• Category Archives lyrics
  • Explain Yourself!

    As observant readers know, I don’t talk about the meaning behind the lyrics I write. I’ve been thinking lately about explaining myself, explaining why I don’t explain myself, via blog. I was almost derailed, though, as I read the introduction to a book of lyrics by one of my favourite artists (Brian Molko of Placebo). Brian doesn’t even like to have his lyrics written out for people to read and, whilst I don’t share that particular dislike, the reasons he provided made sense. Suddenly, I felt like I’d already put so much out there just by providing lyrics…But here I am, explaining myself. Oddly, the thing that has me finally writing up what I hope will be a comprehensive guide to why I don’t like to explain what/whom lyrics are about is the decision to actually do a little explaining as part of the release of my band’s Each to Each EP. No, I know, it doesn’t make sense. Welcome to the chaos of my brain!

    Loki's brain is a cat in a box

    Now, without further preface:

    Why I Don’t Like To Explain My Lyrics

    (A list I scribbled whilst on the tube)

    1. I can’t be the only person who loved a song and found meaning in it and then read or heard the band talking about what they meant by it and was completely put off the song or confused…and it ceased to be meaningful to me. Sometimes, for the sake of being fed by art, it’s better we don’t understand what the artist intended.
    2. Lyrics ought to stand on their own, in the context of a song, without need for explanation. Writing them without intent to explain them keeps me from taking sloppy shortcuts. Because…
    3. In an ideal world, my songs are all over the place and people are hearing them without explanation. And…
    4. People are finding their own connection to the lyrics, their own meaning. Mine matters and there’s something to be said for authorial intent, but who am I to deny you the meaning you find? People are, I believe, most likely to find a meaning that speaks to their understanding and their context or to find, in those things that they connect with that are outside their context, a way to open their minds and hearts.
    5. Sometimes, the feelings that are captured in lyrics are fleeting. They might last only as long as it takes me to write. They might even be mostly worked out but just a pushy ghost whispering words in my heart by the time I have a moment to write. If I was hurt by you or doubted you for one brief moment, there’s no reason to have you feel hurt or upset every time you hear a song that was written in that moment.

      Bowie turns his back on you

      On a related note…

    6. Lyrics, like other art forms, sometimes dramatise a feeling or an experience. We’re trying to help evoke a massive emotion in just a few minutes; we don’t have years of building up the emotional context. (Or maybe I realised the best words to get the emotion and the rhyme/metre is to use a word that’s a bit more than things strictly, literally were. Ah, artistic license…)

      Little girl pounds at a window...text: FEELINGS

      This leads to two reasons I don’t want to tell you the story behind a song:

      1. Yes, it’s an authentic emotion I’m describing, but it doesn’t mean that every moment of whatever we were doing was this massively horrible or amazing. I don’t want anyone taking it the wrong way.
      2. I don’t want people who care about me to know that something is really that massively big because they would worry. They don’t need to worry. Better they assume it’s just dramatised. (I promise, if I need help, I’ll reach out.)
    7. Whilst the feelings or my side of a story are mine to share, I don’t necessarily want to cast aspersions on or cause discomfort in the other person(s) involved. Especially if I was being a bit dramatic. Even if I wasn’t, I’m not actually hateful and I hope that even those who’ve done the worst to me have gone on to become better people and have happy lives. (I’ve actually had more than one person who quite sincerely apologised to me, years after the fact, when they realised how horrid they’d been.)
    8. I don’t want to feed anyone’s egos. I don’t want to make famous (or infamous) people who did me ache. The only way in which I let them linger in my life is by turning them into something good (lyrics, poems, characters in stories, art!). If the worst they did was break my heart by not returning a feeling, my emotions are still not here for their egos. They need to go find some other girl or boy to help them feel that, someone to whom they return the feeling so that it’s a healthy situation. (And, whilst some people think they know which songs are about them, I’ve had some of my closest friends guess incorrectly about a song’s inspiration. So, if someone tells you I wrote it about them, they probably don’t know what they’re talking about…)
    9. Often, I’ve used the song to process through and be mostly done with an emotion or a dark moment. If we’re performing, I’m willing to put myself back in that emotion to give you a good show (I am a fan of emotional authenticity). Outside that context, however, I want to be done with the feeling. (Why dwell on an old hurt when life delivers new hurts?) And some things will creep back in far too easily if I tell you what the song was about. I try to have the same policy with emotional self harm as I do with physical, which is to say I avoid it these days.
    10. The meanings of the songs evolve, even for me. You know how sometimes you hear a song and it means one thing, and then you live a little more and the song evolves to mean something else? There are a few of my songs where that’s what’s happened. (Bruise Me, for instance…and I swear I intend to write about that in the tidbit I’m going to post about Bruise Me in the days after the album release, so read that for a concrete example.)

