Anthony Da Costa and I wrote this song together tonight. We made a plan to meet and made it happen. He came to my house. We drove to Pleasantville, New York. We had dinner with his beautiful Italian mother. We ate pasta, shrimp and fluffy chocolate cake. We wrote this song. There is cello and guitar in it. It is about a boy trucker and a girl cheater.
We recorded it live with his condenser mic and his pro tools in his parents’ living room. We did it about 5 or 6 times and took the last take. Anthony had the framework for this song before we met. It is a sad un-ballad country song. We worked really hard on these lyrics together and formed the story behind it. We finished at about 12:30 am. I drove Anthony home to his dorm (he goes to Columbia University) and helped him carry several arm loads of laundry, his guitar and his recording equipment up to his door. I love Anthony, and we had the best time writing this song. Really. The best time. I hope you enjoy it, too.
Anthony’s speciality is love songs. Anthony’s love songs are heartbreaking. We are going to do another collaboration and do a sweet and lovely love song. I hope it will make us cry doing it! I really like how he seems to have no fear communicating through music. I wish I was more free like this. (He was one of the masterminds behind You Don’t Know What You’re Doing To Me.) Anthony is a prolific and wonderful singer, guitarist and songwriter. He has such an ease at the instrument. I have recorded cello for him in the past and will be doing so (I’ve been told!) on Anthony’s next album. I’m very excited, and I’m so honored to continue to work with him.
(Anthony- how was that?)
You Like Me More When I’m Gone
Well, I love you pretty baby, more than I should
Been thinking bout the way you don’t treat me so good
You talk about the way you care
But it seems to only happen when I’m not there
You call me up and say you’ve been true
But who knows if you’ve been doing what you oughtn’t to
It’s so hard for me to let on that you like me more when I’m gone
It seems I’m always on the road, yeah I roam from town to town
This old eighteen wheeler is glory bound
I’ve been traveling along, doing my time
With girls in every bar, but you are always on my mind
So I get a little drunk in a motel room
Peanut butter sandwich and some pay-per-view (This is my favorite line)
All the while, you’re at home singing songs
Cause you like me more when I’m gone
I think you’ve changed
Well that’s not right
You’re acting strange
But you’re my guy
Just tell me plain
Oh, let’s not fight
Is there something going on?
Well, at least not tonight!
They say that distance makes the heart grow strong
But baby I believe we’ve been apart for too long
Because the minute I walk right in through the door
I say “I’m Home, pretty baby,” and you say, “What for?”
Ad then this fear is creepin’ in with a smile so wide
Always comes right when I’m leaving, You look so satisfied.
Call crazy call me stupid, call me wrong
But I think you like me more when I’m gone
TOTALLY SHAMELESS SHOW PLUG: Thursday, February 4 @ Knitting Factory w/ KELLI RUDICK, 8 PM, $10 (Playing some songs from the 365. yay!)
Boom, boom, boom… shoo, shoo, shoo (I’m singing you a song. It is 10:31 pm, and I still haven’t written a song.)
Amazing and fascinating elements which have occurred that I wanted to tell you about:
1. Collaborations have a whole new meaning for me. For a moment there, I thought feelings of success with collaborations was only a sign that the songs I’ve been doing alone have been mediocre. In talking about it with a friend yesterday, I see how selfish this thought was, and I realize the saying that “No Man is an Island” is totally true. I so look forward to working with others, connecting with them, and creating something unexpected. Because two, three or four minds are working together, the end result is bound to have a totally new kind of energy you just can’t get alone.
Also, it’s incredible to me the kind of memories I’m creating (listening to Emilyn and Anthony banter back and forth about lyrics the night we created You Don’t Know What You’re Doing, dinner with Franz and Marie listening to Ukrainian music, breakfast with Pam and Guy in Portsmouth, eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches at Hog Farm with with Lady Lamb the Beekeeper in Maine, a live performance for dear friends of our song A Thousand Thousands with Sam before PatB left tour… the list goes on…)
2. Yesterday was a rough day for me, but it was important and defining in that I realized how my thinking is being changed. When I first started this project, the first thing Emilyn said to me was, “This is going to change your brain.” Just as exercising makes muscles stronger, you know it’s working because it’s accompanied by some pain. I think that’s what’s happening. I can be okay with that as long as it doesn’t last. Another point my dear friend made which I am clinging to: Almost every artist releases a 12-15 song LP. What we never think about is that those people had to go through numerous bad versions and poorly written songs to find those gems that make it to the final cut. He said, “You happen to be showing us all the warts as you go instead of just the final product.”
3. I’ve realized the things about myself that have annoyed me all my life have been some of the strongest assets in this project as I’ve continued along these past few weeks. I am, by nature or nurture, a procrastinator. I spent so much of my education, in every field: academia and music practice, procrastinating. I would find myself cramming the day before every test or totally faking the weekly advanced placement practice essay. I’m not at all saying that preparing earlier wouldn’t have resulted in a better product, no. But I am saying that kind of adrenaline and stress can affect output. This whole project is basically 365 of those “assignment is due tomorrow!” days in a row for me, and whether you like the product or not, they’re being created. Reminding myself of that simplicity is important on the days that are harder.
I’ve had a lot of support, but also a lot of realistic responses like, “This is a lot to expect from yourself. I wouldn’t think less of you if you quit.” or “It’s like one day deciding you’re going to lose weight, and just cut your calories one day to 100 a day… ” I agree, but I’ve had so many kind people showing me they believe in what I’m doing, and that keeps me going, makes it easier, no matter how stupid I might feel on a given day.
So, basically, in closing: Thank you. Thank you to those who have written to me in support and love and to those who have expressed a very calm, realistic perspective of support. Thank you to those silent listeners who keep coming back. And thank you to those collaborators with whom I’m gleaning so much from. Experiences with you are invaluable, and I am so grateful. I know I’m only just short of a month in, but I just wanted you to know.
This Is Rest (Cello Improvisation No. 1)
This is dedicated to those who cannot sleep tonight (mostly likely my dad and me, too, I guess, as it is now 2:07 am).
About this track: DAMN THE HISS ON THIS MIC ! Lame!!! Anyway…Thanks to Guy Capecelatro III for suggesting a song today!
(Side note: The working title for this in garageband was “Joan Jett is My Mom”.) Because it was 12:30 am when I recorded this, I had to use a practice mute (My mute dampens the sound of my cello so I can practice early or late without pissing off people in the building- most of the time; this is why it sounds a bit fuzzy all over. I used my rubber one only because I couldn’t find my metal mute. The metal one is awesome. It produces such a cool sound that I’ve always wanted to record.) Cello pizz recorded first. Improvisation. Took first take. Tried about 4 improvised arco tracks. Taking the latter, though I cut it up a bit to over lap with parts added later. Tried a tiny bit of improvisation with the voice. Some of it is still there, though faint. Added another layer of arco cello for color and texture at the bottom and as a response in some cases to the upper voice.
I used to do similar kinds of pieces as exercises all the time living in Salt Lake City. I would improvise a line, recording it, finish it, then immediately go back and improvise another line using the take I had just done as a marker, helping me to respond instantly to something that had just passed. It was a good exercise, a freeing one at that. This posting is kind of the same idea, though a little more stylized due to editing and mixing, obviously.
