Abbie and her Dobro
Abbie Gardner is a fantastic musician, and when she asked if we could do another song, I was thrilled. I went to her house in Jersey City on Thursday morning and asked if she had anything she was working on that we might look at. (Ending in prepositions! Ah!) Abbie brought out this song, Momma.
Originally this was a simple outline of a song about a girl in love with a boy who kissed just right and loved just right so much so that she went straight to her momma and said, “I’m in trouble I love this guy so much.” Well, we took a look at it and talked about this relationship between this girl and her mother. We found that the song isn’t really so much about a love between a man and a woman, but the relationship between a mother and a daughter. We talked about what kind of mother this woman is: is she caring and totally helpful? Or a bit apathetic? What kind of reaction might she have to this girl who has obviously been in trouble before?
We decided we didn’t want to focus on the daughter’s problem with her man in this song. We felt like we didn’t need to spell it out for the listener, but that capturing a single moment between a desperate daughter and her mother was more important to us in the span of a three and a half-minute song.
One of the best classes I ever took in college was a course called Theater Analysis. I have no idea what lead me to it, actually. I mean, I think I was mostly done with my music credits as a performance major and just needed some more of… something. I’m not sure. We studied Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie among many others. And though I don’t remember our text, I remember this was the first time I was introduced to the word “aesthetic” because it was in the title of the book we were referencing for all the work we were reading. I remember the teacher being really good and very interesting. We used various tools to look at each work: deciphering movement, cause and effect of each character and how the playwrite used word choice and other tools to create his or her vision.
I think I use the tools I was taught in this class on songs, too. In the case of this song, we addressed the daughter and mother’s own history not only together, but as individuals. We came up with the idea that the mother had a similar history of rebellion and relationship trouble that the daughter was creating for herself which is why the mother reacts in such a, “I can’t do anything for you, child” kind of attitude.
Instrumentation: Abbie started playing this song on her Dobro, and I love the sound so much, I left my cello at home! It’s so awesome and makes me want to learn how to play it!
Writing: Took place on Thursday morning. The bulk of the “Momma” chorus’ were already in place, and I just came in and brainstormed ideas. We worked on the general storyline and Momma’s verses together. Abbie had the idea of a kind of call-and-response towards the end, which I really like.
Recording: Took place on Friday (yesterday) morning due to parking restrictions on Thursday. I only had 2 hours on each day to park before I had to move my car, so we just did it in shifts on two different days. What a pain! But it actually made it kind of nice to have a time frame with which to finish.
I’m so glad spring is starting to peek through the cold lately. Outside our window is a huge rock where trees grow. In the spring, the trees start growing their green leaves and make a nice shade into the house. It doesn’t feel like we’re in the city, but we certainly are! New York. What a place.
May your day be well and spring be where you are, too.
Momma, I’m in trouble this time
Oh Momma, oh momma of mine
momma, i’m in trouble this time
oh my child, what you gone and done now
oh my child, don’t let your daddy find out
oh child, what you gone and done now
momma, he said he was going clean
thought we were in love, but he lied to me
(I) stole daddy’s gun, won’t you help me please
wake up child i can’t save you this time
this is your story, but it sounds just like mine….
what you gone and done now
don’t let your daddy find out
yeah you’re in trouble this time
alternate call & response:
won’t you send me a sign
child my hands are tied
now my hands are tied
had no choice this time
I’m in trouble this time
You’re in trouble this time