    Having told you all that, and feeling pretty sure I’ve covered all my reasons (nine is a good number), I’m going to go write some tidbits about the songs on the album…give you a little peek at what’s behind some of the songs.

    Crowley (from Supernatural) pulls out a list and says, "Let me tell you about my feels."

    Of course, whilst I prefer not to talk about the meanings, I’m always interested in hearing what the songs mean to someone else. Even if, as occasionally happens, what someone hears in them is so far from my truth when I wrote them that I get confused. It gives me a chance to discover nuances and consider other perspectives. So do keep finding meaning. For me, if people are connecting and finding meaning, the songs are doing what they’re meant to do, and that means my life has been worth living…worth singing about.


  • Privacy settings explained

    It’s 03:30 and I ought to be asleep. I went to bed 90 minutes ago and I don’t struggle with insomnia; however, what I do struggle with is being a night owl (trying to shift my body closer to normal human sleep times…a fruitless attempt I make now and again) whose brain activity and creativity start really turning up around 21:00 (and it’s quite loud even at its quietest) and continue until about 04:00. My new tactic is to turn on my phone and try to pour out words, to-do list items, etc, and then roll back over, hoping an info dump will let me sleep. So far, my body and brain are proving no match for my will or my tactics…But at least I’m waking up to half-written blog posts. Like this one. Wonder what I think about whilst I fall asleep? Here’s one of the things… (And, yes, I finished it once I was out of bed.)

    Recently, I was on a tour bus, being hit on even though I made it clear it was a ‘no.’ To their credit, the person doing the hitting was doing that thing you’re supposed to do when hitting on someone (or when trying to get to know them): they were asking me about myself. The more they asked, the more I resisted. Finally, I said, ‘I’m just a very private person. Anything I care to share about myself is in my songs.’ (Or in blogs, apparently.) They accused me of just trying to promote myself. But that’s not the case. I really do put most my time, energy, and resources into making the music go.

    Soon after, I had a conversation with one of my sisters about this, and realised that I was becoming increasingly private (instead of just staying at my past level of private, which was already a bit more than what appears to be the norm). And, as we talked about it, I had a sort of epiphany about why this was going on. I’m sharing so that, the next time you’re cornering me and trying to learn things about me that you won’t find in lyrics and blogs, you’ll understand when I start dodging. And maybe even take pity on me. Heh.

    There are two reasons that I’ve identified, though there might be more lurking in my noisy brain.

    The first that came to me had to do with those lyrics that are what I’m already using to expose myself. Because all my lyrics are truths, because (even if you can’t read them clearly as journal entries) they expose a lot about me, and because I am an introvert pouring so much of myself outside of me….The more I do that, the further into privacy I tend to withdraw on all other fronts. Even with friends and friendly social acquaintances. Even with topics that you can’t imagine I wouldn’t want to talk about.

    To make me dig my heels in a bit deeper, there’s social networking. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not against social networking on either a personal or a professional level. But, as the whole world knows, social networking means people expect to know everything. And we willingly tell the whole world the instant we eat something, see a film, fight with a partner, and on and on. We expect to share and we expect others to share with us. Somewhere in there, people’s usual levels of curiosity got switched into some sense of entitlement and obligation.

