Category Archives: Confessions | Demystifying Songwriting

These posts are my open letter to all songwriters, in an effort to honor my muses and heroes by acknowledging their contribution to my knowledge, and to demystify the process to those writers seeking kinship.

Confessions | Love Is A Rebellious Bird

Feels
2014 was a heavy year for me. I lost several friends in the last months of 2013 and early in 2014. David Kleiman, who became basically my godfather/college education, took me under his wing when I had no one and nothing but an existential crisis and a guitar when I showed up in New York City at 18 years old. There will be another piece of music released soon that will go into more detail about the ways he saved my soul, so I’ll save it to that, but suffice to say here that his loss was crushing. I also lost Lou Killen, Bob Webb and David Lamb within the year. Every one of them far too young. And it made me think very hard about the relationships I spend my time on now. How much more time should I have spent with these wonderful people when I still could versus how much time I spend on people that just don’t give a fuck and probably never will. I lost my producer the day after David’s funeral, he texted me to say “I think I quit”. I could barely read it through the tears and in the midst of everything that was already crushed and bleeding, it all came into focus. Stop wasting time on the people who can’t, won’t, and dare not. Stop wasting time. There isn’t enough of it to waste, it could all end so soon.

Playahs
So, the insane fireandbrimstone voice you’re in love with on this track is the great Robert Zeigler, my next door neighbor and a videographer/producer, Danny Motta on trumpet, Julio Amaro & Thor Jensen on acoustic guitars, and DLM on vocals, synth, bass, sequenced drums and percussion, piano, organ and mellotron.

Lyrical, Production & Music Notes
So much of this song comes from Bizet’s opera ‘Carmen’. The title, many of the lyrics, and the melody hook. I have no idea why Habanera is not a more popular piece of music, it’s brilliant.

I wanted to make references to tattoos belonging to two people very dear to me. One bird and one reptile, represented here as Eagle & Snake because I love Central American folklore and the legend of Quetzalcoatl and the very real differences between the typical religious “struggle between good & evil” with the more human (native) beliefs of “struggles between self vs. others” and “wisdom vs. nobility”. Societies that embrace polytheism in the form of natural gods have always been fascinating to me because they don’t lay the ultimate responsibility for the way things turn out on one g-d, but largely on themselves and their relationships to each aspect (g-d) of their lives- for example, if you are diligent about appeasing/honoring the needs of an agricultural g-d, your crops will flourish.  It’s a beautiful living metaphor for the sense of personal responsibility that has become my own sort of religion.
For Rob’s parts, one hot-ass summer afternoon, several Coors Lights and a translator app later, we had filled in the gaps of the story with some of the poetry of Habanera.
This is one of two very heavily latin-influenced pieces on the album, and the piano was an attempt of mine to channel my nearly-obscene love for Cuban music and in particular, this guy…

Love Is A Rebellious Bird

surely i tell you today,
you think you hold it fast, and it flees!
once you said i was an angel
how did i ever fall from grace
when the only thing between us
love is a rebellious bird that no one can tame
it’s useless to chase it if it won’t play the game
if i had been a better lover
if i had been a better friend
caught between the eagle and the snake
all i could give to you was bourbon
and a place to lay your head
there are nights i pray the lord my soul to take
and lights gone out too soon
but how much of our fate
will we give over to the moon?
And they were drunk, drunk on the venom
g-dless people, crushed beneath the heel of jesus chr
ist
jesus christ, jesus christ
there are nights i pray the lord my soul to take
and lights gone out too soon
but how much of our fate
will we give over to the moon?

