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!


PS., here’s a Gratitude List:

  1. My instruments
  2. My husband
  3. Alaska
  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

A sunset

I was listening to this song on repeat last night as I was creating a video for Instagram. Even though it’s in Russian, it had meaning for me. I’ve been feeling off for about the last day and a half, and it was the perfect soundtrack to the gloom.

There are things that stick with me. I don’t know if it’s a mental illness thing or a normal thing. One of the things that keeps coming back to me is the dread that comes on still, humid nights.

Growing up in one of the biggest metropolitan areas in Texas, I saw orange skies at night quite frequently. Light pollution is a problem, and there is only a handful of stars visible. It’s worse on cloudy nights. Add humidity and no wind and you get this persistent feeling of dread, like something horrible is about to happen and you know it will.

I remember Christmas Eve of 2016 was like that. I was hanging out with my aunt’s house. I had written a poem that morning, and I read it to my aunt. I couldn’t shake the feeling of foreboding.

there are no words to find here

in this hollow town of memories

that aren’t mine

except a sunset I’m halfway convinced

I’ve imagined

but the sensation of the world turning

time slipping through my fingers

is all too real.

that’s all I have.

I had a lot to learn here. I was about to head to Idaho for school after attending one of the most liberal colleges in the nation. The school in Idaho was the direct opposite of my school in Maryland – conservative, encouraging of homogeneity, and highly religious. I didn’t know that on Christmas Eve of 2016. I thought I’d fit in there and be fine. I was wrong. I stuck out like a sore thumb. My experiences there called everything into question. I asked these questions and got some answers. Not all of them.

The half-imagined sunset was something I wouldn’t get over for awhile, either. I had a ton of baggage, and the flashbacks that came with it took a long time to even start to get over. The friends I made there got me to start trusting again, and I started to recover. Some things – like my gender – took a longer while to discover. And rediscover.

This discovery/recovery process is something important to me. It takes me from still, humid nights to dawn on the other side of the world. I believe that self discovery is an important part of growth and recovery. I’m continually reinventing myself, trying to find the best version of me. One that feels like home.

So if you are experiencing an ominous calm night, it gets better. Keep reinventing yourself.