    The fact is, there are some situations in which people owe each other information. Specific information. But, for the most part, most people don’t need to know almost anything about us. (Yes, I know, knowing things about each other is part of how we build relationships. I’m not going to pretend that my increasing desires for privacy are within currently normal boundaries or that my knee-jerk response when my boundaries are pressed are entirely logical and reasonable. And, yes, I share and build relationships. Anyway…) I deeply appreciate all those who are graceful when I (try to gracefully) deflect their questions. Because sometimes complete strangers don’t even know my name before they’re asking loads of questions. (No joke. A herd of boys recently did that without introducing themselves or asking my name.) Because sometimes, even after I tell someone that they’ve asked a question I’m not comfortable talking about (and, yes, these include things that ‘normal’ people would consider uncomfortable), they press me. I have conversations (sometimes deep ones), post blogs, update the Facebook status sometimes, and tweet when I want to (sometimes even about topics you might expect people not to be open about), but you might guess that the entitlement attitude doesn’t work well for me. But…

    Like I said, I’m putting all sorts of personal stuff into those lyrics of mine. And when I get up on stage to sing them for you, when it looks like I’m having an emotional experience delivering those songs, it’s deeply, personally, sincerely me. I’m giving you more than I’d give even most friends and family if they wanted to have a straight-forward conversation. But, hey, get my music career big enough to get me in NME or Rolling Stone and maybe I’ll open up some more…At least, until that happens, you’ll know it’s not personal when I decline to answer your curiosity 😉

  • Authentically Not Yours


    (Welcome back, lovelies. Here’s something I started on even before I had committed to a return to blogging. I’ve got a list of other topics, but feel free to ask if there’s something you want me to write about. And do visit the Varnish site for more band-centric news. Cheers!)

    I was talking recently with another artist who was hesitant to release her newest song. She knew that people would assume it was about a particular person, and that assumption could lead to significant repercussions. I empathised as we talked about her options for response.

    Option One: Deny all allegations. Personally, I’ve written some things that even those closest to me got wrong when they guessed the topic. (The subject of authorial/artistic intent is a chunky one, worthy of its own post, mind you. In this case, I’m talking about something more specific, involving an “audience” with inside information who still get it wrong.) It happens to the best of us, and I’m happy when I can deny allegations without having to lie. Honesty is ridiculously important to me, so getting to keep my integrity and avoid drama is awesome.

    Which led me to suggest to her (without asking whether or not the song actually was about the person in question), that there was another option to consider if the song was about them and she didn’t want to lie.

    Option Two: Explain an emotional dilemma of the artist. And, yes, I’m going to tell you what I mean, because I’ve been thinking about it loads since the conversation. (And, yes, I’m generalising. I know there are some artists who never have this dilemma. But I also know plenty who do. This is for us…)

    Imagine, in a moment of extreme emotion, you got a tattoo of a partner’s name…And then you sobered up or broke up, and there it was, still emblazoned on your flesh…

    I had a friend who said, “Men feel, women Feel, and artists FEEL.” Fortunately, I don’t FEEL non-stop. But when I create, it’s likely motivated by a FEELING beyond my usual sort of pleasant neutral state. And maybe it lasts for seconds or maybe for hours (or some long hurts stretch over days or more), but it doesn’t last forever. However, the lyrics that FEELING pushed out of me? Yeah, those last. And they get made into songs. And those songs get sung and recorded and played live with as much emotional authenticity as I can muster. A tattoo of that FEELING on display years after it’s over.

    Me, with Varnish in my mouth
    Oh, man, what are the FEELINGS pushing out of my mouth *this* time?

    Those FEELINGS, whilst very real in the moment (whether it was seconds or years), don’t likely represent where I am right now. Maybe the only time I think about the person or events that caused them is when I’m singing them. Maybe the songs have gained a more general emotional sense to me. To complicate it more, whether due to the intensity of the FEELING in that moment or the sense of poetic rightness using certain words, the lyrics might be hyperbolic when compared with reality. (Once, in the middle of a rotten relationship, a tuna can was left on the counter and stunk up the kitchen. Just a lousy tuna can, but the really awful “poem” I wrote about it in a heated moment would have made you think that said can was singlehandedly murdering kittens and crushing all my dreams.)

    Cat and tuna tin
    I shall avenge my brothers, and it shall be tasty!

    So whilst I sit here, not bearing any grudges or nursing any hurts…Whilst some situation I wrote about only felt like non-stop Hell in the moment I was writing (and, if that’s what I wrote, I promise the emotions you’re hearing are authentic)…You’re just now hearing it. You’re thinking you recognise the subject. You’re upset or concerned. You wonder if it was really such a horrible thing that happened to me or between us. You’re wondering if I really want to tie you to a chair and hurt you…And knowing you’ll think that might cause me, like this girl I was talking with, to hesitate. Do I dare risk it? And that, my lovelies, is a typical emotional dilemma for an artist.

