You might be thinking, “Been Watchin’ You? Didn’t that song appear on the Live at Skully’s disc that was released this past fall?” You would be correct. Although this week’s song isn’t necessarily newly written, this is the first time anyone will be hearing a “studio” version of Been Watchin’ You. I thought it would be important to include it in The Mixtape Project for a few reasons. One of those reasons is that I wanted you to understand that I intend to release new songs in many different forms of development. I feel that if I just record acoustic guitar and vocals every week it might create some misunderstanding that I am attempting to fit into some kind of singer/songwriter genre. I am hoping instead that you hear the songs themselves, melody and lyrics first and foremost, despite any particular musical arrangement in which they might be released.
Another reason was that after writing this song and getting a chance to play it at various live concerts, I liked it and wanted to consider it for a new studio album. Now that this decision is in your hands, I wanted to make sure that it was a part of this catalog. This version that you are hearing is a result of what I call Mock-up Sessions. To understand Mock-up Sessions, I must first introduce you to my good friend Donnell Phillips. If you own our EP entitled THATCitYSCAPE, you will notice Donnell’s name on the back credited as the keyboard player on the album. But, let it be known, the kid is way deeper than that. In the process of making that EP I found a musical brotherhood in Donnell that I’ve not ever seen the likes of before in my creative journey. It’s Donnell’s talent that has helped me express the music that I write in a way that is the closest I’ve ever come to how the songs sound in my head. I write the tunes and Donnell makes them “stupid”, as he puts it.
Donnell is a multi-instrumentalist with his strongest being keyboard/piano, bass, and drums in equal parts, basically making himself his own rhythm section. The fact that he can play all three instruments as well as he can is no small accomplishment. But he is able to go one step further as he translates his head knowledge of each instrument to playing them all on the keyboard as if he was playing the actual instrument. He utilizes various synthetic sounds or “patches” that are a part of the keyboard’s sound banks to mimic each respective instrument. This is not huge news. There are many talented musician’s that can do this very thing and have been doing it for years. But, simply put, Donnell does it like HE does it and there is nothing more slick. It’s as if he is jumping inside my head and listening to the imaginary band that plays my songs. His abilities allows us to complete our musical thoughts about how a song might sound if a band would play it. We can then make those thoughts tangible without having to call an entire band rehearsal. Once Donnell and I have “fleshed out” the tunes, the application for these Mock-up Sessions are to pass the tracks on to band members so they can get a good idea of how to play their respective parts and then be able to perform them in the studio or in a live show.
Along with the Mock-up Session track of Been Watchin’ You, I have included the audio that was captured from a single mic that I set up in the room as we initially played through the song. You can hear Donnell formulating an arrangement in real-time as I have communicated the feel of the song to him beforehand. The audio fades in near the end of us playing the tune where you hear Donnell improvise for the first time what eventually becomes the vamp at the end of the actual track. You can hear those chill bump moments when he hits something good and we both feel it. The song as it is posted includes the entire vamp so it is much longer than would most likely appear anywhere else. But I wanted you to be a part of the whole process and hear Donnell vamp with himself playing all the instruments and improvising as he goes. There were no overdubs. There are wrong chords and missed notes at times, but it feels good. Next time we do a Mock-up Session, I’ll make sure and set up the video camera and post a video instead of just audio. Listen in the vamp on the actual track for the jam that Donnell calls the “all-skate” section.
This song is dedicated to my Grandfather, my uncles Neal, Bryan, Jamey and Mark, my father and my cousin Martin. The song talks about the direct line of mentoring that is very clear in my life, and it is a reminder to me that my life is not my own. Character is who you are when no one is watching and I feel like the building and upkeep of my personal integrity is more for the sake of who comes behind me than any self-gratifying attempts to fill the shoes of who came before me. I always seem to fall short anyway, so I’m more encouraged to press on by looking behind me.
I get it, I am not a new idea
Far from it. I’ve been trying hard just to be you
In the life that I decide
It’s more evident that I’m
Steady following what’s laid out for me
I’ve been watching you
And the things that you do
I’ve been watching you
And it makes me wonder
Who’s been watching me
And I’m walking my town
Like a pattern you’ve designed
On the ground
Are the prints you left behind
But the shoes that walked this Hill
Are what my feet weren’t fit to fill
So I’m looking back
To see who’s in my tracks