Singled Out: Justin Jude's Bleed
First the story about the recording. Back in 2009 I competed in a songwriting competition sponsored by West Coast Songwriters. I won for Best Performance, and the prize was a free day in the studio with engineer and producer Brent Rogers. I knew Brent from around the scene – he's also a great bassist and a video producer – but hadn't worked with him in the studio. So I was psyched.
I decided to use the free day to cut some live tracks – no overdubs, just voice and guitar – and see what we got. Only one of those tracks survived, but I liked the sound Brent was getting out of my voice, and I really enjoyed working with him. So much so that I said, "Hey, let's cut a five-song acoustic EP."
That one free day in the studio grew into my new album 5 Kinds of Rain, from which "Bleed" is the first single. If not for winning that competition, I'd never have brought my newest songs to Brent.
Cut to the writing of "Bleed." A few months before hitting the studio with Brent, I was itching to write in a different way. My usual songwriting process was feeling stale. I had been listening to a lot of Blind Pilot and Arcade Fire, and I started fooling around with this plodding, repetitive rhythm on the guitar. Much less folk-pop, more indie than I usually write. I wanted it to be driving but slow and plodding, almost antagonistic.
Then one of those cool songwriting moments happened – I made a mistake, and I liked the result. I played an accidental fingering and had no idea what chord I'd created – but it was cool. You can hear it, it's the third chord of the song, a bizarre suspended A chord. It makes the song for me.
Digging what I'd come up with, I threw it down on Garage Band and thought, "How else could I keep this interesting to myself?" Strings came to mind. Usually I detest strings. Strings in pop music make everything feel twee in a really dated way, like it's 1974 and we're all groovin' in polyester leisure suits to Elton John. I like Elton but … yeah.
I once had a painting teacher who said that when he has a section of a painting that's really working, he might paint it black. Just to keep himself creative. And to keep from getting too attached to its preciousness.
So, I thought: Why not some strings?
Using the lamest MIDI-sounds ever, on an old 1985 Yamaha keyboard that used to be in my mom's piano studio, I cooked up a three-part string arrangement. Now, I've never arranged strings in my life – which worked in the song's favor. I came up with an eerie, dissonant arrangement that fit the song's mood. Had I known more what I was doing, it probably would have come out more tidy and smooth.
Lastly, while trying out some lyrics, I happened on a great lyrical hook:
I'm alive without you
Suddently the narrator of this song came into view. He misses his girl – because she used to beat him up. OK, not literally. But he misses the pain of the relationship. He misses bleeding. Sometimes we're all masochistic like that, and it's baffling why that is. I like to write about those paradoxes.
In the studio we added a little Rhodes hook, just two little notes on the keyboard. Brent got some great vocal quality out of me, and the song just came together. It's unlike anything I've ever released. It took an unexpected studio date and a goof-off session while songwriting to make it happen. Sometimes the best thing you can do is do something differently.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!