Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Enjoying the ride...

I've struggled a bit, in the past - as I suspect many of us do as we get a little older - with the whole idea of enjoying the journey, rather than simply focusing on the destination.

In these early stages of recording my next collection of songs, I've been doing a lot better with it. Granted, there are still moments where my mind races forward and I find myself wondering when it'll be finished; where I'm going to find the time to actually play and sing all the parts, or even obsessing about the final running order of songs that have yet to even be recorded. More often, though, I've found myself feeling exhilarated by the fuzzy frenzy of the creative process. I've tried to exult in those little victorious moments that bring a song a little closer to fruition. It's silly not to, really, isn't it? It'd be a bit like catching a train and missing the scenery by pulling down the blinds until you get to where you're going.

Just yesterday, I began scribbling on a notepad, in search of words for the bridge section of a song I've been working on for a while. Suitable lyrics for this bit had been eluding me for weeks, and I still couldn't stumble on anything that thrilled me. So, I did what I often do -- instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, I had a beer instead.

It didn't really help with the lyrics, though. In fact, it distracted me a little, as a silly stream of beer-infused, pun-filled song titles like " Boozing, My Religion", " This Old Harp Of Mine" and "What's Bud Got To Do With It?" barged around my brain. By the time I found myself audibly groaning at "Labbatts, The Way I Like It", I knew that it was time to get to work, and I decided to record a quick demo of the song, in the hope that hearing it on playback might spur something.

Invariably, when recording the vocal for a song with missing lyrics, I tend to sing a little impromptu gibberish in the section in question, with the intent of replacing it later. You never know what's going to spill out when you do this, and that's half the fun. It can be totally dull, unintentionally funny, puzzling, and occasionally even frightening to hear yourself spew out words without premeditation.(I know there are those who think that much of what I write sounds like impromptu gibberish, but that's by the by.)

Although in the early days of writing this song, the idea was to go with the old early Dylan approach --single acoustic guitar, solo vocal and a bit of harmonica thrown in just to annoy the neighbours -- as I started to record it, discipline went flying out the window and the kitchen sink came rushing in. I upped the tempo, added a drum track that completely transformed the whole mood of it, doubled the lead vocal and layered some harmony vocals behind them.

The thing is, the recording, as hurried and off-handed as it was, took on a bit of a life of its own, taking me completely by surprise and giving me a bit of a kick in the pants in the process. I got all giddy and excited by the feel of the track, and all manner of ideas came flooding in. In particular, the words I was searching for showed up unannounced, and I promptly scribbled them down.

I think part of this new-found, er... maturity (ahem) stems from feelings of gratitude and thankfulness that, for better or worse, these songs continue to arrive. It's probably a common fear of people who like to put pen to paper, that the well will one day run dry, and I routinely have that "Well, that's probably the last song I've got in me" feeling. (Don't get your hopes up, though.)

Now, whether these songs are actually any good or not, and whether or not this song in particular delivers on the promise that I was feeling, hardly seems the point, really. The fact is, it felt really bloody joyful at the time, and I savoured it. The very idea that what can start off as a couple of phrases and a sliver of a melody occasionally ends up resembling an actual song is something I still find amazing, and I'm having a ball with it. The neighbours, I'm not so sure about -- tonight I'm recording harmonica parts...