Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Music

Here’s a list of ALL of my recordings (1989-1999). Many are quite embarassing. Some are pretty good!

Everything you hear is just me in the home studio, playing all instruments, except occasional female vocals by Christine Clarke and live drums by Rodney Ledbetter.

All songs, words and music by Derek Sivers, unless it says otherwise (the songs by Christine Clarke, Brian MC, and Camille).

They're all free for the taking. If you'd like to record and sell your own version of any of these songs, you have my advance permission, and I'd love to hear the final result!

My Favorites

“Ready to Live”
January 1997 : maybe my favorite song I ever wrote. I would usually struggle with songs for months, perfecting them, but this just popped out in an hour, lyrics and all. Afterwards I realized it was about life-after-death stuff that I was really interested in, then. That's me playing real clarinet. Yes I know it's out of tune.
“Flexible”
July 1998 : stupid dumb-fun pop song, but my favorite vocal performance, which was a real achievement for me, since I was never a very good singer. (As you can hear further down the list of recordings here.) Really unfortunate awkwardly extended 3rd verse, but oh well. The “It’s Cool” background vocals remind me of Ziggy Stardust Bowie, somehow.
“Answers”
February 1997 : one of my favorite songs, as recorded with the full band, as we always had a blast with it live. Compare to the other home-demo of the same song from 1993, if you're interested in that kinda thing. (Hahah... I forgot about Christine's nonsense lyrics in the bridge: “Caught up in the bathtub... tryin' to pee.”) Wow I had forgotten about that outro, too! This makes me nostalgic for my band.
“Get Famous Fast”
February 1999 : last song I wrote for myself after CD Baby took over my life, recorded in my Woodstock house. Listen closely how the drums and bass just build and build with each song-section, never hitting full layers until mid-song. In the talking bit, I was trying to imitate George Clinton, like in the P-Funk song “Chocolate City”. All crowd sounds are me, having fun putting on different voices then blending them all together. Virus synth solo sounds alot like early-70s Stevie Wonder. In the 2nd verse when I sing “Again and again and again and again and again” I had to really practice that line for a couple hours to enunciate it right. One of my favorite recordings.
“Cant Sing You This Song”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Karaoke Promises”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Kiss Me Here”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Light in Morning”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Everything I Love is Taken Away”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Perfect Place to Hide”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Try It Try It”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Answering Machine”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Tell Me Something New”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Could It Be”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Everyones Watching You”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Please Dont Die”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Must Love Me By Now”
June 1995 - from my CD: "HIT ME: Greatest Hits Vol. 17"
“Mary Knows”
February 1997 : great groove, unfinished lyrics. Worked great live. Decided to record it with the nonsense lyrics, because who cares, anyway? Not sure about those distorted drums, though. Was going to be part of the next Hit Me CD.
“Not So Far”
July 1993 : written while living alone in a little house on the Oregon coast, while my girlfriend was in Boston. There was a map on the wall where I could just reach my hand across the states to put my middle-finger on Boston and thumb on Oregon. To me, this song really captures my 6 months of living in solitude on the deserted Oregon coast in the winter. Plus I love the bassline, and had fun screaming in the outro.
“Think Fast”
June 1993 : hyenas and other fun loops, written for the circus jugglers
“Tambura Jam”
April 1993 : had a real Indian tambura, little drums from Ecuador, an egg-shaker, a bass, a guitar, a synth, a Fela Kuti influence, and a circus that needed a 3.5 minute instrumental piece for the mimes.
Derek naked behind guitar

ALL recordings, newest to oldest - FOR ARCHIVE'S SAKE

“Captured” by CHRISTINE CLARKE
February 1999 : last song I produced for Christine, after we had broken up. I like the lazy drum groove and sound.
“Get Famous Fast”
February 1999 : last song I wrote for myself after CD Baby took over my life, recorded in my Woodstock house. Listen closely how the drums and bass just build and build with each song-section, never hitting full layers until mid-song. In the talking bit, I was trying to imitate George Clinton, like in the P-Funk song “Chocolate City”. All crowd sounds are me, having fun putting on different voices then blending them all together. Virus synth solo sounds alot like early-70s Stevie Wonder. In the 2nd verse when I sing “Again and again and again and again and again” I had to really practice that line for a couple hours to enunciate it right. One of my favorite recordings.
“RunJumpPlay”
October 1998 : just a junky thing I threw together for a Nike commercial pitch. Given specific instructions to imitate Ready to Go by Elastica.
“She Was Life” by CHRISTINE CLARKE
October 1998 : had fun with filtering echoing and panning soft snaredrum, switching to full unfiltered drums in chorus.