(My dog Lacey shook her head and her collar jingled towards the end. She is laying on the floor next to my chair.)
Composition time: 30 minutes (not including mixing)
Feeling a lot better than yesterday. All is well tonight.
A STUDY ON THE WESLEY HOOK and THE INDIE POP SONG. We’ve written you an indie pop song. Yay!
First of all: I’m feeling very overwhelmed by the generosity of the artists who have thus far participated in this project with me. So many hours are being spent writing and recording these songs: every single musician I have worked with has been so generous, giving, and enthusiastic. I’m so honored, and, frankly, feel very undeserving. Very undeserving. Thank you so much.
*This is a revised article. The original posting is still here, but, as you’ll read, I started falling asleep. This morning at 6:30, I am making additions with a new, rested capacity for thinking in complete sentences.
Just a little bit about hooks today. I’m not really good at them and, frankly, have avoided them because I always had it in my mind that it was a sell-out gesture (not true! Hooks can help drive a song’s direction and aid in people remembering it for all time!), but my dear friend and Pearl and the Beard manager is great at identifying a hook. (A great example is contained in the song Lost in Singapore [accordion by Franz Nicolay!] from PatB’s album, God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richarson. The music box plays a melody that Wes’ came up with!) So, I asked him to write a song with me. (As a side: Nadia Ali, my ultra gorgeous, incredible singer friend, is FAMOUS for creating hooks. We spent a good chunk of time once going through her iPod identifying hooks as a help for me. I never realized Radiohead hooked so much in their music. It was a weird realization for me.)
I’ve just had a really lovely evening with Wes Verhoeve of Family Records‘ fame, PatB’s friendly family record label. Wesley V., the Dutchman, and Family Records, has taken Pearl and the Beard under their wing, fostering us and our music. We love him. I thought it only made sense to ask him if he would write a song with me for the 365.
Hook: A means of attracting interest or attention; an enticement.
The Construction: I met Wes at his office at Engine Room Audio down by Battery Park at about 3:30. (Though we were in an office that had a $1,000,000 recording studio, we were across the hall using my crappy little stereo mic and garageband: it was awesome! I much prefer this to a studio at the moment.) We worked until about 10:00 pm. We began writing at about 4:00. Wes had in mind a specific topic for this song, and we used a lot of images from Wes’ experiences in a relationship from a while back which were very endearing and lovely. This song was really challenging for me lyrically. Wes brought with him an interesting guitar riff he’d had on him for a while which we began molding into the start of our song. Again, I was challenged by the style of speech the song was requiring, as my writing is much more cryptic usually, so this required a lot of my brain power to come up with something a little more Ben Gibbard than EHP. So, I did my best. A lot of inspiration actually came a Death Cab for Cutie song. I like Death Cab for Cutie, but I’m only a casual listener, and I’m not totally familiar with the specifics of their music. I did my best to keep up, drawing from things in my past that I thought paralleled.
Early on, we decided that we’d split things up: he would write and sing in his perspective, and I would write and sing in the girl’s perspective. I found a good the chorus, and he shaped hooks and found initial melodies and together, we finessed it as a whole, finding our own voice within a conversation between two people who once were lovers, now meeting as friends. (I’m really proud of those chorus lyrics, actually. I literally asked myself, “What would Ben Gibbard say right at this moment?” I’m not sure that’s exactly what he would say, but that’s what I would say thinking of myself as B.G.) These kinds of songs based onsomeone else’s actual event can be difficult I’m finding. In order to choose language and make smart word choices that I enjoy hearing and reading, I have to dig around in my own actual event, too, or use empathy. I used a lot of empathy here: How would it feel if this happened to me? If I were this woman, what would I say? How would I think? It’s a fascinating study in the human mind and healing actually. Also, I found my own intensely personal experiences turning up inspiration like dry wells, but the experiences I haven’t really weighted as being that significant are helping me out the most in this circumstance. This isn’t always the case but certainly was here.
Recording: Initially we wanted to track the song (do everything separately), so we initially recorded the guitar first, then laid down Wes’ vocals. (I’m am learning I need to organize my time better for this project when it comes to recording. I haven’t been very realistic. It needs to take less time or we’re both just too tired at the end of it all.) I realized after finishing all the recording that it was 10:00 and there was no way I was going to be able to make it home, over-dub my vocals, a cello part, maybe something else, mix everything and write about the song before tomorrow. So, solution No. 2 was to just record it live, which is what you’re hearing here. I would have loved to have recorded cello on this or redo my vocals because they’re very quiet and hard to understand, but it will have to wait. When I got home, I had Jon listen to the basic mix I did on the one live track. Not getting home until 11:30, I was already discouraged and frustrated and felt I didn’t have enough time, he said, “It sounds great and lo-fi. Ben Gibbard did the same thing in his basement on a 4 track recorder.” Maybe it’s a good sign?
I must tell you, it is taking me quite a bit of personal persuasion to not stay up half the night rerecording this or that or trying different instrumentation. (I, personally, am shuddering at my performance in this song. But, whatever.) It needs major cleaning up: I messed up on the end when we performed it live. Wes was supposed to sing that by himself, so we overdubbed his last vocal, but as I tried to put it in, it sounded just slapped in there no matter what tricks I tried and now it sticks out like a sore thumb. I will revisit this song, but in the meantime I did my best with what I have to give today. Today will have to be one of those songs that needs to be an uber-demo song, so I apologize if the experience listening to this song isn’t as nice as it could be.
I don’t think I have been to bed before 3 am in the past week and a half, and my body wakes me up at 6 am. Literally. Even then I can’t get back to sleep, so I’ve just been staying up all day until the next night when it’s 3 am again. (I’m falling asleep at the computer!) I need sleep or I won’t make it through tomorrow, so I’m offering this song to you as a very low-fi version of a pop song. So I’m off to bed then:
THANK YOU WES! I HAD SUCH A GREAT TIME WRITING THIS SONG WITH YOU! YOU’RE THE BEST!
So, tonight I’m ending it here, with a kiss goodnight to you and see you tomorrow!
Caps, Sweaters and Scarves
I’ve got new caps and sweaters and a scarf you’ve never seen
We put up a fight we had to let go
I drove the last ten miles alone, alone
Saw your face in the front of my mind
Over time, over time
My town has flooded I can see you from my roof
The water’s making it so I have to let go
You put me up though we were strangers then
Could I be in the front of your mind now
You will find there’s a lot to learn
Form a synapse to remind you, remind you
Place a call so you might hear me, can you hear me?
I put a note behind the frame that’s on your wall
When I come over I’ll show you where it is
Closet’s full, photo for every memory
To the back, I’ll climb deep inside
Over time, over time
Form a synapse to remind you, remind you
Place a call so you might hear me, can you hear me?
You had to carry yourself three thousand miles from home
To find it didn’t change you at all
Your voice has changed, I can recall with ease
Moments when you first spoke my name
You will find there’s a lot to learn
Form a synapse to remind you, remind you
Place a call so you might hear me, can you hear me?
I can hear you.