 

Young Man’s Game Demo

It’s been a weird run. Roller coaster city. 
I’m so grateful for all of the things that I have been able to accomplish, and most of all the amazing lives that I’ve touched even for a moment at a time. Lots of you already know that I’ve been nominated for Songwriter & Female Performer of the Year over at the New England Music Awards, and if you’d like to cast a vote for me, well just head on over HERE and do so and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Of course, the awards are amazing honors, but at the end of the day  it’s about the songs. I have 11 finished (and maybe a few pinch hitters) for Scared Fearless, with plans to track it out in April at Dirt Floor Studios live with a stellar new bunch of players in a much more “living room” setting and no crazy over-production. Yay, peak of the coaster! Whee!

But the trough of the coaster is a thing too, I’ve run into the same troubles most independent (and, frankly, major label) artists have run into these days. Fewer and fewer people are willing to pay for music, recorded or live. And those that do still have pretty limited resources. It means the absolute world to those of us who write and perform to know that you guys are out there makin’ the world go ’round. I’ll be doing a bit less touring this year, as it’s gettin’ harder to sustain financially. But there will be some seriously EPIC shows nonetheless and the music will keep coming. I’m writing harder than ever. The weirdest part, I’m finally stepping out of character and writing as myself, and it’s scary as shit.

This song is a demo of one that will make the new album, called Young Man’s Game. Sure, it could be about a boy. Sure it could be about the industrial music complex. It’s about anything you want it to be about. It’s about you. Inspired by Bonnie Raitt.
That’s Isaac Young on Organ and Rhodes, Steve Cusano on drums, and me on everything else. Mind you, it’s not mixed or mastered or any of that craziness. It’s a demo. Enjoy, and if it moves you, the very best thing you can do is share it with everyone you think will love it!

It took a moment to learn, but a lifetime to master
And every day goes by now just a little bit faster
But who gives a damn about my good name
You know I’ll bet it all on a young man’s game

I left room for the holy ghost
But the love that it gave me was cold at most
And if you’ll give me passion, I can bear the pain
You know I bet it all on a young man’s game

I can dream like a child with faith in spades
I always knew I’d rather burn out than fade
It only takes one kiss to never be the same
You know I bet it all on a young man’s game

Playing with fire keeps me warm at night
It hurts like hell, but it helps me write
So lights out baby, set me aflame
You know I’m all in on a young man’s game

And if I’m in for a penny, I am in for a pound
The queen of hearts and her crooked crown
And I’ve got nobody but myself to blame
If I lose it all on a young man’s game

Confessions | Dreamchaser


Feels
The most powerful muses can give you beautiful songs and terrifying songs all at once. This is the sister song to Eskimo Bro, and I hope that I’m able to reconcile it all one day. This song is about lucid dreaming, walking in a state of altered reality. Seeing things which are not there and being completely blind to things that are very real to those around you. The gift and curse of being an artist is seeing the world as you want it to be rather than how it is.

Playahs
This one was very very simply done.  David Keith on drums. Anjanine Bonet on fiddle. DLM on synths, vocals, electric guitar, piano, wurlitzer, and bass.

Lyrical, Production & Music Notes
In my forever love of all things traditional, blended with my love of all things Leslie Feist and Nina Simone, I used their recordings of Sea Lion/See-Line Woman as my starting point on this one.

The sample reading is of Robert Beverly Hale reciting ‘Ode’ by Arthur O’Shaughnessy in a lecture. Also, this is the second reference to Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka on this album.

There is also a sample of my heartbeat, recorded after a good run and then slowed way down.
The Afro-Cuban piano is one of two similar parts on the album, sister to Love Is A Rebellious Bird. (yes, i wrote all these songs together and there’s SO much incest. ha!) I was listening quite a lot to Steve Wonder and I think I must have been channeling this…

And I have to give honorable mention once again to David Amram, who is a dear and generous spirit that I’ve been honored to see perform and spend time with on several occasions now, one of the influences behind Pull My Daisy from Dig & Be Dug. David gave a concert in New London a few summers ago and in the outdoor space at Hygienic Art with motorcycles and trains and cars going by, he made a joke about the interruptions saying that he could literally take those “annoying sounds” and make music of them. That music was in everything around us. I was literally on the verge of tears listening to him talk about it that way. Here’s one of his songs that I think shows you a little taste of that.