“Cute Goa Groove”
October 1998 : bought a new synth (Access Virus). Just playing with it.
“Poor Lost Jane”
October 1998 : unfinished song. Never liked this, but felt I just had to hit record on it, and fix it some other day.
“Still Too Soon to Tell”
August 1998 : chord progression and melody I'd been wanting to use for years: F6 to A. Read Chinese fable with this tale and refrain, then wrote lyrics to retell it. Had fun with the arrangement : Gipsy Kings style guitar then intentionally tiny casio drum machines, then flamenco claps later, and sad sustaining synths.
“Time to Live” by CHRISTINE CLARKE
July 1998 : my best Brian Eno imitation. Rode the high-pass filter on the drums. Love the high strings that come in a full measure before the chorus, anticipating it.
“Flexible”
July 1998 : stupid dumb-fun pop song, but my favorite vocal performance, which was a real achievement for me, since I was never a very good singer. (As you can hear further down the list of recordings here.) Really unfortunate awkwardly extended 3rd verse, but oh well. The “It’s Cool” background vocals remind me of Ziggy Stardust Bowie, somehow.
“Detoxify” by CHRISTINE CLARKE
June 1998 : influenced by Madonna's Ray of Light album, I think. I like the 8th-note delayed background vocals.
“3 Years Pregnant”
July 1997 : shame this didn't work. I was going to do an entire fake movie soundtrack, with each song apprently by a different artist, but really just me. Was going to use it as a challenge to completely change all habits and sounds, but also to try to sound like a different person, vocally, on every track. I only got 2 songs into it (this, and “7F with Buckles”) then CD Baby took over my life. Oh well. I still like the song. Good metaphor for writer's block.
“Kiss Me Here”
June 1997 : ouch. Bad too-fast arrangement of a song that never did find its definitive recording. Ignore this to listen to other versions instead, please.
“7F with Buckles”
March 1997 : I was listening to a lot of pure-noise music, and wanted to make something in that vein. It was meant to be part of the fake soundtrack (with “3 Years Pregnant”, above). Good audio nightmare.
“Save My Horizon”
February 1997 : a breakup song about Camille. Maybe the only time I wrote a song for me, but had someone else sing it. Tried to sound like Cowboy Junkies. Was going to be part of the next Hit Me CD.
“Mary Knows”
February 1997 : great groove, unfinished lyrics. Worked great live. Decided to record it with the nonsense lyrics, because who cares, anyway? Not sure about those distorted drums, though. Was going to be part of the next Hit Me CD.
“Answers”
February 1997 : one of my favorite songs, as recorded with the full band, as we always had a blast with it live. Compare to the other home-demo of the same song from 1993, if you're interested in that kinda thing. (Hahah... I forgot about Christine's nonsense lyrics in the bridge: “Caught up in the bathtub... tryin' to pee.”) Wow I had forgotten about that outro, too! This makes me nostalgic for my band.
“Ready to Live REPRISE”
January 1997 : same as other version, but with live-band outro. Trying to imitate the end of Paul McCartney's “Hello Goodbye”, with the “Hey-La, Hey-la Lo-ha!”
“Ready to Live”
January 1997 : maybe my favorite song I ever wrote. I would usually struggle with songs for months, perfecting them, but this just popped out in an hour, lyrics and all. Afterwards I realized it was about life-after-death stuff that I was really interested in, then. That's me playing real clarinet. Yes I know it's out of tune.
“Save My Horizon CLICK”
July 1996 : really not meant to be listened to. Just here for archive's sake. Made for the band to play along with in studio.
“Must Be Nice CLICK”
July 1996 : really not meant to be listened to. Just here for archive's sake, except that we never did record this song, so this is the only recording of it.
“Learn to Like It CLICK”
July 1996 : really not meant to be listened to. Just here for archive's sake. Made for the band to play along with in studio. Compare to 1994 home demo.
“Ain't Nobody Like You” by CHRISTINE CLARKE
June 1996 : nice bass! Christine in fine form.
“Keep Me Wondering” by CHRISTINE CLARKE
March 1996 : I'm just not very good with sappy arrangements.
“Cold Day” by CHRISTINE CLARKE
February 1996 : first song I recorded for Christine, the other singer in my band. We traded gigs for studio time.
“Tight Dress” by CAMILLE
September 1994 : girlfriend Camille wanted to record a song with found kitchen sounds. Playing with pots, whisks, cheese graters.
“Never Needed Anyone”
April 1994 : oh angst. Trying to do a Nashville-style refrain reversing the meaning of words. Had fun with the chord changes in chorus.