Yep. Prince sues people I guess. I got a little paranoid and deleted this original posting (sorry Cynthia), but Joc wanted it back on. I’m reposting this entry as just the song (although I know there really is no difference if the post is here or not… )
What’s dumb is that I’m never going to sell this one so I’m not sure why someone would care… but I’m thoughtful about it, I guess. Anyway, Kiss is a great song and has been done by tons of people, so I’m not incredibly worried about being sued only because I’m so disgustingly under the radar that I’m not sure it matters at all…
Well, here it is: the moment you’ve been waiting for…a banjo song!
Meet Franz Nicolay. He can do everything: piano, accordion, banjo, guitar, saw, produces, writes books, I mean…the list goes on. Franz has played with a whole bunch of people, too. (He even has a page on Wikipedia.) He’s played with me, too! He is the mastermind behind the accordion on my EP, The Crux and The Bluestocking and Pearl and the Beard’s record, God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson. (both available on iTunes) Needless to say, I love Franz. His music-making mind is magical…(alliteration no.2)
I met Franz at his house today at 11:15 (parking problems), and after some tea, a biscuit, some buckwheat, and awesome Ukrainian music, I was out the door at 5:30. What a fantastic way to spend my day: writing and recording with Franz Nicolay.
The first question of the day was, “Do you have something you’ve been working on?” This past Christmas I went home and played around all my dad’s instruments. He has a baritone uke that I had written a one little stanza on, but without the uke, I didn’t really want to finish it, so it’s just been a fragment up until today. The lyrics were, sung in the style of a straight waltz: You are mine tonight/Despite the world and all its ills tonight/You’re mine tonight. I’m not sure what my original intention was with these lyrics and melody, and I knew they would just sit around untouched otherwise. Franz then pulled out his banjo and played a progression he had been playing with since he started playing banjo that didn’t have a home either. So, we put these two homeless ideas together.
I told Franz I had a hard time writing love songs because the line between good and total cheesy is frustrating for me, so I normally try to avoid writing them (at least sitting down to write them intentionally). However, after some tossing around of ideas, I had this total random idea, “What about a plague?,” to which Franz replied, “…a Love Song From a Plague to its Victim!” We broke it up into sections to help organize it: Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today. My favorite moment of our collaboration was when we got to the verses after the first chorus, Franz asked, “Well, should we go biblical?” I love it. The reference to Z for Zacharia is a nod to the book of the same name.
Franz is a real genius at a style of writing to which I’m not gifted naturally, which is really cool for me. I like how he phrases lines and, more importantly for me, he can write very well very clearly and linear, but still fantastic and symbolic. I think Franz really made this song come to life (i.e. he came up with the line Like a salesman giving of myself but taking much more. I would never have thought to use the image of a salesman, but it’s so clear and such a strong image.) not only with lyrics, but with his voice as well. I liked so much how he phrased the verses, I really wanted him to sing them all and have me on choruses. The effect is chilling, I think.
If I was going to tell you how I really felt as I approached Franz’ house to meet with him, it would be somewhat like describing me attending a meeting to write with my jazz improv teacher from college, whom I completely revere; I’m just saying I arrived intimidated and a little nervous. When I scheduled a day to write with him, I thought- Brain, be sharp! Don’t come across as a total moron! But when we got working, I found such ease with him, and he had great ideas for the direction of this song. I found the longer I actively engaged myself in working and focused on learning from him and his style of lyric writing, any insecurity was pushed away. It was such a fulfilling experience.
I really like this song, and not only was Franz an awesome collaborator, he was also a fantastic producer. There are several different instruments you can hear on this track: banjo, baritone uke, wooden xylophone, glock, and two tracks of mandolin. (Love the mandolin on this recording.) I played the bassy cello part and the baritone uke. I must tell you, I’m pretty handicapped when it comes to hearing instrumental additions to songs if I’m not already very familiar with it. (Hearing different instruments and voices to add to a song is a skill I’m trying to acquire, too), so to have Franz take the initiative on thinking about instrumentation was a real relief. And he was really good at it.
I think the best part of collaborating is feeling like the other person really likes what has come out, too… At the moment, this is a demo, but there was talk of recording this song in a studio one day, which would be really great. The other really fantastic thing about collaboration is how fruitful ideas are, how they come out so unexpectedly sometimes. Each tiny idea or thought by one person can be taken a totally new direction by the other. It’s so unexpected and a really nice time as well. Franz! Thank you!
Z for Zacharia
instrumentation: banjo, cello, mandolin, xylophone, glock, uke and Franz Nicolay
You are mine tonight
Despite the world and all its ills tonight
You’re mine tonight.
I touched her skin
Hot oil burned
She breathed me in
Stroked her face
Rearranged her hair
Put every strand in place
Yesterday it was your sister
Tomorrow, your mother
Tonight, you’re mine
Tonight you’re mine/You are mine tonight
Despite the world and all its ills tonight
I go door to door
Like a salesman giving of myself but taking much more
I bless the first-born and the next
Take them wholly and give them rest
I’ll pass by, I’ll find you Z for Zacharia
I’ll pluck out your eyes
You are mine tonight
Despite the world and all its ills tonight
You’re mine tonight.
Tonight you’re mine.
Do you remember Sam McCormally of Ugly Purple Sweater? From Song 10: A Thousand Thousands? Since collaborating on that song on tour, Sam and I have become good faraway friends and far away music friends (yay!). When I was in Portsmouth visiting with Guy Capecelatro, he mentioned to me several different kinds of collaborations he had done with friends. One such collaboration incorporated the handing over of lyrics from a previously written song to someone else with which to make a new song. One week ago, I approached Sam McCormally (the assumed formerly O’Gormally – alliteration!) and asked if he wouldn’t mind, instead of using an already written song, writing new lyrics for me, and I would put music to them. Neither one of us had ever done anything like this before. Why Sam? I love his writing style (it’s a plus that it’s also different than mine: he reads books.) and intuition, and he’s as smart as they come, so I knew he would really challenge me.
Today, I received an email:
Here’s a song! Do whatever you want with it! Use it for a song! Laugh at it! Print it out and use it as bathroom tissue!
But more seriously–any rearranging of things, or adding to things, or repeating things is perfectly fine by me. And you can do it with zero consultation; so if you decide to double the chorus and add a verse about a pie eating contest, then God bless you.
A brief word on the meter: the verses are triambic, so the syllable pattern is unstressed-unstressed-stressed. In each pair of lines, the first is 4 feet and the second 3 feet.. The chorus (the “do you want to eat me?” part) has no particular meter.
I can tell by the look on your face that my face
has belied what I mean. Yes, it’s hard:
every twitch, every twinge, every flicker of lid
makes a tongue of its own you must learn
just as sound underwater is faster, arrives
all at once and from nowhere at all
I would speak from inside of your head, I would speak
from inside from inside of your head
(do you want to eat me?
do you want to swallow me whole?)
on the shore, sand in orifices way before
I could speak fell in love with the sea
so I swam, and she kept me afloat with her salt
and I took home a bucket of her
when I drank, stung the cuts in my mouth, made me sick
and left her alone in the sun
after weeks, the only thing that was left was her salt
just the remnants I couldn’t keep down
I would speak from inside of your head, I would speak
from inside from inside of your head
(do you want to eat me?
do you want to swallow me whole?)
