I've been writing more songs than usual lately, and I want to give you a little behind the scenes glimpse into what I've been up to instead of keeping it all to myself. I haven't felt this creative in ages. I've had some serious writer's block for a long time now--not the usual kind where you sit there and try to find the words but you can't, but the kind where you just don't let yourself write at all. Poems have come pretty steadily since I first started writing them at age 13, but songs come more sporadically. I get little snippets of melodies and lyrics in my head constantly, but I con myself into thinking that I'll write it down later, and so I lose it. God plucks it right out of my brain and gives it to someone else who will use it and give it to the world.
I've noticed that I stop myself from listening to the music I love or watching anything that's even mildly creative because I know that the ideas will come while I'm watching or listening, and I'll have to write it down and record the melodies. That feels like a big responsibility--it always feels like one that I'm not equipped to handle. Even as I write that, I know it's so stupid to feel that way, because I'm at my happiest when I'm writing music. Hours fly by and feel like minutes. But when I'm not actually in the zone, thinking about entering the zone can be the scariest thing.
There really is a lot of responsibility that comes with it, because you feel like you're being given these melodies and lyrics for a reason, yet you know that you're just going to put them in the vault with everything else and never put it out there for anybody to hear, dissect, criticize... or maybe even enjoy. Except that I'm growing and changing and I'm not so afraid to share these things with you anymore. I want to put it all out there and see what you think. Getting up on stage and singing was, for most of my life, a constant craving and an insurmountable fear. Now I've gotten up there and done karaoke a few times including this past Saturday, and for me, that kind of impromptu casual get-up-and-sing kind of moment is much scarier than any huge performance you could line up for me! If I have conquered that, then why not slay the fear that's kept me from sharing my music for all this time?
I'm moving my computer and recording equipment into a new spot next week, and I'm turning it into a real studio space where I can allow myself to be creative. I'm going to put up my favorite memorabilia and autographs from the artists who inspire me. I'm not going to put my microphone away anymore. I'll put a cover on it to keep it safe from dust, but putting it away just makes it more likely that I'll be too lazy to take it out when it's time to work on something. I'm going to be 28 years old this Halloween. I can't afford to procrastinate anymore! I have so many years worth of material that needs to be worked on, finished, and put out there. I don't want to die with all of this locked up inside me. I've wasted so much time...
But moving on to the behind-the-scenes stuff...
I finished up the lyrics to I'll Hold Your Music Close to Me, a song that I wrote back in September of 2008 when I was thinking about one day possibly having to deal with the deaths of my biggest musical influences. The second line says, "In time even the brightest star gives into the night." I had no idea how soon I'd face losing the biggest one, Michael Jackson, but I definitely had him in mind when I was writing this. Like my lyrics say, "No one can read the face on the clock of the heart." We never know when our time will be up, and we really do need to live each day like it's the last. That was always a big theme in his music. Here's the chorus:
When your energy leaves
When you're taken from me
I'll keep the music playing
And I'll keep the lights aglow
When your encore is made
When you exit the stage
I'll sing the notes you sang to me
And I'll hold your music close to me
And I really like the bridge a lot as well:
When you no longer breathe
When the lyrics are your heart
And the rhythm is your heartbeat
I'll sing the songs you wrote to me
Like a lullaby to sleep
My own song has actually brought a lot of comfort to me in the last couple of months. It's one of my favorite melodies that I've ever written too. I'm holding off on sharing the complete lyrics until I give you the song in its entirety, but I really hope you'll like that one as much as I do.
I also wrote a song called Still Feel This Way, which is about my partner and how grateful I am for what we have. I'll give you a sneak peek at the first verse:
Recall the time I was
Sitting on your lap when we were young
You smiled and looked up at me and said
Wouldn't it be great
If we got old and gray and stayed together
We're halfway there now
And yet we've only begun
Lyrics are never as impressive "on paper" as poems are. You've got to hear the music and the vocals to understand the feeling behind the more conversational words. But it's true--we are halfway to "old and gray" and still we're starting over again. Yet the heaviness of that is lost. I just feel good, excited, grateful. And I feel younger than I ever did. I put a lot of drama into our lives when I should have just been having fun, but with the way I grew up, I really never knew how to. This song is the first one that I wrote in its entirety while she was here with me, then brought her the lyrics on paper and played the song for her while I sat right next to her. I could never have done that before. She really loved it, and she cried. I'll always cherish that moment because I was so afraid to share this side of myself before. Now I can show her that I love her in the best way that I know how. That's one of the pieces that we were missing before.
