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 . . .

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

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?

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

Into Your Hands

Every year for Good Friday my church puts out a call to artists to choose one of the seven last words of Christ and share something based on the particular last words they chose. For now our church is doing everything online – mostly Facebook Live – including the upcoming Good Friday service. I was getting ready to sign up for “Into your hands I commend my spirit,” and started writing the words to this song, before I realized our family’s plan to go camping that weekend will negate my ability to do any livestreaming that day.

Still, I liked what I had started and decided to go ahead and make it my song for week 11 of #songaweek2021.

Every winter I think I’m dying
Come the spring I feel like trying
Trying again
In the summer I know I’m living
Go to fall it all starts giving
Giving out, gone
On and on and on and on

Chasing down the speed of light
Face pressed up to window staring out of my existence
Back against the wall of furious insistence
Into your hands
Into your hands
I commend my spirit

Every night’s an invitation
To a sweet obliteration
Of all that I think I should be
In the morning I remember
Dreams that fade like dying embers
Light as dry leaves
Leaving, left, and lost

Chasing down the speed of light
Face pressed up to window staring out of my existence
Back against the wall of furious insistence
Into your hands
Into your hands
I commend my spirit

CoL@home

Yesterday my folk pop duo-sometimes-trio (aka family band) Cabin of Love released a new 7-song EP, CoL@home. It’s made up of songs I’ve written from 2016 to 2020 for www.songaweek.org. Three of them were written and recorded just this year, while we’ve been mostly staying home. The first track, “Slowly Exploding,” was specifically written about living in this new pandemic reality; and you can see us performing it in an upcoming TPT show set to air in September, featuring several artists and work they’ve made during this time of COVID-19.

So, without further ado, the album!