Skip to content

Rusty.

April 19, 2007

Working on songs tonight with the magical, mystical, metaphysical V. Chao. I have a few half-finished, and so does he, and none of them match up. So he was picking around, and I was sitting here writing notes to myself (example: “what rhymes with curtains?”) and suddenly, I flipped a page and wrote an entire new song (not featuring curtains), sprung from my head complete, Zeus-Athena style. What is up with that? It happens much more frequently in the presence of VC, and I don’t get why, but it is fun. Except now we’re staring at the page, literally looking for the key to unlock the music.

Advertisements

“Wig.”

April 11, 2007

High on the tentative success of my first completion for the Brickman-type guy, I decided to just barrel on and start the next one. I had a phrase sort of repeating in my mind that was kind of a theater-related cliché, and I thought well, maybe I’d build on that and fill the whole song with theater references. So, I made a little list off the top of my head of words or phrases I might be able to include, and asked pamie, with her rich and varied drama-nerd background, to word-associate off my list and help me come up with other potentials.

Of course, she gave me a brilliant list full of things I will probably use: stuff like “standing ovation,” and “roses at your feet.” And then I got way down the page and I hit “wig,” and nearly died. Please believe if I was talented enough to write a love song that included a verse about wearing a wig, I would have already done it.

This moment in the process of songwriting, when you have the kernel of the idea — and I assume this applies to other types of writing — is very strange. It’s like the song is already written and sitting in a room, and right now I’m just waiting on someone to turn on a light so I can see it, completed, on the page. I can kind of hear it already, too.

I know this stuff ain’t Tolstoy, but I can finally admit to myself that it is a worthy way to spend my time, and that is a good feeling.

Just like all those old clichés.

April 9, 2007

I am almost done with that song I posted about from the coffee shop. I don’t know how it will end up sounding when the music is complete, but I can hear it in my head so clearly that when I accept that CMT award, I will remember this moment with a rueful smile. It’s a duet — my first one ever — and I enjoyed the back and forth (with myself) so much, that I think I will try to write a duet for my band. If only I could channel Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks into my brain, I think I could achieve something fairly badass.

This song I just wrote, however, is the opposite of badass. It’s like… goodass? I don’t know. It’s very sweet, to the point of treacle, and if it works out, you will no doubt hear it sung at your teenage cousin’s shotgun wedding. I apologize in advance. What I’m proud of is the main theme of the song — I stole the idea from some very negative circumstances and added so much sugar and aspartame and Splenda to it, it is now a frosted, fluffy, pink thing sweet enough to cause a toothache. Hey, if you’re gonna go, go big, I say. I managed to fit in a few clever little references, at least, so we’ll see how it works out, if the musician for whom I wrote it even likes it.

Update: He loves it! It will have to be edited down a bit, but he wants me to work with him on the music and everything. Kudos to me for just flipping doing it. Why am I so weird? Of course, now I have to write another one for him, and then at least four more for my own project. Panic begins anew.

Busting rhymes.

April 8, 2007

I am in a coffee shop in Los Angeles writing what may be the cheesiest love song of all time. A duet to be sung in karaoke bars throughout the nation. Something so Tim McGraw-Faith Hill-esque I can see the future, hypothetical CMT video in my mind.

Found in Translation.

March 31, 2007

This was the silliest day I have had in a long time, in the best way. I laughed so hard all day long and at one point when I went to answer my phone, I was nearly incapable of speech and I had to do that thing where I pretended to cough to cover it up. It all started when AB was telling me about how she had translated the lyrics of a recently chart-topping hip hop song for a coworker. The song, This is Why I’m Hot, by Mims, is unquestionably the best worst song to appear on the scene in a long while.

AB’s friend had a hard time understanding what Mims was really trying to say with his lyrics, so she very helpfully and brilliantly spreadsheeted a translation for him. When she sent it to me today, we spent some time researching one or two elements, and had pamie proofread it, and then I had to go to the ER and get oxygen, because I was almost literally sick from laughing. Download it here and try not to die. Note: there was some discussion of whether or not he says “Compton to Hollywood”or “coppin’ a Hollywood” (which is what the lyrics site claimed) and Pam submitted that it very well might be the latter since, as she said very seriously: “Well, it’s not much distance between Compton and Hollywood. It’s a pretty small section of LA, really. But I suppose he ain’t gonna chop no bird in the valley — although, if you’re going to talk about feathered friends and cocaine, you might want to do it in EAGLE ROCK.” Good one, Pam. At this point, we were analyzing the thing like it was freshmen English and we were all smoking cloves in a coffee house. Is Mims struggling against society? Thumbing his nose at his hood upbringing? Breaking the bonds of The Man? No… he’s pretty much just listing the ways in which he is hot. Well, in that case, is it so simple, it’s genius? I wish.

One day I will spend 90 hours writing about hip hop and R&B how messed up it is (especially the latter — R&B is ruined), and how Dre needs to come in and blow it all up and start over, but today I merely need to let this song illustrate my point. Writing braggadocious rhymes is what it’s all about, I realize that — but a song about how you’re so good, you’re a rapper who doesn’t have to rap? And I worry that the lyrics I am trying to write right now are “too obvious?” And Mims has released this song as a follow up to an earlier tune in which he boasted that he needed only thirty minutes to satisfy various women named Tia, Tamia, Shakia, and Dania? In which he also referenced Blue Cantrell? And he’s so rich he’s wearing a diamond encrusted logo of some kind in his teeth? This is why I’m stupid.

Here, I couldn’t stop myself. I wrote a new verse to This Is Why I’m Actually, Literally Hot (Is It Hot in Here?).

