When you run out of lead.
I never would have written I’m Yours or I Wont Give Up without a regular writing practice. Neither song came from me saying, I’m going to sit down and write me a song today. Instead, they emerged from a regular habit of playing guitar and channeling my thoughts, feelings and emotions through song. In other words, a habit of making stuff up. Or in a deeper sense, becoming an instrument that Spirit gets to play.
I could add that the process is mystical, healing, uplifting, etc. But those instances are rare, or are often only experienced when looking back at a completed section. The moment I were to say, this is magical, I would then be observing it, thus removing myself from actually being a part of it. Therefore in songwriting, whenever possible, it’s best not to think at all, and just hand yourself over to the play.
The actual writing process can be exhausting. I might have my chords and my melody, and can see and hear the path the song wants to take, but I may not have the words. To find them requires focus, looping the section over and over as the body and mind dances to fit different thoughts and ideas into the best possible cadence, while considering alliteration, internal rhyme and end rhyme, with the goal of it all sounding palatable. It takes a lot of effort to make it sound effortless.
Whenever I’m without words I turn to books, magazine or film. It’s pretty natural for me to come out of a movie feeling transformed and then go home and apply my new outlook to a song. The same happens after a yoga class. Should I truly hand myself over to the instruction of the teacher, my mind gets a moment to tune into something new, thus giving me a new outlook. Fresh from a yoga class you’d think I was stoned. Which interestingly is another option for expanding one’s view, but can also limit one’s ability to make sense.
When I read, I have to be careful not to let the book’s voice become my own. I credit Rumi, Hafiz, Neil Donald Walsh, Daniel Quinn, Alan Weisman, Alan Watts, Barbara Kingsolver, Dan Brown, David Sedaris, and Kelly Oxford for keeping my wit, world view, and pencil sharpened.
For every 12 songs that appear on an album, there are approximately 70 that get discarded. This is due to some songs being just plain boring, or predictable, or too weird. Some seem to lack truth or necessity. Others may not have quite as catchy a lyric or melody. And then there are some that almost make it to the finals, but are edged out by another song too close in style. An example of this can be heard in Don’t Change At All, which was recorded during Love Is A Four Letter Word, but in the end too closely resembled Who’s Thinking About You Now, and therefore got bumped to a bonus-track category, not in the top 13 that made the final playlist.
There’s always a few songs cut from an album that, to quote Boyz II Men, are so hard to say goodbye. At first they remain in consideration for future projects, but time and new experiences usher in new songs which eventually take precedence. On many occasions a song just needs time to mature and realize itself. I’m Yours, in fact was recorded with Steve Lillywhite during the making of Mr. A-Z, but didn’t make it onto the final album. It would take another 3 years of touring before the song found its footing.
Of the archive of songs that time left behind, I trust one day I’ll find a way to share them. As a songwriter, I’d be honored if another artist recorded my work, but I haven’t yet established a system to promote my unheard material, nor am I eager. In many ways, the unheard song is vital to the life of the popular song because without it, the popular song would never have been written. The lost song lives forever in the foundation. It’s more than just another page turned, but an integral part of the process I had to go through to get to the next level.
Occasionally songs get leaked and audiences hear my voice on something they’ve never heard and they assume it’s new or upcoming material. Recently, an demo of a song called, I Don’t Miss You, found it’s way onto the internet under the assumption of it being poised for release. It bums me out when that happens as I would prefer the listener know my work in real-time. But a song is a song and has it’s own life outside of the writer’s. I wrote I Don’t Miss You with Rick Nowels in 2010. It was one of many I wrote with Rick back then. Two of our efforts from that era did find their way onto Love Is A Four Letter Word; them being Living In the Moment, which we locked ourselves in the studio all night to complete & The World As I See It, a relatively quick and easy song inspired by Albert Einstein’s memoir of the same name.
The majority of the upcoming songs for the new album currently in production were written with LA-Based foursome, Raining Jane over three long-weekends between October 2012 & May 2013. Some of the material has been road-tested and more will be revealed as touring resumes in the coming months.
I have faith my current recording experiment will become an album for release. Although, we’re only giving ourselves a little more than 2 weeks to make it, which is kind of an old fashioned approach. It means we have to be well-rehearsed and no one gets too much time to over-think it. The result so far is sounding genuine, groovy and gorgeous. I trust many will appreciate it’s less-is-more approach. Otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board in the classroom of yoga.
In the meantime, live like an instrument, and stay tuned.