“Long Time No Soul”
March 1994 : oof. This hurts to hear. Never could get the vocals right. Was studying with a voice coach then, and we kept using this song as practice, so I sang it 1000 times to the point of overthinking it.
“Learn to Like It”
March 1994 : always loved this guitar part, but the song never worked out. Love the verses. Took old micro-cassette recording of groove my old drummer roommate had done, imitated it on the drum machine, then mixed in the micro-cassette version behind the drum machine for a little staticy ambience. Tried to do this with the band for years and kept changing the chorus.
“All the Same to Me”
March 1994 : I'll stay in my own world - they can stay in theirs - keep me from their problems - I can't pretend to care anymore. Admitting this, I set myself free. (Shoveling snow looped in background.) Nice song with an unpopular point of view.
“Kiss Me Here”
February 1994 : though I recorded this song many times over 8 years, this is about as good as it got. Hybrid of real drums and samples. Never did get the real down-n-dirty Cheech-and-Chong “Low Rider” arrangement or production I was after, though.
“Karaoke Promises”
February 1994 : my most-requested song, and the closest I had to a hit. Fun pop song brought on by writing exercise called “compact metaphor”, where instead of saying, “Her promises were like karaoke”, you just say, “Karaoke Promises.” Fun Tribe Called Quest style bassline. Entire song is just A7-D7.
“Fly By Night”
January 1994 : juggling duo from the circus called Fly By Night asked me to write them a theme song. Pretty cool, I think! Nice Chili Peppers groove. Man I love playing bass. I wonder if they still use this.
“Fly By Fire”
January 1994 : juggling piece created by request to match their pre-existing fire-juggling routine.
“Mallets Groove”
January 1994 : looped sample from who-knows-where, just having fun playing over it.
“At Least It's Beating”
January 1994 : my attempt at the super-syncopation like the song “In Time” by Sly and the Family Stone from the album “Fresh”. Lyrics about Camille's friend who endured a horrible relationship because it made her feel alive.
“Try It Try It”
November 1993 : lyrics about being famous, inspired by the movie “The Idolmaker”. Lorraine Ferro on background vocals. One of my better songs.
“What Else Do I Need?”
November 1993 : fun quirky song answering the question in the title, then mixing in a chorus from a different song that I never finished. Vocals remind me of Prince in Sign o' the Times. I like the envelope filter on the bass and slightly-overdriven vocals.
“Perfect Place to Hide”
November 1993 : nice sentimental recording of one of my best songs. I always thought is was a really strong melody and chord progression and lyrics, even if the arrangement came out sappy. Whole-tones coming out of bridge.
“No I’m Serious”
October 1993 : 2nd attempt at recording this hopelessly-cheezy song.
“Let’s Stay Like This”
September 1993 : I always liked this cute pop song (and its reedy synth melody) about the moment after sex. Pretty good vocals for that time! Yeah I like this, even if you don't. Subtle modulation out of the bridge, an idea taken from Here We Are by Gloria Estefan.
“Barney”
August 1993 : My boss at the circus hated Barney. We already had a big giant dragon puppet for the “Ordinary Dragon” piece, below, so he asked me to write this as a way for the dragon to kill Barney, before going into that piece. This would always get huge cheers from half the audience (usually the older kids), and the occasional crying 2-year-old who really thought we had killed Barney.
“Light in Morning”
July 1993 : great song (my Eleanor Rigby attempt), but better recording came a few years later, on my Hit Me CD
“No I’m Serious”
July 1993 : hopelessly-cheezy song, but I was learning how to play blues/boogie piano, so this was just an excuse to practice
“Not So Far”
July 1993 : song about lonliness, written while living alone in a little house on the Oregon coast, while my girlfriend was in Boston. There was a map on the wall where I could just reach my hand across the states to put my middle-finger on Boston and thumb on Oregon. To me, this song really captures my 6 months of living in solitude on the deserted Oregon coast in the winter. Plus I love the bassline, and had fun screaming in the outro.
“John Hat Piece”
July 1993 : a panting dog, a shrieking monkey, a cow, baby Camille, a goat, and a quick bouncy groove for Jugglin' John in the circus to do his 90-second juggling intro
“Think Fast”
June 1993 : hyenas and other fun loops, written for the circus jugglers
“This is the Life”
April 1993 : bad verse, good chorus, which is why I re-used the chorus in “What Else Do I Need?”, 6 months later.
