I write songs for fun. I don’t claim to be particularly good at it but I also don’t plan on making a career out of it, so I doubt it matters.
For years, before there were blogs and facebook, whenever I felt the need to express something that was haunting me, I’d write a song. It was so much fun that I just kept doing it. It surprised me so much to be able to keep coming up with melodies that I actually liked and that I spent days humming to myself, until it became a normal thing to do.
This page is to explain how and why I make my music, for anyone who might care.
I start with words, usually just a couple of lines, and then sing the words in all sorts of different ways until a melody or rhythm that seems to make sense comes to me. This happens in the shower a lot (must be because there’s nothing else to think about and no distractions – I’ve had to jump out mid-shower to go record stuff lots of times). I then sit at the piano, do the actual hard work of figuring out chords and how to play the damn thing, record it and then I pick up the lyrics again and rewrite them, sometimes dozens of times, until they make sense to me. Doesn’t always work and there are lyrics I go back to again and again over the years. Others fit perfectly right away, usually because there’s something very specific I want to say.
The recording process can be easy or painful depending on how well I’ve learned to play the song before I record it and also how complex it is to play. I know enough about playing the piano to know I’ll never be really good at it. I only started playing in my twenties and even enrolled in a serious music school but learning an instrument requires complete devotion and a lot more time and energy than I was willing to give. I studied for a few years and I even managed to learn some fairly challenging pieces (for me anyway) but I could never perform them with much confidence or expression. So I decided I was happy enough knowing how to play a few chords and other simple stuff and got on with my songs. Sometimes I feel the song requires something a little harder and I torture myself until I can figure out what it is. Other times I know it doesn’t feel exactly right but I can’t figure out how to fix it no matter how long I work on it and I have to accept that or hope someone more talented than me likes my song and decides to do a version someday. When it comes down to recording, thankfully there’s amazing software these days that allows you to fix all your mistakes if you don’t get it right even after 50 takes so I get away with a lot 🙂
When the piano is done I record the voice. Sometimes it’s another 50 takes and it’s never good enough but if it doesn’t make me climb the walls when I hear it, I leave it. Lately I’ve been transposing a lot of the songs to a more comfortable key that suits my low voice.
I wrote this song in college. It’s about dreams, trying to capture that moment when you wake up in the morning and still remember the dreams you had and the logic behind them before it all becomes complete nonsense. I was reading Lewis Carroll and Anne Rice and the song ended up a cross between Alice and Mekare with some dolphins thrown in.
This is one of those songs that has been reworked a million times. The music has always been the same with just a few key changes and some extra detail thrown in, but the lyrics kept changing. It’s a ghost story about a boy who drowned in the lake and has only been able to communicate with one woman, Claire, in her dreams. She helps him get revenge on the people who killed him but when she leaves (or dies, not quite sure but he’s been around for over a century) he’s alone again but won’t stop being angry and so he can’t move on. I started writing the story behind it but never finished it.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, I feel. It’s about being bullied at school by older kids. I had a tough time during my first year in high-school with some older girls who felt the need to make themselves feel so big and strong by picking on younger kids. I got in a couple of fights because I’d get really pissed off and refused to just take it, and to this day fail to see the difference between a high school playground and a prison yard, quite honestly.
The song is called dreams but it’s actually about getting out of an abusive relationship and how violence will haunt you long after you’re supposed to be ‘safe’. The image of Jack Nicholson in Shinning kept popping up in my head as I was writing it so that may have something to do with the theme.
I was walking to my boyfriend’s home and it started to rain. By the time I got there I had all the verses – music and lyrics.
None of these things
I think of this song as ‘nasty playful’. I like the intro and I love singing it because of the rhythm of the words. My favorite line is ‘I’ll always be there for you, even if you don’t want me to’. I think it sums up the mood of the song nicely.
This song is about perception – how other people see you and how you see yourself, how people expect all sorts of things you can’t give and how honesty is not always rewarded or even accepted. I’ve always felt a lot of problems could be avoided in a relationship if people would just say what they think. Musically, I was really pleased when I came up with the piano for the verses. It’s repetitive but it’s fun to play.
Song for a Friend
The lyrics were written by my husband in 1995. I like them too much to let the song go so I made some music for it. The line ‘I’d hate to find you in a bar’ always makes me laugh out loud.
Have a Nice Day
I just wanted to write a fun song. For many years my husband and I joke about how we must have somehow pissed off the god of small annoyances and the song is about that – all the little things that can ruin your day or a nice quiet moment and how you keep struggling to not let it get you down.
One of my first attempts at writing lyrics. It’s little more than a simple rhyming exercise.
I’m amazed at the amount of couples I’ve met over the years who seem to almost hate each other and then one day decide to get married like that’s going to magically solve all their problems. Since no woman ever wants to hear the words ‘don’t marry that guy, he’s an idiot’ you have to swallow your words, plaster a smile on your face and hope for the best. I’ve decided to pour my useless advice into song rather than make enemies.
I wrote this song in 2007, when my son was born. I was trying to get him to sleep one day and got fed up of the usual lullabies that didn’t really work anyway so I made up my own. It still didn’t work but I liked the song and it’s been stuck in my head ever since. It makes me think a little bit of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” but that may be just me. It sounds really simple but when I wanted to record it I found out it actually has a few surprises like switching from 3/4 to 4/4 at inconvenient times 🙂
If you look at the lyrics it’s pretty obvious the song is about the end of a relationship. There’s been nothing but fighting for a while and all that’s left is finding the courage to leave. I never felt that it was a sad song because sometimes people get stuck in this pattern that’s not good for them but feels familiar so it’s hard to break from it. But getting out, though it may be hard on some level, can also be a relief and make you feel lighter despite the pain and fear of the unknown.
When I wrote this song I had Brian Molko’s voice in my head and so, to me, this was written from the point of view of a man watching and talking about a woman who maybe couldn’t speak for herself or face the way she was feeling and looking at life anymore. But since I don’t play guitar and had to sing the song myself, by the time we got to mixing, my husband had a completely different approach and gave it more of a Portishead feel. It’s a very different result from what I had originally imagined but I like it a lot.