Behind The Tracks: Leo Maia - Sonhos (Single) (2022)

This song has a long story that spins through 10 years of my life. When I started to compose Sonhos (this was back in 2013), I was completely inspired by Brazilian prog rock. My wife and I were doing a Brazilian Prog Rock documentary a the time and I really wanted to contribute to the scene, so I knew that it needed lyrics in Portuguese. Inspired by Mutantes, Terreno Baldio, and Barca do Sol, I had to try my own take at writing a strongly positive message just like what the 70s prog hippies used to do. During that time, I was also completely mesmerized by Mel Collins' playing on King Crimson albums like Islands, so I also knew I needed a saxophone to take the lead here instead of guitars. Lastly, I had a prog rock covers band a couple years before that and we used to play Oceansize covers, and their writing style of hiding progressive complexity with gluing melodic lines was bursting in my veins.

With all these things taking the foreground of my thoughts, I started to write Sonhos. I've spent countless hours and nights writing the song, transcribing the melodies in my head into midi as well as carefully choosing the original harmonic progressions with my acoustic guitar. After a while, I had the song's main sections and started to tweak it, started to write drum sections to it, take a 1/8 out of the time signature here, add it back to another part, individually writing the snare, kick, and cymbals lines to be each on their own time signatures applying polyrhythms and ended up with extremely complex harmony and time signatures throughout the whole song. But when I added the vocal and saxophone melodies on top of that, it all flowed together nicely with cohesion, and people that I showed it to couldn't initially notice how "broken" the song was until they tried to count it or tried to map the harmonic progression, achieving my intention of making progressive rock that is accessible without losing complexity. That song however slept in a midi format for almost 10 years as I had no means to record it during the time.

Fast forward to 2022 and I had just released my debut single Pneumothorax inspired by my recent terrible experience with a collapsed lung. As a follow-up, I knew it was finally the time for Sonhos to come out and become a real full song. I now had the expertise and equipment needed to record and mix my own songs and I was heavily incentivized by Ronaldo Rodrigues, a phenomenal Brazilian prog rock keyboard player who really liked the composition, so I invited him to play some keyboard parts for the song that I've written. He took the invite and sent me amazing tracks of mellotrons, organs, and e-piano with great tonal choices, and that's how my DAW session for the song started. I then recorded all the other instruments and made very important changes to the arrangement of the original 2013 composition that made the song take its own personality, it started to sound really great. I also had recently been to a Mogwai concert so I've added the tremolo-picking ambient guitar lines to the song that weren't on the original 2013 composition, as a direct nod to the Post-Rock ambassadors.

As I recorded the vocals for it, I was still looking for a saxophonist to play the lead melodies that I've written, and eventually, I stumbled upon Samuel Pompeo, a brilliant Brazilian saxophonist who mainly plays Bossa Nova and some Jazz. I invited him and sent him my song and the sax melodies, he was immediately into the melodies and sent me a few recordings of the toughest parts and it sounded great. After a while, he sent me every track, from the original melodies and harmonies to that on alto and tenor sax, but he also sent a third track on soprano sax with basic improvisations that he did over the entire song. I really appreciated his own take on the song and grabbed a couple lines from his improv track and just like that I finally had the full song and all tracks recorded. I then went into multiple days of mixing sessions and got feedback on it from 2 talented musicians who are way more experienced than I am with producing and mixing (Rafael Rassan and Jeff Black) and helped me get to the final mix, which I sent to Jeff Black for mastering on his awesome analog rig.

And there you go, that's the full history of how the track came to be what it is and I'm extremely proud of the result, it's a fresh take on the Brazilian prog rock genre, blended with post-rock and balancing complexity with fluid melodies so that prog rock enthusiasts and listeners who are new to the genre can enjoy alike!

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