Dreamchaser

when the night falls and the sun goes sinking to the west
the light fails and all creatures go into their rest

i will find you

the night holds my secrets like I hold my skirts
up around my knees and i’m climbing barefoot through your dreams

i will find you

there on each shoulder sits the night and day
your silence suspends me as your eyes hold sway

i can hear music in the falling rain
you’re painting me dancing in your waking dreams

Confessions | I’d Take A Bullet For You

Feels
It’s hard to explain something so easy. Who doesn’t want to wake up next to someone who drives them wild? Sometimes at any cost. There’s a reason we are all fascinated by the story of Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow, we all kind of want to be them just a little bit. Go crazy, take what we want, and make love on the run.

Playahs
Matt Covey on drums, Isaac Young on wurlitzer and clarinet, Sue Menhart on spoken word, Craig Edwards on button accordion, Matt Potter on vocals, Anjanine Bonet on fiddle and vocals, Danny Motta on trumpet, Gary Buttery on Tuba, Jess Brey on flute, David Dorfman on baritone sax, Brad Bensko on bass, DLM on synths, percussion, vocals, flute, piano and acoustic guitar.

Chasing the Demo
This is the earliest demo of ‘I’d Take A Bullet For You’ from June 22, 2013, with only Daphne’s backing vocals and midi parts.

Lyrical, Production & Music Notes
So if you caught yourself singing Haiti to this, you’re spot on. This is definitely my brain on Arcade Fire.

But then, I really wanted to get the feeling of this absolutely beautiful tune from The Head & The Heart, and I really can’t tell you all how excited I am about sharing this song in the live show.

The reference to the “perfect drug”, of course is the second reference to Nine Inch Nails on the album. But this was mostly about the ‘criminally’ unjust lack of publicity Bonnie Parker’s epic poetry got in the wake of her dramatic demise.

The full poem was written in Kaufman Jail in 1932 .

The Story of Suicide Sal

We each of us have a good “alibi”
For being down here in the “joint”;
But few of them really are justified
If you get right down to the point.

You’ve heard of a woman’s “glory”
Being spent on a “downright cur,”
Still you can’t always judge the story
As true, being told by her.

As long as I’ve stayed on this “island,”
And heard “confidence tales” from each “gal,”
Only one seemed interesting and truthful —
The story of “Suicide Sal.”

Now “Sal” was a gal of rare beauty,
Though her features were coarse and tough;
She never once faltered from duty
To play on the “up and up.”

“Sal” told me this tale on the evening
Before she was turned out “free,”
And I’ll do my best to relate it
Just as she told it to me:

I was born on a ranch in Wyoming;
Not treated like Helen of Troy;
I was taught that “rods were rulers”
And “ranked” as a greasy cowboy.”

Then I left my old home for the city
To play in its mad dizzy whirl,
Not knowing how little of pity
It holds for a country girl.

There I fell for “the line” of a “henchman,”
A “professional killer” from “Chi”;
I couldn’t help loving him madly;
For him even now I would die.

One year we were desperately happy;
Our “ill gotten gains” we spent free;
I was taught the ways of the “underworld”;
Jack was just like a “god” to me.

I got on the “F.B.A.” payroll
To get the “inside lay” of the “job”;
The bank was “turning big money”!
It looked like a “cinch” for the “mob.”

Eighty grand without even a “rumble” —
Jack was last with the “loot” in the door,
When the “teller” dead-aimed a revolver
From where they forced him to lie on the floor.

I knew I had only a moment —
He would surely get Jack as he ran;
So I “staged” a “big fade out” beside him
And knocked the forty-five out of his hand.

They “rapped me down big” at the station,
And informed me that I’d get the blame
For the “dramatic stunt” pulled on the “teller”
Looked to them too much like a “game.”

