The History Of: Wayback Wednesday

Acoustic Cover Song Day Explained.

Is this already too much detail about Crooked Forest? Let me know in the comments.

Back in, we’ll call it March of last year, 2020, when I had pretty much just reached the point of, “okay, I think I want to try and share some of these songs with people,” I really wasn’t sure the best way to go about showcasing new music at the height of the pandemic where everything was shut down, we were all shuttered indoors and the entertainment scene as a whole was scrambling.

It really is hard enough to get decent gigs even in the best of times in Ontario, or at least that’s been my experience. Without being lumped onto a bill with a more established act, trying to carve out a path online seemed frankly like a bit of a waste of time then, too. I hadn’t in any way defined my sound in my original work, or at least I didn’t think so then, and I didn’t have a great way to record and share them; I didn’t want to deliver anything too sub par because while I don’t consider myself the world’s greatest audio engineer by any means, I do know my way around an XLR cable.

Like this, right?

At the same time I was just trying to have a good time. I was bored being at home all the time, dealing with a lot at the time coupled with the uncertainty of the pandemic at that stage (did I think I’d still be spending like 90% of my time indoors? Because I am, we just starting reopening and frankly there’s not a whole lot for a single person to do in these situations where social distancing is still a thing and you don’t know anyone in your town).

Anyway, because I needed an easy to use platform to host some videos to show my friends and family what I was starting to work on, and because I am a child of the 90’s, I decided to post my early cover song performances there, and I wasn’t really planning on sharing them beyond that, I wanted to focus on new original stuff.

But who’s going to be around to listen to the original stuff if they’ve never heard of me at all? There are how many bands and artists using the internet as their virtual gallery and you’re just going to pop in with something nobody has ever heard of before and hope it catches?

CF to CF circa May 2020.

I’m no marketing expert, but even I could see the holes.

Money was a big factor, and still is today with every big band decision that’s made. When I started this project I didn’t even have a guitar amplifier; I had actually sold a lot of my gear in the years leading up for one reason or another. It wasn’t that i wanted to, but I’ve have money problems for a long time now and I’d always tell myself I could just replace it when I needed one again. Unfortunately I often sold my stuff at a loss and haven’t been able to bring myself back up to where I was, not that I even really had a big rig at any point but, I’m still missing things I consider basic essentials. All that in mind, I figured the best thing to do would be to just track some acoustic covers of songs by my favourite bands, to introduce you guys to me and my sound but also the artists that I think have been shaping it long before I started this band.

The first three songs I put up, all on the same day were selected to do just that. I felt like putting up just one didn’t tell a complete enough picture at the time, even with no followers I was entirely too aware that I was putting myself out onto a virtual stage and had no idea what kind of audience could stumble in at any time, so I was playing some defense.

Crooked Forest performing “Wheat Kings” – The Tragically Hip.
Date: Unknown, but roughly May 2020.

In the earliest of days I downloaded a couple different video apps to see what might present it a little nicer than just straight shot-from-iPhone footage, but ultimately I decided that it was best not to overcomplicate something that was just supposed to be kinda like a virtual “hey that girl brought a guitar to the party, let’s see if she knows *insert popular 1998 soul jam of choice*but if not they definitely know ‘Wonderwall'”.

Like every Canadian I spent my youth listening to Gord & the gang while driving up the 400N to my family’s cottage in Dorset, Ontario. I actually didn’t really start listening to The Hip until I saw them play live at Fort York with my dad, and it was a good show but I’d be lying if I said I left that day feeling a little “Hipper” if you get my meaning. Tegan & Sara opened that day, they weren’t really well known yet, just sort of breaking through; dad really enjoyed their sound.

The older I get the more I appreciate The Tragically Hip though, and Gord Downie’s songwriting but also activism. When I was first actively playing music as a teenager, I definitely wouldn’t have even tried a Hip cover, but I was singing along to this one one day and I really liked throwing a bit more attitude into it, to match my interpretation of the lyrics. I told my dad when I sent it to him that “I sound like Gord but if he was more punk rock”. What do you think? Let me know in the YouTube comments!

Crooked Forest performing “Polaris” – Jimmy Eat World.
Date: Unknown. Sometime around May 2020.

While my other cover song choices for that day may have come as a bit of a surprise, this one definitely didn’t. Polaris has been one of my favourite songs since I first heard it, but I say that kind of lightly because my favourite song seems to shift by the day (there are many holding steady ties). But this one seemed to summarize why I was taking on this project to begin with & it’s what ultimately led to wanting to cover more Jimmy Eat World songs than any other artist (to date).

