What If?: Cut by Cut
Last One Standing
(Richard Marx, Fee Waybill)
Richard Marx: We realized that we needed one more up-tempo song that could possibly be the launch of the record. I honestly didn't think I'd have time to write anything, but I had a musical idea. I sent it to my friend in L.A., Fee Waybill, who sings lead with the Tubes. He's a great lyricist. He came up with a skeleton of the lyric, and then I refined it from there. I started to think about what the band has been through, in terms of losing personnel, the amount of work they've had to do, and the humor they still have about it. I kept coming up with this idea of "I'll be the last one standing," like, "when everything is said and done, I'm going to still be here." That's the kind of statement I really see for this band. So the song is called "Last One Standing." It's a testament to how great they are as musicians that we could go in and get this track completely done in a day and a half.
(Hillary Lindsay, Blair Daly, Troy Verges)
Danick: Hillary Lindsey wrote "Lemonade." She's a writer in Nashville. We listened to a demo with her singing. It's weird to hear a demo with a girl singing when you're guys: How are we going to relate to that? But the song isn't about love; it's more about life. It talks about when those two people were younger and how they miss that. It relates to older people, and I think it was good to have a song like that on the album, to relate to all the different ages that come to see our show.
If You Were My Girl
(Richard Marx, David Cole, Pat Allingham, Patrick Bourque, Danick Dupelle, Brad Mates, Mike Melancon)
Brad: We all wrote this with Richard Marx. We wanted to all get together, talk about what the song should be about, leave for a week, write down your lines, come back, hand in all the lines, and have a song. That's basically what happened. We sat down for an hour one day when we were in the studio and found a melody for it. A week later we threw a bunch of lines together and there you go: You have a song. It's funny how that worked out, because when you've got six different ideas from six different people, plus Richard, you're going to come up with something. Richard Marx: I thought it was really important, if for no other reason as a tribute to the camaraderie between the band and me, that we should have at least one song that we all wrote together. I wanted them to cut a shuffle; I always loved up-tempo shuffles like that. They loved the idea. We kind of dove into it and refined it as we went. You can just hear how much fun we all had. I think that song is a great testament to how much fun we had on the whole album. Dale: We also cut that song two hours after the CMT Flame Worthy Awards. We went to this big show in Nashville, zipped down to the studio, and it was like, "Start recording!" David: That song relates to really young people; they're really young lyrics. A lot of fans who come to see our show are eight, nine, ten, twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old. That's one song that they can relate to.
(Steve Robson, Jeffrey Steele)
Brad: Jeffrey Steele wrote "What If?" We've known Jeffrey since the days when he was in Boy Howdy. He was in a group, so he really understands band songs. We've listened to his songs for the past few years, ever since we got signed. We had one on the last album from him. He always has a great story, with great lyrics, and all of his choruses are really catchy and easy to remember. That's a big plus too.
I'll Die Trying
(Jeremy Stover, Steve Bogard)
Dale: "This song makes my arm hairs stand up on end." I played it for my family and the same thing happened to them, so I think that's going to be the reaction for a lot of people. It's an arm-hair stander-upper. Richard Marx: I'm flattered that when I play the record for my friends, they assume that I wrote "I'll Die Trying." I wish I'd written it, because to me that's the masterpiece of the record.
(Angelo, Brett James)
Brad: "November" is a hit single. It's a good story that people, young or old, can relate to. It's got a very hooky chorus that you can remember and when people hear it live there is an immediate response, they love it.
Fishin' In The Dark
(Jim Photoglo, Wendy Waldman)
Brad: We've been playing "Fishin' in the Dark" in our live show for quite a while. It's probably one of the biggest reaction songs in our show. Even though the song is twenty years old, we still have young teenagers singing it, and we have the people who were in that age group twenty years ago singing along too. So we thought it would be cool to put on the album. Let's do it again with a new, young band and see if we can get a different vibe on it.
You're Like Coming Home
(Jeremy Stover, Brandon Kinney, Brian Dean Maher)
Danick: We listened to this song near the end of the listening sessions; it's co-written by Jeremy Stover. I don't listen to lyrics too much because I'm French, I guess [laughs]. I listen to the groove and the melody; that's what hits me, right from the beginning. And when I heard that song I said, "Oh, my God. This is totally us." It's got a little bit of that Keith Urban vibe.
Take It From Me
(Stephanie Lewis, Tommy Lee James)
Brad: It's a different kind of a ballad; it's 6/8. It's different from all the other stuff on the record. There's a great flow to the song. A song like that will connect to a lot of people. I'll say it right now: I don't think it will ever be a single, but it's a great song for an album.
Waitin' On Me
(Bobby Pinson, Brad Mates)
Brad: I wrote that song with a buddy of ours in Nashville named Bobby Pinson. Bobby had three songs on the first record. He and I were writing together one day. We only got the first verse and the chorus done. We were in our last day of cutting in the studio, but Bobby wanted so bad to get the song done because he wanted a cut on the album that he came over the studio. We only had forty-five minutes to finish it but, sure enough, we got the bridge and the last verse done, we played it for Richard, and he said, "Yeah, I like it." We did it that night, and now it's on the album.
Running Back To You
Brad: We were all hoping to have a couple of songs on this album that were written by Richard [Marx]. This is one of the more mature songs on the record. Anyone that has ever experienced any of the situations described in this song will be able to relate. It's one of my personal favorites on the record. Richard Marx: With that song I thought it was important to have a song that had a similar kind of feel to "I Should Be Sleeping." Even though the songs are markedly different, if you just strip away all the music and listen to the drum groove of these two songs, they're pretty similar. But where "I Should Be Sleeping" was a major-key, happier vibe, my song is a little darker, a little angrier. Frankly, I wanted Brad to sing kind of a "screw you" song. I thought the record had to have at least one "love affair gone wrong" song.
