Archive for January, 2010

Week Four

January 29, 2010

So before we get to week four, how’s this format working for you?  I don’t know exactly who’s reading/listening here unless you drop a line every now and then.   Some people comment every week.  Other people, like my Mom, surprised me by admitting they’ve been following along.  Anyway, someone who follows on YouTube mentioned that I should post the lyrics there.  What do you guys think?  Would you rather have the lyrics right away?  Let me know!  (Never mind, I made the executive decision already!)

Now here’s week four:

Week 4: Everything Will Be All Right
By Kim Davidson
(c) 2010

The world has been turned up on its head
And the dreams of your youth all seem to have died
It’s stress, not ambition, keeps you in good stead
And it’s less than three hours since you last cried

And nobody answers the phone anymore
Nobody has any time
As you’re drifting farther and farther from shore
But life sometimes turns on a dime.

And everything will be all right.
Everything will be all right.

The boss has been barking each long sorry day
It’s been seven months since your wife chose to leave
And you’re jealous and bitter ‘cause you had to stay
And raise your two kids while you’re trying to grieve

And nobody offers to help anymore
Nobody has any time
And parenthood’s not s’posed to feel like a chore
But life sometimes turns on a dime.

And everything will be all right.
Everything will be all right.

BRIDGE: And I don’t know about you, my friend
But I keep trying to believe
They’re such simple words we’ve said now and then
But that faith is so hard to achieve

We’re all going under, or that’s how it feels
We’re surrounded by people, but feel so alone
We keep trying to outrun the speed of the wheels
We keep trying to find a place to call home

But nobody knows what they want anymore
Nobody has any time
There’s too much at stake, and who knows what’s in store?
‘Cause life sometimes turns on a dime

But everything will be all right.
Everything will be all right…
Yes everything will be all right.
Everything will be all right.

So a funny thing happened on the way to week four… As usual, I had written a song (which will likely appear at a later date).  It had lyrics and a melody—it was complete in that sense.  It still needed the guitar chords fleshed out, and they weren’t quite as obvious and simple as some tunes can be.  In the interim, I had the flash of an idea for another song, and that song took the lead and ended up being posted first.

I’m not entirely sure what first put the words “everything will be all right” into my head.  I was kind of multi-tasking, goofing around on Facebook, with the TV on in the background (an old episode of “In Plain Sight.”)  It was very late (or very early depending on how you look at it), and the idea just presented itself.  Sometimes when the first impulse for a song hits me, I sing or speak whatever bit I get into my little DVR so I can get back to it later.  This was one of those times where the concept demanded immediate satisfaction, and I dropped everything and started writing.  It was all pretty quick and organic, lyric-wise.  I was going for contrast—between these kind of crazy or painful life events, and the soothing words that I have personally heard a number of times from people with far greater faith than I have ever had.  Somehow it felt like I was writing a lullaby to myself, though I didn’t write about any specific personal experiences.  I feel like it’s the kind of tune you’d hear at the end of a TV show during that wrap-up montage that so many episodic dramas use these days.  Well, I was listening to a TV drama when I wrote it, so maybe that was subconsciously informing me.

The chord progression didn’t come right away.  My first pass was a little too light and airy, and I didn’t feel like that was the right mood.  Once I decided to open the verse with a minor chord it all made sense, and the rest of the music fell into place.  Rhythmically and melodically I felt like I wanted it to sound like maybe a cover of an old Bob Dylan tune.  This is not to say that I in any way claim to have one-tenth the talent that Bob Dylan has in his pinky finger.  But I do think that there’s an essence in there… something that speaks to the spirit of those kinds of tunes.  I made a recording just so I could get a feel for it outside of myself, and that first vocal pass definitely reflected my inner Dylan.  It was pretty funny.  Even so, I found myself playing it over and over and liking it more and more.  That must sound strange.  I’m not sure if it’s in some way bizarre or uncouth to like one’s own songs.  God knows I don’t always.  Some songs I like right away, but then after a few listens I find I’m already losing the feel for it.  Some songs I hate right out of the gate, but then a few months later, once I’ve separated myself from the torture of the birthing process, I find I can appreciate it.  And then every once in a while a song just hits me and I fall in love with it.  In those moments it’s almost as if it was written by somebody else and I am completely outside of any kind of tendency to judge it or pick it apart.  I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing, I’m just saying it IS.  And this song was like that.  Is still like that.

