She Ain’t Gonna Be My Baby Anymore

My eldest child turned 18 this past week, so naturally my song for the week needed to be for her. Her dad Nathan and I took a walk together that we used for a cowriting session, which we extended when we returned home, and within a couple hours we had this very country song. Fun to have Nathan on the lead vocals this time. He wanted a song that expressed both loss and gain, grief and pride. I think we got it!

For better and worse she’s always been my girl
Ever since we met she’s been my world
But things have been changing for a long long time
Now I look back and I can see the signs
Something’s going on that I can’t ignore
She ain’t gonna be my baby anymore

She’s tall and proud and lovely as can be
She’s all dressed up but I know it’s not for me
There’s a spring in her step and a charge in the air
She flashes a smile and tosses her hair
She grabs the keys and walks out the door
She ain’t gonna be my baby anymore

There goes my baby
There goes my girl
There she goes shaking
My whole wide world
I just want to hold her but I know she can’t stay
She’s gonna leave and I won’t stand in her way
Where she’s headed I don’t know for sure
But she ain’t gonna be my baby anymore

I’m looking at her but she’s looking beyond me
Out where the big blue sky meets the sea
She’s got stars in her eyes, I’ve got a lump in my throat
She’s ready for the tide to carry her boat
And I’m crying a river back here on the shore
She ain’t gonna be my baby anymore

There goes my baby . . .

She’s shaking me awake from my sweet dreams
The sun is rising and she wants me to see
I never loved her more than I do tonight
I’m keeping it together with all my might
And I’m picking my heart up off the floor
She ain’t gonna be my baby anymore

There goes my baby . . .

Forgive Everyone Everything

Sometimes I write a song just to help me process an idea or event. That’s the case with this one.

My daughter and I visited Reconciliation Park in Mankato, Minnesota, this past week, and these words “forgive everyone everything” were inscribed there. I felt them to be difficult and freeing, beautiful and irritating, controversial and common-sensical. In Mankato, in 1862, 38 Dakota men were publicly hanged by the United States government in the wake of the US-Dakota Conflict. This memorial and these words were placed here by native and white community members together, and you can read more about it here.

The last photo in the video is the tea tag I just happened to have with me as I was writing this song on Thursday.

Hate is a hard road
Rutted and narrow
Twisting and dragging on and on
Love is a river
and when you flow with her
you find yourself right where you belong

Forgive everyone everything

You didn’t start this
You cannot end it
But you can hold on to what is good
And wave it like wheat fields
And feel it like fireflies
Glowing like starlight in the woods

Forgive everyone everything

Breathe it in deeply
Breathe it out freely
Sing it like sunshine after rain

Forgive everyone everything

Gonna Go Outside

I put off songwriting till Saturday morning for week 34 of #songaweek2021. The deadline to submit is Saturday night. After a band rehearsal in the afternoon I recruited my husband and bandmate Nathan to play along and we got-‘er-done for another week. Don’t look too hard for meaning in this one. But we had some fun!

I’m gonna go outside and listen to the news
All the tweets and chatter and the cock-a-doodle-doos
There’s a thousand stories
In my own back yard

There’s no time like the present and there’s no place quite like this
And if you feel you’d like it well I’d like to feel your kiss
And just a few more things 
We could try after dark

We’re on a great big rock that keeps on rolling round the sun
Just when we think it’s over well it’s only just begun
It’s the most fantastic way
To see the stars

What We’re Fighting For

This week’s song came together from so many influences. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

Peace, please, peace.

Afghani woman on BBC Newshour, 13 August 2021

Won’t you knock down all the walls that we built stable? / Tip them over and restore them to sturdy dinner tables

Nate Crary, Messy Mass liturgy, “Only By Our Lonesome” song

“Once There Was” – a song and an album by Carrellee. It’s really only that phrase that influenced the line in my song, “once there never was.” Just playing with words.

“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” by Pete Seeger

Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .

Jesus, Matthew 5:3

You think you know all the right things to tell a fool like me
But I won’t hear you at all as long as this wall stands where a table should be

I am not so sure what we’re fighting for
Where have all the poor in spirit gone?

Once there never was all that we tell ourselves there was back then
Now is right where we are and right where we can begin to be again

I am not so sure what we’re fighting for
Where have all the poor in spirit gone?

“Peace, please, peace . . .”

We are stars and mud, spirit and spit fire and flood, brawn and brain
Ours are oceans unknown, deserts that patiently await the rain

I am not so sure what we’re fighting for
Where have all the poor in spirit gone?

I’m Nobody! Who Are You?

Emily Dickinson wrote this poem that’s been coming to my mind often lately. It feels more meaningful than ever right now, in our always-on-brand, everyone-pay-attention-to-me, social-media-saturated culture. Being nobody seems so very sane and wise in contrast. With enough nobodies we could change the world I think.

For further consideration, hear this episode of the “Another Name for Everything” podcast with Richard Rohr, discussing the idea of the cosmic egg, and specifically the dangers of over-focusing on “my story.”

Also this “Big Head” episode of Matthew Syed’s “Sideways” podcast, which happened to come up in my feed today and felt truly timely.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

Emily Dickinson

How Long How Long?

Time is a funny thing. I would say this song was inspired by my reading of this Brain Pickings post detailing a letter Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother, except that I read the post after I’d already written the song. Here’s an especially relevant quote from it –

What moulting is to birds, the time when they change their feathers, that’s adversity or misfortune, hard times, for us human beings. One may remain in this period of moulting, one may also come out of it renewed, but it’s not to be done in public, however; it’s scarcely entertaining, it’s not cheerful, so it’s a matter of making oneself scarce.

Vincent Van Gogh

I don’t want to say a lot about this song. Just that in my 45 years I’ve come to know firsthand the immense value of the pause. Time truly can heal – but you have to give yourself to it, and sometimes that means removing yourself from the rushing river where everything else purports to be happening, and everybody expects something from you.

How long how long can you hold on to the pain?
When when can you let go and open up again?

Can you go the distance with these rocks inside your shoes?
Is there ever space and time to stop it all for a while?
Life is bright with colors but you only feel the blues
And everyone keeps telling you to smile

How long how long can you hold on to the pain?
When when can you let go and open up again?

Everyone’s a critic, every dog thinks it’s his day
Every day’s frenetic and a rest can feel like a crime
You rest easy honey, feel the cosmic cradle sway
Something good will happen in good time

How long how long can you hold on to the pain?
When when can you let go and open up again?

How long. . . ?

How long how long can you hold on to the pain?

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