April 1, 2015… Was day TWO of our second studio marathon in Wilmington, NC. Having knocked out what would become the instrumental for The Foreign Exchange’s lead single, “Asking For A Friend” the night before and a second instrumental earlier that day, to say that Nicolay and I were in a groove in the studio would be a complete understatement. Out of the ten Tales From the Land Of Milk and Honey joints, this may very well me my favorite story to tell. I almost feel like I need to introduce this one as if I’m narrating a damn ESPN 30 For 30 trailer…
“What if I told you…”
…that the music for “As Fast As You Can” happened… well…. kinda by accident?
Nic opened a new Pro Tools session, as usual… We agreed upon a tempo and then he started searching through some drum kits until he landed on something that had some sounds that caught our ears. He laid a four-to-the-floor kick as the foundation and started to build around that. I was sitting at the Rhodes, kinda nodding and kinda texting or tweeting… Probably about 50/50. Nic was on the drum machine going IN, layering each element piece-by-piece until the drums were pretty much complete. THEN… Ok, so you know when you’re in the studio how you just tap on a couple of notes back and forth to test if a keyboard’s sound is coming through the mixing board? Well, Nic did just that… He reached over to the Moog Voyager keyboard and just hit a couple notes to get a quick sound check – it was successful, the board was coming through the speakers. Meanwhile, I put my phone down and quickly figured out that the two notes he hit during the quick sound test were C# and D. I figured, hey… Let me see what happens if I mess around with those two notes and build some chords around them. The very first things that came to me were: Dmaj7 and C#min7, but hit in a rhythm that went with Nic’s drum pattern. I kept playing the chords until we realized… Ayooooooo, we’ve got something here!!!
Now when I started playing the rhythm initially, my bass note and chord matched… Meaning that my left and right hands were playing the chords stabs together …at the same time. When Nic laid the bassline out in the song, the D and first C# notes were the same rhythm as what I played, but the remaining C#’s all hit on the “and” through the remaining measure and a half. I thought that slight change gave the drums a little more “bounce”. Come to think of it, I have audio of Nic playing the synth chords over the drums and bassline while I sat on the Moog Little Phatty trying out different synth line variations. I have listened to it a good 20+ times since the release of the album because it’s dope to be able to hear our initial reactions to what was being created. Hell, if you can’t get excited off of the music you’re making, you certainly can’t expect anyone else to. And we were hyped up… At one point in the recording, I played a line (that we ultimately ended up recording on the song) and said, “Yeah, that’s the one I like!” …Then I started sing/humming the beginning of the line as I played it and Nic sang the second part in approval. The very next line variation I played, you can hear Nic in the background react, “OH!!!!!” And the clip concludes with him saying, “That is it! …..I think we may have to record that…” It’s REALLY dope to listen to now in hindsight… Our initial reactions to that music captured in audio form, all because I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget the line I was practicing. It may have taken us a grand total of about 30-40 minutes to finish the entire instrumental and once it was done, I think we ran the joint for ANOTHER 30-40 minutes. We knew we had a helluva song on our hands with this one, it just felt way too good for it not to become a standout. We sent the finished product over to Phonte who was also in the studio with Carmen Rodgers just a couple of hours northwest of us in Raleigh, NC. His response to the music contained in that email?
Just three days later on the morning of April 4th, Nic and I received an email back from Phonte with a completed song attached…
Subject: As Fast As You Can
Look man… When I opened that attachment and heard Carmen singing over that music, it sounded like we made it specifically for her. Her tone + the instrumental?!?! She fit PERFECTLY. I remember Phonte telling me about the writing style that he and Carmen collaborated on for it where they utilized the same melody and cadence for the verses as he did in the hook… Well, the shit worked. I honestly had to STOP myself from listening to this song too much once I got the recorded vocals back. Out of everything we made, it was the one that I kept going back to. I never claim favorites when it comes to music I’m involved in, but I RAN this shit, bruh… A ton. It was always crazy to me how this song went from being sort of an “accident” to me burning a hole in it later by playing it so much. Further confirmation that this music was supposed to happen.