I went so far as to debut it a few days early at open mic at TCAN on Monday.  I figured as long as it was within the same week it still counted.

The video for this one was a b*tch!  I think it was seriously 25 takes.  I didn’t count, but there were a lot of takes.  And a lot of outtakes.  What was most frustrating was that I would get almost all the way to the end and then fall apart.  With this kind of performance set-up, there’s really no way to splice different takes together without it being very obvious and disjointed, so it was really annoying that I kept messing up at the end of what was otherwise a great pass.  In the end I actually kind of feel like I lost the dynamics of my guitar in the finished version, simply because I was so DONE by then and just wanting to make it through it at any cost.  My focus became about “finishing” and less about the nuances.  I think it sounds fine, but some of those earlier takes were GREAT.  Isn’t that always the way?

As a side note I have to point out that I do not have any kind of a lisp in daily life.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  There is something about the audio of my camera that leaves my sssssyballantssssss lingering on until I sound like a Drew Barrymore Lash Blast mascara commercial (Hi, Vincent—that was just for you!)

Speaking of shout-outs… I don’t know who reads this thing or watches the videos.  Like, my Mom was a total surprise.  But she’s watched ‘em all.  Now I don’t need to have weekly validation from all of you or anything (though some of you are great about checking in every week), but if you’ve been silently lurking, please do drop me the occasional comment and say hi so I know I’m not just singing to myself.  😉

One last fun tidbit: there are two instances in this song where the note/chord combo sounds like another song.  So that’s two songs I have unwittingly ripped off for a millisecond.  Well, hardly ripped off since I didn’t hear it until after I’d listened for a few times and finally came up with the songs I was being reminded of.  And considering that there are only twelve notes in all the universe, there are bound to be some repetitions.  If there’s one thing I learned from Rob Paravonian, it’s that the same small group of chords can be played in the same order in a numerous list of songs, and yet all those songs sound very different off on their own.  Anyway, if you’re up for a challenge, tell me what two songs you think you hear and on what words/notes.  It will be interesting to see if anyone comes up with anything different than the ones I’m actually talking about.

Week Three

January 22, 2010

Week 3: My Life In Pictures
By Kim Davidson
(c) 2010

He was a camera tester
He worked there all his life
Oh and we didn’t know it at the time
That what he did all day
Would leave a legacy
But I got all the proof in this album laid in front of me

CHORUS:
‘Cause there we are at the kitchen table
In PJ’s with a box of Cocoa Puffs
‘Cause it’s not just occasions and events that make a life, it’s the little stuff
He caught it all…
Now I have my life in pictures, my life in pictures, and they’re all pictures of my Dad

Sometimes we didn’t like it
But mostly we just smiled
Now there’s a chronicle of every child
Still frames and movies too
Shot on his way out the door
On days he didn’t have the time to shoot more

CHORUS:
And there we are playing in the backyard
On Big Wheels and the monkey bars
We didn’t need to dress up or have anywhere to go to feel like movie stars
Now we have our life in pictures, our life in pictures, and they’re all pictures of our Dad

BRIDGE: He was a one-man paparazzo
Any moment could be frozen fast
We learned to be camera-ready and we caught the disease
Wanting every memory to last

So now I’ve got a camera
I snap shots of my own
And though he’s gone I know I’m not alone
When I look through the lens at
The subject of the day
I wouldn’t have it any other way

CHORUS:
‘Cause there she is, my best friend’s new daughter
Reaching out her tiny hand to me
I keep up the tradition of capturing the world
The way that it was handed down to me…

Through my life in pictures, my life in pictures, and they’re all pictures of my Dad…

So how did this song come into being?  I think the first line of the first chorus (“there we are at the breakfast table…” ) was what jumped into my mind first—a few weeks ago–and I sang it into my little DVR to be fleshed out at a later date.  That line talks about a real picture from our family photo archives, one of my favorites.  It’s me and my sister, in matching thermal pajamas, at the table eating cereal—might not have been Cocoa Puffs, but I was working a rhyme, cut me some slack.

Me & sis eating breakfast

Me & my sister in our matching thermals, circa 1979-ish. Looks like I was right: Cocoa Puffs!

