This week’s song/video is called “Smile 4 Dad (Letter 2 My Father)”.

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INSIGHT INTO A SONG:

This past week has been, surprisingly, emotionally tough for me.

My Dad died when I was 9 years old, at the age of 41, from lung cancer tumors.  At the time… well, me and him were very, very close, and his death hit me real hard.

Of course, as time goes by, one tends to be less emotional when talking about their dead relative.  See – I can even call him a dead relative and not be bothered by it!

It’s been 17 years since his death, and I’m long past the days where I’d cry every time I thought about him, or get upset when I’d heard a certain song on the radio that reminded me of him.  To this day, I still can’t listen to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” without wanting to break down in tears.  Clearly, that song is not on my iPod.

However, this week it hit me real hard.  Part of it is because (a) Father’s day is celebrated today, and (b) my parents anniversary was June 11th.  Had he still been alive, they would have been happily married for 30 years.

I decided to get my Mom an anniversary card to mark what would have been a momentous occasion.  She never remarried, so I figured that, after 17 years, she should be able to receive acknowledgement of her marriage date.  I went to Target to pick out a card…

…and it’s very hard to find a card that doesn’t say “Hope you 2 celebrate the day together.”  I had to read through almost 15 different cards before I found one that said “Happy Anniversary, Congratulations on your Achievments.”  In the process of doing so, I started to get real emotional.  Just thinking about the fact that other people are out there celebrating marriages, some by people who aren’t even in a happy relationship, while my mom lost a great guy who…

Sigh… well, it annoys me.

Anyway… so, in the midst of all this, I found this beat online with the chorus already mixed in.  It’s a very interesting chorus, talking about “Smile like you mean it” and “Say goodbye, to the world you thought you lived in…” and the beat itself was very upbeat.

I didn’t know if I’d be able to do anything with the beat at first, but then I started thinking that the subject matter of the chorus would match well with a song about my Dad.  It took me about 2 hours to write the song, messing with a few ideas here and there and finally deciding the song should be an open letter to my Dad about how I felt about his death and the time since then.

Some Interesting Tidbits About the Song:

(1) Most of my songs have a voice-over dub, where I say a lyric in a song twice to make it stand out.  However, I wanted this one to sound like I was speaking directly to him, and no one has a voice-over dub when they talk to someone.

(2) The line in the song where I say, “Finding out you had that tumor nearly ripped my ass apart/Oops, sorry – I meant ‘behind’,” is pointing out that, as kids, we weren’t allowed to curse around our parents.  The “oops” is in reference to the fact that I “accidentally” said “ass” in the previous line.  Genius!

INSIGHT INTO A VIDEO SHOOT:

This video ended up being a two-day shoot – a lot for me, considering I like to be able to do my videos in less than an hour.

I wanted to make the majority of the video look like a dream.  The video is in black and white because most books say that people dream in black and white.  I don’t know what they’re talking about – I can clearly see color in my dreams – but it made for a good contrast between when I’m in the “real” world versus the “dream” world.  I also posterlized the video so it would seem less like reality.

I shot the video in the park because (a) I live right across the street from it, and (b) my Dad took us (I have a brother) to the park a LOT as kids.  The hardest part of the shoot was trying to make it look like I was alone by myself.  On the first day of the shoot, it was sunny outside, and there were a LOT of people running around. I wanted to shoot on the playground at the swing, the slide, and the baseball field, but they were crowded with people.

Then, it rained, and I couldn’t keep filming.  2 days later, I planned to film again, but it rained early in the morning real hard.

I wasn’t going to shoot anything, and was going to delay the video… but then the rain stopped, it got a little bit lighter outside, and it hit me: since the playground was wet, nobody would be out there using any of the equipment!

I got my camera and ran to the playground.  Sure enough: NOBODY.  Well, a few drifters here and there, but for the most part, I had the place to myself.

Okay, so this is where I get all “artsy”: The theme of the video is “The Last Day.”  I wanted to film it as though I was spending one last day with my Dad at the playground, and the things in the video are activities I did with him when he was alive.

In the first sets of shots, I slide down the slide, swing on the swing set, and run around the bases on the field.  During the last few shots, however, those same places are revisited, only now there is less activity going on there because my Dad is no longer around: there’s no one to cheer me on at the slide, push me on the swing set, or play catch/baseball with me on the field.  I’m looking around to see him, but I’m the only one there…

Intermixed with that footage is footage of me “writing” the letter (i.e. the song) to my Dad.  I actually had about 8 mintues of footage of me doing this, but the few shots I have in there were enough.

Towards the end, I run into the field and collapse on the ground.  I was most impressed with this shot because I wanted myself to be at the very bottom of the screen, contrasting with the huge set of clouds – i.e. heaven – that my Dad has now gone into that I, for the moment, cannot follow.  I set up a fake camera stand for all my shots, but since I’m the only one doing all the filming, I never know how a shot is going to turn out until I review it, and this one came out great.

As for the ending… well, you’ll have to watch.  However, there is a cameo by my Dad at the end of the video.

So, that’s all the insight I can think about for this song/video!  I don’t do too many “serious” or “emotional” songs, so I hope you enjoy my attempt at it here.

That’s all for now – see you next Sunday! (And, happy father’s day to those whose fathers have come and gone.)

-A.P.T.

E-mail: aptsongs@hotmail.com

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