Dreaming of Home is the oldest track on my album, VHS, with the first draft of the song dating back to 2003. It has always been one of my favourites, even in its long half-finished state. The original track came together in one session, with the intro and chorus section being exactly as they are today, along with the beatbox and horn swells. From time to time, I would revisit some of my older tracks and this one always brought a smile to my face. I was determined to finish it one day, but that proved to be elusive for 15 years, as first I needed to grow as a writer in order be able to express what I had in my head. I’m glad to finally get it out.
The name of the track comes from the feeling of longing and nostalgia created by the slow opening horn melody, which plays over the top of the low droning bass synth, creating a spacious and distant sound, reminding me of being very far from home. The light pluck melody that comes in next is a reminder of voices calling from afar. The voices are sparse and distant, till they rise with a commanding presence in the verse section. The chorus section is whimsical and playful, in anticipation of the joy of reconnecting with family and friends.
From a technical perspective, I did some musically interesting things on this track – there is the beatbox which drives the beat throughout the song, which I also used to gate the strings volume up and down n time with the beat. This created a kind of shimmering, pulsing feel. And this is the first track where I discovered the distinctive “Pluck” lead, which I was obsessed with for over 10 years and used throughout the VHS album. (Literally, every time I started a track and couldn’t find the right lead sound, I would fall back on Pluck). Together, the shimmering strings and Pluck melody of the “Chorus section” create a dreamy, nostalgic feeling.
Over the years I tried, and failed, to finish the track. Something was missing, and I just couldn’t figure out how to musically get from the intro to the chorus. In instrumental music, thinking in a verse/chorus framework can sometimes get you stuck. I had probably close to 10 failed attempts at writing a ‘verse’ and had more or less given up, but every time I listened to the original intro/chorus version of the track, I loved it, and knew I just had to get it on this album somehow.
Eventually, as the deadline was approaching to ship the album to Bill Simpkins at Alpenglow Sound Studios for mixing, out of desperation I scrapped the latest verse attempt, and tried evolving the intro melody instead. And it worked! Something was still missing however. I moved the scrapped verse melody over into a bridge to create some variation, but it sounded too similar, flat and uninteresting. I called up my friend, Planet Labs engineer and Musician Extraordinaire, Shomik Chakravarty, for some advice. Shomik came over and suggested I drop the new bridge down a fourth and then modulate back into the original key for the final chorus. We did that, and on the spot, wrote the short little Spanish guitar part (played by Bill on the album) to connect the phrases, and it worked!
One final touch was to send the horn parts out for recording. Rich Armstrong, also a fantastic trumpet player and vocalist, recorded the part with a flugelhorn. On a whim he he also added the little flugelhorn fills and flourishes you can hear throughout. With those little touches, the song was done!
This song is a little unusual, but it means a lot to me, and I am happy to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have, carrying it with me for the past 15 years, dreaming of home.