This is a typical representation of the kind of photos we have kicking around the house.  With little poetic license, the song is entirely autobiographical in so much as my Dad worked for Polaroid the whole time we were growing up, and he really did always have the latest camera in his possession for the sake of firing off test shots and bringing them into the office for whatever kind of analysis they all did after the fact.

Speaking of poetic license, when my Mom listened to the song the first thing she said to me was, “Okay, what do you think your Dad actually DID at Polaroid?”  Which was her roundabout way of saying, “He wasn’t a ‘camera tester.’”  I mean, that was part of what he did, but it wasn’t like that was really his title or overall job description.  Okay, I knew that, but it fit the rhythm and was the clearest description I could muster for my purposes.  In reality, he worked in Research and Development, and actually had a hand in building some of the technology behind some of the cameras he brought home.  Which is very cool.  But there wasn’t really a way to fit that into the song effectively.

Anyway, where was I?  Back to the past… There were plenty of times where he’d bring a camera home and we’d have a full-on photo session, in nice clothes, or showing off some toys or what-have-you.  Then there were absolutely those mornings when he’d apparently need a few more shots (or maybe he’d forgotten to take them the night before) and he would fire off a few literally on his way out the door, not caring what his subjects were doing–in this case eating cereal.  I love that he got to take most (if not all) of the photos back home with him.  I mean, especially considering that it wasn’t like there was a negative to hold onto if he’d handed the pictures in to whomever at Polaroid for good.  We grew up under the impression that photographing anything and everything was perfectly normal, and we all became crazy scrapbooking photo-hounds in our adult years.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  We have more pictures than anyone I’ve ever met, and they are such a blast to go through.  The digital age has only made us worse, but at least we don’t need anymore shoeboxes to store those shots in.

Anyway, it was fun to try and pick out language for this one.  What would get the idea across most simply and effectively?  I’m not entirely sure this one is finished, really, but it’s off to a good start.  And it might be finished, who knows?  Over time it will tell me.  I like that it’s a song for my Dad.  I wrote one for him a few months after he died back in 1998, but it’s not exactly a happy song, and no one’s ever heard it.  Maybe I’ll post it here some week if I can’t come up with anything new.  Or if the time feels right.  For now I like that there’s a song capturing his spirit, and the imprint he left on us.

I’ll tell ya what—the rhythm on this one was a beyatch to play.  This is the one drawback to doing a songwriting blog, complete with songs: the naked version, bad guitar and all.  I usually try to write to my strengths instrumentally, but sometimes I have a song that wants to be written that I ultimately can’t play very well.  That must sound weird.  I mean, I’m the writer—I can write it any way I choose, right?  Not quite.  Sometimes what you hear in your head and what your hands are capable of just don’t match in the end, and that’s not the song’s fault.  The song shouldn’t have to suffer or be held back because of my failings, ya know?  This is one I’d love to hear a studio version of someday, with some crazy hand drums and stuff… Wouldn’t that be groovy?  Yeah…

Week Two

January 15, 2010

If you enjoy the video, feel free to make a contribution by visiting the “Starving Artist Fund” page via the link to the right.  🙂

Week 2: Black Cloud
By Kim Davidson
(c) 2010

There’s this black cloud a-followin’ me
For miles and miles it’s all that I can see
It’s blocking every ray of sun
Keepin’ me from getting’ things done
This black cloud’s a-followin’ me

There’s this black cloud a-followin’ me
Rainin’ down on all I wanna be
It’s laughin’ at me from above
It’s stealin’ every drop of love
This black cloud’s a-followin’ me

CHORUS: Oh, but I’ve got my umbrella open wide
Faith and determination steady at my side
And I don’t need the sun to make my hay
I will work and sing my song ‘til I have broken through the gray

Oh, there’s this black cloud a-followin’ me
It’s blowin’ cold and rattlin’ the trees
But I refuse to lose my grip
Or go down like sinkin’ ship
‘Cause this black cloud’s a-followin’ me

CHORUS: Oh, but I’ve got my umbrella open wide
Faith and determination steady at my side
And I don’t need the sun to make my hay
I will work and sing my song ‘til I have broken through the gray

Oh, there’s this black cloud a-followin’ me
But I don’t care as long as I am free
I’ll take whatever it can give
No matter what I can live
With this black cloud a-followin’ me
Oh black cloud, stop followin’ me!