The “police” called it a “frame-up,”
Said it was an “inside job,”
But I steadily denied any knowledge
Or dealings with “underworld mobs.”

The “gang” hired a couple of lawyers,
The best “fixers” in any man’s town,
But it takes more than lawyers and money
When Uncle Sam starts “shaking you down.”

I was charged as a “scion of gangland”
And tried for my wages of sin;
The “dirty dozen” found me guilty —
From five to fifty years in the pen.

I took the “rap” like good people,
And never one “squawk” did I make.
Jake “dropped himself” on the promise
That we make a “sensational break.”

Well, to shorten a sad lengthy story,
Five years have gone over my head
Without even so much as a letter–
At first I thought he was dead.

But not long ago I discovered
From a gal in the joint named Lyle,
That Jack and his “moll” had “got over”
And were living in true “gangster style.”

If he had returned to me sometime,
Though he hadn’t a cent to give,
I’d forget all this hell that he’s caused me,
And love him as long as I live.

But there’s no chance of his ever coming,
For he and his moll have no fears
But that I will die in this prison,
Or “flatten” this fifty years.

Tomorrow I’ll be on the “outside”
And I’ll “drop myself” on it today;
I’ll “bump ’em” if they give me the “hotsquat”
On this island out here in the bay…

The iron doors swung wide next morning
For a gruesome woman of waste,
Who at last had a chance to “fix it,”
Murder showed in her cynical face.

Not long ago I read in the paper
That a gal on the East Side got “hot,”
And when the smoke finally retreated
Two of gangdom were found “on the spot.”

It related the colorful story
of a “jilted gangster gal.”
Two days later, a “sub-gun” ended
The story of “Suicide Sal.”
— Bonnie Parker

I’d Take A Bullet For You

wake up, I’ve had the craziest dream, we hatched the craziest scheme
and sure enough you’re here asleep beside me
the perfect drug run through both of our bloods
i’m such a sucker for a happy ending

wake up and make love to me

you are silk and cotton, i am burlap and wool
but you laugh at all my gallows humor
with all the trappings of a fallen angel
the way i look at you starts wildfire rumors

wake up and make love to me

 

Confessions | Make It Rain

Sigh. This song.
What if everything had gone differently? What if I’d made another decision at just that one moment of time? What path would I have been on if I’d just…?

Regret is a strange bedfellow. The veil of our history, filtering forever how we see the world ahead of us.  I read once somewhere that if you haven’t seen someone in the last five minutes, you can never make the assumption that you truly know them as they are now- life changing moments happen all the time and can shift our direction in an instant. Everyone seems so driven toward goals, ends, destinations, accomplishments, finality- even with the knowledge that the good stuff happens along the way, we seldom stop to appreciate when we have right this very now. The creation of memories that will fill us when we no longer have the strength, energy, and time to enjoy life the way we do when we are young.

So take the long way home. Try and forgive him for not calling you back, you had an amazing time together while it lasted and your heart isn’t so broken after all. Hug your friends and spend time with your kids and your parents. Be unafraid. Dance in the rain, and get soaking wet. Be ridiculous and don’t apologize for it. Admit your shortcomings and learn to live with yourself. Make it rain.

You pull up in a long black car
Saying we could fall heavy and we could fall hard
But I have heard your songs, what a mess you are
You’re gonna make it rain on me
You spread like fire through my weeds
And it is only what I’m wanting that makes me weak
But it is your sweet bourbon burning in my cheeks
So make it rain on me
Won’t you make it rain

Let’s take the long way home and whatever it brings
Yes I hear the thunder roll but I am not afraid to get caught in the rain
So make it rain

I guess that I must seem pretty tough
When I ask you not to call it love
But really I am softer than your touch
So make it rain on me
It’s what you think you cannot have that you are sure you need
And it’s the honey you keep talking will be the death of me
But maybe you are exactly what I need
So make it rain on me

Lyrical cues I borrowed for this song come from a few places, the long black car features in  a Jim Carpenter song, Hole In My Heart. Jim mastered Frost and I just adore him and everything he does. I also borrowed from Woody Guthrie again, a passage where he describes a girl dancing and setting his weeds on fire. And of course, the best songwriter in the world, Mr. Tom Waits, although the namesake song is a far cry from the theme, I actually borrowed more from Take the Long Way Home.



