“Change your Ways” started as an electric guitar riff in open D tuning. It’s essentially a variation on the blues form. I loved the riff and could feel it had a power to it so I just kept playing it as a guitar thing. The bridge ventures into more experimental chords unique to using the open strings and tuning. In the open tunings, I tend to experiment a lot more this way without really analyzing what the chords are until later. At the time I was collaborating weekly with Chris LaCour and Dejuan Lewis and asked them to come up with some lyric ideas for it. Chris came up with a great melody for the bridge and their lyrics ended with the phrase “if you’re willing to change your ways.” For the verses, they had an idea I couldn’t relate to singing, but with some other cool lyrical ideas, we put it on the shelf for a while, as I was still working on the release of my first album Lonesome Road.
About two years later When I started working on the second album with Adrian Harpham producing, I knew I wanted to finish this song, so I revisited it and re-worked the melody on all the verses using “Change Your Ways” as the hook. I then wrote the opening verse so that it would all make sense. The bridge stayed the same.
Adrian pulled out his giant bass drum with a mallet for the first rhythm track to go with an acoustic guitar playing the riff, then doubled by a 12-string. I have some footage of him doing that. He did this cool jungle vibe combining the mallet on the drum, the stick on the side, and a clap in between. Combined with the drum kit later this created a hugely intoxicating groove. We knew we were onto something cool in our collaboration. That was the first song from Sailing for the Sun.
Once we got the drums tracked at Kawari Studios in Philly, we got Dave Inniss to do the bass part. I also added electric guitar (Gibson SG) using distortion, pedal, and slide all at once to give it some bluesy grit.
Adrian used a Mellotron to get that freaky sound over the bridge which, combined with Anthony Robustelli’s organ gave the perfect touch.
Finally, I gave the track to Clayton Bryant and Towera Smith to work out the backing vocals. Clayton came up with a great arrangement with that infectious “chicka change” hook at the end. He also threw rhythmic breaths throughout and a few operatic ghostly lines over the bridge which with the effects, sound like a howling wind. I find this song still works well just on solo acoustic as well which is a good thing.