Studio Campfire Stories: ‘ManMade’ Edition – “ManMade” (feat. Phonte)

Zo_Phonte 04.17.11

A.M. hours in the studio with Phonte in NC – 04.17.11

“Ayo man, I think I’ve got an idea for the title track… I’ll record it on my phone and send it to you” © Phonte

The title track began with a simple idea for what was to become the hook sent to me in voice memo form from Phonte in late June 2012. The .mp4 file was simply him singing, “ManMaaaaaaade…. MaaanMaaaaade…. MaaaanMaaaaaaaade” repeated twice. We had already started discussing plans to get up as soon as possible to sit down at the keyboard and compose the full song. From the 16 second voice memo, I was able to come up with a chord progression that worked with the vocals so that once we DID sit down to work, we would have a foundation to work from.

Two months later on August 29, 2012 while at Phonte’s spot in NC… Myself at the keyboard and he at his desk at 2am, we started constructing the title track for ManMade. We had done this same thing once before in my studio three years prior. ……The end result was, “If I Could Tell You No” from the SunStorm album (I still have that original demo). For “ManMade”, we started working from the hook because that was the part that was already worked out vocally and musically. From there we worked out the verse parts and a pre-hook, which found me experimenting with different chord changes + voicings and Phonte humming and mumbling through the melodies – keeping what worked and scrapping what didn’t. Once we finally had everything together, we ran through it a few times all the way through just to practice and then see how it sounded together as a piece.. Finally, our phones came out and ‘record’ was hit on the voice memo buttons in order to capture a very rough reference. Three minutes and 46 seconds later… “ManMade” was officially documented and I had what I needed in order to make the music once I hit the studio …and I couldn’t WAIT because I knew we were sitting on something DOPE.

When I took this one to the studio, I remember completing the entire composition in less than an hour… In a 3/4 time signature, I programmed the drums first and utilized a double hi-hat technique that I’ve heard used on songs like Boz Scaggs’ “Lowdown”. First, I recorded myself playing an open hi-hat pattern and panned it to one side, then recorded myself playing a closed hi-hat pattern and panned to the other. This was how I heard the pattern even while in NC after recording the voice memo reference with Phonte. I can even remember explaining the pattern to him when he asked, “What you hearing for the drums?” Next came the keys, live bass and other layers to complete the production work. Musically, “ManMade” is probably the least complex song on the album and I’m glad I left it that way because once I sent it through to Phonte and he recorded his vocals on it… I was like, “YOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” Very powerful lyrics. I had never heard him write like that before… This was the joint that showed me that Phonte was continuing to grow as a songwriter and vocalist. When you’ve worked with a kat for several years and you’re still able to see creative growth?! …That’s a helluva thing, man.

“If God is love and I’m truly forgiven, how do I know?
If I was really made in His image then, where does it show?
‘Cause you are everything that’s good and perfect and I fall short
‘Cause all we do is merely….
ManMade”

Come on, now… These are things we have all wondered or have asked at one time or another. So I felt this, not only as a collaborator and a fellow artist, but as a human being – and I’m not even big on picking up on lyrics like that at all. Relatable topics over music that you can nod your head or just zone out to. This joint was a special one because it became such a personal piece thus becoming exactly what I wanted to bring forth to the listener as a title track, which is always important when producing your album. The reason why there won’t be another “Zo! & Tigallo Love…” cover album? …Because we have a lot more of this kind of original material to bring to the table…

Purchase ManMade HERE • Or on iTunes

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