    Fortunately for me, I know that it’s worth the risk. I know that I can keep my general integrity (if you do correctly guess the specific topic of a song) when I tell you there’s no need to be upset or worried. I know that I can both claim emotional integrity in my writing and tell you that I’m good now, that you and I (or whoever and I) are no longer an issue in my head and heart. I’m optimistic, grudge-free, doing okay. And that lets me put aside the fear and make (and perform) the song.

    I didn’t keep in touch, but I like to hope that the girl I was talking to released fear so she could release her song. Live on love, not fear, my pretties. And be gentle with people’s feelings, Feelings, and FEELINGS. Heh.


  • best friend (lyrics hint)

    i know i refuse to explain my lyrics. but this is more a necessary disclaimer.

    just in case the lyrics “best friend” become a song (hey, there are so many lyrics at this point that it is, actually, questionable)….

    i want to be very, very, very clear.
    i want there to be no doubt.

    these lyrics were absolutely not written about johnny.
    not. about. johnny.

    johnny is a protagonist, a good guy, a hero in this story.
    none of us are perfect, but you can bet your soul that this little ditty was not written about him.

    that concludes this little disclaimer. we’ll see if i can’t pull out something meatier, maybe with pictures, for the next one. and soon!

  • where is my mind?

    i thought it was probably time i did an update on what’s going on with the band and some of my current topics of thought about music and moving ahead. you can keep up with some of this by following varnish on myspace or facebook, and i’ll post much more frequently to the twitter if we get more followers.

    for those who missed it, the big announcement this week was that we’ve found a new drummer. whilst i’m truly sad to have lost ben to academia, i think we’ve found someone cool in aNdi pUzL. it felt right having her behind the drums, so let’s hope my feelings are on target. i really hated trying to work without a drummer. sure, we can set down beats with a machine. but that doesn’t have the same energy or presence. i had never taken ben for granted, but my appreciation of him only increased over the six or so months i beat my head against the drummer hunt. i know you can do rock with a drum machine, but i feel pretty safe in saying i’m always going to want a warm body behind that kit. so, welcome, aNdi. you won’t be taken for granted here.

    and, for all of you, this means that there should be shows again soon. i know that aNdi is working to learn all our songs and to come up with drums for a couple that hadn’t been nailed down yet. now we just need to hope we can get everyone else’s schedules back in synch. i have really missed playing with my boys. (hmz…now that there’s aNdi, i guess it’s not just my boys anymore, is it? that will take some adjusting. but she is kind of half boy, so maybe she’ll forgive my habit of thinking of the rest the band as my boys…)

    the other thing that you might be wondering about is the cd. some complications and changes in people’s lives slowed down the process. i just feel really lucky that we got the drums all down before ben moved. so, in case you haven’t heard it elsewhere:

    • this will be a five-song ep, titled “each to each.” anyone recognise that reference?
    • all of the tracks have been recorded, partly at the famous london bridge studio and part at the soon-to-be-famous soul kitchen studio.
    • mixing is done. (if you’re anywhere near seattle, i recommend mark clem of soul kitchen studio without reservation. part of why i’m eager to move on to the next recording is to work with him again.)
    • we have an appointment set with the engineer we want to use (ed brooks of rfi)
    • i’m still sorting out the cd booklet/art and distribution. unfortunately, loss of my day job has slowed that down. but i’ll work it out

    i was hoping we’d have the cd ready for you in the fall, but life conspired against us. however, we did decide to post the tracks for your listening pleasure on our myspace or facebook. i hope you’ll agree that this has been worth the time, money, and effort. if we get a miracle in the next week or so, i’ll see if we can’t make it available for sale in some way by Christmas.

    which nicely segues into my next topic, which is what i’ve been thinking about as concerns moving ahead with music. i’ve actually been reading quite a bit lately about how social media is helping musicians move ahead and pay bills without having a record company.

    i won’t lie; i want music to pay my bills. i’m not going to compromise my artistic vision to do it. i’m not going to make music i don’t believe in or let my music be used to promote something i don’t like. so, for me, that means i won’t be selling out. but, just like you, i have to pay the bills. and trying to fit in a day job and music on top? yeah, i’m going to do that as long as i have to, but it’s basically like working a couple jobs. and, like you, i’d rather not have to do that. so that means that i do keep an eye on ways to let my music pay bills.

