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Just a Few Musical Ruminations…

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Romancing the Stone

About music mondays


Hey, it’s been a while since I wrote a love song. So, here’s one.


Escape Artist

About music mondays, songwriting


This song throws back to a couple of my previous blog posts: I think I mentioned during the summer that I was working on a song called “Escape Artist.” Well, at long last, I decided to finish it! Music Mondays are really starting to put me through my paces in terms of how much a write, which is a good, if slightly exhausting thing. I had written the verse and the chorus over the summer but never had the wherewithal to finish it until now. But I’m pretty happy with it.

I guess I can call this Stealing Someone Else’s Words: Edition 2, as this is the second time in the past few weeks where I posted a song I wrote based on something someone said to me. I suppose it’s lazy, but sometimes people say things that just make my jaw drop. And at least I’m honest about it–whenever it happens, I say, “I’m going to write that down and put it in a song. Is that OK?” And for some weird reason, people always say yes. Maybe it’s the novelty of being included in a song. I have friends who will beg to be put in a song, and I suppose they don’t quite realize that I generally put people in songs who frustrate or confuse me. It’s a form of therapy, as the song is just my analysis and hopefully resolution of a situation that’s troubling me. Anyway, in this one, I think the metaphor is pretty obvious, and the first verse is basically verbatim.

Anyway, I hope you like it. And feedback is always appreciated!


Credits

About music mondays


Don’t really feel like blogging today because it’s beautiful out and I’m working even though it’s Marathon Monday so we’ll let this one speak for itself :)


Sally

About music mondays, songwriting


So this song I wrote after I’d moved back to Gloucester and decided to do a series of sea songs. Most of my lyric writing when I first moved to Gloucester in the fall of 2010 occurred on my walks to Brace Cove. I’d slap on my iPod, walk down to Brace Cove, walk through the retreat center’s woods (No Trespassing? Yeah, right.) and emerge via wooden steps to the crazy rocks on the ocean that make Gloucester so interesting. The combination of visual and aural stimuli was exactly what I needed to let my mind just sort of free associate.

I was pretty determined to write about the ocean–this was just after I wrote “High Tide,” and the tongue-twister “She sells sea shells by the sea shore” struck me as something I could work with. The saying is entirely stupid: why would you sell sea shells at the beach? There’s already a million shells there… people can just go pick them up. I felt like I was in a similarly questionable part of my life, having no sense of direction at the time. So the song evolved into a story about a girl who tries to find meaning in a sort of senseless situation. She’s doing this thing, that she doesn’t necessarily want or understand, while waiting for something else. And what she winds up finding important is the happiness brought to her by the other people in her life.

Obviously it’s about me. Isn’t everything? In any case, enjoy.


No Surprises

About Cape Harmony, music mondays


So a cappella has pretty much swallowed up my life. Which is good! But it’s also why I missed music monday last week, the first time since its inception in November. We held Cape Harmony auditions last weekend which basically took over my whole Friday/Saturday/Sunday–I didn’t even realize I hadn’t planned a music monday until late Monday night. Ah well. Though stressful, it was a nice weekend with my girls, a lot of whom I hadn’t even seen since the summer!

And I just got home tonight from rehearsal for the new group we’re starting in Boston, Sweet Caroline. Woo! We learned Real Love by Mary J and it’s going to be sick. Anyway, this is related to this music monday because I decided to just pull together a one-woman a cappella recording. It’s of Radiohead’s No Surprises, a song I arranged several years ago but have since lost. I definitely remembered bits of it, but mostly it’s just me having fun with reverb and all that jazz. Hopefully it’s not too weird for everyone–I’ll love pretty much any rendition of any Radiohead song, so I’m happy with it.

No Surprises


Respite

About music mondays, songwriting


So over the past year or so I’ve been paying a lot more attention to what other people say to me as inspiration for words. There are some turns of phrase or concepts that I just don’t think I would have come up with on my own, or at least give me a previously unexplored perspective on something in my life. When I heard this phrase, which ultimately became the chorus of the song, I knew immediately that I had to write it down–not only was it one of the nicer things ever said to me, but it had a ring and a sweetness to it that I would never be able to conjure up on my own. That being said, it is interesting that a song based off of someone else’s words winds up being totally about me.


High and Dry

About Cape Harmony, music mondays


So this week got a little crazy (I’m doing the 9 to 5 thing, plus working Saturdays and Sundays in Gloucester) so this week’s Music Monday is from the archives. I also don’t have internet at my apartment so I’m just blogging at work after hours. So cool. (And I don’t have TV which makes me a super-hermit.)

