Week Twenty-Six! Halfway Mark!

Hole In My Heart
By Kim Davidson
(c) 2010

My life is in boxes, suspended in time, in between towns and tomorrows
And I’m given pause by a dusty old album, photos of a life that I borrowed
On each yellowed page is your smiling face, a beacon of light down an old road
And I’m torn for a moment by selective memory, wanting to reap what’s never been sowed

CHORUS: There’s a highway where our house used to be
Another divide between you and me
And there’s a price to pay for what used to be free
And a hole in my heart where you used to be… a hole in my heart where you used to be…

It’s history so ancient, I shouldn’t care now, but moving on feels so familiar
I’m thinking of then, and wondering how you’re made stronger by things that should kill ya,
But time moves to fill all the empty space… this is what we call progress
Three steps forward, two back, still moves you ahead, ‘til you’re someday healed more or less

CHORUS: But there’s a highway where our house used to be
Another divide between you and me
And there’s a price to pay for what used to be free
And a hole in my heart where you used to be… a hole in my heart where you used to be…

BRIDGE: I’ve been good at forgetting, I will be again, this I know
But just for today, yes just for today, I might let it show…
I might even think about reaching out for you, as if you might meet me halfway
But before I can finish the thought I’m wondering what you could say

CHORUS: When there’s a highway where our house used to be
Another divide between you and me
And there’s a price to pay for what used to be free
And a hole in my heart where you used to be… a hole in my heart where you used to be…

Okay, first of all can I just say: “WEEK TWENTY-SIX!!!!!” Seriously. High-fives all around. We’re halfway through the year. Halfway to the finish line. Last year I got to week six. This year I’m at week twenty-six and going strong. Kinda cool. Just sayin’. Onto the blog…

So I kind of can’t believe we got this far into this project without really referencing one of my favorite, and most consistent, forms of inspiration, which is the live show. Invariably, inevitably, when I am out hearing live music being performed, I get some form of song idea, very often many. Some shows I am literally inundated—it’s really fun.

Back in the day (a Wednesday) I began to realize this was happening frequently and I started making sure I had some sort of paper on hand so I could scribble song ideas in the midst of crowded bars and auditoriums (where singing into a recorder obviously wouldn’t be appropriate). I hadn’t quite found a notebook small enough that worked for me, so I’d often end up writing on the back of whatever random sheets of paper would find their way into my purse; Mapquest directions, old receipts in my wallet (those long CVS ones with expired coupons are great), whatever. I’d be in and out of my purse throughout the show, adding whatever ideas came to me at whatever moment they came, and then I’d go home and sort them out later. “Bar Comfort” was written entirely this way. In fact, it’s the only song that was written as a complete piece without my realizing during the process.

I kind of love this story, so indulge me. I used to play in a country cover band called “STAMPEDE” with this amazing pedal steel player named Adam Ollendorff. He was in Berklee at the time, and he played out and about with a ton of different acts, and was doing all kinds of cool stuff with different pedals for his pedal steel, lap steel, and dobro. I really dug the sounds he got, so when I could I’d go out to support him and whatever group he was playing with. I was just starting to pursue the idea of playing original music, so it was exciting to go out and see who was doing what and imagine myself doing the same down the road. One night I went out to Tir Na Nog in Somerville to hear him play with the Kevin Byrne Band. We were chatting a bit before the show started and he asked me if I had a pen he could borrow for a moment. I said I didn’t. Well, I had one, but it was in the car; in my purse, which I’d left behind because it’s big and Tir Na Nog is small. Adam said, “What kind of songwriter doesn’t have a pen?” I laughed, because he totally had me. He then said something to the effect of, “And don’t you usually get song ideas during shows?” I loved him for saying that because for a brief moment I felt known in a way I don’t often experience. He’d seen me scrawling down lyrics from the stage during another recent show and remembered that. It was nice. I excused myself, went to my car, and brought back my purse (pen and all).