    someone once asked whether my goal was to make music i loved that touched people or to make money and be known. and i responded, “can’t i have both?” it won’t have been a waste if i only get the first, but i wouldn’t mind giving up the corporate rat race and being able to give all those hours to music instead. to know that the money i pay the mortgage with came from doing something i love and believe in.

    so, how to do that…

    the old model, of course, is that we work like crazy, hope a record company finds us and gives us a contract, and then spend our lives playing that game. in case you don’t know how that game goes, you get money from the record company. you use that money to record, set up the tour, whatever….and then you don’t tend to see any more money until you’ve made that amount via sales and such. basically, you’re living on a loan. and i hate being in debt. (which isn’t to say i wouldn’t go this route. i’ve just not got the rosy perspective on it i did as a kid.)

    but new models are emerging. there are quite a few of them, and most of them take advantage of this lovely internet we’re all using. your fans follow you on myspace, facebook, twitter, your blog. they buy your music online, whether as downloads or ordering a physical cd. maybe they subscribe to some plan where you send them a song a month. you connect with your fans in a more personal way, until you get so huge it can’t be done, via the conversations you can have on all those online spaces. and you hope your fans then use email or chat programs or whatever to send links to their friends who might like you. and the love grows. i even think that (and i know some of you will blast me for this) people downloading for free can help. granted, at this point, i’d love to see a little money for every song of mine you have a copy of. my spreadsheet of band expenses versus band income still shows that i have spent thousands more than i’ve earned. but i do know that there are bands i’ve decided to love and follow because i got sent an mp3 by a friend who thought i’d dig them.

    so, we’ve got good songs up. we’re making more good songs. i’m pondering how to get that music into more ears. how to create a relationship and community with all of you that is mutually beneficial and, hopefully, includes me paying some bills. because, honestly, if i can pay bills with music, i don’t have to do a day job. which means i have more time to make music. which means i can make more music available to you. i’m not just trying to sell you on this; i’m sincere. i say this as a huge music lover. i honestly can’t imagine having survived certain things in my life without music. if someone hadn’t made sure that bands i loved were paying the bills and making music, so that their songs could get to me? yeah, i really, truly might not be alive now. and i’d say that thinking my music could do that is vain, except that i have emails and messages where a few people have, in fact, told me how one or the other of our songs has gotten them through things.

    and really, there’s a lot of music to be made. at the time i write this, i have lyrics for 125 songs. all written in the last 35 months since i started writing again. (have i talked about why the writing stopped? basically, i was on birth control pills for a while. and one of the things that got put into a coma–i always say killed, but it clearly didn’t die–was my creativity. horrible. i look at notebooks from that time…well, the notebook. i went from writing like mad to eking out only one or two things over the course of years. ugh.) so, yes, loads of songs to be made. i fear i’ll never have the chance to let all the good lyrics, much less the mediocre ones, become songs you can hear. varnish are working as fast as we can, but we only have so much time.

    which means i have also been looking into side projects (so far, all single song things, not second bands). it’s a bit mad, really, because that’s just adding one more thing to my schedule. the options i have are moving ahead far too slowly because of that. complicated by the fact that most my current options are in other countries. fortunately, technology will help us work around that a bit. i’ve got one song done with a lovely mate, and i really just dig that we could do it all online and on our computers. that’s going to have to do until i can afford to build a recording space in this house (or afford more hours in the studio) and get people to fly out here. though i am also looking at local options. i have one idea that will involve working with different people for each song, and that includes some local victims.

    i mentioned community in terms of artist and fans. but i’ve also, as i look at side projects, been thinking of artistic community. those of you who follow me other places online have probably noticed that i make note whenever johnny’s main band, post adolescence, are playing a show. that’s one perk of treating other musicians and artists as community. yeah, johnny is my best friend, so that’s a bit different. but i think if we get to know each other and if we support and promote each other, we all win. i think it also opens opportunities to try out side projects. to expand our repertoire. to meet other sorts of artists and learn the other artistic talents of the musicians we know. i’m not just about community with other musicians, by the way. i really think we are all improved by exposure to other kinds of art. and, at least from my perspective as a musician, i’m going to need to have other sorts of artists to take pictures, design covers and merchandise, and so forth if i’m going to do all i want.

    i tend to be a solo sort of person. i love my alone time. i don’t need lots of social interaction to be happy. varnish have made good music without community. and there’s a part of me that loves that sort of path in a theoretical way. but now i’m looking around and pondering…i know lots of talented people. musicians, writers, jewellery makers, painters, digital artists, dancers, and so forth. i’d love to see us lift each other. see how we can inspire each other. (i have a song i wrote after discussing a piece of jewellery with my talented friend birna, for example. so i never know where i’m going to find words.)

    so, there’s the update on where the band is and where my head is. i’d love to have you join us places online. i’d love to hear your thoughts on community, either with fans or other artists, and other things i’ve brought up here. i’d love to know what you think of the songs. love love love.