I was also starting to realize that all the bands I followed definitely had their own “look” and I wasn’t sure what mine was yet. I wanted to be comfortable so I just started throwing on whatever my normal “day-wear” was, which at this time included this top that no longer quite fit the way it used to but I didn’t want to let go of yet; my wardrobe otherwise consists of like 10 t-shirts that I’ve mostly had for a few years now, some longer (just view my instagram feed, you’ll see ’em), but after some thought after-the-show I realized I’d never be comfortable performing on a real stage, live, with a top like this. I decided to stick with what worked for me: jeans, tees, shorts & sweaters. If it was clean enough (in that, it wont get picked up on camera…) then we’re ready to roll.

I was happy with this performance so I chose it for the final; I thought if the guys in this band in particular saw me stumble my way through but keep performing, they’d appreciate that I didn’t quit or try to hide it (or re record and save face). It’s a bummer, but it happens to me quite a bit, so in more recent videos I’d opted to embrace my clumsiness.

I also at this time set a general rule for myself with these covers. The idea wasn’t to overthink them, instead I wanted to just break them down to their bare bones structure, and play them however they felt most natural to me in the way that I interpret them. And I had to keep reminding myself that this was just supposed to be like a campfire, we’re not out here trying to out-vocal any one or show off, so don’t over-practice it either, learn it well enough to have some fun with it; hell, we were just becoming comfortable with the idea of calling ourselves a musician after playing instruments for 20 years, never mind anything else (and we felt completely out of our depth as a newcomer to the YouTube/Instagram/Facebook/Soundcloud/Bandcamp music scene).

Crooked Forest performing “Wild Horses” – The Rolling Stones circa May 2020.

Molson Canadian Rocks, or as it was more appropriately dubbed, Sarstock, was held on July 30th 2003 at Downsview Park in Toronto. For brief explanation I defer you to Wikipedia, the world’s best online free encyclopedia.

The concert was organized in about a month, upon the suggestion of headliners The Rolling Stones, who wanted to help revive Toronto’s economy after the SARS outbreaks earlier in the year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molson_Canadian_Rocks_for_Toronto

Thanks The Rolling Stones!

I find it both funny and sad that I attended this concert; it was my 13th birthday and my dad had bought us tickets because we both really like “classic rock” & obviously it’s a rad bday gift. His friend Johnny joined us and bought me the t-shirt, much to my dad’s disapproval (why are you wasting money on a t-shirt, you’re already at the show!), but he did it because it had my birthdate on it with all these rad bands. Regrettably I no longer have it, I think I must have just out-worn it like so many others and eventually looked like a slob in it, so it had to go. If anyone has one of these, size small, please hook a girl up!

What I remember about this show is this:

  • Walking to the venue a crowd of people were chanting the lyrics to “TNT”. I was suddenly a massive AC/DC fan.
  • Justin Timberlake opened and people threw bottles at him. We laughed.
  • I was so far back from the stage the thing I marvel the most about was how the sound actually matched the video feeds even out in the boonies like we were. You were the next town over, but you definitely felt like you were there.
  • The Rolling Stones were amazing. Again, even 500,000 people away, I was like hell yeah these guys still rock.
  • Dan Akyroyd hosted. It’s always nice to see him.
  • I don’t remember eating or drinking anything but what with the Sars outbreak perhaps that was for the best.
  • It’s exhausting standing in a crowd of people for hours on end.
  • AC/DC stole the show. There I said it. I’m not even a big AC/DC fan, but hell if they don’t know how to play live. If you’re 800,000 people away from the stage and you find yourself singing along, you know it’s killer. Also Angus did that leg thing. Rad. Saw it on the big screen.
Molson Canadian Rocks
Image: By Dveking at English Wikipedia – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11001142

I chose this song to cover because I’ve just always really liked it, but especially once I started singing, I realized that as much as I love The Rolling Stones songwriting, I don’t necessarily like myself singing a lot of it, or I can’t get into it in a more personal way. I don’t think I have the same performance gene that someone like Mick Jagger does, it’s honestly really impressive that these guys are still going so strong. But this song, when I heard myself singing it back I had one of those weird moments where I could see myself as a singer actually singing it to real people some day, so it made the cut.

