Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Personal dispatch #14

This is a dispatch from Kate Riley. In her cover of "Sweet Thing," Kate sings and whistles, plays ukulele and tambourine. It's simple yet imaginative, like cutting intricate paper dolls from plain white paper. The original "Sweet Thing" is an old-time ode; Kate's cover is a newfangled, sprightly anthem, a throw-your-hands-in-the-air celebration of love's pomp and grandeur. Here is what Kate had to say about her background as well as what went into recording her cover.
I live in Columbus, Ohio, born in Cleveland, Ohio. I'm 29. I've been a musician since a young age. I'm classically trained on the trumpet, but just picked up the ukulele and started singing only two years ago.

I'm very goofy, I play for my family and friends, but I do not perform live or "play out," as almost everyone asks me. I make music mostly for myself, as a hobby, a creative outlet. I'm not looking to be a rock star. I guess you could categorize me as a song writer, if anything, but definitely not a performer.

It's sad to say, the first time I heard "Sweet Thing" was only a few years ago. To put things in perspective, my first memory of music was singing to Huey Lewis and the News on my Playskool cassette recorder. (Funny, I've never attempted a cover of Huey's.) I grew up listening to the ever-expanding genres of pop, rock, alternative, and hip hop. But music from the 60's and 70's really fascinates me; it's something I've had to take the time to discover on my own. I didn't grow up with it. I'd never heard a Van Morrison song other than "Brown Eyed Girl."

When I heard "Sweet Thing", I thought, this is powerful. The emotions of the song are very clear to me, and I like music that has the ability to do that. I listened to the whole Astral Weeks album and was just astounded. The whole album speaks to me in flowing emotions, uncanny simplicity, and amazing musicality. It is very expressive. I wanted other people my age, even just a few, to discover Van Morrison, so I knew I had to do a cover.

I always start creating covers by trying to replicate the original. And since I'm super creative, replicating frustrates me beyond belief. I build on that frustration and I think that's when something beautiful comes out: my own version, what the original means to me, how it naturally flows through me. Everyone hears and interprets music differently. I think a cover should be an expression or interpretation of how you feel about the original. I've had a lot of people tell me how much they enjoyed my covers, but never necessarily liked the originals. I think it helps to hear a different voice or interpretation. It helps the original live on and be understood especially in a new day and age.

I record all of my music on my phone. "Sweet Thing" I used an app called GarageBand for help with some light percussion. I recorded it last spring, around a time when "the gardens were all wet with rain". (Lol.) I sat on the song for months and just "thought" about it. But creating the cover probably only took me a couple of hours. I changed quite a bit in the song, but I think the feeling and emotion speak to the original. I'm very rhythmic. I tend to enhance that in anything I play. I think Van Morrison is a genius because he doesn't have to do that. His music flows and you feel the rhythm without it necessarily being in your face. A true Asrtal Weeks fan and musician may notice I even changed the time signature! (I actually imagined someone being quite displeased about that when I did it.)

I love the song because it's very magical. It simplifies the feeling of love and in reality, that is what falling in love is all about. It's easy, simple, innocent, and child-like. Your senses change. You notice things you hadn't before, all because your feelings for this one person unlocked your mind to new possibilities.

1 comment:

  1. This is really great! I am surprised I enjoyed it so much. Usually I don't really like Van Cover songs, probably because I love the man himself so much. I do hope Van or his people get to hear this. This would make an excellent version to go on a Van covers album. Simon Gee what do you think?