  • truth in music

    a quick one. a small thought or two. though i’m also mentally composing a longer post on the state of the band and such (good things).

    i’ve been thinking about music as a vehicle for truths we can’t tell.

    anyone who knows me can tell you that, in general, i will say what i think. i’ll try to be tactful and polite. but i am blunt and can be honest to a fault. if you have food in your teeth, i’m going to tell you. i won’t accost you on the street, but if you’re my friend, i’ll let you know that the trousers you’re wearing aren’t doing you any favours. if i am attracted to you or have feelings for you, i’m going to tell you. probably. i don’t hide my opinions or tastes in order to ease social situations or make it easier to be my friend. i won’t be pushy or mean, but i like what i like and believe what i believe.

    that said…

    every now and again, i run across situations where i can’t speak the things i see as truth. i can’t point out a problem, because it would only lead to more problems and drama instead of resolutions. i don’t confess a feeling because, sometimes, i think it would do more harm than good. i pass through some sort of intense unpleasant emotion and i hesitate to reach out to my friends (sometimes even to my very best friend) because it’s just so heavy and i am just waiting for it to pass. and sometimes i don’t think people would believe me, so i can’t see wasting my breath and dealing with the frustration of being doubted over things good or ill. it’s very, very rare. and i hate it when it happens. but sometimes even i just don’t say things.

    and that’s when i feel amazing gratitude that i write. i pour things into songs. i cram the hurt and the sorrow, or the love and the hope, into lyrics. i have even written a straight up love song. (i swear, i tried to put something negative into it, because i couldn’t believe what i was doing. but it felt wrong. so, yeah, love song. and i rather like it a lot, thanks.) it doesn’t solve anything, really. the people hurting me are still hurting me. the moods still hit me. reality is still likely unbelievable. the love doesn’t go away or magically get requited. but i have told my truth.

    and if there’s anything i believe in, it’s truth. and that the truth will out. and that truth ought to be known, not hidden.

    someday, the hurts will pass away. they always do. and hopefully the compassion and love will stay (and maybe even be returned). and then i’ll still have lyrics, and maybe that’s the most good these truths can do me sometimes…

    stay true, lovelies.
    it’s not worth it to put more lies, deceit, and their ilk into the world.

    ps because i like posts with pictures, here i am on halloween. maybe you can’t see it, but i’m a moonage daydream if you’re old school or a scifi lullaby if you’re middle school. or just another spacegirl if you’re too new school to care about what came before. (i’ll try to sort out more on-topic pictures from now on….)

  • where do lyrics come from?

    with history now briefly covered, and a few pondering posts to test out how i like pondering on here, it’s time to get back to music as a current topic. kind of.

    as many have learned, i’m not really planning to explain my lyrics to anyone. i can’t tell you the number of times jason has asked, as we work a song, “what’s this one about?” only to have me shrug and say, “what do you think it’s about? all that matters is that the music fits it.” there’s only one person i’d make exceptions for, and that’s because i know he won’t tell anyone at all and because he’s got every bit of my trust. and, you know, that’s probably not you. sorry.

    why won’t i tell you what the songs mean? well, there are a number of reasons. for one, not everyone who hears a song will have the luxury of reading or hearing an explanation from me. that song needs to stand on its own, without extra words. also, i can’t tell you the number of songs that were totally meaningful to me, that i made completely valid analyses of, that were then soured when i heard what the writer meant. okay, fine, to the writer that song is about something entirely different, but there’s no need to rob me of the emotional connection i had with the song for my own reasons. additionally, i don’t want people who might have influenced a song to either see it as an attack or as an ego builder. that’s not why i write. and, finally, as you’ll read, most come from too complex a place to really sum up.

    but i can tell you where lyrics come from. and, unlike when you learned where babies come from, i don’t care if you tell your little sister. in fact, please, do tell her.

