Singled Out: Salim Nourallah's This Doesn't Feel Like Peace, Love or Understanding

K. Wiggins | 01-31-2020

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Salim Nourallah

Veteran singer-songwriter Salim Nourallah released his new EP "Jesus of Sad" this week and to celebrate we asked him to tell us about the song "This Doesn't Feel Like Peace, Love or Understanding." Here is the story:

My latest single is called "This Doesn't Feel Like Peace, Love or Understanding." The title is a nod to the well-known Nick Lowe song, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding." I wrote it after the idea sprung up and gave me a bit of inner chuckle. The whole thing came together pretty easily after that, it basically wrote itself.

Close on the heels of finishing the song, I recorded a demo in August of 2015. That demo would later sit on a hard drive for about four years. Way back in '15, I had gotten into a nice habit of immediately recording songs as I finished them. It was super simple, as I'd just set up a single mic in the control room of the studio. The control room is where the mixing board is so you're usually not doing any recording in that room. The demo for "This Doesn't Feel Like Peace, Love or Understanding" had a bass part that figured prominently into things. I broke several "rules" in the process. First off, I plugged my Fender Precision bass into a Princeton Reverb guitar amp. Putting the bass through a small guitar amp usually runs the risk of blowing the speaker because it can't handle the low frequencies. Secondly, I turned the reverb up and played aggressively with a pick so I could get the reverb to make this liquidy, booming sound. Putting reverb on bass is usually a recording no-no, but in this case I thought it worked perfectly for the part. I also put my tambourine track through the amp and drenched it in reverb, Phil Spector style. Yet another rule broken. Tambourine never goes into guitar amplifiers. Duh.

The recording basically sounded almost too complete when I was done, so it was difficult to "sell" it to my two experienced and discerning producers. Producer #1 was Marty Willson-Piper. We were in Nashville in September of 2018 working on my first band record since 2012's Hit Parade. Marty said he liked the tune but it got lost in the stack of songs deemed more appropriate for the band. No sweat, I moved it over to the pile of songs I peddled to producer #2, Billy Harvey. When Billy and I started working in Austin in July of 2018, the demo was still languishing on a hard drive. Its day finally arrived in September of 2019 when I woke up with the tune swimming around my head. I thought to myself, "Oh, yeah - that one. Now where's that demo I did?" I fished the demo out later that day and played it for Billy. He carefully considered it, slowly nodding his head while he listened. Then he picked up an acoustic guitar and asked me what the chords were. Hell if I knew. It had been four years since I wrote it. After he'd had a chance to figure it out and play it a bit, he thought we should slow the tempo down four beats per minute. But damn, what about my bass part? I really wanted to keep that from the original demo. Slowing the song down that much put it all out of time. I didn't think there was any way we could salvage it, but our engineer, Jim Vollentine, miraculously and meticulously edited my bass part to play in time with the new acoustic guitars Billy cut at the slower tempo. I sat in disbelief as I watched Jim make it happen. I couldn't believe that we didn't lose any of the groove in the process. After we'd sorted out the bass part we were off and running. The rest of the recording was easy!

So there you have it. My latest single, "This Doesn't Feel Like Peace, Love or Understanding," had a very long, somewhat complicated journey in order to make it from my brain to your ears. I hope you enjoy and appreciate how fraught with creative peril its journey was.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!

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