Cam Gillette “One Of You”
In the early 1900s, there was a Russian psychologist named Lee Vygotsky, famous for his theory called the ‘Zone of Proximal Development,’ which simply put, broke learning into 3 sections: 1) easy, where the learner would generally become bored, 2) frustratingly difficult 3) and optimal, where the learner would need guidance/help but would be able to reach the maximum experience. His work was eventually used heavily in developing the modern teaching strategies we have in place today.
But outside education, artists can use their tools this way. So what I call the ‘Zone of Proximal songwriting’ is a process of creating art that is familiar enough to your audience that they are not alienated, but is challenging enough that they can experience something new or interesting. As content creators, it’s imperative to try to meet our audience where they are, but push them to greater things. While there are many amazing genres and musical experiences that could be had, if artists don’t provide some way for newcomers to enter, they are robbing both themselves and their listeners. Those who enjoy fringe genres could point to the bands along the way that pushed us in just the right amount to reach the experiences our current music tastes provide, so that’s what I’m trying to do with my creations.
Lyrically, ‘One of You’ is about the human desire to be part of a group, or a tribe, and the comprises we are willing to make to find one. The character of the song is trying to blend into a more hedonistic culture, and trying to blend in while insecure of his own outward persona. For ‘One of You’ I needed a really dark feel of uneasyness, desperation and questioning, but delusional outward confidence. So for the choruses I went with a variation on trap style orchestration, and alternately a dark almost prodigy-styled acid feel on the verses. While on the chorus vocals, I ended up with a longer, heavily melodic part featuring a strong longing/melancholy feel. There’s a harmony in the chorus to symbolize that although lonely and desperate, the desire and pursuit of finding one’s place in existence is universal – rather than a solo yearning. While on the verses, I have a far more rhythmic vocal line with a bit of wondering pitch, to create an arrogant/delusional feel. Which I keep to a mostly single vocal line to symbolize that the feelings of artificial confidence feel empowering, yet lead to a dark place. After each verse there lies relatively empty prechoruses, forcing the vocals to feel naked and vulnerable to juxtapose the two views of the song’s protagonist’s persona, as well as symbolize the lengths of self-convincing we will go to become one of a group. The song then builds to bridge with little more than dark 808’s and empty vocals repeating the same line found in the intro, showing the desperate attempts to find a home in this tribe were fruitless. Then finally ending with a discouraged but enwisened outlook, performed in a vocal crescendo monologue proclaiming to the world but more to the human himself.
I was able to have 3 guest artists on the album: Disqo Volante, Jade Murphy from Retro Candy, and Eric Scholz. I definitely want to continue collaborating with local talent and welcome anyone to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
General: I will often use 3 instances of eq’s on the main instruments or buses 1) corrective eq, used to remove nasty resonances or noise 2) mixing eq, used to have the instrument fit in correctly with the other elements 3) timbre eq, used to alter the perceptible sound of the instruments. Separating these 3 jobs into three instances of an eq plugin I’ve found helps me to really focus on the actual tasks better, as well as allows me to sometimes reach for alternate creative ways besides standard eq to get the job done. For instance, I needed to add some mids to the 808 bass I was using on ‘One of You’ to have it sit better in the mix and instead of just boosting those frequencies, I applied some gentle saturation which accomplished a similar goal.
Bass: For the chorus I wanted to use some modern trap elements, but tweak them to have a familiar but slightly unique sound. I used a 808 bass sample instead of an actual synthesizer, which I found gave some pleasing artifacts when pitched, but required some rather heavy multiband compression and saturation to ensure an even sound across different notes. I found running a separate 808 back pitched up an octave, then run through some heavy distortion with a bit of a high pass, then bussing the 2 808’s together intro some compression, really helped to even the sound out. Additionally, I found that many 808’s have some pitch fall off at the end of them, which didn’t work in this song, so I ended up resampling the 808 through an auto-tune to remove these pitch changes.
Synths: In my writing and this song, I make heavy use of plucky synths. Dictating the rhythm and syncopation of a song is generally regulated to percussion, but I’ve found using generally staccato timbres played in drum-like patterns can allow the drums to have more expression because they are less responsible for just keeping the beat. The main lead sound of the song is actually a sampled and pitched take of my vocals run through a decent VST chain of compressors and saturation.
Drums: A super easy way to add a bit of metallic feel while widening while also pushing a sound a bit back in the mix, is to add a delay with a length nearly low as can go, but have stereo offset of a few milliseconds, so one side plays just barely before the other. I applied this technique on the snare, in this song song as the sample I used as it was a bit too present, but I wanted to avoid over eq’ing.
From my way of writing, I really mix the songwriting and preproduction stages together. This would be harder to do in a proper studio, but I mix most everything in my home studio. For ‘One of You’ I used Reaper as a DAW with FL Studio used as a vst inside that. I really like Fl Studio workflow as far as midi and automation goes, but I don’t like it for actual editing. Reaper is lacking in its midi workflow for me, but everything else I really love. It even has a built programming language you can use to make your plugins right inside the DAW. One of the big drawbacks of working in a home studio is that the space isn’t professionally sound treated and the room can lie to you, making things overly good or bad. So towards the beginning of mixing, I am constantly sending mixes to other friends and DIY musicians to get their opinion on how my mixes translated to their particular rooms. This both helps musically and communally, as we’re able to all help each other independently.
WRITER: CAM GILLETTE