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Song-Telling Tuesday: Major Days and the Education of Lyricism

Photo by Devin Kaselnak

“I’m not about to be an artist that doesn’t challenge my listener to a new idea or perspective. If my music isn’t challenging you, then what am I doing? What is my job of an artist?” asks Haylee Dee.

Songwriting

On a first listen to Major Days, you’re swept into a collage of styles and sounds. There are limitless possibilities to what you could hear from track to track. Haylee Dee, RickSoBreezy, and Jae Graham all come from musically educated backgrounds via McNally Smith and the Institute of Production and Recording (IPR). But even with their commonalities of education comes a contrast in their tastes. It’s what makes Major Days so entertaining to listen to.

Haylee Dee studied jazz. RickSoBreezy focused more on hip hop and lyricism. Jae Graham was more technical in beat creation and forming a nest for lyrics. This blend of influences and backgrounds gives Major Days a wonderful identity crisis. There’s a bit of groove in their songs, some hip hop, soul, slow beats, dance, mixed with plenty of heart.

“We’re never writing for an intended audience. We sit down and think, ‘How can we build on this, how can we be organic with this?’ We find an uncommon way to say something common,” states Jae Graham.

Every approach on a new song is different for them. Some are tracks that are communally built from scratch, while others are beats that Jae brings with Rick adding a hook. There’s a collection of tracks that Rick has done in the past that become re-envisioned. The only constant is that they each write their own parts and lyrics.

Photo by FlyTouchStudio

“When the house is clean and I have nothing to do, I write some crazy shit,” Jae said.

Laughing, he admits that doesn’t happen easily.

Rick says he writes while he cleans by playing the instrumental over and over again and free-styling to it. With the movement of cleaning, his mind is engaged to create.

For Haylee, it’s not about cleaning.  “I write while I’m driving and improvise,” she shared.

Her jazz background leads her to scatting on top of a song, finding a vibe that connects. Then she’ll expand on a line or two.

There’s no songwriting formula for them. It always comes down to the vibe and focusing on what the song needs. There’s no verse, chorus, verse, bridge form to follow. Like all artists, they still encounter writer’s block as a group.

Photo by Devin Kaselnak

“The worst thing about writer’s block is not that you can’t think of something, but that the same thing you’re thinking about keeps repeating. We’re good about moving on,” Haylee said.

Instead of forcing an idea, they dump it and move to an entirely new song.

The jokingly fourth member of the band is Google Drive. It allows them to collaborate by sharing recording files, demo ideas, live show footage, promo material, and cover art designs. It keeps their process flowing and allows everyone to add or take at any time.

Goodnight Moon 

Click here watch a live performance of this.

RickSoBreezy wrote “Goodnight Moon” back in college while dating a girl. He didn’t feel like the relationship was going anywhere and he received this beat. Sometimes the right song at the right time equals magic. Rick says the hook came out immediately.

“Goodnight moon, goodnight moon,

I got a feeling that I’ll have to say goodbye soon”

The interesting thing about music is meaning can be different with each person. When sharing this track with his bandmates, they heard different things. Haylee did not get a heartbreak vibe at all from it.

“I got a sexy, flirty, in the city at night vibe,” she said.

Jae wrote his verse looking at it with unpredictable eyes and leaning more toward a what-if vibe.

“Perfect picture but we can’t predict the scripture

So the odds of finding exes just cards in the river”

Soon after recording the song at Cloverleaf Audio, Jae experienced immediate gratification as some dude was singing it at him while passing on the street. Major Days knows the power of the song and combination. It introduces them to an audience very well. It’s a bit ominous, doesn’t have a thick theme, catchy chorus, while the verses are hip hop inspired, but layered with Haylee’s harmonies and vocal tricks. It has a little bit of everything in it. 

“Got no problem with telling a chick she gotta bounce

Got a long list of women I look better without

Incredible style, yeah we inspire the masses

The future looking live let’s put the past in the casket

The depth of lyrics and ability Major Days has to flutter around a message shows beautifully on this song. Each listen provides a new dimension and outlook from the group. Each line is loaded with weight and yet the song feels so light and airy.

Rearview

“Rearview” was born on the road. Jae Graham was dating someone in Nebraska and drove down one weekend to see them. A massive snowstorm swept across his path and all the highways started to close down.

Driving the back roads and taking forever, Jae confessed, “I had this disgusting determination to make it there.”

He began to imagine cruising through the pouring rain. He wanted to write a verse about this ‘full feeling’ people are always chasing but don’t ever quite reach.

“Walking down the wrong side of a one-way

No if I hit all my notes I’ll come out with my fun straight”

Rick’s contribution happened very fast. The super catchy hook inspired him to knock out a verse in 15 minutes. His verse focuses on the old adage, “whatever happened, happened,” and we have to keep going forward. The last couple lines of his verse stand out the most as he rhymes over the chorus melody. 

“The grass ain’t always greener it just started growing

Focus too much on where I’ve been I forget where I’m going”

The symbolism of the rearview mirror works perfectly in this song — it is an object that holds all the past. The concept is centered around an ideal situation, but then there’s the next best scenario. The chorus exemplifies this best.

“Crusin’ through the country in the pouring rain and

92 without the roof and golden frames

All I ever wanted was that moment back

Rearview holding onto all the things that pass”

Photo by Major Days

Song Production

As a vibe-based group, Major Days intentionally sets a mood when recording. They’ve been known to bring palm trees into the studio to acquire a certain vibe. A combination of good smelling scents has been used as well to fill the rooms. They use these vibes by interjecting them into their tracks and lyrics. 

Jae sees the value of demos before officially heading into the studios.

“Demos as the savior of good music. You can demo something and listen to it for months. Does it still hit, does it still feel right?” Jae said.

Jae works on the demos at his place. They all do one rough take through to feel out the song, giving them something to work on and make tighter before they head into the studio. Being prepared saves them money as well.

“We can knock out songs really fast and efficiently in the studio,” Rick added.

By outlining the song, the studio then becomes the place to add in the frills and layers.

Photo by Major Days

There are some lessons they’ve learned over the years.

“The worst shit I’ve ever recorded was when I was so worked up worrying about the sound of my voice,” Haylee said.

She then worked with engineer Steve Sullivan, who loves mistakes and that raw, gritty feel of a vocal performance. She’s learned to embrace the feel of the vocals more than the technical perfection.

Major Days just released a new track called “Movin On.” It’s another prime example of their diversity, lyricism, and blend of influences. Have a listen below as an added bonus!

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Smouse

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