“Tambura Jam”
April 1993 : extended re-arrangement of same piece from a year before (see previous version below)
“Mime Circus Techno”
April 1993 : the Mime Circus needed an opening theme song, so I had fun with car noises (slamming door, gas cap, engine starting), Ketjak monkey chant samples, and a high-pass filter on the background vocals
“BoogaTwang”
March 1993 : nothing, just playing with call-and-answer between drums and guitar
“So Now You Know”
March 1993 : a scoundrel confesses. The real point of this song was a melody experiment: notice that each phrase in the verse is 2 notes longer than the previous one. I love little music-as-math exercises like that.
“Could It Be”
March 1993 : a fun exercise in making a 6/8 groove, but also a pretty nice song! Recorded better on my CD, 2 years later.
“Take Advantage of Me”
March 1993 : panting dog, James Brown drum sample, using guitars as a horn section, trying a Ketjak thing after the bridge. Not a great song, but it was fun to arrange and record.
“Answers”
March 1993 : good song, recorded better 4 years later with the band. Listen to that version instead.
“Gonna Start Tomorrow”
March 1993 : nice guitar on a weak but well-intentioned song. Vocals meant to sound weary but just sound wimpy.
“Mime Circus Quiet Theme”
March 1993 : circus music : for Tarleton, for a magic piece
“SOS”
February 1993 : experiment with a Remain In Light / Fela Kuti style arrangement on a weak song with surprisingly bad vocals
“Naaayy”
February 1993 : little groove with Bulgaria and Fela sample loops. Goes nowhere, did nothing.
“So Many Tears”
February 1993 : awful vocals on one of those songs that gets thrown out for good reason
“Walking and Throwing”
January 1993 : circus music : just written for a simple juggling piece
“Mime Circus Theme”
January 1993 : circus music : re-recording of the 1990 version
“Churchbell Rock”
January 1993 : little groove, goes nowhere.
“Blank Page”
January 1993 : a song that never worked
“Behind this Mask”
January 1993 : trying to imitate that over-dramatic early Peter Gabriel, with a little mideast influence. Pretty embarassing to listen to again now.
“Your Baby’s Not a Baby Anymore”
December 1992 : Sadé-style, written for two friends that had just broken up. I like the guitar solo.
“Keep Away”
December 1992 : there's something I really like about this song, despite the wimpy vocals. I like the idea of “keep away from my girl” as being said to the cruel world and its dangers, instead of to one person.
“How Could You Do This to Me?”
December 1992 : imitating Bonnie Raitt's “Too Soon to Tell”, I had never written this kind of song before, and it was a pretty good attempt, despite the death-twist in the last verse.
“Second Chance”
December 1992 : opening cello sounds came from a MIDI mistake, where the kick-snare was accidently sent to the wrong patch/instrument. Unfortunately the rest of the song sucks after that.
“Irresistable Groove”
November 1992 : took the groove-track “Tambura Jam” from a few months and tried to turn it into a song. Not terrible, but bad vocals wreck it for me.
“PingPongDream”
November 1992 : an experiment, not meant to be good for listening. I was living alone at the Oregon coast in the winter, writing down all my dreams in great detail each morning. Had this vivid fascinating dream too long to write here, and this piece is a literal soundtrack to the dream. An successful experiment in connecting my waking life and dream life, even if it's not so listenable.
“Star Knight”
October 1992 : circus music : something made specifically for Tarleton for a magic piece she was doing
“The Jugglers”
August 1992 : circus music for the Jugglers, imitating “Gett Off” by Prince, but they loved it so I'm proud of it
“Enter Mall”
August 1992 : circus music for a TV show where the cast is entering the local shopping mall
“Basketball”
August 1992 : circus music for a TV show
“Tambura Jam”
July 1992 : leave me alone in a room for a night with a real Indian tambura, little drums from Ecuador, an egg-shaker, a bass, a guitar, a synth, a Fela Kuti influence, and a circus that needed an instrumental piece for the mimes.
“Kid Caveman”
July 1992 : circus music for Jeff Rask in a caveman outfit. In the pause he would just grunt. That was the joke.
“Masque Dance”
May 1992 : circus music : I was listening to a lot of belly-dance music then and I'm pretty proud of this piece as my good imitation of it.
“Paint the Town Blue”
May 1992 : awful vocals but nice try for a smoky torch song about depressed revenge. Probably the only time I ever mic'd a real piano.
“Jungle Rings”
May 1992 : circus music : had these little drums from Ecuador, playing with a 12/8 groove
“Footprints in the Wind”
March 1992 : oh wow I forgot this was here! This song was re-written later as “Still Too Soon to Tell”. These are just nonsense lyrics.
“Arabic Moon Dance”
February 1992 : circus music : I was listening to a lot of belly-dance music then and I'm pretty proud of this piece as my good imitation of it.
