To Christmases ago, flush with inspiration over this Great Big Love, I blew past my perceived limits and gave my first-ever homemade gift.
This past Christmas, short on cash and long on wanting to make a real difference for both Robbye and my parents (the kids were no-brainers: Zach=Xbox, Sydney=any and all things "girl"), I once again turned to GarageBand for assistance.
For Robbye, I finished one song that I’d been working on (and she knew about) for months. And just to keep her on her toes, I wrote and recorded another on the Q.T. Her real present.
For Mom & Dad, another first. My first-ever cover.
As I get more time behind that other kind of keyboard, I sense my growth. Somewhat unfortunately, it mostly serves to illuminate how much I DON’T know. What a neophyte I am. And how limited, especially in terms of my hardware (read: CPU and mic), I am.
Not to mention that I am increasingly skeptical about my abilities as a songwriter. And then there’s my voice. Oy…
But, I’m not in a chase for any recording contract. This is just for me. This is my hobby, and so I am overjoyed that anyone enjoys it. Yet, approval isn’t required. This is purely a labor of love.
On a positive note, I think these songs represent the best musicianship (if you can call it that) and arranging I’ve done. I know I am not where I was when I started playing around with this stuff. With each project, I grow leaps and bounds. That’s fun.
All that said, here are the three songs I recorded for Christmas…
This is the song I began this past summer. I meant to finish it then, but the "dobro" instrument was most vexing. I got a little frustrated, and decided to put it away. After more hours than I care to admit, I figured out how to get the sound I was looking for and finished it.
The idea was to make a–you know–happy, upbeat song for a change. Most other things I’d come up with were–you know–not. And I had it in my head, "What if I was writing a country pop song? What would that sound like?" Apparently, it would sound suspiciously like this one.
For this song, the opening lines of the first two verses were take-offs of lyrics I had written years ago but had never done anything with. Using them felt like an appropriate homage to the "idea" of writing and recording songs in the past and the "actuality" of doing it now, thanks to a certain Technicolor girl.
I am the only person in my family who doesn’t play guitar. That has bugged me for years. I don’t know why, but I just never took to it.
25 or so years ago, I tried to pick it up so I could surprise my dad by playing this song–one of his all-time favs (and mine)–for his birthday. I couldn’t quite manage it. I wanted to finally make good on that promise I made to myself, and I thought that my folks might be touched in the process…not to mention they might enjoy it. Done and done. If the tears of joy in my mom’s eyes are any indication, that is.
Note–this is not my song. It’s a cover of the legendary Bill Anderson’s hit from, it turns out, 50 years ago. So, Mr. Anderson, please don’t sue me. I am not making any money from this–it was a present for my folks. Just think of it as my way of celebrating your wonderful song’s golden anniversary.
Anyway, because I hate it when musicians simply regurgitate a song without putting their own spin on it–their interpretation–a certain amount of re-imagining was in the cards for this old standard. My thought was to update it, but honor the spirit of the classic country sound of the 50s, when the song was released. Also, the version(s) I remember were…faster, so they didn’t quite seem to capture the inherent and luxurious sadness of the lyrics. I wanted to take a stab at accomplishing that, but to also inject an element of hope–not a lot, just a glimmer. Tell it from the standpoint of a guy who’s walking down a long road with realization dawning on him. Okay…enough…listen to the song, eh?
The most important lesson I have learned over the past 2+ years? Even when you meet your life’s love, the work of love don’t stop. In fact, it becomes all the more critical. It’s least easy and most worth it.
While I was working on the other song, I kept saying to myself, "What I really wanna tell her is…" I wanted to speak the "truth". Put it out there that everything didn’t always look perfectly rosy, and the way is long and fraught with peril. But that it was all good. And that the long haul is what this guy’s all about. …And that I love her–the noun and the verb. Always.
The song came to me in a day. Once the first line coalesced in my head (When will it sink in/Why must we always claim we’re sinking/When it’s miles from the truth), the rest simply fell into place. It was almost like it wrote itself.
I thought that because it was only one instrument, it would make the song easier to manifest. Wrong! Because I "play" the guitar via my keyboard, I needed to go back and edit/refine almost every note just to get it to sound like this. And I am still not quite convinced. Or satisfied. But…it ain’t a piano.
But I think it’s about the best song I’ve written. At least my favorite. I think they’re some of the best lyrics I’ve written.