Egginton (left) and his bandmate Will Wagner wrote their new song “edges” separated across the country before reconnecting in Baltimore to finish it.

The collaborative joy of melancholic song

The edges don’t move ‘cause the edges don’t move. The edges never really gave a damn about you. The ocean and the sand, the beach and the land — If you ain’t ever been then you’ll never understand. When Will Wagner, my bandmate, the pink to my yellow, sent me this hook some six months ago and I listened to it thousands of miles across the country, I knew that it would flourish into something robust and beautiful.

At that time, however, I had no idea what direction — melodically, harmonically or texturally — the song would take. I was in Seattle doing a job remotely throughout the summer, and Will was here in Charles Village working remotely, too. We knew we loved the chord progression and the flow of Will’s verse, but the production side of things was still a mystery, an unresolved puzzle with a hoard of missing pieces clouded by the distance between us.

So we sat on it. We sat on it for quite a bit. I remember opening up Ableton (the software that I use to mix, record and produce) months later and seeing “edges” at the bottom of my “recently opened” tab, where all of my forgotten and eternally incomplete projects clutter before leaving Ableton’s short-term memory for good. I couldn’t wait any longer. 

In the partnership that Will and I have, I am the one who produces, but before I could do that, I had to sit down and write my own poetry. I had to hum my own melodies over and over until I stumbled across something that might potentially gel with their recording.

The edges don’t move, crying while I sleep just ‘cause there’s nothing else to do. The walls are closing in around the window pane, you poked your head out and said the wind feels changed. I don’t actually remember the moment I wrote these lines, but what I do recall is the emotional state that produced them. 

Although I often find joy in its purest form while creating music either with others or by myself, the music I make tends to express emotional volatility, nostalgia and pain. I can’t help but tap into melancholic melodies when I’m composing and dark, pulsating synth lines when I’m producing. 

The creation of “edges” aligned with the end of last semester, when I took an insightful hip hop production course at the Peabody Institute with Wendel Patrick. As a result, I was inspired to add hip hop based percussion throughout the second half of the song. Once I heard those echoing electric guitar riffs along with the beat, I didn’t look back. I suggested to Will that the song might need a verse, and they agreed. 

In a way, it felt like there was nothing more we could do with it, but we both knew someone else could complete the puzzle. In the end, the solution wasn’t to mitigate the physical distance between us but to ask another artist to help us complete the picture. 

Having grown up in Baltimore as a fan of hip hop and, in particular, Baltimore hip hop, there were a few artists I knew of whose sound I thought could fulfill “edges”’ potential. Luckily, the artist I had in mind initially — the one we reached out to first — agreed to work with us after listening to the track. Vlad messaged me on Instagram saying that he liked the mixture of our sound and that we could plan a recording session once I was back in Baltimore.

Then it was back to waiting, to sitting on an incomplete project. This time, however, the difference was that “edges” had a lifeline — a lifeline that wasn’t contingent on anything Will and I could do going forward. Finally, weeks after the fall semester started, Vlad got the chance to write a verse he thought could emulate and complete the spirit of “edges,” and we set a recording date. 

It was surreal to witness Vlad deliver his lyrical (and melodic) magic in the second half of the song. As a producer, I was blown away by how little I had to do with his takes to make them fit the fabric of the track. At long last our project was finished, half a year after Will had first written and strummed the opening lines. Alan Silverman, an elite mastering engineer that a friend in the mixing/engineering industry put me in touch with, mastered the track. 

After sharing the evolution of “edges” with our creative friends, Will, Vlad and I found that there was a lot of interest in making a music video, to crystalize and further develop our collaboration. We worked together on the narrative and the shot ideas, and then we let go of the reigns and allowed our more-than-capable friends (Xabi Mcauley, Gabe Silveira and Jon Silveira) to direct us and articulate a visual expression of the soundscape we had created.

As I finish writing this piece, I feel prouder maybe than I ever have about any song that I’ve worked on. Yesterday we completed the majority of our shoot, and seeing the footage this morning — albeit completely unedited — put tears in my eyes. 

I have always understood art as taking on a life of its own when it is complete. But I have never quite envisioned my own art in the same way or witnessed that process occur. The joy I felt yesterday while helping materialize a vision of “edges” that was only partly my own was unparalleled. It is the same kind of joy I feel now that all the work and waiting is done, now that I can relish in the finality of what we accomplished.

Listen to “edges” here.

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