It's Raining Again
Songwriting is a very strange thing. You can go for months without a single compelling idea for a song, force yourself to make stuff up, try automatic writing, and everything just does not click. Then, one day, they can't manufacture enough notebooks to contain the ideas and feelings that come spilling out of you. It's like the Morton Salt motto, "when it rains, it pours."
I awoke with the knowledge that I was going to continue on my current streak of songwriting, which has been quite fruitful and partially egged-on by supporters of my music through the Patreon campaign. There was no theme in mind, no concept. I was going to sit down with the dulcimer and just make something out of nothing.
Then, the rain began falling outside my window and a line from a Tom Petty song began rolling around in my head. "The past three days the rain was unstoppable." I mean, you live in Florida and it kinda goes with the territory but, seriously, a little sun would be nice. And with sun comes a boost of vitamin D in the body which enhances calcium and phosphorus absorption and it also just makes you happy. John Denver knew.
So, I've got a case of rainy day blues and as I begin putzing around on the strings, the refrain "it's raining again" kept insistently pushing at me. Fine. I'll go with that, I thought. Now what?
Instead of working with the lyrics first, I decided to lay out the chords and record the music, settling on crowbarring the words in after the fact. It's worked for me in the past and would allow me to break out of the singsongy trap that sometimes happen when you compose from prose. About an hour later, I had the skeleton of the track laid out in Garageband with minimal drums, bass and three layers of chimey, moody dulcimer. My slightly morose mood had certainly infected and informed the performance and I was definitely feeling like it had something to do with the rain. So, I turned to some vocal improv to flesh out melody, not committing to anything in particular. Just began blathering nonsense as lyrical pasta, throwing it against the musical wall to see what would stick. Words that had to do with some kind of romance and the ending of a relationship kept popping out and I made a mental note to 86 that when I returned to the project because that's so...boring.
Plans had been made to head down to Epcot to catch sets by the bands Off-Kilter and Mo'Rockin. It had been announced not too long ago that Disney was giving a number of acts the axe and these two groups were part of the fodder for the threshing floor. It wouldn't be the first time that The Mouse had pulled the plug on a favorite act of mine. Some time ago, the Norwegian folk-jazz group Blåmann had suddenly disappeared from the Norway pavilion and now Canada and Morocco were losing two of the hottest tickets in the park. I was definitely saddened by the news.
It was while walking through World Showcase that the opening lines of the tune began to form. "It's raining again/sky is a scowl/the thunder rumbles in my heart/I feel it now." It felt good, it felt poetic, it felt ambiguous, so the listener could apply their own meaning to it, which is always good. I dictated this beginning into my iPhone and then went to catch the shows.
Many fans were outraged at the news that Disney was killing a large chunk of what brought them to the park in the first place and I had conversations with a couple of them and also with a friend of mine who is in one of the acts that didn't get cut, but the possibility of being culled was strong in his mind. As I left the park, I thought deeply about what might be the reason behind Disney's decision as well as what these musicians would do for work after unceremoniously being dropped from their lucrative gigs. A musician with a steady, good-paying job is a lucky and blessed soul, depending on the atmosphere of said job, and every performer I've ever known to work at a theme park tends to love it like a child.
By the time I reached home and began work on the song again, it had taken on a whole new tack. While keeping the lyrics fairly general, I decided that my blue mood, from both the rain and the knowledge that I was saying goodbye to musical friends, was guiding me to write something that spoke to the ending of a relationship not between lovers but between an artist and their employer. Though the love between the artists and their audiences would continue, the sadness would still reign supreme because the situation had completely changed. Not like a break-up. More like a separation. A triangle of sorts, and that brought about all kinds of ideas. I started writing and recording a scratch track for the melody.
My favorite band, Sparks, has a tune called "A Song That Sings Itself" and this, my friends, is a song that wrote itself. I'll be polishing it up over the next few days, tweaking and editing, but I'm very happy with this piece for a number of reasons. One, it's truly about something, not just something I made up. And two, it's got some catharsis in it, and those are the best kinds of songs. These are the songs that make you tear up when you sing them over and over again. In my own way, it's a tribute to the entertainers that I've grown to love and appreciate who have moved on to other gigs. I know they will find other work, because they rock. I know they will find happiness, because they found it in the first place. And I know I'll probably hear from them again at some point, if I look hard enough on the internet.
There's hope in those grey clouds. New seeds planted will grow when watered and the lush vegetation will produce new fruits to be enjoyed by all. And I hope you'll enjoy this tune when you hear it.