I'm also really happy about a tribute song I'm working on called Why, which heavily samples two separate Michael Jackson tracks from the Thriller era and blends them into one seamless song, with all new lyrics yet keeping the old melodies. It came to me so quickly and flawlessly, which is how the best songs usually come. I'm really in love with the entire concept and I've been singing the song in my head for weeks, putting new touches on it here and there as I go. I have no idea what the outcome of this one will be, because I've got to get sample clearance on both songs if I ever want to release it. Creatively it's been a dream to work on though, even if it never sees the light of day. I broke past some creative barriers trying to mix the two songs into one, and it got those wheels turning again.
It's not a heavy song about Michael Jackson's death or even a happy song about his influence--in fact although the choruses could apply to losing him if you wanted them to, the song is not specifically about him at all. Not in a literal way, anyway. It's a love song like he himself would sing. The verses tell a story about two lovers, one who is leaving and one who is struggling with saying goodbye. Here's a look at the first verse:
Tangled up in bedsheets of memories
It's the morning after
And yesterday must leave
But can I cling for one moment more
While you sleep
While you're still breathing next to me
I love those lyrics. "It's the morning after, and yesterday must leave." That line came in one quick shot and it blew me away. I'm so in love with that lyrical picture. I just Googled it to make sure I didn't accidentally bite it from some classic song, and for the record, it's all mine! lol :) I don't know which angel came and tapped me on the shoulder and whispered those two lines in my ear (hmm... I wonder...), but here's a belated thank you to them! I know that didn't come from my own mind. It's inspired. I'm humbled.
Then a couple of nights ago I was watching a Bob Dylan DVD that I rented from Netflix--never been a Bob Dylan fan in any capacity but I thought I'd finally find out what all the fuss was about. Still can't say I dig the sound, but the lyrics have me intrigued and wanting to hear more. I've always been a lyric nut--a song can be aurally less than impressive but if the lyrics blow my mind I'll latch onto it right away...
Random memory: I remember being at Desirable Discs in Dearborn about 14 years ago (OK, feeling old now!) rifling through all the Jacksons albums and trying to find something I didn't have, and they were playing an entire CD of Bob Dylan. I wanted to run. lol... I got some great Janet Jackson posters that night though. If you had told me I'd be watching a Bob Dylan DVD 14 years later, I'd never believe you.
Anyway, hearing about Dylan's beginnings and his whole creative approach to music got those ideas pumping like they always do, and out came a song called Illumined. On the surface it's about the moon. My songs always have a surface meaning and then multiple undercurrents. Here's the chorus for this one:
You are the light that never left
I consume it, I'm illumined
Even in my absence, I had you to coax the waves
And there in my darkness, you marked this moonlit way
I'm still illumined by things you did lightyears away
I like the look of that on the page--some lyrics are poems set to music and that's definitely one of them. The melody for this one came out typical and unimpressive, but today when I was sitting here putting the melody down, it evolved into what it was supposed to be, and I'm excited about it. Really excited. I couldn't stop talking about it earlier because I think it's one of the best melodies I've ever written. I can't take credit for it--you know where it comes from. I am grateful for it. When I finished putting the melody down, I looked up and said, "Thank you." I've got a lot of lyrics that I feel strongly about, a lot of songs that I've put my heart and soul into, but when they come from someplace else and you feel humbled by it, that's what it's really about. That's the ultimate rush and the reason that I do it.
Well... next week I move the studio and I'm going to get some audio up on this blog asap. You've got the pieces, now I need to deliver the finished product. I'm a perfectionist so I'll be tinkering for a while, but I'll keep the conversation going as I work. I'll be posting some photos when I'm done moving everything too. I'm throwing open the doors and windows here so to speak--I want to let you in because I know that once I've done that, the comfort zone will increase and I won't want to hide my work from you anymore.
Thanks for being here as usual! I love you guys. xo... stay tuned...
photo credit: celine nadeau via flickr