Tiny Songs

I had a very frustrating couple songwriting sessions this week, with a tune/chord progression I just loved but try as I might I couldn’t find any inspiration for the lyrics. I spared the world a mediocre attempt at outlandish humor by calling it quits on a story song about aliens that may still eventually work out. (No wait, who am I kidding? Those lyrics will never again see the light of day!)

Then this little thing flitted in just about fully made, for me to catch and put on display for you. This is something I love about the song-a-week discipline. Every week (excepting dire circumstances or vacations), I will clear some time and space and see what happens with songwriting. And nearly every week, the shy wild muse shows up somehow, some way.

This is the second very short song I’ve written recently – I think I didn’t post the first here yet so I’ll include it below as well.

First, “Songs Left” for week 30 of #songaweek2021:

When the dust settles, when the smoke clears
When you and I are all gone from here
Will there be songs left for someone to sing
When you and I are all gone from here?
When you and I are all gone from here?

Next, “4:25” from Week 25 – a tiny song idea I had when the birds woke me up at 4:25 AM:

4:25 and the birds are singing
Wonder what’s there to sing about?
Go back to bed with a song in my head
Maybe someday I’ll have to find out

Soonwego

I took a couple weeks off of songwriting and social media and a lot of other things to pile into a van with my husband, kids, and dog and drive across the west. It was an amazing road trip and inspired this song for week 28 of #songaweek2021.

It gets a little relationally hard-hitting and frank in the second verse. My songs aren’t always autobiographical but in this case it is. I hesitated to make the song public at all because of this, but after sharing it first with Nathan and asking for his go-ahead, I’m putting it out there. I’ve always been a bit of a drama queen and so all kinds of things cross my mind, especially in hard moments – and I think it’s helpful to be honest about this so other dramatic souls out there can maybe feel a little less afraid of what goes on in their own inner worlds.

The old neighbors are packing it up
and the new coffee shop is hopping with hipsters
It’s a beautiful day in this mountain town
and I don’t miss living here

I didn’t leave my heart in Loveland
It’s been traveling a long long time
so on we go

The Great Salt Lake was all around us
when I was crying a river cause I couldn’t feel your love
while you were searching for the perfect words
and the quiet lied to me

I didn’t leave you there in Utah
though I surely did think of it
so on we go

Everywhere and everyone I take my heart to
leaves a mark
and it hurts
from the love
or the lack thereof
and it stings
and it sings
like every precious thing

The Golden Gate is red
the Redwoods are a national treasure
on the mountain of the devil
we touched the face of God

I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco
I was only just passing through
so on we go

Let’s Stay Up All Summer

These lyrics really need some entirely different-sounding music, I’ve decided, after writing and recording and posting the thing in a couple hours this evening. With the mood of this song, I don’t think there’s much chance of anyone staying up for long. And it certainly doesn’t feel “highly caffeinated.” More like, I just finished weeding the garden in the hot sun and then had a beer on the patio and then cobbled together a song with little lyric idea scraps I had been saving.

Still, I made a song this week! Not sure I’ll be meeting the song-a-week challenge every week this summer, because we’re planning to do some more serious road tripping and fun-having with our kids before our oldest starts senior year (!) in the fall.

Let’s stay up all summer
Let’s stay up all night
You can be my lover
We can kiss and fight
There’s not a valid reason
for holding back this time
there’s nothing like this season
To slightly lose your mind

Let’s stay up all summer
You and me

I’m highly caffeinated
Did you see my text?
I’m fully vaccinated
Ready for what’s next
There’s lots of roads for tripping
So many stars to watch
There’s cold drinks for the sipping
And loads of summer squash

Let’s stay up all summer
You and me

Might As Well Love It

It’s always an extra-fun songwriting week when Nathan has time to join in the process! I had this song mostly written last week. On Monday Nathan and I spent some time with it, finishing up the writing and arranging, and the next few days we recorded bits and pieces as we had time. I sang and played acoustic guitar. Nathan did EVERYTHING else, which never ceases to amaze me!