    the lyrics come a few ways. most just sort of fall out of me and onto the paper, quickly. i feel really blessed that it works that way. every so often, something falls out in pieces. i try not to force it when it goes like that. try to just meditate on what’s at the root. the few times i’ve forced it, the lyrics have been shoddy and needed rewriting. so, better to get it right the first time.

    but at the root, no matter how they come out, is always a mental collage. and the collage isn’t built by effort or always around a clear theme. it’s a mix of memories, of story ideas, of possible futures and missed pasts, of smells and sights and emotions, of other people’s experiences, of individual words or phrases that feel good on my tongue and rolling across my brain. sometimes, there’s almost a physical sensation or two that comes along with it. it’s usually something of a chaotic mess, really.

    if the lyrics just fall out, the mess seems to settle into something i can look at and benefit from once i’m finished writing. until then, it’s almost like the whole mass of the thing is pushing the words out.

    if the lyrics come slowly, the mass starts settling as i regard it. i write what comes easily, and then i sort of let the whole thing shift a bit. i close my eyes and just watch it. sometimes i poke at it. i ask it, “what’s this piece doing here? it’s totally unlike the others.” and as pieces fall together, the words fall out of me.

    even in a situation where i could probably say, “this song is about this person / this event / this theme / this emotion,” there’s always something more going on. that thing has drifted through my heart and my mind and other bits of what’s inside of me have caught onto it. so that even if i told you and tried to explain, there’d still be some line or verse that wasn’t quite that thing. but, hopefully, that still fits.

    of course, a close friend recently noted that a lot of my songs seem to be written before their time. that they are all clearly about things that happened after i wrote them. and when i tried to protest, some pretty uncanny things were pointed out to me. but i think i’m going to chalk that up to the fact that time isn’t linear; we just see it that way through our limited brains. which means that i’ve got endless years of images to throw into those collages. so i don’t expect to understand word-by-word either. and maybe that’s the real reason i can’t explain myself. heh.

  • who put that hope in here?!?!

    like many people i know, i use art as a way to work through intense emotions. and, like many of them, a lot of those emotions are not pleasant ones. one well of emotion and imagery for a lot of my songs is all the rubbish i’ve been through thus far. so, you know, safe to assume that the songs are generally not happy songs.

    lately, there’s been a lot not going awesomely in my life. in most every area. but, somehow, i recently had a very beautiful moment where i realised that i am at peace with my past. in some cases, it’s a general peace, and in others more specific, as i see how things i have been through that were not pleasant have led to good now.

    today, with no external reason or obvious improvement in my life, i have actually been feeling very calm and hopeful. odd, but cool. and perhaps that’s why i got a random urge to flip through all the songs i’ve written the last two and a half years or so and see which of them had hope.

    see, i think that even music that’s not happy can give you hope. i know that the songs that made me most sure i wasn’t alone and was going to make it through dark periods in my past had no hope in them. but just knowing someone else had felt as i was feeling and was still around and was turning it into good music? that gave me hope. but that’s not the hope i was looking for here. i wondered if i could give or was giving hope of another sort in those lyrics.

    at this moment, i have lyrics for 108 songs finished, and am one verse shy of finishing number 109. i can be a bit prolific sometimes. it’s been an artistically dense two and a half years…of those, i found messages of hope in 53 songs.

    do you need a moment to pause, process, pick your jaw up off the floor? because i did. even songs we’ve been playing and actively working on all this time that i didn’t think of as having hope.

    but as i flipped through, i saw bits of hope, here and there. sometimes, the whole song was encouraging to me. sometimes, it started poorly but ended well. sometimes, it’s just a line in there. some of the hope is pretty straight-forward hope, like songs where i say i know i can make it or i know the relationship will make it. some of the hope is more sideways, like songs where i’m encouraging someone not to give up or i’m realising that, yeah, i want you and i can have you. really, i count anything where, if you’re paying attention, you see it’s not all just wanting and lacking and broken.

    because sometimes hope is just that there is something good in all the mess. at least to me.

    so when you’re having a listen or singing along, feel free to take comfort in the bits that aren’t hopeful, in knowing someone else made it through all sorts of unpleasantness (lots of someones, really, as it’s not all always about me). but be sure to know there’s hope in there. and it’s okay to hope.