This week’s new song sprung forth from watching some of my (happily) married friends, who – when their spouse leaves town for some reason or other – they’re all like, “Whoo!! Freedom!!”, for exactly half an evening, then spend the rest of the time moping about how depressed and sad they are because their spouse won’t be back for another couple days, as getting married has apparently disabled their ability to properly function as an individual.
The song’s much prettier than that description, though – promise.
This week’s new song takes place at a Charlottesville, Virginia bar called Fellini’s #9. The events described in the song took place in August of 2008, so I have no idea if the place is still around. And I have no idea what Anna is up to now – I never saw her again after the night in question.
I wrote the lyrics shortly after that evening. For whatever reason, I never bothered recording a demo of this – even though the music’s been in my head from the start – until last week. After recording the music and my vocals, my lovely friend Christy came over yesterday afternoon to record the backing vocal.
It’s quick and catchy, funny with a tinge of melancholy (“we might not have another time”). I really like it. I hope you do, too.
So I’m finally getting around to recording some new music – hurrah. None of it is intended to be part of an album or EP or whatever, so I’ll just be posting them to Soundcloud once a week until my latest creative spurt unspurts itself.
Musically, this song is two things:
1) an experiment with empty space
2) part of a concerted effort to remove guitar strumming from my songs
Lyrically, it was supposed to be part of my usual repertoire of guy/girl relationship-y bullshit songs, but it somehow morphed into a tune about a sad sack stumbling into a touristy downtown bar (or – as would be the case here in Nashville – a honky tonk). I wrote the opening couplet (“Yeah, I’m drunk but that’s alright / It’s just an art crawl drunk so far tonight”) a couple months ago – I forced myself to write the rest of it last week.
Thus, the words are by me. All the music is by me as well, performed with a keyboard, an acoustic guitar, a percussive egg, the SPC app on my Kindle (for the bass drum at the last chorus), by making clicking sounds with my tongue, and by putting a microphone next to my junk and scratching my pubic hair (that would be the scratchy rhythm sound at the start of the song).
Due to its length, Curtains had to be split into 2 parts for digital distribution. So there’s a Curtains – Part One and a Curtains – Part Two out there if you look up the album on Amazon, or Google Play, or – I assume (because I don’t use it) – iTunes. Each has 50 songs and a curtain-y cover (part one in blue, part two in yellow). I’m not providing any links because it’s all a moot point – you can download the whole thing for free below. And if you wanna support me and my grotesquely-long endeavor, buy it through the Bandcamp page.
In related news, considerably more people than I expected have downloaded Curtains through this site. If you’re one of them, I thank you immensely – you truly mean the world to me.
At the moment, I’m in Roanoke for some reason. Greetings from Roanoke.
At the end of this past November, I left a friend’s house in Ann Arbor and started my drive back home to Nashville. Heading towards the highway, my mp3 player – permanently set on “shuffle” – started up one of my songs. That’s not uncommon – a lot of my songs are on there. And it’s not just due to narcissism – they’re there for a couple reasons. First, the overwhelming number of them are unreleased – when they pop up on my car stereo, they remind me that they exist and that I should really get around to either finishing them up, re-recording them to make them better, or just put them up on Soundcloud or Bandcamp and move on. Second – and most importantly – they’re good songs. I’m not-too-shabby at songwriting and really good with melody (if you doubt me, then you haven’t listened to my songs yet) – as a result, I’m really proud of these songs. Also – since I know all the words – they’re fun and easy to loudly sing along to while driving.
As my song was playing, I decided to cue up every Paris Street song on my mp3 player – an unapologetic marathon of me, me, me. Again, it wasn’t just narcissism - my intention was to see how far into the seven-and-a-half hours between Ann Arbor and Nashville I could go without hearing any of my songs twice. I pressed “play”, got on the southbound lane of Highway 23, and off I went.
Then I got pulled over for not having my tail lights on. But let’s stay focused.
I reached Nashville before any of my songs could repeat – I could have driven for 2 more hours before that would have happened. My immediate conclusion: This is stupid – this is really, really stupid.
And that’s how Curtains came to be.
It was stupid because all these really good songs – accumulated since the middle of 2002, when I was finally happy enough with my songwriting to go out and buy a digital 4-track and start recording – had been playing to an audience of one for way too long. They deserve to be heard (seriously – listen to the some of the songs before scoffing).
So I set about over the following three months ensuring that they could finally be heard. I went through everything I’ve ever recorded, and started separating out the best songs. I also separated out the ones that were just a few tweaks away (they mainly needed the vocals re-done) from being great. Lastly, I separated out a large batch of good songs that were either recorded poorly or only existed as placeholder takes over Darrin’s drum tracks, then set about to re-record them from scratch. My deadline was March – I’d be returning to my job on the road by that point, and wouldn’t have access to the hard drive that contains all my recording files beyond that.