Confessions | Night We Fell In Love

 

In early 2006, I’d just ended a very long relationship and was fantastically gun-shy about getting serious with anyone for a long while. I spent a good amount of time then at a little tavern called The Dutch, a neighborhood joint that only serves beer and wine, closes early, and is the hub in town where all of the artists congregate, at any given table there will be a painter, a poet, a writer, a musician or three… Eugene O’Neill even used to frequent the place.

I was hanging with my friends Liz and Rich (who was bartending and also recently single) and bemoaning the big empty house and cold existence of being single for really the first time in my life when Liz, who had apparently had enough of both Rich’s and my complaining, grabbed us each by the shoulders and smooshed us into each other. Something happened. All of a sudden, the blur came into focus. I stayed on to help Rich clean up the bar that night and then we went for a walk in the park along the river, stayed up all night talking. We were inseparable from that moment on.

Not long after, Rich found a cheap banjo at a local pawn shop and brought it home thinking he might teach himself how to play it. Like most of the things he brings home (gadgets, clothes, toys, pretty much anything) I quickly reallocated it for myself, I’m good that way.  When you pick up a new-to-you instrument the most amazing thing happens- a new tuning or way of looking at chords, even just the shapes your hand makes when you touch the fretboard, makes all kinds of cool interpretations of things come out of you- things you would have never done on your old tried-and-true guitar or keyboard.

I suppose the gun-shy part of me begged the question, “Is this going to last? Will we be able to feel this way about each other when it isn’t new and crazy anymore? Will is stand the tests?” And I’m happy to say that 8 years and a whole lot of trials later, it has.

Production notes:
The little lady singing along at the end of the song is Miss Ada Mae Florek, the daughter of one of our dear friends and Rich’s bandmate in Brazen Hussy, Sara and our friend Jared from another great New London band, Street People. I had the pleasure of being by her side when Ada was born, nearly 6 years ago. And I have to tell you, Ada is a rock star. The crazy sounds you hear at the end of the song is a reverse banjo, played by Matt Lindauer.

Night We Fell In Love
Will you remember how I smiled?
Will you remember how we walked for miles?
Will you remember that one fateful kiss?
The night we fell in love

When the rains come & people close their shutters
& the storm clouds seem to hang right above us
Will you remember when you are soaking wet?
The night we fell in love

Will you still be tender when your hands
Know me better than your own homeland?
Will you remember how you held me then?
The night we fell in love

Confessions | Little Birds


This began as the saddest little waltz in all the world. So sad that it took a very long time to find its way into the real repertoire, but sat along the sidelines and watched all the other songs having fun. It was still mourning the loss of something that had taken away its innocence. It was the moment of admitting that music is entirely who I am, no longer who I am trying to be. Accepting the sacrifices that would inevitably come. The sacrifice of a stable income, the constant need to produce art that stirs and inspires others, the putting of my Self on display, the opening of my being to others- for real and for good. This song was my way of explaining to someone who had been very cruel to me that I was no longer going to lay across a bed in a room listening to the world outside the window, that I should be allowed to be- as I allowed him to be.

At the end of the day, it really is just me answering Ramona. There is “no one to beat you, no one to defeat you ‘cept the thoughts of yourself feeling bad”. As easy as it is to give yourself over to it and float in the oblivion of itisntmyfaultitsjustthisway, the sadness becomes just as frustrating and suffocating as the striving ever was. So you straighten your back and begin again. And there’s nothing sad about that.

