Until You Slip Away

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    Autographed by composer and performer Nathan James!

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This was a bit of a spontaneous number. It stemmed from my friend Evyenia Karapolous's desire to work with Nate, after I'd sent her a couple early versions of the tracks we'd been working on. A 'model, muse and siren', Evyenia is a high school buddy of mine and my not-so-secret weapon. She appears on just about all of my major studio projects.

So, we arranged a meeting with Evyenia when she was in town for Christmas break. Nathan and I were just coming off of recording John Sherwood's "Ramayana" musical, so it seemed a convenient time to get everyone together and see what we could come up with. Nate brought the short little intro in Garage Band demo form and we simply proceeded from there. I think it started out as a sequel to 'Space Western' (working title was 'Space Cowboy'), but it grew legs of it's own ...

Most of the guitar and instrumentation for the first half is Nate, including the crotales - which Shane, the Ramayana percussionist - had left in the studio. One of the coolest ways to encourage creativity from a composer is to present him or her with an instrument or sound they've never used before. This is how a lot of this stuff was composed - I would set Nate up with a sound or instrument or effect, and it would spark his natural creativity.

I distinctly remember this initial session. John Sherwood was in the control room with us when Evyenia tracked her initial melody against Nate's lyrics. John commented, "those are lovely backing vocals" ... I looked at Nate and we both simultaneously agreed that HIS should be the backing vocals and hers' the lead. Why? It was unexpected and a little contrary to convention ...

For the second part, Nathan struggled a bit with the guitar parts, so he asked me to come up with a guitarist to play the bits he couldn't manage. A couple of months prior, Jack O' The Clock's Damon Waitkus had been on my radio program and had offered to help me should I need guitar, vox or dulcimer. So Nate and I recorded a quick voice memo and sent it off; we received the tracks a few days later.

The second session for this track was entirely Evyenia and me in the studio, as Nate was unavailable (in the same evening, we also tracked bits of 'Welcome' and 'Magazine Reader' for Nick Prol), and we worked extensively to differentiate the vocal styles in the first half from the second. The first half is VERY 'Eastern' sounding, while the second has a very different timbre (gee them 'coloraturas' is smart AND talented!). While this session was happening, I received a text from my family; my 16 year-old cousin Tyler had chosen to end his own life and was being life flighted to the ER.

He didn't make it.

A really happy, enjoyable evening had suddenly taken a turn for the tragic. We kept working, because there was absolutely nothing I could do about it, but it changed my life in a way I'm still dealing with to this very day. Some might say this would 'ruin' a song with a negative association, but actually it strengthens it's power. I texted Nate the next day and told him, the words "hold your hand, as you slip away", will forever hold a different, deeper meaning to me. Tyler's life hung in the balance as we were cutting these tracks.

I can't be certain, and we've never discussed it, but the words "I can't just walk away, so I'll stay here and hold your hand, until you slip away" were added to the piece after I told Nate what had happened. Not sure what he meant by them, or if they were just 'words', but this song will always be about Tyler, to me. The beautiful thing about songs is they can mean different things to different people.

The final elements added to the piece were the bass solo (once again sent through a phaser to connect it with 'Space Western') and Brandon Collins' fantastic-as-always cajon playing, to give it that galloping folky sound. We also took great effort to 'morph' the 'Nate choir' with the 'Evyenia choir'. It's one of my favorite pieces on the album.


Hold your hand,
As you slip away.

I can't just walk away,
I can't just walk away.
So I'll stay here and hold your hand,
until you slip away.


from Colouratura, released June 16, 2017
Nathan James - piano, synth, acoustic guitar, crotales, voice
Evyenia Karapolous - voice
Damon Waitkus - slide guitar, acoustic guitar
Brandon Collins – cajon



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Colouratura Wheeling, West Virginia

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