Record, mix, re-record, re-mix, listen over and over again, curse loudly whenever my roommate’s dogs would start barking while I was trying to record a vocal – that’s been pretty much all I’ve been doing for the past three months. In between, I’ve lucked into 2 very long road trips that gave me the opportunity to listen to the whole thing multiple times in a distraction-free setting (except for that one time some asshole almost merged into me on Interstate 10) so I could ensure that everything sounded right. And it eventually all sounded right. And I couldn’t be happier.
Why now? Why all at once? Why 100 songs? Let’s work backwards:
It’s 100 songs because I knew that was an achievable number; I knew I could easily vouch for the quality of a 100 song album free of filler – no padding things out with crap solely to reach that nice, round number. If I had more time, I could have comfortably reached 120.
Speaking of time, that’s the main reason I’m doing this all at once. Again, I travel extensively for work – six consecutive months on the road, six months at home – I won’t have the time to focus on these on songs again until September. And, dammit, I want these songs out there – I want to be free of them, to not have them come up on my mp3 player and have me think, “Why haven’t I released that yet?”. Because when I release a song, I don’t dwell on it anymore; it’s finished – I can focus on other things. And I really, really want to focus on other things – new songs, of course, but also new creative projects far removed from the 3-minute pop song.
That’s not to say I never want to hear these songs again, or never want to perform them at a show. It’s just that . . . well, I probably can’t explain this part very well, but here goes: as long as they’re unreleased and just sitting around in my hard drive and/or mp3 player, they feel like a burden to me. I love all the songs on Paris Street Is Paris Street, but – since its release in 2009 – they don’t feel like my songs anymore. I don’t concern myself with how I could make the vocals better or how I should have made the bass a little louder on track 3 – I listen to them as I listen to any of the other songs in my music collection. They’re not mine – they belong to all of you now, even though I’m likely the only one who gives them a regular listen.
It’s called Curtains because – for me – the curtain closes on these songs. For you, though, the curtain’s just opened.
Or something like that. I suck at metaphor.
Lastly, why now? Well, why the hell not?
Unless you’re taking a road trip, don’t listen to this all at once. Apportion it over time – listen to a couple of them in a row, listen to them again, let them burrow into your head (and they will, and you’ll hate me for it), then listen to a couple others. Bookmark the Bandcamp page (which has lyrics to all the songs along with exclusive artwork for each track) or the Curtains section of this site – in which the songs are arranged thematically instead of alphabetically – pick a random song, and listen to it and the following songs for 45 minutes or so. Then go listen to something else.
Again, I’m very proud of these songs. Also again, there’s no filler here – no covers, no instrumentals (they have their place, just not here), no pointless intro or outros – because I absolutely hate filler on albums and couldn’t stand myself if I stooped to that level. Even the shortest of songs manage to tell a complete story before they’re through. And the longest songs are long because I just couldn’t tell the story I wanted to tell within my usual wheelhouse of 2-3 minutes. To put it simply: I promise that I’m not wasting your time.
The album can be downloaded for free through the link at the very top of this post. If you’re feeling generous, you can purchase the thing through the Bandcamp page, which would help me to finally offer a wee bit of payback to the many folks who’ve generously given me some of their free time (emphasis on “free”) over the years and helped me make these songs better.
Two of those folks stand out among all others and are forever in my debt: Darrin Revell – who has played with me since 2005 and whose endless support has been invaluable to me – and Christy Anderson – whose voice graces a dozen of these songs, instantly making them the 12 best songs on this collection. Extra thanks also goes to Jenna Robl, who gave me a place to live after my previous apartment met its end due to Nashville’s sudden penchant for violent weather, and who also had a nylon guitar laying around her house that I instantly fell in love with and used extensively throughout the newer recordings on this collection.
That’s all. Thanks for reading this. Thanks for listening. Drop me a line if ya have any questions or comments, either through here or on Twitter.
This is an instrumental built off of a loop from a song by Broadcast called ‘Bit 35′ from their Tender Buttons album. It’s very long, so here’s some (incredibly NSFW) eye candy to make the listening process worth your while:
Or give it a boob-and-pube free listen via Soundcloud:
On Tuesday, my friend Katherine played the song for me via a YouTube clip and suggested I cover it. The next day, I got started. After immediately realizing that my voice would not cut it for this song (mainly due to a key change at the last chorus that led to voice cracks a-plenty), my friend Christy came over Friday night to record the vocals. On Saturday, I finished the mix. Here it is, on Sunday. Now I rest.
By the way, this is not a Christmas song. If it were, I wouldn’t have bothered.
The particulars: Me – electric and nylon string guitar, keys, melodica, tambourine, egg, & a barely-audible ‘ooooh’ during the choruses Christy Anderson – vocals
Christy’s vocals can also be heard in the song “YUL” from my Canada 1 EP. Listen to it here.