02.19.12 : Sunday Traditions
When I lived in Los Angeles and worked a 9-5 job with weekends off, I developed a Sunday tradition:
I’d get up late, walk and feed my dog, then walk/bike/drive to my favorite Mexican restaurant, a local place in Burbank called Santa Fe Cafe owned by two sisters in their 40s. (They have since relocated to Northridge.) They made the absolute best breakfast burrito I have ever had (the “Gringo Breakfast Burrito”), and their homemade chips and guacamole were ridiculous. I got the same thing every time I went there, for almost three years. It got to the point that as soon as I walked in the door, they were already working on my order. I brought everyone I knew to that restaurant, and every band who stayed on my floors during those years got dragged there to try my favorite meal.
The restaurant was in a mini strip mall in a parking lot, and there was a Starbucks across the way. While I waited for my food, I would walk over to Starbucks and order a vente iced coffee. This Starbucks was near all the film studios in Burbank, so it was great people watching. Once I saw Molly Shannon and almost turned fan-girl, but stopped myself.
By the time I got back to Santa Fe Cafe with my coffee, my food was done. The sisters would thank me (by name), and I’d head back home. Once there, I’d get settled on the couch and put in a DVD, and spend the afternoon watching a movie, hanging out with my dog, relaxing, and eating the best combination of flavors in the world: breakfast burrito + coffee.
I miss those days.
02.18.12 : Careful Descent
It rained all day, off and on. Warm Florida rain, the kind I remember from when I was a little kid in St. Petersburg.
The wind picked up around five o’clock, and by six the lightning and thunder had begun for the night. It still hasn’t stopped. Oh, how I love thunderstorms!
I decided to stick with the same “technoish” vibe for today’s song, but added a little bit of what it actually sounded like here in the house where I was recording it:
I’ve been re-reading “Velocities: New and Selected Poems: 1966-1992″ by Stephen Dobyns, one of my favorite poets, whom I accidentally stumbled upon in my college library while trying to find a poet to write a report about for one of my classes, many moons ago. Every time I read his stuff, it makes me want to write again:
All winter you felt nothing. As your body
continued its necessary tasks, your sister,
the snow, remained keeper of your heart.
Now it’s the first warm day of spring.
You walk out to the pasture. There’s much mud,
and still snow on the north side by the pines.
You take this poem from your pocket.
Raising your voice, you read it aloud to the sky.
Soon birds being to come, first the dark ones:
birds of anger, birds of despair. Then you see
the wren of friendship, the gray dove of hope;
then others of patience, joy and love’s own red bird.
As you read, they begin to fill the air above you,
twisting and diving in great circles around you;
covering the poem with the sound of their cries
until poem and song become the same sound,
blending together under the warm March sun.
At last you emerge from the lethargy of winter.
Your heart is a great tree beginning to bud.
In narrowing spirals, careful descent, the birds
you have summoned arrive to make their nests.
“Song For Making the Birds Come”
by Stephen Dobyns
From Heat Death (1980)
02.17.12 : Rules
Today was a day of recovery. No caffeine, lots of tea and water, vitamins, food, rest, and even a trip out into the world for dog food and groceries! My appetite came back (hooray!) and I took it easy until almost 8:30, when I realized I should probably start today’s song.
The last few songs were pretty intense, emotionally, and took a lot out of me. I never really thought of writing songs or being creative as something that could burn calories or drain my energy, until I recorded “Saboteur” last fall. If you were a Kickstarter Backer, then you read my daily blog posts during that process and I’m sure you picked up on how exhausting the process was! Three weeks straight in the studio, working day-in and day-out, in total concentration.
But it’s not the the hours or the performing that’s the most tiring — it’s the actual effort it takes to think about the songs and feel the emotions that the songs evoke. Sad songs are particularly draining, if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing (which I am). Sad music hits me in the center of my heart and squeezes it like a boa constrictor.