I sat with them all day, reading them, singing them. At one point, after working on several melodies moving from instrument to instrument waiting for some kind of inspiration, I wrote Sam an email saying:
The best way of describing this experience is this:
I have a huge ring of keys: skeleton keys, square-cut keys, round keys, stupid keys, red keys… they are heavy and jingling. I am standing at a door that says, “Sam’s Lyrics. Please Enter.” There are keys that obviously don’t fit: a key to a Hummer is not fitting in this door, and I don’t have to try it to know that. However there are some keys that are going in, but they don’t turn the lock.
This is my free-form analogy to how I feel.
That is all.
Cello Opening: Going to my cello, I began experimenting with tunings once again. I ended up with three strings all on D# and let the C down to an A#. I started playing around with motifs which ended up creating the “prelude” improvisation at the beginning. I have played some really awesome microtonal music in grad school from the middle east: so fascinating and very difficult to play. I tried to incorporate a tiny decoration of microtones in this opening, but they are so hard to play accurately, I wouldn’t be surprised if, in reality, they weren’t in there after all. Afterwards, finding the melody only became easier when I called up Sam and he sung the rhythm he had been intending. It was important for him to not give me any melodic material: I’m easily affected musical ideas.
Recording: Wanting Sam to put his incredible voice on this song was a priority for me, so I recorded my vocals and cello simultaneously, but purposely leaving vocal spaces for Sam to use at his discretion. He added vocals to my chorus, and I love it. Sam sent me his original version of this song, which I refused to listen to until I had sent him mine. I was such a wuss about it, too… I was sick nervous to send him my version, wondering what he’d think. I’m unhappy with the performance on my part, but I have to say, doing this song really had me thinking in ways I don’t normally (at one point I thought, “How would Ugly Purple Sweater handle this?”). Given that Sam wrote very long lines lyrically, it was challenging to find something I really liked that was easy for me to sing, which this is not. With a little practice and familiarity, I could get these vocals where I want them…and play it live. (Sam? Trip to NYC, yo!)
The title is one Sam sent with the vocals. Dad, just go with this definition: Vorarephilia is derived from the Latin vorare (to ‘swallow’ or ‘devour’) and Ancient Greek φιλία (philia, ‘love’).
I am posting Sam’s version and my version of this song. (These versions are so different from one another. The coolest thing about today was hearing two very different songs. I loved doing it, even though I’m sitting here being gross critical of my version, but hey, EHP, let’s stop that. Sam’s version is unbelievably wonderful…unsurprisingly.)
Vorarephilia (Sam’s Version)
Vorarephilia (Emily’s Original Version)
(P.S. The entire construction and all of Sam’s parts, was done over email this evening. Sam, you are the best.)
January 27: Remixed version with a bit added, without intro (just in case you were fast forwarding past the intro like I was). I like this one better, but I’ll keep up the original. I’m sentimental.
Vorearephilia (Emily’s Remixed Version – No Intro)
Today is a very, very special posting. (Well, they’re all special for me, but…) You will notice two tracks embedded here to which you may peruse.
Track One: This doesn’t count for song of the day because it was recorded in about 2006 when I was living in Salt Lake City. But, it is an important example of today’s installment.
Singing with me here is Julia Mecham. She has been another very influential part of my growth and learning as a song writer right from the very beginning. I met her when she was 16 years old and playing at open mics. I was struck by the maturity, thoughtfulness and honesty in her songwriting, and her guitar playing was phenomenal. She is now grown up, studying guitar, writing and performing as much as she can. We became fast friends, and hanging out one evening, we sat down and just played around with garageband. I was inexperienced with the program (as you can tell by the excessive use of reverb!), but we would often get together like this to record or improvise. This night she just came up with a riff and the ode to butter was born. I am inserting it here because that’s what today’s song exercise is all about: How to Just Forget About Stuff and Write a Totally Bitchin’ Ode. Please enjoy. Julia has been so kind as to let me post this for you to hear. All the lyrics are totally improvised, and you can hear her calling out, “Chorus” when she wanted to go there or signaling me when it was time for a verse. I think the thing I love about this recording is how totally free and unrestricted we sound. I haven’t listened to this in such a long time, and I played it this morning when I woke up, planning to use it today, and felt suddenly jealous of myself: I don’t hear nearly the amount of abandon in my voice now as I did then. I’m chalking this up as a personal wake-up call to lighten up. What’s happened to me? (**PLEASE NOTE the excessive, and totally awesome, use of “Woo’s” and “Yeah’s” in this song. This is a perfect example of the afore-mentioned requirements for an awesome song. Yessss!)
instrumentation: guitar, Julia Mecham (with EHP, too.)
Track Two: This is the song of the day. I asked Jocelyn if she would help me “write an ode to an inanimate object” as today’s song. She jumped at the chance. Pearl and the Beard has a Mercury Lounge show tonight (last night, Jan 23), so we have been here at the venue since 4:00 for sound check, which generally involves a lot of waiting around. So, we got Indian food for dinner, and sat in a park across the street. I said to Jocelyn as we ate, “What inanimate object should we write about?” She said, after pondering for a moment, “What about spiciness? And I’m feeling it should be a Gregorian chant.” I know, spiciness is not an inanimate object, but the Indian food we were eating is, and we listed several inanimate objects in the song: all of which were contained in our dinner.
I believe the point of this is to realize that I am surrounded by people who help me let go of inhibitions and bring in positive thoughts of goodness and honesty, and, most of all, good times. I mean, when would I ever consider writing a song in the style of a Gregorian chant? Improvised or not.
Joc and Julia: I love you. Thank you for being you.
Enjoy. (Felt a video of us in the park singing about spiciness in the style of a Gregorian chant was totally appropriate…)
*On a personal note, if you happen to have taught me in music theory a million years ago: I know you taught plainchant to me as a requirement in music theory. I also know this isn’t technically a “Gregorian Chant” because plain-songs in general were sung in unison. (I also know that I don’t remember anything from early music theory.) Obviously we didn’t sit down and go through all the modes and find the choicest one. However, regardless of our musical and historical accuracy, during the performance of this song, I was actually thinking about the movement of my intervals- and yes, we chose parallel fifthson purpose.
I love the way you look at me
You know, the way when you look at me
You left today with a heavy heart
I said goodbye and that you’d be alright
It won’t be long, it won’t be long
It won’t be long until you’re gone
*I don’t know how far I’m gonna go
*But I know you can hold me, hold me tonight
Your memory holds a lot of things for me
A face I knew a thousand, million years ago
You fill my mind, though you’re a specter now
Hands build walls around to keep you out
It won’t be long, it won’t be long
It won’t be long until **I’m gone.
I don’t really want to write about this song, or, at least, I didn’t want to earlier. At all. I finished it around 5:00 and having some distance from it, I think I can say a few things; only because it’s important to myself that I say them.
Song restriction: Write a song limiting cryptic word choice (although I couldn’t erase it completely it seems), as I tend to lean more towards that spectrum generally. This song’s working title was “The Plain Song”. This exercise ended up tapping into some really painful memories and current, more daunting, feelings for me. Weird. I only really remember writing one other song having this effect on me, so today, creatively, has been burdened and tough for me. The toughest so far. I should be candid here, as I feel like it’s been the norm: I spent most of the day sobbing, writing, then crying, recording, then crying again. I fear this makes me sound like the biggest baby, (and I can’t describe how much I hate telling you that’s actually what happened), but I wrote a song, and it’s over now.
