The Making Of American Epic
American Epic is my 6th album in this genre. The orchestral elements are definitely in the "epic" genre but the overall tone of this album is very different from subsequent works. Instead of using 'in the box' vocal VSTs I was fortunate enough to be able to have world class vocalist Clara Sorace (of Ethera fame) sing lead vocals for 13 of the 15 tracks. I sang lead vocals for one track myself (I Was A Soldier). The title track, "American Epic", is purely instrumental and it is the only song on the album without lead vocals. It does contain Clara's voice however. Ethera was used for some background in certain spots.
Working with Clara was immensely satisfying and challenging at the same time. She is, after all, Italian and I was asking her to sing lyrics in English. She speaks English of course but there is a slight, charming hint of Europe in her voice which added something to her performances that I found truly compelling - an exotic, mysterious element of authenticity that an American singer, no matter how accomplished, may have had trouble conjuring.
I have always considered myself fortunate to be able to express my emotions through music and even though I was a singer throughout most of my career, I never felt up to the task of properly emoting the lyrics I wrote. I always felt someone else may be able to do a better job. Expressing emotions through instrumental music is ultimately very satisfying but it does not compare to having an accomplished singer like Clara sing the very personal lyrics I wrote for this album. For me it was the most rewarding work I have ever done. She surpassed my expectations in ways that are difficult to quantify. Her voice is pure magic, especially when she lets that voice loose during the more powerful parts of the song. I was and still am astounded at the results. This video is Clara singing the beautiful "Ave Maria", a perfect example of an extremely gifted vocalist at the very top of her game. Note: this song is not part of the new album. I intend to make it available for download on my website with Clara's permission. Once you hear this, you may want a copy for yourself. It will be a free download.
The topics that "American Epic" deals with lyrically are quite varied. Revenge, justice, loss of loved ones, war memorials and what they mean to us today, romantic love expressed through the classically epic themes of love, war and conquest, questioning one's faith at the end of life, and some other intensely controversial themes such as bigotry and politics. One song deals with what one might expect if they get to heaven. Another with manic depression. All of the songs are expressed from a woman's point of view and I had to be very careful in crafting lyrics that would seem authentic from a woman's viewpoint which is not always easy for a guy (so cut me some slack if I missed the mark). Because the lyrics are of such an intensely personal nature, I found Clara's performances to be astonishingly emotional, to the point of tears for me every time I listen. Granted, I am biased and emotionally invested in the subject matter but every human being on earth can relate to the topics Clara so elegantly and powerfully elucidates. In the end, I realized we had created music which, for me at least, was extremely compelling, satisfying and most importantly, relevant to today's world events. I truly hope this music reaches the ears of those who struggle with some of the topics we took on. If they can hear this music I like to think it may help them in some small way to heal from whatever pain they may be going through. Or, maybe just fire up a bowl of your favorite mind altering substance and drift away. That's entirely your call.
A little background on Clara Sorace: She and her husband, music producer and sound designer Stefano Maccarelli produced an award winning virtual instrument called Ethera which includes orchestral instruments, synths, percussion, sound design elements and most importantly for me, vocal samples performed by Clara herself. I have used this instrument on several of my previous works and used it on this album as well - although rather sparingly since I had Clara's real voice at my disposal.
Most of my composer friends are familiar with and use Ethera in their own productions. Clara and Stefano have just released a new version of the instrument which is already garnering some serious media attention. Ethera is actually the only reason "American Epic" even exists. After using Ethera extensively in previous productions I began to wonder if Clara might want to join me in creating an original album. You never know until you ask - so I asked and to my great delight and surprise she enthusiastically agreed.
Whatever your taste in music, I encourage you to listen and read the lyrics while the song is playing. (The lyrics will be available directly from the audio player on my website) The lyrical message when combined with the orchestration and of course Clara's phenomenal performances will, I'm sure, move you emotionally in some way. That is my hope anyway.
This may be my last album for a while. It took nearly a year to complete and my health suffered as a result of the long hours I put in. 8 hours a day, 7 days a week for almost a year. I did not miss a day during production except for 2 days my wife and I spent in the mountains. My previous album, "Beautiful Battle" did not take quite as long to finish but the time required for both of these albums which I worked on in rapid succession have taken a toll on me. I need to rest. This is where we go to chill out and recuperate. Joshua Tree National Park.
I truly hope that someone, somewhere will be moved by this music and perhaps their life will change as a result. The whole reason for making music is to make people feel something - something good hopefully. A person who must remain anonymous contacted me a few weeks ago to tell me he had been considering suicide - until he listened to some of the songs on "Beautiful Battle". He said the music changed his entire outlook on life, that the music actually saved his life. That is the highest honor a composer can ever receive - and that includes Grammies and Academy awards. I'm not saying this album will change your life but it may, possibly, give you a few moments of peace, understanding and/or emotional relief that you may not have found if you never heard the music. Despite what your beliefs are about music, the truth is that it has very real and powerful healing attributes.
When you have a moment, visit dwaynefordmusic.com and subscribe on my contacts page. You will then be notified immediately the moment "American Epic" is released which is just a couple of weeks away now. Once it is released you will be able to listen to the entire album. Because of website streaming considerations (MP3 128 mbps), the quality will not be as good as the files I have made available for download. The good news is that you can download the album or individual tracks in high quality MP3 (320 MBPS), FLAC or CD quality WAV files. (Be aware that WAV files are only available for album downloads - not single track downloads). I have also made the original 48Khz/24 bit masters available for those who may want to use the high resolution audio files in their Youtube videos or other video productions. (Using any of my music for your Youtube videos or other media requires permission and/or a license which I can provide upon request). This music is not available on Amazon, Spotify or any other online streaming service. It will be available exclusively through dwaynefordmusic.com.
One last point: this music is uncompressed. There is no excessive compression and limiting applied solely for the purpose of making it loud. My target audience is Youtube which recently imposed loudness restrictions on all music streamed from their site. That limit is -13 LUFS which is still plenty loud but not as loud as what people have become accustomed to. This is great news for music lovers because it means that we as composers/producers do not need to crush the dynamic life out of our material to make it loud enough to compete. So what you will hear when you listen is exactly what I intended. You may want to turn up your volume a little - but be careful. If it sounds very loud during the intro it will literally blow your ears off when it gets to the loud parts. The images below are the same song. The top one is the version I will be releasing. It is just slightly louder than Youtube's limit at -12.8 LUFS. You can clearly see the dynamics still exist. The bottom one has been compressed and a limiter applied to make the song "loud". The dynamics are gone and it sounds terrible. Remember that the one on the bottom is no louder than the top one - at the loudest point in the song. It's just loud all the way through. If the one on the bottom was played on Youtube it would sound even worse because Youtube would further compress it.
Note: Custom stems are available upon request. Usually delivered within 24 hours. If you need those stems to be loud I can certainly do that for you.
Happy listening and thanks for letting me into your life for a few moments.