Little Birds

You are light as a bird with your hollow bones
B
ringing me branches to build me a nest
Ribbons of silk and colorful yarns, a beautiful cradle to keep me safe and warm
A kiss on the forehead all fear to disarm is the only paradise I’ll ever know

I will lay across your bed & listen to the rain on the panes as you sing of Ramona
Your shoulders hang heavy over the keys
Till the ash finally drops as you lift to the 3
The soft gray smudge on the middle C is the only trouble heavy on my mind

When that golden dawn of yours breaks across this sky
& the dark that overwhelmed us gathers us into the light
Past the nights we wrestled terror & the nights we slept in peace
Will you look down into my face, let me fall from grace
& realize we’re both just little birds in flight

Confessions | Whispers

Whispers… One of the hardest songs I’ve ever had to write. Not because the lyrics are particularly enlightened, they’re not. It was difficult because it was the only way I could work through the conflict of sympathy and anger I felt when we lost a band mate to heroin. Conflict? What conflict? Aren’t drugs just evil?  Well, as most things are, it’s more complicated than it seems… And this confession is the hardest to write because it’s the only one that doesn’t hide behind another person’s story. It’s about us, right here, living and working together. It names names.

Life isn’t easy for anyone. We all know that no matter how numb we make ourselves, how many concessions we make to avoid fights or responsibility, no matter how much we try not to give a fuck- life still sucks sometimes. Health issues find even the most emotionally detached of us. Emotional pain strikes even the most financially successful of us. You can never take away all of the pain, no matter what. It doesn’t mean we won’t still try everything in our power to take the edge off once in a while. And even the noblest of us, those who do give a fuck and try so hard to face it all with dignity, fall short sometimes.

Artists seem to have it the worst. The nature of art requires those of us called to it to steer wide of pain avoidance. It asks us to remain tender, open, as vessels of the universal- to be spoken through means that we have to feel everything in all its gory glory. It comes at odd hours and in strange ways, so that we can never know when or where or how. There are very few nights that I can really sleep- the muse digs appearing at the moments when daily demands hush down. There is never enough money, people don’t like to pay for art- so those daily demands are harder to fill than they would be if we could just shut it off and do something more salable. But we can’t, we’re compelled by something bigger than us to be creative. Problem is, the only way out, it doesn’t end well for anyone.

Most of the artists I love the most and try to emulate are drunks, sex addicts, junkies, anarchists. They are the ones whose lives I want, theirs are the fantasies I indulge in, the dreams I most understand. I’ve never done heroin, never smoked crack, never even taken acid or ecstasy. Me! You’d think… but no. I’m no goodie two shoes, if you listen to my songs you already know that. I’m a  coward. I’m completely paralyzed with fear when I think about giving over my consciousness to something I can’t control.

Everyone has heard the story. It’s a cliche. It happens in every scene, everywhere. Some kids start goofing off with drugs just to see what it’s like, to prove something to their friends or whatever the reason, and one or two of them can’t stop, and then one of them dies. But there’s a subplot among the ones that don’t die, there are the ones that keep doing it, and slowly lose themselves and everyone that loves them to it. The ones that don’t think they need help. Whispers is my cry of desperation to them- the cry of ‘i understand why you do this, but you have to stop. we love you too much to bury you.’

All your whispers in the dark, promises you’ll never keep
I saw you walking in the park in your sleepless reverie
And you know she’ll never love you like me
But those easy lies you’re seeking, she speaks

All your whispers in the dark tell me things that cannot be
Like the beating of a heart will never cease
And your words are ringing empty as me
While those easy lies you’re seeking, she speaks

There’s a fire in the sky, light that’s growing by the moment
And it’s time to say goodbye before I realize
That you got everything you came for from me
And those easy lies you’re seeking, she speaks

Confessions | Sweet & Low Down

The first confession I will make about this song is that the introduction didn’t exist until much after the poetry of the song. I’ve had the lucky stroke to find myself sharing stages with one Alec Spiegelman when he was playing with Miss Tess. His playing always struck me and when Tess picked up with Rachael Price (Lake Street Dive, whom I’ve also happily shared stages with over the years) to form an act called the Sweet & Low Down, a name garnered from Tennyson via Gershwin I had my title and intro. After I wrote the poem and had the melody in my head and a few beers in my veins, I got brave and called Alec and he talked me through the melody and the timing and helped me chart it out over a long distance phone call. Matt Gouette, my roommate at the time, helped me put the finishing touches on the progression.