Song melody originally written with violin, but moved to cello for ease of chord configuration as I know the instrument better. I always fear I’ve heard my melodies somewhere before and that I’m unknowingly plagiarizing. But, it is what it is. If I did steal it, it was totally unintentional and was somehow filed away in the recesses of my music box brain.
There are four very specific people represented here, one per the two lines of each verse. Two from my past. Two from my present. All are currently living. One from my past connects to my present, and one from my present connects to my past, though they don’t really know each other at all.
Recording: The short story of a very frustrating session- Cello run through an amp which was recorded through the bathroom door. Vocals were recorded (sitting, curled-up position- I mention this because it was important to me to naturally affect the vocals. I wanted to created a vocal sound that conveyed restriction.) singing into a bodhrán in the bathtub with curtain drawn. For reasons that are too extraneous to take up space here, tempo was sped up a few clicks which is why it sounds a little different than normal. I don’t mind it and kind of like it. (This is the second take of three.)
I love that you are listening. Really. Thank you. I’m so grateful to think you’re listening, though I started this project for myself, it feels good to know you’re out there.
*I didn’t write this bridge before I recorded the song. I didn’t know what to say. So, these two lines are improvised.
**Saying “I’m”instead of “you’re” was a mistake, and I think it’s a bit cliché, but I kept the take. Maybe it’s better that way, I don’t know.
I just wondered why I always type “DAY [WHATEVER]” at the top. I know it’s day nineteen. You must know it’s day nineteen, because I’m on song nineteen. Dumb. I think I like how announcipitory it is…announcipitory? That is NOT a word, but I’m going to leave it because it is a word right now.
It is 10 am on the 21st of January. I have been working on the song for tomorrow since 9:30 am. I got sleepy because I’ve been up since 3:30 am. (True. I have no idea what I’ve been doing all this time.) Staring at this blasted computer screen and listing, listening, listening to samples is making me so fatigued that I just got up and renewed the red in my hair with bright red hair dye. (Why nap? What a waste!) Whenever I do this I always think of Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. I really like her.
So, now I am sitting here with red dye all over the place, and all over me, I thought I might start this writing part early. Jonathan actually suggested a few days ago that I do a reverse posting: one where I write here first, then create the song. It seemed a bit blechk to me, but since I’m getting a bit stuck on today’s song I thought I’d try it. Why not?
Right now I am using samples and midi from garageband. I’m using a start of a project I did few days ago but gave up on (the “manageable” day). After some space away (Guy Capecelatro totally does this. Stepping away from a song I think has “failed” is a great window into possible opportunity.), I have gone back to a few of those ideas thinking I might be able to work something out. When I start playing around with samples and such, it usually means that the song will take an extra long time. It’s okay, but not preferred. It’s also a bit annoying that my car is parked on the “wrong” side of the street for NYC Alternate Side Parking Thursday. This means I have to move it soon. (True confessions: I have spoiled myself and kept the car with which I moved to New York. I’m telling you when you have a car, a cello, an accordion, metallophone, violin and band practice in Brooklyn: it makes so much sense.)
At the moment I’m playing with the idea of using my cassette player. I have much better equipment for stuff like this, and more tape players, but they are all in a storage unit across the country. Given that, I’m working from the one tape I brought with me purchased at a thrift store (why I chose this out of all the others is a curiosity to me). It’s a 1996 recording of an executive luncheon.
Right now, the theme of this song is stress. It will evolve, I’m sure, or I might change it altogether. Who knows but the Fates. And now, I must wash out this red before it starts that tingling thing. Tingling is never good sign of anything… (okay, that is so not true. I digress…)
DONE. It is 12:30 am. I am a bit late, but I’m done.
Here’s what you’re hearing:
9 tracks of midi with 2 sounds cut up from the library (the rest were played by hand)
6 vocal tracks
1 violin track (this was a last minute choice that I’m regretting a little, but I’m going to leave it in and chalk it up to a risk-taker.)
4 tracks of cassette tape samples
Had some bad news this morning that turned okay by the end of the day. Jon’s dad was admitted for surgery to clear out his lungs today to a successful conclusion with hopes he will now heal quickly and easily from pneumonia. He’s one of the smartest and coolest guys I’ve met ever. Sending thoughts to you of healing and happy days…
These songs are being created so weirdly… (Art totally imitates life, and I didn’t see it coming until about a half hour ago.) I started this at 9:30 am and had no clue about what was going on with Jon’s dad until later, and it just so happens I came about that little blip about an 80 year old guy late tonight. I’m not really familiar with working in this genre (Whatever genre it is, and I think doing this kind of music could be easier with a much different program), so it caused some frustration, but it was fun to consume myself in it for a day. (Time-wise? 9:30 am with random huge breaks in between. I kind of avoided this one until the last minute.)
Really frustrating problems: my head phones kept clipping so I wasn’t sure if it was the track and garageband was being stupid or the levels or what. Volumes took forever. Also, my stupid mic broke tonight! LAME!
Good omens: I started out procrastinating this one, and even while creating it, it changed meaning in my mind over and over. It turned out less of a disaster than I was anticipating, and I’m trying to not send lethal judgment arrows at its heart too soon. Not as clean as I’d like, but, I’ve got the next few months to improve on it, right?
Thank you. Thank you for being here and helping me through these past few days. I’ve gotten a lot of very supportive and kind messages from people saying how much they like what I’m doing. It’s so great, and it helps me keep on keepin’ on. You know?
instrumentation: vocal sounds, tape player, cassette tape, violin, other stuff from the computer that is on my desk
P.S. I have gotten a few questions about when downloads will be available. An answer to your question is currently in the works, so hold on a bit longer. We’re figuring something cool out… sorry it’s taking so long, but I’m super glad you want to have them in your tunes!
This is a long-ass entry mainly because I add some totally extraneous, grand-ole-EHP-insight into my covers, technique, etc. (Also known as, “Blah, blah, blah, blah”.) You can also opt out of it and just listen to the song, of course. Have at it, I say!
Today marks the first cover of the 365. (Purists: relax. Covers count because they’re arrangements, yo!) I chose this song because Jonathan and I were on the train going to see Avatar (holy crap: see this movie in the theatre!), and he turned to me and started singing a House of Pain song (I know, random, but that’s how it works…). Something in what he sang, and the loudness of the train, made me think he was singing this song, and I remembered how much I love it.
I Only Have Eyes For You was written by composer Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin, written in 1934 for the film Dames where it was introduced by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. *Wikipedia
My dad, up until a few years ago, owned a 1952 Ford Crestline Victoria. It was a yellowish-cream color with a dark green top. I loved how it drove; how it smelled; the tan leather heated up in the summer, and its scent became so familiar to me. We would only get it out of storage during those summer months because a car that old had to be kept cooped up in the severe Utah winters. The radio was original, but I’m not sure why my dad used only a slightly newer radio he kept in the glove box. We would take evening rides for ice cream, just look at the scenery, or even check up on a sprinkler head (my dad did service maintenance when I was growing up). We’d attend the Lewiston, Utah parade in this car, entered the famous Cache Valley Cruise-In, and drove across the valley at casual, small highway speeds with the windows down and the triangle mirrors turned out. It was a great car, and, without fail, my dad would switch on the radio to a pre-set oldies station. This song would play, or maybe a different one, but it didn’t matter, because we were driving. Driving. Driving.