When the show started I was immediately grateful I’d done it, because I started getting snippets of verse right away. That’s all they were to me, just fragments, little bits and pieces. I had a double-page blank gig calendar template in my purse, which I kept on hand so I could fill in new dates for the band as they became booked, so I’d always have the latest shows and conflicts on my person to reference if anyone asked us to play a show. I folded it in half so I could maneuver at the crowded bar, and wrote down the snippets as they came, on the back. I would write something, then put the pages away for a few minutes. Listen. Drink some beer. Get another idea. Pull the pages back out. Write some more. It went like that for the rest of the night, until I’d flipped the folded pages over to the other side, and then moved on to one-half of the second piece of paper.

When I got home I decided to type the snippets into my computer, just so I’d have them, because I was going to have to put the gig calendar back into my purse, and at some point when the info was transferred to our digital calendar, I’d throw it away and start fresh, probably forgetting I had lyrics written on the back. I sat down and just typed what I’d written in the order I’d written it. I wasn’t aware of the thoughts having any kind of order at the time, but as I typed them out I realized they did. I realized they were a song already, born completely subconsciously over several hours of being inspired by different musical moments throughout the night.

Here they are (click on the image to enlarge):

You can see I was also making a list of Patsy Cline tunes for an upcoming gig. 🙂

If you’re familiar with the song, you can see that just a few words changed slightly, and a few connecting words were added. That’s it. Nothing was rearranged. Nothing was eliminated. That’s the song. What a gift.

All of that, of course, is a long-winded way of saying “I get song ideas at other people’s shows.” I now have a little spiral notebook in my purse, and it gets a lot of exercise, believe me. It’s been replaced four or five times by other little spiral notebooks, themselves eventually heavy with ink and potential.

Good Lord, Kim, why is this relevant? Well, obviously this week’s song was conceived this way. Not the whole song. That’s never happened again—at least so far. The idea for the song, however, was conceived during a live show. During the Ryan Adams Tribute Night that I played at Passim, to be exact. Adam Rothberg had just gotten up to play his song, which was “Harder Now That It’s Over.” I don’t know what it was. I think it was the rhythm, honestly. I got this feeling like, “Damn, when was the last time you wrote a killer slow song?” And from whatever place these ideas come from when they come at these times, came the concept for the chorus, which I scribbled furiously into my little notebook, trying not to attract too much attention from the people around me, who clearly were meant to be watching the stage and listening to Adam.

On the ride home I found a melody to go with the verse, and over the past couple days I spent a lot of time just thinking about the attitude of the song, and the underlying story, so I could flesh out some specific details or emotions later. Later became yesterday afternoon, and the rest of the words just poured out of me, honestly. It wasn’t grueling or difficult as it often can be. I found a melody for the verses, for the bridge. The bridge may or may not change, melodically, but it’s off to a nice start, don’t you think?

I did make two mistakes, and I’m ‘fessing up to it before anyone e-mails me to call me out on it. First, I messed up the last line of the first verse. I wrote “wanting to reap what’s already been sowed.” That should have been “never been sowed.” There was a bit of family drama that interrupted me in the middle of final tweak, and when I returned it was after midnight and I just wanted to get the recording done so I could meet my deadline. I didn’t even catch it until I’d listened a couple times and then I realized it completely didn’t make sense. I’d essentially reversed the meaning of the two words. Secondly, I screwed up the last line of the second verse (hey, as least I’m consistent). I reversed the lines and said “Two steps forward, three back, still moves you ahead.” It should have been “Three steps forward, two back.” Sigh. I was told there would be no math… I’ll be totally open about it—I didn’t just sing the lines wrong. I wrote them wrong. Both of ’em. Maybe the fact that I rhymed “familiar” with “kill ya” makes up for it? 😉 At any rate, I corrected the lyrics you see above, but I didn’t bother resinging because I’d already put everything away by the time awareness filtered through my addled brain, and I figured you’d forgive me. If you come out to a show and I sing it live, I promise to sing it correctly.

Speaking of which, I’ll be playing out at the Harvest Café with Susan Levine in a couple weeks, July 16th to be exact, and you should come. The venue is in Hudson, MA and we play from 8-10. Yummy food, casual atmosphere, and us—what else could you want?

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