The River’s Bend Sessions
Andrew and I decided our songwriting project needed its own home, so Andrew built something. It feels good to have given it a home. We just posted two new songs there. We wrote both of them in January, so they’ve been in progress for a long time.
You Never Knew Me
This one was at least 80% Andrew (the writing—the tracks are always about 95% Andrew). He wrote it on the last day of his two-week music focus. My memory of it is that I took our four-year-old down the street to his thirty-minute swimming lesson, dropped him off at a friend’s house (also just down the street), came home, and Andrew told me he’d written a song. Then he played me something that I thought was totally catchy and fully formed. I was excited because I liked the song a lot, and because he’d accomplished one of the things he’d set out to do during his time away from his regular work. I must point out here that although he wrote most of this song in an hour, it was on day ten of ten days he’d dedicated to thinking about and playing and writing music. This supports my theory (and I’m sure much research, which I don’t feel like looking up right now) about creativity. Sometimes it takes a long time to prepare the soil, and then when something grows it seems miraculous. But it’s not. He made the time and did the work.
Here’s our new song, Love Is a Sickness.
I finished the 1992 section of my book during the first week of January, and since then I’ve been trying to get a handle on what comes next. I began this project with a sense of where the book ends and an outline for part one, but no outline for the rest of it. I’ve spent the past few weeks writing about the book instead of writing the book, and when I finally started actually writing part two we were barraged with snow and its evil companion: snow days. I’ve missed a lot of writing days as a result, but I’m still scribbling in my notebook and thinking about it, and it’s becoming clearer.
It’s been great to have songwriting as a tool for figuring out what comes next. The book picks up eight (or maybe even a bit more—still not totally sure) years after part one ends, so the character has changed. I thought if we could write a couple of songs for Johanna for part two I would be able to get a handle on who she is eight years later. And I was right. I wrote one that we haven’t recorded yet, and then I came up with the lyrics for “Love Is a Sickness.” Apologies to Samuel Daniel, who coined this phrase in the 16th century.
Here’s our new song, “Never Enough.”
When I handed this song off to Andrew not even half-written, I realized that we’ve gained a lot of confidence about working together. I’d taken it as far as I could, and I knew he’d at least be able to come up with an idea that would allow us to figure the rest out together. For the first three songs, I was able to make a morning’s work of coming up with some kind of melody and nearly complete lyrics. It didn’t go as smoothly this time.
Beginning with our second song, “New Girl,” I’ve been thinking about the Nine Inch Nails album, The Downward Spiral. I bought this album when it was released in 1994. It’s a concept album detailing a man’s downward spiral, and it was recorded in the house where Sharon Tate and four others were murdered by members of the Manson Family, a choice I found to be disturbing and tasteless even when I was sixteen.The album is dark, and I listened to it a lot and thought it was good without ever falling all the way into it the way I did other albums of the era. What strikes me now when I listen to Nine Inch Nails is how synthetic the music is, in a very deliberate way, but how emotive and human the lyrics are. This contrast feels perfect to me.
Johanna wrote a song (she’s a fictional character, and this song is part of something I’ve recently christened The Reckless Gamble Project).
It’s called “Easy to Be Good,” and it’s here, along with Andrew’s post, if you’d like to give it a listen.
It’s her first song, and it’s about longing for a man she knows is no good. “I’m tired of good/I’m sick of nice/I’m ready for/a taste of vice.” That’s the gist. She’s only fifteen (almost sixteen). She knows what she’s doing and she doesn’t. There’s something a little desperate about it.
Andrew and I have a new song. It’s called “New Girl.” I came up with what turned out to be the bridge a couple of months ago, from an idea in the novel I’m working on. The bridge is: “Baby, leave me here with my last cigarette. You don’t want to be the only vice I’ve got left.” I liked the idea of a person or a relationship being a vice, and I like the idea of a sober addict transferring his addictive tendencies to a person, and how it might feel to be that person. This song became a warning from one of the characters in my novel to another. She ignores it, of course.
Seventeen years after Andrew first walked into my dorm room bearing a few CDs he thought I might love, we wrote and recorded a song together.
It’s here. I would love it if you listened to it. He built a thing himself so it could play music nicely, so it’s just easier if you do it there, though I know all of this back and forth is a lot to ask.
Okay. You’re back. I hope you liked it. The process for writing this song was incredibly roundabout. We both love music and I sing (mostly around the house these days) and he plays like every instrument and is also really into digital music recording. So this seems like something we should have already done, but it’s been a struggle.