On Songwriting

Hello, friends!

I’ve tasked a student of mine with creating a notebook full of ideas that could become seeds of poems. I am starting my notebook today, and the first line I want to stock it with is from the Owl City song “Dreams & Disasters”:

“Think of the sun and the sound of it risin'”.

Owl City, “Dreams and Disasters”

I like this line because the sun doesn’t make a sound as it rises, of course, but it captures instead a different feeling. I tend to like lyrics and lines much like this one that aren’t literal, but instead relate back to mythology, the Bible, and the fanciful. Oftentimes I find those more clever and meaningful. I like the way those phrases can turn.

After I listen to a song a lot or read too much of a certain author, I start to imitate their writing style. I was listening to “You Make Me Smile” by Blue October (below)


when this spilled out:

“Something As Soft”

This is “Something As Soft”, and you might recognize some similarities to “You Make Me Smile” in lyrics and tone. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. It was not a single listen that caused this to spill out, I listened to it maybe 20 times over the course of writing the lyrics.

I have wanted to write an album around this song and others that I recorded that night, but I think I’m afraid to start. I wonder if my sad or even sad-ish songs help people, and that is what has stopped me from recording this type of thing in earnest. I think it’s one of those things where I was told enough times that they didn’t help that I decided to believe the naysayers. I was also annoyed that they didn’t make people get up and dance like I wanted them to and instead made them sleep and relax. I wanted to change my sound and in the process killed it.

I want to record an album again. I want to be able to write an album that sounds like me in the way that Mago did. I get the feeling that it will be raw, but full of joy this time. If this happens, it will have plenty of weird chords and time signatures. I had a producer once record a tiny album with me and we talked about sounding like Radiohead and he said that at some point people might be wondering if Thom Yorke was writing my lyrics. I want to fall somewhere between Hozier and Radiohead, one instrument at a time.

More later, y’all!

Mago

PS., here’s a Gratitude List:

  1. My instruments
  2. My husband
  3. Alaska
  4. COFFEE
  5. Good food in the fridge
  6. That I have a lesson today
  7. Grocery sacks so that I can carry all the groceries in in ONE TRIP
  8. Friends who care
  9. That it’s my birthday week
  10. Rain that makes Alaska green
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Life in Black and White

Me, taken last night.

Hello, gentle readers! Meg again.

I’m feeling far better this morning.

I’m rediscovering my love for photography. I love how it can convey a mood almost instantly. There’s a major difference between the stark black and white, high contrast photos I started taking later in the evening and the colorful ones I took earlier in the day. I lost that love for a bit when I fell into this most recent depressive phase, and it appears that it’s back with a vengeance. I love taking selfies, especially when I’m sad. My husband loves them, too. I think it reminds me that I’m human and actually look good. Taking selfies has also taught me to love my face, which I worry is lopsided at times. I no longer spend a large amount of time picking out imperfections, and instead focus on things I like, like my freckles and my eyes.

I love playing with all of the settings on my photo editing apps, and sometimes the final product is very different than the original. I try not to distort it too much, but at the same time, there’s much to be said for art and surrealism.

Another one of my great loves is writing, and I greatly enjoy bending pieces of reality into things fictitious and surreal. I do that a lot with my poetry. The meanings behind most of the pieces are very autobiographical and real, but they’re so wrapped up in metaphor that they require a little digging to reach. They are angular at times. They are weirder than weird. Consider this stanza.

“Sometimes the memories have teeth and claws

and sometimes so do the hands of children

I’ve done enough wandering on the edge of dark

and balancing on the wire

to tell the truth from nonsense

and to know the times they are the same.”

I wrote this stanza not to confuse, but to make the reader take a step back and ask themselves “huh?”. The poem in full came about while I had Blue October’s “You Make Me Smile” on repeat. That song alone is odd and beautiful, I took that oddity and ran. I tend to write poems or songs when I get a line or phrase that won’t leave me alone. Sometimes the feeling of another piece of art will inspire it, sometimes it will come all on its own.

I was walking back to my apartment from class one snowy day when the line “I was the sun” came into my head and wouldn’t let me go. That line alone was the launch point for Primrose Path, my previously mentioned fifth album. “I Was the Sun” was a two chord protest against the culture at the school I attended, yet most people saw it as a pretty song with pretty lyrics. “I was the sun, but I fell from my place. Now I must dance back to whence I came, I must dance in my own space”, the song begins.

I felt pressured to live in black and white. I was not embracing who I was, I was trying to become like everyone else. “I Was the Sun” was a breaking point for me. Soon after, the rest of the album took shape, and I became known as the girl with the ukulele around campus. Acts of quiet rebellion like that kept me afloat. I left the school as soon as I could.

After that, I felt free to pave my own way. Church became a thing that made me uncomfortable – any church. So I made friends of many faiths, and we listened to each other one on one. I communed with God in my own ways, which included listening to instrumental music and playing the piano on my own. I study the Bible off and on, and I have never felt more heard by God and the universe.

I have been pondering this question all morning:

“Would it help to treat and love yourself like you would a loved one who is going through what you’re going through?”

The answer is yes. If I were my own best friend, there are many things I’d say to myself that I wouldn’t say to myself now. I’d tell myself:

“Take time to know yourself.”

“Your feelings are valid.”

“I hear you.”

“Take it easy. You are okay to take a break if you can’t go further.”

“Don’t break yourself.”

“It’s okay to be happy.”

“It’s okay to cry.”

“Strength is not pushing yourself into a breakdown.”

“Life isn’t always just black and white.”

Life isn’t always black and white. It isn’t. I’m coming to realize that through my experiences with culture and my own brain. I’m not a failure because I make one minor mistake, and life isn’t black and white just because a group of people tell me it is. It’s fine to make my own path. I need to learn to become my own best friend.

Me in color.

Until next post,

Meg