My main influence, obviously, was The Flamingos 1959 version of this song (Please, how could I not link to this video?!). I love this version. There is something special about it for me. Is it the strangely repetitive pedal piano deep in the mix? The vocals? (After studying the vocals for a while, I’m hearing tiny, tiny details in how he sings each word, uses each breath, how long or short he holds consonants, syllables. It’s incredible to me, frankly.) It’s rhythm is so sensual, so intimate.
A Word on Covers: Covers for me are a very special deal. As much as I love covers, they are hard for me to do for a few reasons: I can’t remember anything. I have a hard enough time remembering my own lyrics, let alone lyrics someone else wrote however long ago. Another reason is that I have this brain clog when it comes to performing them: I can’t just perform them as I know them, I have to make them different, at times even unrecognizable. This keeps me from working on them because they’re so time-consuming. For this reason I usually stick to performing covers I absolutely love doing, so I’ll memorize lyrics and figure out a way to play them that I’m happy with. (If you’d like, you can watch my cover of Bjork’s Come to Me, I’ve done about a million times since learning it a few years ago. Ignore the fact that it’s a terribly old video. I should really retire this song by now! But I just love it.)
However, I really tried to change my attitude with this arrangement. As much as I love this song and felt like I knew it, when I sat down to arrange it, I found I didn’t know it as well as I thought! With the altered tuning I was using on my cello I had to learn how to configure the chords just right, which I still need to clean up. Though I was careful and studied about finding the right sound-color for this arrangement, I stopped myself when I started to turn it inside out (attempting to play it in 7/8- blah!). For me, this is a hasty arrangement of a cover. I am learning to be purposefully hasty.
The Cello Part: I love playing with the tuning on my cello. Sure normal A, D, G, C is great, but you can get some amazing color by pulling everything down at least a whole step, then playing around with each string from there. You can hear a ticking as the strings are hit: it’s my finger. I’m not plucking, but making the strings sound by striking them from above, hitting them with a finger. I think in future versions, I’ll change it up a bit. It gets a bit too much all the way through the song like that for me. (If you’re super curious about this, I actually used a similar technique on a Nadia Ali arrangement of her song Rapture for her MTVIggy performance a while back. I had forgotten I had used it there until just now! Nadia is a beautiful singer: maybe she will do a song with me! Nadia?!)
The Recording: The recording process for this kind of freaked me out- I felt it was stealthy on my part, at least. My plan was, at first, to record in my bathroom because this was such a quiet song, and New York is noisy. But something in my mind told me to try doing it in the hallway of my building. Embrace the noise. I live in a building of many musicians and artists, so it’s not rare to hear an instrument or singer (I live below a harpist), but it wasn’t until today, for the first time, I realized a bassist had moved into the building! Hello, my brother!
When the thought first occurred to me I might try to record in the hallway, I immediately got anxious: it was 9:15 pm, kind of late for some people, early for others. Would someone try to stop me? (And wouldn’t that be terribly inconvenient?) I wasn’t even sure if I’d like the outcome anyway. I quickly went out and tested about 20 seconds of the song, went back in, listened to it and loved it right away.
Arranging/recording probably took a little over an hour. This is the second take of two. I so badly wanted to see what arco cello over-dubs would sound like, but I resisted, thinking maybe the intimacy of this infant recording might be more interesting in a minimal kind of way…? There’s actually something really special that happened in the first take: I was extra nervous playing out, so everything is very still and subtle, but the second was by far the better performance. I breathe really heavily in the beginning in an effort to relax myself. I was in the hallway at 9:30 at night playing a cello in front of a microphone! What?! I also didn’t feel quite prepared enough to record this song, but wanted to capture the moment with the practicing bass downstairs before it got too late. There are no effects on this song. It’s all natural reverb from the hallway. I’m starting to see that I will have to invest in a better mic.
Things I like about this recording that I was planning on- I love that the bassist is practicing on the second floor. I really wanted to capture the “duet” between two instruments “cut from the same cloth”, coming from the same mother register. Bass! It’s so John Cage! After I finished, I listened to it for a second time, trying only to hear noises in the distance: the elevator, the bassist, doors shutting. It’s a bit surreal for me.
Things I like about this recording that I wasn’t planning on-I’m such a sucker for naturally occurring “artifacts” in recordings- breath specifically, and though I can annoy myself with my own breathing, I like some if it here: Anxious breath at the start, totally running out of breath before the bridge, and an interesting gasp at 1:34. How at times you can hear the vibration of the strings become interrupted by the next hit of my finger: that’s such a cool sound (i.e. 4:02).
This one was really fun. I enjoyed myself in part because the song was already in existence (leaving a few responsibilities at the door) so it gave me more time to experiment with other detailed things like the recording itself…
Until tomorrow, my friend. Thank you for reading and listening. For being you. Have a fine, fine day.
This one’s for you, Dad.
I Only Have Eyes For You
My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you.
Are the stars out tonight?
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright
I Only Have Eyes For You, Dear.
The moon maybe high
but I can’t see a thing in the sky,
‘Cause I Only Have Eyes For You.
I don’t know if we’re in a garden,
or on a crowded avenue.
You are here
So am I
Maybe millions of people go by,
but they all disappear from view.
And I Only Have Eyes For You.
Jocelyn Mackenzie: Glasses-wearing, drumming, lyricist-to-the-stars-improv-ing, rap-geniusing, angelic-voicing, uber-knittering, glock-hitting, shaker-ing, member of Pearl and the Beard.
Jeremy Styles: ALSO glasses-wearing, bartending, ladies-manning, guitar-strumming, sometimes drum-hitting, and sexy-vocal-tantalizing member of Pearl and the Beard
Jim Altieri: ALSO glasses wearing, computer-knowing, violin-sweeping, sweet-composering, Jocelyn-loving, temporary accordion-squeezin’, for Pearl and the Beard’s Mercury Lounge show, January 23. (This Saturday!) *Jocelyn and Jim are also in the band Poo Poo Jim and Pee Pee Girl
These three lovely people came over tonight for a rehearsal for our show coming up. Yet again, captured artists + EHP needs a song for today = collaboration with Pearl and the Beard, Jim Altieri and Jonathan Clark! YESSS! I told them we were going to write a song in 15 minutes and record it in 10, so they agreed to do it, and I do believe we actually did it in that time. In fact, we may have written it in less than 15 minutes (considering the words are minimal!) I had come up with the words and melody for “I can’t see anything, anything without my glasses,” a few weeks ago and had planned on doing it with someone. I shouted it out, and that’s how the song came to be. I love doing songs like this with lots of minds thinking and lots of care free grabbing of instruments. I even made a shaker out of Tupperware and rice! I am happier because this songs exists… I love you guys so much.
