HMWT Episode 2 - Abigail Cline "Sweet Lemonade"
I had a blank canvas for my mandolin part on Abigail Cline's "Sweet Lemonade" Unlike with Cat's song, where I used the recorded song's electric guitar part as the basis, I was on my own on this one. Abigail hasn't recorded it in a studio yet so she sent me a voice memo of just her and her guitar. She gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted on the mandolin part. (I did a quick recording over her voice memo while I was working it out to make sure I was on the right track, though).
I used my usual method when I have to write a part from scratch:
1) Do no harm
2) Play melodic parts
3) Stay off the vocal line. (meaning don't play lead parts while the singing is happening)
There's a bit of space at the beginning before the vocals come in and I used that space to quote the verse melody with a little flourish at the end. I kept the arrangement really simple, mostly playing the chords in the verses and tremeloing during the choruses at Abigail's request.
The song itself is, for a lack of a better word, adorable. It's about what the narrator is looking for in a partner and how it's impossible to predict when that might happen. Abigail writes a lot of songs for theater and I feel like you can kind of tell from the narrative drive. It's a little hard to describe, but to me there's a lot of forward momentum in the lyrics that reenforces the forward looking perspective of the song.
Even the choruses have slightly different lyrics than each other which, while still recognizably refrains, have just enough unfamiliarity to keep doling out new information and pushing the song ahead. In music there's no right or wrong way, but I think it really works on this song as the narrator thinks about the long span of time and what might happen. "It might take till we're 30 or 50 or 70"
It's a cute song but not cloying and a light song without being shallow. I really like the almost retro feel of lines like "My dream guy will look handsome as my sweetpea" and of course the
tagline "I just want him to pick life's lemons and make sweet lemonade with me." Listen for how she subtly swings the words vocally over the beat, especially on the tagline. It's those little things that make it a great song.
Abigail has a lovely voice too which never hurts. Mike was surprised to find out afterwards that she was theater trained; in his experience sometimes theater people have some trouble adjusting the singing style from the stage to the studio. I don't know enough about singing to know what changes need to be made but I believed him.
My favorite part to play was the cross picking part during the bridge (starting at 1:54). It's part of the standard mandolin toolkit that simulates a forward roll on the banjo and has the added bonus of being fun to do and as tricks go, not all that difficult.
One unanticipated issue I had recording is that we recorded it right after I had played Cat's song and, while the two songs are in different keys, it works out that of the five chords in "Sweet Lemonade," four of them are in "Drop Me A Line" in a different order. I had more trouble mentally keeping the part straight than I would have if I hadn't just played Drop Me a Line four times. It's something I'll be cognizant of the next time I pick two songs to do on the same day.
Hope you enjoy it. Abigail and I talked for a few minutes in my dining room about the meaning of the song, her theater backgroud, and her upright bass trial by fire.