The original prose:

stress, exhaustion. HA! I’m not… i’m getting tangled in the cords. chest caving and expanding, breathless, voice strained and pushing its natural limits to complete ecstasy. i was not cut out for this simple happy life. i was cut out for the madness of a carnival. step right up for the bearded lady… none of my corners are square, they are very round, and they ache for it, here, here, and here. my pulse is racing. i was born for chasing, for heat, for discomfort, built for speed, for anger, for fear and fearless pursuit of the unattainable. a strangling desire, constant. no moss growing on me. no, that will not do. there is no amount of cold weather darkness that can spread into the slick sheen of sweat on my summer skin. i may not rely on anything which has come before. ah, yes, that’s more like it. the one and the three, not the two and the four. push me pull me.
“It was like the fragment of a dream which, by an effort scarcely calculable, is revived again and again in the fraction of a second, is revived without a change, vivid, naked, complete. Softly she sang the words in his ear; the touch of her cheek like a burn, her voice like a drug, her breasts, soft and full, swelling with the melody.”
the lip of your hat pouts like a child being cute to get his way. it curls up on the sides like the poems hid in a crown royal bag to unburden a heart full to bursting. the ridge of your hat spreads and stretches like my time with you may dream to stretch, like the spread of my softening hopes. the white linen of your shirt, worn, un-starched, is billows of clouds guarding the heaven of your song that i am in. beautiful glimpses between the twirling bodies and smiling faces, and me the only one who ‘knows the words, sings so she’s heard, and knows how all the stories end’. as i furiously rip off big sur with the kind of abandon one can only have at the very end of their rope.
i want to feel the straps fall from my shoulders, sweat and freckles and the pain of burn from the sun. i want to hear the scuff and thud of sandals kicked into corners of the room and the heavy, spiced, alcohol graze of your neck across my lips. there is no going home. and it is not wrong. there is no going wrong and it is not home.
“This is about all the bad days in the world. I used to have some little bad days, and I kept them in a little box. Then one day I threw them out into the yard. Oh it’s just a couple of little innocent bad days. Well, we had a big rain, I don’t know what it was growing in, but I think we used to put eggshells out there and coffee grounds too. Don’t plant your bad days, they grow into weeks, the weeks grow into months, then before you know it you’ve got yourself a bad year. Take it from me, choke those little bad days, choke ’em down to nothin’. ” tw
a friend of mine falls in love at least twice a day, i think i may have fallen in love with him a dozen times myself. he knows how my voice keeps changing. and he plays to my weakness. and i play to his strengths. he stares at his toes during long silences, and i wonder what he’s thinking. “living in a den of thieves, rummaging for answers in the pages…” a waltz between the sides and the one keeps stepping on the toes of the other. one moment i’m singing above him, the next below.

The second confession I will make about this song is that it isn’t written from my perspective. Long long ago in a galaxy far far away, I was in love with a boy. A boy who inspired me harder than I think anyone else ever will. A boy who made me sadder and more afraid, almost certainly, than anyone else ever will. The thing about those kind of boys isn’t that they never leave you (oh, they do), it’s that you never quite leave them. In any case, this particular boy was fond of giving young impressionable me the best gift young impressionable girls can receive: books.  I was 18, about to make the big move to the big city, and he sent me a copy of Archy & Mehitabel by Don Marquis. And in so doing, he forever changed me.

