  The guys kind of got carried away at the end with the jam, and so we decided to make it a part of the record.  I love it because they sound like a 70’s jam band like the Doors.

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