This old world well it’s not that bad
I guess I’m not afraid to stay till I know it’s time to go
Might put down roots, put up my feet
Lower the lights, enjoy the show
Or what I can of it cause there’s a lot that I can’t
Unspeakable horrors, untouchable hurts
Some people talk about hell, talk about hand baskets
First world problems and last-ditch efforts

It’s a bright beach ball alone in the ocean
Have the time of our lives right here right now
It’s a disco strobe in an empty room
And we’re on it doggone it till the house burns down
And we love it we love it
We might as well love it

You and me dear well we’re not all good
Still we’re brave enough to stay till we have to let go
We’re digging out of old ruts, breaking new ground
Making glacial progress at taking it slow
We were drafted to fight in this eternal war
But conscientiously, I object
So damn the torpedoes and melt down the guns
And kiss me tenderly when I stick out my neck

On this bright beach ball alone in the ocean
Have the time of our lives right here right now
It’s a disco strobe in an empty room
And we’re on it doggone it till the house burns down
And I love you I love you
I might as well love you

I Am Love

“I don’t even know how to talk to people anymore,” I heard someone say recently. And I feel that so much too. Not that I ever really knew how to talk to people! But whatever progress I had made in 45 years feels stunted after one year of social distancing.

Emerging from pandemic life, I feel awkward and unsure and even afraid, a little like I did back in junior high – what will people think of me? What if I say the wrong thing? Practically any time spent on social media these days only amplifies those feelings for me.

There’s a lot more I could (try to!) say about how and why I wrote this song, but to sum up, this was one of the few songs I’ve written that felt mostly like a complete gift from the blue – the comforting words I needed just showing up in my thoughts when I most needed them.

You don’t have to be right, you don’t have to be smart
You don’t have to be what you are, you don’t have to be what you aren’t
You are completely loved, you’re forever forgiven
My great heart is enlarged by your wondrous existence

I’m the last to judge
I’m the first to love 
I always was, I always will be
I am who I am

You don’t have to make sense, you can tell me what’s on your mind
You can never offend one who sees you from every side
And I love who I see and you’re not the only one
Take a look around, oh I feel this for everyone

I’m the last to judge
I’m the first to love 
I always was, I always will be
I am who I am

In the end all that it comes down to is love in everything

And that’s what the world needs, that’s what everyone’s wanting
It feels impossible but with me nothing
Is impossible, no it’s never been easy
but it’s simple enough for a child to see

I’m the last to judge
I’m the first to love 
I always was, I always will be
I am who I am

New Again (collaboration with Rich Waring)

I got to do another cowrite this week! This time Rich Waring, a British friend in my song-a-week group, brought a more-or-less complete song and asked for help finishing it. He sent me the lyrics and a recording and I spent some time with it, then we Zoomed and discussed some lyric edit ideas and a plan for recording it. He recorded guitar, drum track, his vocals, then sent it to me. I added my vocals and sent it back. He added a little synth and mixed it all together and here we are!

Rich is a prolific singer/songwriter with a fascinating emotional range and deep creative energy to his music. You can hear much more of his work at his Soundcloud page – https://soundcloud.com/rich-waring.

I’ve been dead and born again
More times than I can count 
From smallest to the largest I have grown
The corners turned, the lessons learned 
but only to forget
In the silence of the falling snow

Summers come and summers go
And winters never end
until the spring awakens us from sleep
But on beyond the coming fall
I’ll never rise again
These bones will be the final piece of me

But oh – feel the life rising and I’m new again
Oh – does it really matter how it goes away?

I’ve been dancing skyward 
with the birds and all the bees
Spinning out the quivering strands of life
Weaving sound and colour til they’re free to be released
Miracles on miracles in flight

Inside the gene you never see
but feel at every turn
I’m the one who steers you through the dark
I’m the love and longing
That can bring you through the hurt
That makes the meaning pulling at your heart

Oh – feel the life arising and I’m new again
Oh – does it really matter that it goes

When there’s a love……
I feel a love that lifts me up and lays me down to my rest
I feel a love that lifts me up and lays me down to my rest

Feel the bees that tickle 
as they nibble at your flowers
Knowing how their kisses share your life
Though the birds may wound you 
as they’re pecking at your boughs
Only they can spread the seed so wide

Lovers come and lovers go
and wonders never cease
So we travel wide and travel far
Though they fade and fall away
like autumn’s changing leaves
love remains and makes us what we are

Oh – feel the life arising and I’m new again
Oh – does it really matter how it goes away?