So anyway, these past few songs (actually almost all of the songs) I’ve written and recorded (meaning: listened to over and over for hours each night) have taken a lot out of me and today I just couldn’t bear the thought of trying to write another song that might force me to think about the meaning of life or the existence of true love or outer space or something.
I decided that I would set a few rules for myself to make today’s session a little bit more fun, and take the pressure off. Rules have always helped me in songwriting, to not get too caught up in finite details or spend too much time over-thinking things. They also help me branch out creatively and try new things. It would be like someone giving me a blank canvas and a bunch of random paints and tools and telling me to paint a specific picture. For tonight’s song, I gave myself a two-hour time limit to write, record, and mix the song (usually it’s taken me anywhere from three to seven hours). I decided I would start with the beat rather than a piano or guitar part, and I told myself that I had to go with whatever the first thing was that I played. So the first part you hear in this song was the very first thing that my hand did when it touched the keyboard.
The bottom line is: Sometimes you just need some techno music to help you break out of a mood. :)
02.16.12 : Soundtrack to a Soundtrack
A few days in a row, now, of staying in the house. A few phone calls as human interaction. I’ve been spending most of my time thinking, reading, walking my dog, and of course working on songs.
Yesterday was a very dramatic day. Some extreme highs and a couple of extreme lows. It was exhausting. Not good, not bad, just exhausting. It takes a lot of energy and burns a lot of calories to go through extreme emotional swings like that. I know I’m being cryptic; the details aren’t what matters as far as this post is concerned.
The other day I said I really enjoy spending time by myself. That’s true, in the sense that after being around other people all the time, it’s nice to have some “me” time to do as I please and just be myself. But that doesn’t mean that I want to be alone. I think the past couple of days have given me an idea of what it would feel like to really be alone, to live alone not knowing my neighbors, not having friends or family nearby, not having a partner who loves me and cares about my well-being. I joke about wanting to live alone in a cabin in the woods; well I need to stop joking about it, so that it doesn’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
People need other people. We need to feel that connection, so that we feel like there is a reason to keep moving forward, keep trying to survive. And it’s important not to rely on just one person for that connection; no, we need to be surrounded by many different people with whom we can share many different types of connections. This is something I’ve been missing these past couple years of running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I don’t have that sense of support, a handful of people who know me and can meet me on a whim for lunch, or take me out when I’m feeling down. I miss being part of a group, a community. I miss hosting dinner parties and poker nights. I long for an evening with a girl friend of talking and drinking wine and watching silly movies.
On the other hand, this alone time has really opened my eyes to a few (more) personality “flaws” — or should I say “disadvantages” — of mine that I don’t think I truly recognized until recently. I had a minor breakthrough about this yesterday, in the midst of all those highs and lows. Another realization I had yesterday was that I have not been eating enough food or getting enough sleep or drinking enough water during this first week of The Florida Sessions, and for someone who is always on the brink of a chemical imbalance, this is actually a very big deal. I have the food, the time and the liquids; I just wasn’t getting as much as I should have been. I think I did a bad job of scheduling my days, and I’ve been starting the recording process just before dinnertime each night, only to get lost in the process and find myself full of adrenaline at 11pm not feeling hungry and being so exhausted from the creative process that I just go straight to bed, missing dinner.
So today I started to change all of that. I made sure to eat breakfast with my coffee this morning; I read for quite a while and even worked on a couple of poems, which I haven’t done in a very long time; and then I started recording today’s song around noon, rather than the usual 7 or 8 o’clock. I finished in time to walk the dog, take a shower, and actually prepare an entire meal for myself for dinner, salad and all!
Recording during the day brings up a lot of new factors that are missing from nighttime recording sessions. These factors could easily work against me, but I decided today that I would embrace them and make them part of the process. Plus, I wanted to capture the sounds that make up the soundtrack to my time here. Enjoy!
02.15.12 : (Untitled)
The most important goal in life is to find truth.