(Richard Marx, Gary Harrison)
Danick: That's our second song from Richard Marx; he co-wrote that with Gary Burr. It's another ballad. Personally, I think it could be a real good movie song, like a Pearl Harbor II. Dale: It's like the soundtrack for Brave Heart 2. Patrick: Richard did an awesome job with the strings. He wrote the string charts. It's amazing what he did: He heard everything in his head and sang it to the arranger. We were in Nashville when they recorded that. There was a twenty-five piece orchestra playing. It was incredible. It brought tears to your eyes.
Still Got Yesterday
(Brad Mates, Greg Barnhill)
Brad: I co-wrote that song with Greg Barnhill. Greg's been around Nashville for many years and in L.A. and New York, working with a lot of different writers. I went over to his house one day. We sat down and started talking about writing a good up-tempo song. I said, "Why don't we try to write something along the lines of 'Summer of '69,' an old rock anthem or something like that?" That's where that idea came from.
Rescued (Bonus Track)
(Brett James, Tom McHugh, Bryan Wayne)
Danick and Mike: The first time we heard this song, we thought is was a good song to take your girlfriend out on a Sunday afternoon ride in your convertible and drive down the coast with your radio on full blast and feel rescued from everything.
Emerson Drive: Cut By Cut
The members of Emerson Drive recently discussed the songs on their self-titled major-label debut album. Released in early 2002 on DreamWorks Records, Emerson Drive was produced by James Stroud, with co-producer Julian King.
"Evidence": Pat: This song was sent up to us when we were on the road in Minot, N.D.We thought it was really cool the first time we heard it, though we worried it might be too edgy. But the folks at DreamWorks told us to push the envelope and be who we are, so we went for it.
"I See Heaven": Jeff: I was booked for a writing session with a guy from L.A., but he got his schedule messed up and didn't show for our meeting. So my music publisher phoned another publisher, who called these two great writers, Chris Bergnes and Noah Gordon, who happened to be available to come over at the last minute. We talked for ten minutes about ideas, and I said I had this idea for a song with a kind of Goo Goo Dolls, 6/8 feel, and we wrote "Heaven" out of pure spontaneous combustion; we just clicked. We've written six or eight songs together since then.
"Passionate Desperate Love": Mike: I love this because it's so edgy and rocking; it's got a real raw feel to it, and it's just a little different from everything else out there. Once we started working it up for our live show, we were all totally sold on it, and it came out great on the album.
"Say My Name": Chris: The best songs are sometimes the simplest. With "Say My Name," I just wanted to write a simple song about my girl. The cool thing is that I'd never met my co-writers on this before we sat down to write, but we hit it off great and had a lot of fun working on it.
"Only God (Could Stop Me Loving You)": Danick: We felt this was a smash from the start. It was part of our first listening session on the first day, and when we heard it we thought, "Wow this sounds like a #1 hit," and it totally feels like us.
"I Should Be Sleeping": Jeff: This seemed like fun to me right from the get-go. It's catchy, and I knew right away we could rip it up, particularly with Danick doing the high harmonies.
"Looking Over My Shoulder": Brad: This was also part of the first listening session. As soon as we heard the intro, we were all hooked. It's totally an Emerson Drive live-show song.
"Light Of Day": Pat: We came upon "Light Of Day" by accident. There was this pile of song demos in the apartment. I had nothing to do one day and decided to listen to them again. This one stood out like a sore thumb. I was, like, "How did I miss that?" I played it for the guys and everybody flipped over it, but it was one of those things that almost slipped through the cracks.
"Hollywood Kiss": Brad: We're all big fans of Marcus Hummon, who wrote this song. He's had so many big hits and is just a genius of a writer. We've played six or seven of his songs on the road over the years, and there was no way we were gonna do an album without including something from him.
*** "C'mon Let's Experience": Jeff: That song has stayed in our minds and on our set lists since we first heard it a long while back. It's just got a really cool vibe.
*** "Stone Angel": Pat: This is another one that's been with us for quite a while, though we did change the feel and tempo for the record. The demo was darker than the album version. "Stone Angel" has a really neat message to it, something we thought the audience could really connect with.
"It's All About You": Brad: I was actually a little scared of this song at first the demo was so good, with this Steven Tyler/Aerosmith kind of vocal, that I kind of stood back and said, "I don't know if I can do this justice." But we started working it up in the studio and [co-producer] Julian [King] said, "Just do whatever you have to do to sing this; yell your head off if you need to." And a few passes later, it all just came together.
"Fall Into Me"
(Danny Orton, Jeremy Stover): Danick: "Fall Into Me" is a song with a lot of harmony, a catchy melody and great lyrics. Brad: "Fall Into Me" personifies Emerson Drive. From vocals to instrumentals it's all there.
"How Lucky I Am"
(Chris Lindsey, Bob Regan): Danick: "How Lucky I Am" came from a great writer, Chris Lindsey, wrote "Amazed" for Lonestar. It's got a great chorus for harmonies and it's a different groove from most of what we have on the album. Pat played the mandolin on it, which adds a really cool sound. Brad: The chorus is bigger than the moon. Vocally, it's very catchy, and it's a great song for a fiddle and guitar player to shine on.
*** "Stone Angel" and "C'mon Let's Experience" were replaced on Emerson Drive with "Fall Into Me" and "How Lucky I Am."
* Cut By Cut Courtesy of DreamWorks Nashville