So the first tidbit I’m going to share is that when I sat down to write this song, I felt about as much like writing a song as I felt like having a tax audit; that is to say, NOT AT ALL. That’s not necessarily an unusual thing, frankly. The creative whims come and go, which is why typically when the Muse curls up to cuddle with you, you try not to flip her off. Instead you drop everything and frolic. But this is the exception, and not the rule. More often than not, it’s an act of will to sit and chase down an idea you may have jotted down months ago, trying to bring it to some phase of completion. This is even more the case when you’ve given yourself a weekly deadline. Having decided I’d post songs on Fridays, my writing day was decreed to be Tuesday, otherwise known as my day off. This seemed like a perfect idea in the first few lazy days of January, when I was still on a post-holiday high, feeling well-rested and excited for the new adventure. On this particular Tuesday, however, it was not seeming nearly as novel. Not that it was going to stop me.

Sometimes when I write it’s important for me to get out of the house. To get a change of scenery, some fresh air (I am really LOVING the cold lately) and shake myself out of whatever mood I’m in. On this day I went to the Starbucks at Barnes and Noble because they have red velvet cupcakes from The Cheesecake Factory, and that suddenly seemed a crucial component to my ability to write. It wasn’t exactly a miracle cure, surprisingly enough, and even post-cupcake I was downright cranky and really feeling the pressure of my self-imposed deadline. And it’s only week two, I was thinking with despair.

I pulled out my notebook. I had wanted to try and write more positive songs this year, but how could I write a positive song when I was in such a foul state of mind? I recognized that perhaps I couldn’t, and decided I’d have to go with that. Once I allowed myself that freedom, everything immediately got better. I started with this idea of having a black cloud hanging over my head simply because that was how I was feeling at that moment. As I jotted down ideas and rhymes I found a way to turn it around and make it a positive song anyway, and that was kind of exciting. By the time I’d finished I was feeling much better, and relieved that I had been able to accomplish this week’s goal. When I got home I sat and worked out the chords. I did a quick recording so I could listen in the car the next day. I decided to change a few chords in the bridge, and that’s the version that made it to press. By the way, the lyrics are in the “Just the Lyrics” section–link to the right. Check ‘em out if you need to!

Week One

January 8, 2010

Without further ado, here is week one’s song: “Beautiful Life.” I recommend staying on board all the way through the final credits and beyond (hint, hint!)

Here’s what I think is maybe going to be most challenging about this blog: keeping myself from publishing the song info before the following Friday. Because right now it’s Friday afternoon (of week one). “Beautiful Life” was posted this morning. In the interest of typing while my memory is fresh, I’m doing the write-up on the “behind-the-song” bit, and seriously, I just want to post it… but I don’t. Ya know? For every person who has clicked through and listened/watched already today, there are a bunch who haven’t, and I just don’t want to influence the way they listen. I think it’s a good overall approach, but I’m kind of way over-excited about this blog now that it’s up, and I just want to post and post and post like a crazy person.

Okay, let’s get to the business at hand. First of all, let me ask you guys: did any of the lyrics escape you? Read below and let me know if anything was murky in the performance aspect of the tune. I am morbidly curious about such things.

Beautiful Life
By Kim Davidson
© 2010

Bad haircut, bad clothes, good heart, God knows…
She’d deserve so much more than she’s got if life was fair.
No boyfriend, rented home, nothing much she can call her own
Dead-end job, beat up car, no nothing she’d done has ever got her that far

CHORUS: But she still thinks it’s a beautiful life!
Yeah she laughs her way through all the strife and trials and heartache,
Believing you live the life that you make.
So she’s making it a beautiful life!
Yeah she keeps her heart open through all the disappointment and bad breaks
Leaving people better in her wake…
‘Cause she’s making it a beautiful life.

She’s got a brother–disabled Vet—she hasn’t quite gotten through to him yet
He’s full of pain and confusion and angry as hell.
But she’s patient, she doesn’t push. She knows he’ll get there and she’s in no rush
Yeah she’s got enough faith for them both that he’s gonna get well.

CHORUS

BRIDGE: She could let it get her down, it’d be so easy
To look around and miss what isn’t there.
But she feels like she’s been so blessed, like it’d be crazy
To complain–when she’s got more than enough—just because it’s been a little bit tough.