This is Jocelyn Mackenzie. This is Jocelyn Mackenzie’s word salad. Jocelyn is improvising here. (I get so jealous she can do this!) I mean, “Don’t kiss ’em under a waterfall cause those glasses will get fogged by waterfall droplets”?! This totally kills me. This is nothing, friend. Just wait until you catch her in full-force. She can unleash an improvised rhyme or verse on you at any moment so hard that your face will melt to the ground! (I haven’t even attempted a rap yet. To be sure, I will do it with her.) And, as I mentioned yesterday, today’s song marks the first song within the 365 to contain: A SWEAR WORD! Get ready!
Also of personal note: I am playing the shaker! And one of my favorite parts is hearing Jonathan and Jim come in with their low and grumbly registers starting a chorus…yessss!
Yet again, another hilarious and entertaining evening creating the 365. We did two versions for you: an mp3 and a video version. The “lyrics” below are from the the mp3. See you tomorrow!
I Can’t See Anything
instrumentation: Jocelyn Mackenzie: glockenspiel; Jim Altieri: violin; Jeremy Styles: guitar; Jonathan Clark, omnichord beats. EHP: shaker
I can’t see anything, anything without my glasses
Yo, girl, you know sometimes when you’re walking down the street or whateva
And your glasses fall offa your face and you can’t see nothin’, girl
Well, that don’t mean I don’t love you cause I can’t see you
Even when I can’t see your face you’re beautiful.
I want to kiss you on your face
But especially I want to kiss you when I put my glasses on cause I can see you better
The visually impaired have one problem and one problem only
and that is that they can’t see shit without their glasses
So, get your lover, get your glasses, get your lover’s glasses
Find the person nearest you wearing a pair of glasses
Kiss ’em right on the mouth
Don’t kiss ’em under a waterfall
Cause those glasses will get fogged by waterfall droplets.
Okay, everybody, so I’m just sayin’ I love you girl, you’re beautiful
I can’t see you without my glasses, girl, but that don’t mean I don’t love you.
I can’t see anything, anything without my glasses.
For my sixteenth birthday, I remember being blind folded and taken to First Dam (a little man-made lake in Logan, Utah with a dock and nice grassy parts. And yes, there is a Second Dam.) I got there and my friends had made me a poster out of dried noodles that said Happy Birthday. And now, as I type this, I think all this happened when I turned 18. Sigh. I’m getting old.
Hello there and good day to you. Are you well? Are you feeling alright? I hope so.
As you know, I spent last weekend in the North East (freaking awesome!) with friends, Jonathan, and Hog Farm. On our way home, and lucky for us, we had the chance to break up our long drive home with a stop by Jonathan’s sister’s. Julie Clark Shubert is Jonathan’s oldest sister. She is 53 years old and started playing the electric guitar three years ago when she turned the magical 5-0. She had never even touched a guitar before turning 50. In her own words from her website, www.allthingsjulie.com:
[My husband] Gary surprised me with [a Fender Strat] on my fiftieth birthday. She’s beautiful, but I hadn’t even held a guitar before. It was just on my list I had made, my bucket list of things I needed to do before I die and learn how to play electric guitar was on it next to tap dancing.
For nine months I just plucked at her a little, hoping my inner Hendrix would spring out of me, but the sounds I made couldn’t be called music. I kept putting off trying to find a guitar teacher, but everyday she just sat there in the corner of my office and stared at me. I finally gave in and found a teacher. Then one day after taking lessons for two months and knowing four chords, my first song poured out of me. It was magical. I don’t know how to write a song, no one had ever taught me how, I was writing chords I hadn’t learned yet. I assumed it was some kind of miracle, but then it happened again and again.
My songs are like my children, I can’t believe they came out of me. I am delighted, intrigued, and amazed by them. I am also struck with a sense of responsibility, they are clearly not mine in the same way that my children are not mine, and come from a place much bigger than me. My songs are gifts from the universe, and I realized that I alone was responsible for their growing and nurturing and sharing them with the world.
Knowing Julie has been an important turning point for me in my music making. What a wonderful example of awesomeness. Here we have someone who had never written a song in her life and she picks up her guitar and there you go. Before I talked to Julie about songwriting, I was unhappy with the songs that were coming out because they didn’t fit some mold I had set for myself. I opened up to Julie about my frustration and the most important piece of advice she gave me was, “Just like you don’t choose your kids and who they will be when they come out, you can’t always determine what a song is going to be when it comes out. You have to let them out and let them be what they’re going to be. Don’t judge them.” Up until that point, I had been pushing and forcing myself: where did I belong, what is my sound, where are my songs? The second I gave up on all that head space mumbo-jumbo and followed her advice, and I’m telling you, the very second I let it go, I felt like I had written a really solid song that I enjoyed playing and, for the first time, I felt was me. (That song happens to be Danny Sorrow, a song I recorded for The Crux and The Bluestocking EP with Franz Nicolay. You can find it on iTunes!)
Since then, I still have frustrating moments, and those moments are a big reason why I started this project. But it’s getting better the more I do it, and hopefully I’m learning something valuable in the process.
You will hear in this recording Julie shout out, “You’re looking sharp, my man!” She is speaking to her husband, Gary who had just passed us and was dressed in a shirt and tie. I left this in because it gives you a very clear picture of a side of Julie that makes her very… well… Julie.
We starting writing this at about 8:30 am, had a break to eat breakfast, and finished recording at 10:30, so I would say the whole thing took about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Julie has a style that is all her own, and I changed up her normal form by taking out the bridge mostly to save time since we had to make a deadline, but also to shake it up a bit (if you can call taking something out shaking it up). I was afraid the melody that came to me so automatically sounded too much like something I have heard before, but it doesn’t matter, and I put my mind away about it. As I wrote my verse I realized it was about Julie, so she fashioned her verse about me. Julie pulled together lyrics for the chorus, and that was it. We had a great time together. Thank you, Julie! Rock on, sister.
Jules, she came about a wide, wide universe
Keeping none and selling all
Goods she beamed were two bits strong
Saved a pretty piece
A big, red, lucky star
All the while screaming out
Things aren’t what they used to be
And we write every dayAnd we sing it all away
And she called me up
Confused as to who she was
Writing the words that were shuffling through her world
I told her they were for the people she’ll never know
The lives that she would touch
Would always mean so much
And we write every dayAnd we sing it all away
Since I’m a bit ahead because of Aly and Guy’s double recording day, I can already tell you what tomorrow’s song is! But I won’t. I will tell you, however, that Jeremy Styles, Jocelyn Mackenzie, Jim Alteri and Jonathan Clark all take part AND there’s ANOTHER VIDEO!!! YAY FOR TECHNOLOGY! (Even if the program sucks.) And, tomorrow’s song marks the first official SWEAR WORD in a song in The 365 Project! (So get ready, Grandma!)
Good day to you, my friend. I hope this day finds you well, and, should the weather permit, may you attempt a Slurpy run sometime around noon. (I knew a girl who added vanilla ice cream in the middle of hers. It was surprisingly tasty.)
Lady Lamb and the Beekeeper! You are the reason jealously is running through my veins this evening… the voice, the hair, the menacing guitar, the screaming! (Insert any obligatory “Woo“, “Hey” or “Yeah” here.)
