How was the super-bowl? While I was recording tonight I heard people screaming, so I assume it was entertaining at least, no?
I received this email recently:
Sent Feb. 3:hey sista, been enjoying your songs with this new project! i have a jazz little melody, you wanna try to make a song out of it sometime soon? i can come to you in NYC or we can do it here in Jersey City. 🙂 Abbie
I was so excited. Abbie Gardner is a solo singer/songwriter and also performs with Red Molly. I met her through Anthony Da Costa from Day 28 You Only Love Me When I’m Gone and No. 5 You Don’t Know What You’re Doing. I love Abbie’s music, her voice, and her amazing ability to play several different instruments- the main emphasis here being the Dobro: kick ass! As it is now 3 am, I am running to bed, but will return tomorrow morning to write more about this song, Abbie, and why I got to Abbie’s house at 6:30 and didn’t get home until 2:00 am. Until morning (although it’s already morning)…
The one thing I will say before retiring is that this is one of those moments where time just slipped away from me, the song was a stranger, so preparation was needed that we didn’t have time for. This is comes to you in the form of a demo, so bear that in mind- instruments will be changed at some point and other more needful things will be added in the future. Until then, enjoy this infant of a song!
I arrived at Abbie’s house in New Jersey at 6:30. We chatted it up over dried apricots and tea, and then she showed me this most wonderful melody on her Dobro (such a sexy instrument). It was beautiful. This is a great example of a different kind of songwriting I don’t get to do with people very often, though I probably should for reasons I will explain in a moment. I notated the entire melody out on staff paper and to each corresponding note, I brainstormed all of the possibilities for chords that might function there. (This is an exercise in getting out of the normal chord choices I might make. For example, this song could well have started on a C major chord, but I liked a minor much better though choices were endless, we had to be reasonable.) This is a longer way of doing something that might take most theorists minutes, but, as I have explained before, I have a degrees in performance, not theory, and though I was required to learn theory, it’s like math and is super hard for my brain to remember! Regardless, theory is key for me when I’m stuck or want to find a more colorful path.
Abbie had roughly two or three melodic themes that we worked with. I added a few more, and we came up with a good form we liked… but only after a few tries. It wasn’t until we had lyrics that things began solidifying with the form. I think this song, should it continue on past this stage, will become a really great one. I love the entire feel of it, and I feel good about its initial direction.
The lyrics, after some debate and trial and error, we decided needed to be simple and repetitive. I like lyrics that repeat given the proper circumstance. We were actually using some very old jazz and folk standards as inspiration for our word choice. It wasn’t an easy task only because the way songwriter used to write was more like this: (I’ll use Misty by Johnny Burke and Erroll Garner as an example)
Look at me
I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree
and I feel like I’m clinging to a cloud
I can’t understand
I get misty
just holding your hand
Walk my way
and a thousand violins begin to play
or it might be the sound of your hello
that music I hear
I get misty
the moment you’re near [and so on…]
I mean, come on: who writes like that anymore? So, we tried our best to use syntax that might evoke this kind of time period. However, when it came to the lyric, “You’ll break my heart… ” (Here, it’s as if she’s daring him to do it) and the same melodic section that comes later, it was important for us to change up the female stigma of the forlorn, lonely maid syndrome that I feel is often portrayed in songs like this: Man loves, man leaves, woman is still waiting for him, longingly. So, the ending line gives her power by suggesting she has some say and independent will. I don’t necessarily consider myself a “feminist” in the strictest definition, but in a song where two women are leading the melody, it was important to me to express strength and autonomy not only in the melody and harmony lines, but the lyrics as well. (It probably goes without saying that these lyrics are sexually charged: sex being given to the female as a source of power and persuasion as opposed to submission and self-sacrifice.)