Producing 'She Sells Seashells' with Phil Kearney


Just prior Christmas, 2010, I posted an open offer for a collaborative effort based on a piece of unfinished and untitled music I had. 'She Sells Seashells' is the result of this collaboration between myself and singer, musician Phil Kearney from Nebraska, US.

Out of the interest shown, it was Phil's submission that caught my attention, especially its wistful and melancholic chorus, a beautiful release after the robotic pace and build of the verses. The original crude demo forwarded to me used nursery rhyme words to demonstrate the melodic structure, and this original idea survived the rewriting as the sound of the words, the repetitive nature of the juxtaposed constanants and vowels fitted so well together, and after attempts to create something different during the verses we decided to revert to this original presentation, albeit with a themetic variation as the verse lyric, as it was, made no sense in terms of the chorus.

Phil: I'd like to give it deeper meaning, but, in truth, I had a melody idea and no lyrics. So for the verse, I used the tongue twister 'Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers' followed by the nursery rhyme 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' and ending with the (modified to fit) tongue twister 'She Sells Sea Shells By The Shore'. Oddly, 'She Sells Sea Shells' stuck as the chorus. George wrote some very cool verse lyrics to accommodate my melody/phrasing in the verses. I wanted to write with George for some time. When this opportunity presented itself...I jumped on it.

George: The chorus sold the song to me, with elegant vocal flavorings of David Bowie, and I suggested we keep the lyrics just as they are, luckily Phil was already thinking along similar lines. I reworked the words on the verse, keeping to the 'Peter Piper Picked etc' idea, but changing the gender to female to make it fit, now the lady by the shore is 'Peta Piper'. Once the vocal line was agreed upon Phil recorded his voice in Nebraska and emailed me the recorded sessions here in Melbourne, Australia. I re arranged and produced the track, adding new sections and added his great vocal on top.

Phil: I like the Bowie reference, because, in truth, when I first heard the music George posted, I was scared to death! I thought the song would sound like Alien Skin's 'After The Funeral' or 'Cold' etc. I thought to myself, "there is NO WAY I will come up with something for THIS!" The upbeat nature of it combined with the soaring female vocal had me rattled...for about 5 minutes. Then a favorite album came to mind... Bowie's 'Earthling'. I was sitting there and said to myself "Well, what would Bowie do?" I thought of his bass player Gail Ann Dorsey (who happens to live in my hometown of Kingston, New York) and how well she and Bowie compliment and counter each other. Though I don't dare presume to compare myself to 'The Thin White Duke'! lol. He is a big inspiration in my life.

George: It was an experiment for me as I don't usually work in this fashion, but in this instance it has paid off, and I'm very excited with the finished result. As I'm working on the third Alien Skin album, a protracted effort, it was satisfying to release something new, quickly and in a shorter period of time. You can preview She Sells Seashells below, the download is available from Bandcamp, CDBABY, iTUNES and everywhere else.

Listen now buttonPhil and I comment on the song's creation.

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