This song was written in approximately 15 minutes in the larger Portsmouth, New Hampshire cemetery beneath a lovely, lonely tree. Aly and her lovely traveling companion Maisie, drove an hour to Portsmouth just to write this song with me for the 365. (I’m so grateful!) Guy Capecelatro came to our aid yet again by, not only choosing the location to write this song (genius), but also carefully and skillfully tied my stereo mic up in the tree above us and has a thumb piano solo! If the wind hadn’t been blowing so fiercely, I do believe the sound quality would not have frustrated me as much in the editing moments of this posting. Not only was the wind a bit of a trial, but, for some reason, the video recorder on my mac decided to jump here and there which made matching up the garageband recording of the live performance impossible. Why did we shoot a movie for this song, you’re asking yourself? Well, I’ve been to Portsmouth, NH a few times now and each time I go I realized why I want to go back. It’s just beautiful there, and I thought, for a little change of pace, I’d actually get video of the song today. Everything seemed to fall into place, and I love it. I hope you do, too. (Again, sorry for the quality all around. These things do happen, but I wanted you to see it anyway…) Anyone interested in matching it up, let me know: have at it! I’ve resolved to post everything as it is and say: Love to you! (Oh, and who is the genius who got rid of the old iMovie and created this waste of space new version?! Who?! There is a reason I don’t put movies up anymore, and that program is it!)
As I mentioned earlier, I met Lady Lamb, also known as Aly Spaltro, when I was on tour with Anna Vogelzang a few years ago. She caught my attention then and still manages to pull me in, years later. I am enthrawled with her performance and writing style, and I will admit to you here that I had a hard time while recording and writing this with not feeling envious of her voice: so unique and beautiful.
Collaborations do a lot of wonderful things, but they can also bring up that little voice in the back of my mind that’s always critiquing, envying, and, even, punishing. I don’t know a musician who doesn’t struggle with this aspect of the craft. It’s a game we play with our own self-consciousness and awareness: Who am I, and how I can assure myself that I’m here and have something to offer as well. Grass is always greener, no? But I’m working on it.
Aly came up with her lyrics very quickly. A few weeks ago, I had heard on the news of the death of a young South Korean supermodel who was once quoted as saying, “The more I gain, the more lonely it is…I know I’m like a ghost.” I thought, though so sad, it was beautifully poetic and wrote it in my lyric book. This became the Ghost in My Teeth. (Something of interest: Guy only suggested right before we left for the cemetery that we go there to write the song as well, not just to film. I had already planned on using that line with Aly before we even started writing.)
As far as the actual collaboration, she and I talked a little about ideas while driving to the cemetery, but decided in the end to just let stuff come as it wanted. We only performed this song once, so what you’re hearing is the result of the 15 minutes we took to write it in the freezing cold. (Motivation!) We went to the Friendly Toast for dinner (go there!), and we all had this song swimming in our minds. The exciting thing about collaborating is the opportunity to revisit songs at a later date, fill them out, complete them if necessary, and make them even more awesome. I hope Aly and I will get this opportunity soon. Love you, girl.
Ghosts in My Teeth
instrumentation: guitar, cello, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper
What a sight you are for a night at the sea side
How the wasp watches you turn and toss
With the waves as cold as ghosts in your teeth
Where will you go? Will you wait for…
Where will you wait, where will you wait for…
Where will you wait, where will you wait for me?
I’ve hit the two-week mark. It’s the little victories, you know?
After Friday night’s show in Maine at Hog Farm, I stayed on at Guy Capecelatro‘s house in Portsmouth to do another song with him because he’s so freaking awesome. This song has a history- the first thing you hear is a loop I created months and months ago. Sometimes I’ll take my loop pedal out and just improvise, saving it on the machine if I like it, dumping it if I don’t. In this case, I had just received my black violin from my dad, changed the tuning and was totally just messing around. I liked it, saved it, and played it for Guy today. It ended up the starting point for this song. (Before we worked on this song, I pulled out some improv on the pedal for a few loops he will hopefully use later, so I’m excited to hear what he does with them.)
As I listened to the loop, I had a general melody run through my mind. The cool idea Guy had was to each record vocals independently, neither one being privy to the other’s melodic idea. After we both recorded the vocals by ourselves in his little studio, we came together and listened to them fall into one another, I think, quite nicely. I improvised the second voice under my main vocal, experimenting with my higher, (more falsetto) register, which I don’t get the opportunity to do very often. I like the effect. I always listen to the song of the day on repeat as I write about it here. And the more I listen to this song, the more I love it. Guy’s influence is so good for me; freeing and lovely.
The reason I love Guy so much is his total willingness to try anything. I think this is what makes him such a great artist and musician. He is literally not afraid to try something (or at least, that’s my take on it…), and it was infectious. I was able to begin teaching myself how to let go, which is why when I hear the character of my vocal, though I wish would have allowed for a little space for silence (as Guy did), I hear some things I really like and wouldn’t have done otherwise.
Examples of Guy’s awesomeness for this song: beautiful lyrics, two tracks of electric guitar, thumb piano, and “Hey“s at the end (with Jonathan, too!) that I love. (I will later address my secret wish that as many songs as possible contain “Hey!”, “Yeah!” or “Woo!”. We’ll talk about it soon…) My contributions? A little cello pizz, the loop, lyrics, a want for hey’s!, and a fast hand with a tiny music box. I wrote some of my lyrics on a bus at 2 am coming back from DC to New York just a few days ago.
I’m quite sad to leave Portsmouth and Hog Farm. The more I collaborate with people on these songs, the more I believe the world really is an amazing place full of stunning, beautiful, and talented people, all with experiences to share. It’s so easy to take people for granted, and it’s sharing these experiences with others that I hope will engrave gratitude upon my mind forever.
Guy and I worked on this from about maybe 12-2:30 pm. Not long after we had finished, Aly Spaltro, or Lady Lamb the Beekeeper as most know her, came down to Guy’s home with dear friend Maisie to collaborate. A full day of writing and recording for the 365! It was awesome! Lady Lamb the Beekeeper played the Hog Farm show with me last Friday night and is an unbelievably captivating performer and wonderful writer with an unbelievable voice (more on that tomorrow). Based out of Portland, Maine, she drove an hour to record a song with me today in a cemetery in the middle of winter in New Hampshire. I love her, love her, love her. That post will show up tomorrow, so please visit to hear it! (We took a video of it, too. Oh! Technology!)
Are you thinking, “Wait. Two songs in one day? That means you’ll be ahead tomorrow. Will you write a song tomorrow?” True, and yes! It will even out at some point, to be sure!
Bird in Girl’s Clothing
instrumentation: pre-prepared loop, electric guitar, thumb piano, music box, cello, Jonathan Clark, Guy Capecelatro III
(Jan. 21: I had Guy remix this because I, frankly, did a crappy job. So up loaded the new version today.)
Are you making a nest up in that treeOr are you spying on me?Are you some bird in girl’s clothing?Can you sing something soothing?I’ve sometimes likened myself to a squirrelFurtive, nervous and furryWill you be there as I come awake?And head into a brand new day
You are five, five miles wide (Going home)
Stay the entire night
Sad boy with wings to come
To this house you brought me home
Clothed you are but nigh forsaking
You, some sweet, worth the taking
Will you be there as I dream?
When I awake to some new day.
All at once, a sweet second and gone
Yet still living
Did you fly away when I wasn’t looking?I thought you were some kind of something.