Initiation (Rainer Maria Rilke) set to music

For week 20 of #songaweek2021 I turned to Rilke for my lyrics. I’d saved this poem with other song ideas I had but I wasn’t clear on its title. An internet search brought me to another WordPress blogger’s post about the same poem, from almost exactly a year ago! The blogger, Jeff Japp, gives two possible interpretations of the poem. And then a commenter asked if it might also be “the-end-of-quarantine poem” – and I hadn’t even thought of that but maybe that’s why I was drawn to this particular poem in this particular week as life around me starts to feel so much more opened up again (a year out from that original comment!).

Whoever you are, go out into the evening,
leaving your room, of which you know each bit;
your house is the last before the infinite,
whoever you are.

Then with your eyes that wearily
scarce lift themselves from the worn-out door-stone
slowly you raise a shadowy black tree
and fix it on the sky: slender, alone.

And you have made the world (and it shall grow
and ripen as a word, unspoken, still).
When you have grasped its meaning with your will,
then tenderly your eyes will let it go.

There’s a Story Here

This song started from my listening to a Radiolab podcast episode called “Kleptotherms.” The episode consisted of several stories and I think it was the second story, the one about a young man with schizophrenia named John and an old woman he met on the beach when he was having a bad day, who invited him to sit with her and eat his lunch. I can’t even tell you how much I loved this story and hearing John tell it himself.

And that feels like it makes no sense with the way the song played out. I wrote the first verse and then the chorus where the words “there’s a story here” tumbled out and brought with them “but it doesn’t need telling,” and I thought that was so strange until “at least not in so many words” helped to make a little more sense of the idea.

That night I went to bed and another verse came to me as I was falling towards sleep, so I put it all down in my phone memos to deal with the next day.

The next day – I had a verse with a lovely little story and then another verse describing something more sinister. I was having a hard time making sense of this song but it still felt compelling to me.

So I lived with it another day and night, played it a few more times, worked out the bones of a bridge and last chorus that helped me understand it a little more. This morning I walked the dog and got the lines that feel like a key – “you take it all in, you live it all out.”

Some things are beyond explanation, transcendent in positive or negative ways – beautiful or terrible or neither or both but just not put-into-words-able. These are stories that we probably tell better with our lives than with our words.

Or something like that. There’s a song here but maybe it doesn’t need all that telling, not so many words.

He was feeling so low
Couldn’t talk himself down
From the edge in the fog in his head
She was there on the beach
Asking him to sit down
And eat his sandwich instead

A young troubled man
An old placid woman
The sun and the sand and the birds
There’s a story here
But it doesn’t need telling
At least not in so many words

Under stained glass you see him
The man of the cloth
Pulling wool over sheep’s trusting eyes
While the wolves go on howling
Outside in the dark
And you still have to live till you die

The devil you know
The devil you don’t
The lies and confessions you’ve heard
There’s a story here
But it doesn’t need telling
At least not in so many words

And you know what you know
And you feel what you feel
And you wait till the moment is right
But it all stacks up wrong
On the tip of your tongue
And you swallow it back in one bite

You take it all in
You live it all out
The subject, the object, the verb
There’s a story here
But it doesn’t need telling
At least not in so many words

Hold Me Close Like a Telephone

In the course of writing this song I discovered that Bob Dylan cowrote the song “Wagon Wheel” and also that Darius Rucker of one of high-school-me’s favorite bands Hootie and the Blowfish did a cover of it, in addition to the one I had heard before by Old Crow Medicine Show.

I learned all that because after I wrote this song it kept nagging me that I had copied something somehow. My subconscious went to work and got me the answer, and Google confirmed it and taught me all those other details.

For artistic integrity (and/or because I’m just not taking the time this week for a big recording), I sang this one into my phone.

Here it is, my song for week 18 of #songaweek2021:

I don’t mean to be rude, I mean I never mean to be mean
Some days feel no good, so no no good to keep all to myself

Hold me close like a telephone
Ring me round with whispers of your love

There’s nothing we can do to change the days we left behind us
Every moment’s new, and this one’s telling us we can be too

Hold me close like a telephone
Ring me round with whispers of your love

There’s something to be said for everybody saying something
Nice and kind of kind to help each other help each other smile

Let’s hold our world like a telephone
Ring it round with whispers of our love