Part of the appeal was in the antiquity of the thing. Part in the angst, I was 18 after all. And on my way from midwestern fundamentalist to ribcagewideopentothewholefuckingworld.  Into a life I couldn’t have imagined- no matter how many books I’d read, no matter how many songs I’d sung, no matter how much history might be inherent in my old old soul. The glitter, the glamour, the fading and the ache. The outpouring truthful narcissim and self-loathing beauty. The aging of perfection, the honesty of just how fucking hard we all have it, whether we’re diving to our near death every time we speak out, or whether we have to bare our tenderest spots to garner the least interest from those around us. It was the *perfect* introduction to what would become ‘my’ New York.

I’ve never been able to read without, admittedly selfishly, having to find a way to identify with some character or other. In this one, I identified so strongly with both that I was very conflicted until someone pointed out the duality inherent in my Gemini sign. I can’t say it fixed the problem, but it excused it for the time being. Anyhoo, I chose Mehitabel as the voice of the song. I tried to use her meter, her singsongy way of expressing the mundane, even the charmingly pathetic, and those of you follow me on twitter know I’ve also conjured her as my handle @DameCalico.

The poem itself was written while I was sitting on the staircase at my friend Brian’s barn, or “Castle” as he calls it. It was both about the band that was playing and about the imagined melodramas of the dancers enjoying them. It’s mostly about the same version of “life” that plagued Mehitabel, the desire to live so hard, to take it all the way to the edge (and even over the edge) every time so that if often leaves you scarred, battered, believing in phantoms, seeking the flaws in others that might excuse your own, using anything to drug yourself into trusting that what you desire is reality, and ultimately being regretless. After all, you only really regret the life you “didn’t” live… and giving up is never actually an option, so you have to laugh at it, even if it hurts.

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This is the sweet & low down of it, this is the sweet & low down of it, losing it all feels like nothing when you’ve got nothing left to lose except those sweet and low down blues…

The lip of your hat pouts like a child being cute to try to get his way | And I keep doing shots of you so I can feel you coursing through my veins | Flood it all away like a big rain

Falls from my shoulder in freckles and sweat and pain from the burn of the sun | Pops and crackles like a phonograph record one too many times spun | Aren’t you the quiet one, afraid to have a little fun?

So I try to divine a version of the truth that you can believe for tonight | And I’m getting so good at it I’ve nearly convinced myself this water is wine | Or that you could be mine

Now I hang like a suit that has been fitted to too many man, let out and hemmed in | And I’m prowling through alleys of discarded reason why you should care | Until I throw my hands up in the air, such a pretty despair…

 

Confessions | Whiskey & Sin

This song is about being the girl he doesn’t love but can’t stop fucking. And settling for it. Kind of. Trying to please someone who doesn’t really want you. Made even more ironic by the fact that the ‘model’ for this song is the most honorable gentleman (in action, if not in word) that I’ve ever met.

It’s sort of my ‘Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’.

The only musical reference I really have for this one it Lucinda Williams’ Unsuffer Me.

And I just realized that I definitely borrowed the idea of packing up your eyes from Ani… she’s amazing.


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Your glasses slip down your nose and my knees are gonna give
You run your fingers through your hair and I have to bite my lip
To keep my heart from boiling over and spilling on my shoes
And telling all my awful truths

There is something tender in the way you kick off your boots
Fold your hands behind your head and sigh
You take all of me in, breathing whiskey and sin
At the end of yet another long day

And I don’t know how you do it, how you do it to me
I don’t know how you do, but you say there’s nothing to it
So come on and do it to me

You rim my lips with sugar and you rim my eyes with stars
Your laugh is warm ans summer but your trust is full of scars
You eyes are all packed up and your voice is set to rest
Seems I’ve never been good enough

Baby I will bare my crooked teeth if you will only spare a grin
There’ll be a mouthful dripping down my chin
And in the deafening silence I think you will begin
To show me how you do it to me