This is why I’m hot(x2)

This is why(x2) uh

This is why I’m hot (uh)

This is why I’m hot(x2) whoo

This is why(x2)

This is why I’m hot

 

I’m hot coz I’m wearin’ corduroy

You ain’t coz you’re not (mims)

This is why x2

This is why I’m hot(x2)

 

Verse:

This is why I’m hot

It’s 95 degrees

I’m wearin’ flannel shirts over heavy dungarees

I represent Gwinnett Co.

I got it on my back

I wish it wasn’t so hot

Why did I wear black?

I hate to feel so dirty

When it’s ninety-five above

Why did I wear a raincoat?

Why did I wear these gloves?

You’d think I would have noticed

There’s no longer any snow

I walked into the Waffle House

And fainted on the flo’

I need someone to help me

Style the clothes I wear each day

From Lawrenceville to Snellville

What will everybody say?

Next week I go to visit

Pamie in LA

She’s gonna wonder if I

Had a heat stroke on the way

And when I hit the Chao Camp

People say that I’m fly

Except for when AB

Puts her cig out in my eye

I ask her why she does it and simply she replies

[AB explains why she’s hot, etc.]

New-fashioned love song.

March 27, 2007

Between now and June 1, I have to write about six songs. Two of them are big-time deadlines, not for my band, but for another, ridiculously talented musician who asked me to write lyrics for his as-yet-unwritten music. (The others I need to write ARE for my band and if I don’t get them done, there will be a revolt and Chinese water torture will be employed against me. I ain’t strong enough for that.)

Here’s the problem:

These two non-band songs I need to write are out of my normal realm of lyric-writing style. First, the lyrics I’ve written in the past normally come to me very quickly. I will hear a turn of phrase or something will occur to me at random, and I’ll make that the base of a verse or chorus. Voila, thirty minutes later, the song is done. Sometimes this happens three times in a weekend, and sometimes (like now) I’ll go months in between. The point is: it just happens. Nobody tells me to do it and, most significantly, nobody gives me any direction like “I need you to write a song about [whatever] that sounds a little like [some artist].” Until now. For this new project, I’m supposed to write lyrics in the style of this guy, who is very, very talented, of course, and beloved by many, but not someone of whom I could call myself a devoted fan. He does not write his own lyrics, I don’t think, but these words I need to write should be appropriate for one of his songs, if that makes any sense. Pretty words. Simple lines. Love songs about actual love, not lost love or dead love or sad love. No twists or clever reference required. Very straightforward “I love you, here are the reasons” type songs. Can I even do that? Honestly, I am very happily in love — my marriage, thus far, has only gotten better and better — but it just seems so… obvious to write a song about how great everything is. When I type it out like that, I realize how ridiculous and ungrateful I sound. See? This blog was a good idea.

How stupid is that notion, anyway? I should be writing about good things. I’m so thankful for all the good things in my life, especially the people I love. I feel good about it. Yes, I like dark songs because they are more dramatic, but hell, I’m embarrassed that the reason I can’t seem to pull off a nice love song is because… apparently I think I’m too cool to write one? I have to lower myself to write a song about being in love, which I am very happy to be in? What? I don’t want to be like that. I once saw an interview with Pharrell Williams where he said “at the end of the day, you’re the one who decides how cool you are.” He was talking about how much he loved being in his high school marching band despite it being a decidedly uncool thing to do at his school. He’s exactly right, of course. I resist writing what I view as nice little sweet songs because I feel like, I don’t know, anybody could write a song like that. But if anybody could do it, why aren’t they? Is it because those songs are lame? If so, why do so many people like them? I don’t have to like them to write them, do I? Not really.

Also, I don’t want to be like Lucinda Williams (no relation to Pharrell, ha! or…. IS she?), who I adore, but who has said in several stories that she’s incapable of writing anything good when she’s happy. I have often felt the same way, but I’m sick of that. It’s time to bust a rhyme up in here, and I don’t intend to get miserable in order to do it. I have spoken with other creative people about this, and my friend Pam suggested I visit museums or the like to spark my imagination. It’s a good suggestion — in fact, I always get ideas for songs when I am at live music performances. I have 40 receipts all over my house that I have used to scribble lines on in the dark while the band plays. The most recent one was at a Lucinda show, where one word kept occurring to me, and I wondered what I could do with it, so finally I borrowed a pen from a bartender and wrote it on a napkin so I could stop thinking about it: “crumbles.” Sure to get a mega-hit off that one. I wrote my favorite song of all time crouched over at trashcan at a Jayhawks show. It’s about an old drunk man crying himself to death in a burned down hotel. Yeah, good times, but for my current purposes — well, such things are not what you want to think about when you’re in the mood for love. Or happiness. Or… anything but total stoic misery. Y’all, I’ve got the corner on total stoic misery. That’s what I should have named this website. Too late.

Maybe I should fly to Vegas and watch endless Celine Dion performances until I am drowning in sugar. Or bombard myself with poetry of questionable quality on the discount rack at the book store. I’m not being a snob — I just don’t normally go for that stuff. Everyone has different tastes. Surely I can write outside mine.

Here’s the other problem:

This guy who wants me to write for him? Sort of a musical genius. Maybe one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. And he wants me to write these songs? (And possibly sing them, which I can’t even begin to contemplate yet, so I am ignoring that part.) I don’t even understand why, but I guess he thinks I can do it.

Conclusion: I’m stupid. Follow-up question: Why? Solution: Just write the damn things.

Let me think for a second.

March 27, 2007

A website where I write about writing songs? You think that’s meta, or whatever you kids call it? Wait ’til you hear the song I write about this website. How do you like that?  

And I will figure out how to close comments… now.