CHORUS

So this song is pretty straightforward for me. I definitely have an affinity for writing sort of abstract or ambiguous pieces, but every once in a while I come out with something like this: very accessible and relatable. Is it about me? Absolutely not. But wouldn’t it be nice if it could be? Yeah, I definitely have to work on keeping a positive attitude when the ferris wheel is swinging around the bottom. That’s part of how this song came to be. I was having one of those rare, clear days where I was thinking, “Okay seriously, even your WORST problems are nothing compared to some people’s lives.” And I started thinking about those people who seem to be able to smile through any shit-storm (I’ve never been one of them), and I decided to write a song about a person like that.

Back in the fall I played a wedding where the bride wanted to walk down the aisle to this gorgeous song written by Michael Kisur. That song is also called “Beautiful Life.” It’s a really lovely song, one of those “Damn, I wish I’d written that!” kinda tunes. It’s nothing like this one, so don’t worry. I’m not ripping anybody off! But the title was stuck in my head because I thought there was so much potential for those words. So many other options for ways to go. So that was another part of the equation at the time.

Finally, I was revisiting some of my old cover song charts, and I kept returning to Mary Chapin Carpenter because I just love her and she’s fun to play and sing when I have the time to just focus on playing what I want. So I think there’s a little MCC groove in there as well.

On a technical note, the chorus was originally half as long as it is now. I’m not usually a big re-writer, I admit. It’s something I need to get better at, actually, if I want to be able to work as a song-writer for other people, so I’m kind of proud of myself for realizing that it needed a little more and for going back and retooling it.

So that’s the skinny! Anybody have any questions for me? Send me a comment and I’ll reply.

Welcome

January 8, 2010

Welcome, friends! In the case of some of you, welcome back! This is the new home of “New Song Weekly,” an endeavor started last year, which I thought worth attempting again this year. The idea is to write a new song every week and post a video to the web, thus challenging myself to be song-writing and honing my skills regularly, as well as keeping a consistent dialogue with the public so that even when I am not gigging, my music can gain exposure.

Last year I made it a little overly tough on myself, setting up a “fancy” backdrop and trying to externally mike the audio and then sync up with the video. It was kinda insane. That probably has a lot to do with why I only ever got six songs out there in 2009! This year I am taking a new and simplified approach, and I hope that I will make it through all fifty-two weeks with as many songs to show for it.

In addition, I decided to add a song-writing blog to the equation. I don’t like to explain what my songs are about as a general rule (see the Gretchen Peters quote below–I feel the same way!), so that’s not likely to be the objective here. What I am hoping to do is give a little background info on the catalyst behind the song’s birth and a bit about the process of writing it. However, I don’t doubt that the occasional tidbit of explanation might seep out (or is it in?), so I’m going to post the info about each song a week later.

I think having too much information available about a song you’ve never heard before affects and influences the way you listen, and I don’t want to do that. I want you to come to your own conclusions, feel your own feelings, like or dislike each song for your own reasons. Then if you feel like you want to know what’s “behind the music” so to speak, you can come back a week later for the next new song, and read about the previous week’s song process, and gain some insight into what I was thinking about when I wrote it. For the same reason I won’t post lyrics right away either. I mean, if I did then we’d miss out on all that “excuse me while I kiss this guy” potential. And how else will I ever know if I need to work on my enunciation skills? So lyrics will appear next week along with some other fascinating tidbits about this week’s song.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I hope so! I’ve wanted to write a regular blog for some time now, and it’s been challenging trying to come up with a format that didn’t have me constantly toeing the line between personal and professional lives in a way that might be detrimental to either end. This seems like a nice compromise, and I hope it will be a funny and informative place you enjoy stopping for a few moments on a Friday afternoon or evening.

For now I’ll leave you with a quote from an interview with mega-song-writer Gretchen Peters (from www.songfacts.com):

“…in order to dig your teeth in, to get to the emotional space that you need to be, I don’t think that that necessarily means that you have to be explicit, or put every detail in. In fact, I think songs are better when they are a little bit more murky, or fuzzy around the edges. Let the listener participate, too, in other words. Let them put their story in.”

P.S. I know that the opening credits say 2009. It turned out to be a bigger job than I thought trying to update them, so just be patient. It will happen, but it might be a couple weeks. 🙂