“My Hero”
January 1992 : really just a guitar riff and hyperactive groove that never really worked, but I like the lyrics
“Camille”
January 1992 : circus music : 8 bars that repeats with building instrumentation. Nice, though. I like the bassline.
“Tell Me Something New”
December 1991 : feeling media overload, having been in New York City for a year. Got the tom-tom groove from my roommate. Re-recorded this 5 years later on my CD.
“Thats How Bad You Hurt Me” by BRIAN MC
October 1991 : Keren from U2's management company asked me if I could add more instrumentation to this raw demo they were given. Pretty good guitar/bass arrangements! They were impressed, at least. Brian and I recorded a few songs together, then lost touch.
“Ordinary Dragon”
September 1991 : circus music, and practically became our theme song. A big dragon emerged from backstage in a scary way, then went into this pompous rap.
“Light in Morning”
August 1991 : first recording of one of my best songs. Best version was on my CD.
“Fire Temple”
June 1991 : circus music : I was listening to a lot of belly-dance music then and I'm pretty proud of this piece as my good imitation of it.
“Can’t Sing You This Song”
June 1991 : first recording of one of my better songs that was done much better 4 years later on my CD. Nice bass! Using those guitars as a horn section.
“Must Love Me”
May 1991 : first recording of a song done better 4 years later on my CD. OK raw material, but bad groove and bad vocals.
“Admit It”
March 1991 : just playing around with a fun bassline and enveloped guitar. Not much of a song, but also had fun doing James Brown screams.
“Tulip and 2 Lucky Strikes”
March 1991 : had a crush on Megan (who if you see videos on this website, you can see me floating with in zero-gravity, 16 years later). I asked her what I should write a song about. She said a tulip, and two Lucky Strike cigarettes. Not a bad writing exercise! I think I pulled it off OK, even if the vocals are pained.
“Close the Door”
February 1991 : not much to say about this. Interesting verses in a left-brain kinda way. Bad chorus. Bad vocals. I like the droning guitar and bass with changing chords behind.
“Worth Every Hurt”
April 1990 : it's all about the guitar on this one. The song itself is merely acceptable.
“Tryin’ to Find”
April 1990 : one of my better songs (considering I was only 20 years old), though a cheezy arrangement and recording. Just a writing exercise from Berklee College. Divide an 8 bar verse into 3+3+2. A three bar phrase, a three bar phrase, and a two bar phrase. Bridge really goes somewhere interesting, though. Songwriting teacher held this song up to the class as a brilliant example, which really boosted my ego.
“Give and Take”
April 1990 : oof. I was so proud of this. Now unlistenablly dated. Back then Paula Abdul was a musician! Weird, huh?
“Kiss Me Here”
April 1990 : bad too-fast recording of a song I have many other versions of, here. So go listen to those instead. One of the first songs I ever wrote. Idea came from a Souxie song with lyrics like “Don’t Touch Me There” I think. I liked how the listener doesn't know where there is.
“Mime Circus Theme”
April 1990 : circus music : the theme for the Mime Circus. I didn't write it! Not my fault! But we needed a recording of it.
“I Gotta Go”
April 1990 : hey I was really proud of this when I was 20! Cool funky arrangement, guitars as horn-section.
“Juggle Chimes”
April 1990 : circus music for Jugglin' John, as he balanced water on his head while juggling knives, blindfolded
“How Do You Do It”
April 1990 : please don't ever make me listen to this song again, even though I liked it then.
“Start Over Again”
April 1990 : don't most songwriters start out by writing sappy over-sentimental songs, then get to the good stuff later? I think I wrote this when I was 17. Maybe the 3rd song I ever wrote.
“Definitely Different”
August 1989 : as cheezy as can be, sounds like a shoe commercial, but I was learning blues/boogie piano, and this was just an outlet for it.
“My Pocket”
July 1989 : James Brown, much? Recorded at Berklee College recording studio for someone's final project. Real instruments. Lyrics inspired by a Paul Simon interview in Song Talk magazine, where he said he likes to write about things from the other person's point of view. “What's in my pocket is more interesting to me than what's in your pocket.” Guitar influenced by Herbie Hancock song “Doin’ It”.
“Waiting at the Station”
July 1989 : not bad for an 18-year-old! I was touring with the circus and spending a lot of time at bus and train stations. Instead of a verse-chorus A-B structure, it goes in some kind of an A-B-C A-B-C A-B-C A-B-C structure, building the arrangement as it goes. Pretty good afro-pop arrangement considering I was playing everything myself.
“Perfect Place to Hide”
June 1989 : one of my first songs, but this first recording is too pop-reggae. Recorded better in 1993, then better again in 1996.