As a whole I feel like these 3 songs help showcase some pretty intimate details about myself as well as showcase the kind of writing I tend to gravitate towards when discovering new artists. I don’t usually dive too deep into most artists history & if I do it’s because there’s really something really alluring about it & I can’t help myself; Generally speaking I pretty much stop at the music & lyrics and decide if that bands message resonates with me, and then the follow-up, do they put it into practice outside of the show?

Before I decided to go to school for music production & audio engineering, I was grappling with the idea of choosing university instead. I figured I’d take journalism, and other English and writing courses, maybe some history or political science courses if I could. Even after graduating from Metalworks, I found myself sitting down for an interview for a job at CTV – Barrie that I wasn’t sure I wanted but, “would be good experience.” There are people that think journalism is a dying medium but I think it’s more important now than ever.

I have always been afraid, that’s true, to do literally any of this in a real, honest, truthful way. The first time I started a band I knew I wanted to perform, I knew I wanted to tell stories, but I don’t think I knew why I wanted to or what I was really saying back then, how could you at 17, 18, or 19 years old anyways? As I fall deeper down the Crooked Forest rabbit hole, I’ve been slowly figuring that out, which is sort of funny that I’m only saying that now because when I first announced this project (albeit quietly on my personal Instagram page) I said I was going to take an unapologetically honest approach to the project. I guess maybe I thought I already knew what I was doing when I set out, but a lot had changed already since.

What I meant then was that I was going to say what I wanted to say when I wanted to say it and however I felt like saying it without giving any real thought to how the people who I’m writing about would feel about them. I did this sometimes literally while in their company. I felt like I earned the right, or something. And if it was all true then why did it matter if I said it out loud anyways? Surely it can’t be better to hide, I’d been hiding for years and that didn’t seem to be working out so well for me.

What I realized quickly was that sometimes people will interpret your lyrics to be about them even when it couldn’t be further from the truth, and they’d take it personally, and I needed to be aware of that. Because the truth is I’d love to always just say and do what I want and justify it however I see fit, but life doesn’t always look too kindly on you when you do that, and just because I was comfortable talking about something doesn’t mean somebody else was ready to talk about it. And no matter how well you think someone knows you, they don’t really.

Turns out it’s a bit of a double edged sword, wanting to be open and honest but also not be a total dickhead. At my core, I’m a bit of a dickhead. If I’m caught at the wrong time, I just don’t have the patience for anything (we’re working on it, still). But that’s now who I really feel like I am, or who I want other people to think I am or in any way emulate.

In reality I try to be kind to people as much as possible. You just never know what someone else is going through. At the same time, there are some things that are worth fighting about even if the conversation makes you a little uncomfortable. In Crooked Forest, I try to make the uncomfortable comfortable again.

“Skeleton” tackles abusive relationships – but look at how much fun we have over tea!
Listen now on Bandcamp & everywhere else!

When I posted these covers I started to give some real thought to the point of that series. At the core of it, it’s just subtle marketing to promote my original work and bring in potential new fans if we’re being brutally honest about it, but all of these songs are in some way special to me personally, or to my friends, and sometimes I just play them for fun but sometimes it’s because I have a little more to say, and I’m just not sure I have the right words to say them at the time.

On a technical level, along the way my audio-engineer mind was really starting to lose it, knowing full well we can provide something a little cleaner and nicer to listen to, so after we splurged on an Apollo Twin Duo to track our original work, we decided to start using 1-2 mics to capture the sound which is why you’ll see that shift in my videos if you start from the beginning. I don’t exactly have much in the ways of acoustic treatment and the reality is, for their purpose the iPhone really captures these covers just fine, so I use the mics when I want to experiment a bit or often times, they’re just ready to go from something else I’ve been doing.

When I use the mics I have to then take the extra steps of lightly mixing and then exporting & merging the files, which doesn’t take long but depending on the day can feel like a mountain of work so, apologies if you prefer this style but it might not always be what I deliver šŸ™‚

I try to do at least 1 cover a week, this is more for my benefit than yours as I’ve convinced myself it helps me keep driving forward and working towards something. Sometimes working on original music can be exhausting on an emotional level and these covers help keep me in a positive headspace, even though it still makes me nervous to hit the upload button sometimes. Sometimes I go on acoustic cover song blitz’s where I just gotta – I just gotta.

I definitely think this Brief History of has turned into an Extensive History of, so I’m gonna leave it here & to all the bands who keep providing me with songs that in some way help shape or grow this old forest, thanks & I hope you like the covers!

If you have a cover song reco, feel free to send it my way!

JJ/CF

2 thoughts on “The History Of: Wayback Wednesday

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