Anyway, this video is from Cape Harmony 2010, back when I was blonde, of Radiohead’s High and Dry. This song was my baby in 2010–I already posted my baby from 2011, Ring Them Bells. One of my favorite things to do in a cappella arranging is put snippets of other songs in the mix. This is one I think I pulled off pretty well. I’m not a huge fan of guitar solos in a cappella, unless you’re willing to go totally ridiculous. So for the bridge, a guitar solo section, I put in “True Love Waits,” “Like Spinning Plates,” and “Fake Plastic Trees,” three other Radiohead songs. They’re not exact quotes, but I’m very happy with the way they fit together, ultimately. In fact, the rehearsal I taught this song in wound up having one of my most important musical director moment–one of the girls started crying while learning it. (!) And if there’s one thing I want to accomplish, it’s making people cry.

Just kidding :)


Smithereens

About music mondays, recording, songwriting


A couple weeks ago, I was giving an impromptu concert to a few friends (it’s just something I do, sorry) and they suggest I write a happy song, and played me a youtube video of Colbie Caillat. No offense, but I find her to be the epitome of those gross acoustic girl songs–in general, I’m not interested in how some dude makes you crinkle your nose or feel bubbly or whatever.

Anyway, this song is more of an examination of all the things I don’t feel are worth putting in a song: getting crunk, for example. I think the references to recent hits are pretty obvious, and unfortunately, slightly hypocritical (which is partially intentional–this is obviously produced as a full-out pop song with literally no instruments involved.) It’s not like my songs address anything particularly deep, but at least I try to offer a clever or introspective insight on it. In any case, the content of my writing is something I’ve been thinking about a lot more, and hoping to improve. Suggestions welcome, although I don’t promise not to write a snide song in response (sorry Becca and Shan, you know I love you.)

Smithereens


Kill Your Darlings

About music mondays, songwriting


“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it–wholeheartedly–and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.” -Arthur Quiller-Couch

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” -William Faulkner

The above quotes, or some varying versions of this, were always discussed as a piece of writing advice in college. It makes sense–just because you love something you wrote, doesn’t mean it works. That being said, I’ve found a couple of blog posts (here and here) that dispute this piece of advice, taking it entirely literally. Of course, this is subject to interpretation, and I do not know either figure well enough to glean their true meaning. But to me–and I do get to cheat, as a songwriter rather than a literary writer–this is what it means.

It is not: If you love it, get rid of it. It is: If you love it, you shouldn’t necessarily indulge it. And this is something I certainly agree with, both in writing and relationships. I’ve written a lot of shitty songs (as we discussed in my last post) but I wrote them because I feel them, and I needed to write them, and I certainly have a fair amount of fondness for them, even acknowledging they’re not my best work. Similarly, I’ve stopped seeing people because, even though their company may be enjoyable and my desire to be near them desperate, it’s just not good for me.

There’s no need to force something that’s not going to work, I guess is my bottom line. Attachments and feelings aside, you can’t turn an indulgent song into a pop hit. And you can’t turn a fundamentally flawed relationship into a real one. The trick is to see which one is which.


Sooner or Later

About music mondays, songwriting


So this is a song I wrote about 3 years ago as a Valentine’s day present. The four years I spent in college, I had a pretty significant case of writer’s block, and this is probably one of only 5 or 6 songs I continue to play from that period of time. Writer’s block is a devious thing: the more you want to write something good, the more critical you become of all your attempts, thereby dashing any real paths to something creative. In writing, like everything else, you have to do lots of to get any good results from. I’ve written a lot of shitty songs, and a couple good ones–and those good ones could never have existed if I didn’t power through the shitty ones. Even doing Music Mondays, I’m aware that I can’t necessarily post all of my best work, and I’m OK with that. The so-so songs are important too, if only for feedback and being able to see my own progress and threads throughout my work. Once I’ve been doing this for a while, I will have a large body of work online and people (and myself) will be able to filter through them and pick ones they like, or see what works and what doesn’t. That’s the point.

Back to writer’s block. There were 2 main things that kept me quiet in college: the city and my college relationship. I am not really a city person, and I found New York incredibly stifling. It didn’t help that I lived with a lot of other people and lived entirely in dorms. I become fairly reclusive when writing, and the feeling that I was never alone was pervasive through my college years, and has subsequently made my transition into self-reliance a little difficult (I have a tendency to follow people home).

The other main thing was the fact that I was in a steady relationship for most of my college career. Being in a healthy, communicative relationship doesn’t quite jive with my method of writing, which namely draws on my stifled internal narratives. I’ve said it before, I write what I feel I can’t say out loud. “My songs are letters to people who I don’t know their addresses.” I haven’t really been in a healthy relationship since this one ended, and needless to say, it’s been an extremely prolific period of my life. I worry about the next time I find myself happy with another person, which has (I hate to say) become a more pressing goal for my future.

The point is, this is the only kind of song I could really write in this time period–something silly and cute, meaningful to me, but slightly lacking in depth. Don’t be too grossed out; it is Valentine’s Day after all.


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