Trying on Songs

It’s been awhile - our school is really growing and has required much care and feeding. Now, as the title of this post suggests, I’ve got a gig coming up and I am shifting my focus to my own musicianship.

I’ve had a few different performance opportunities this summer, but they were all very different venues and occasions: a night at Kavarna with The Omnivores, a wedding, a devotional event at the Baha’i Center. But I find myself in the middle of back-to-back Fridays at MetroFresh, so I’m warmed up and I have the energy to try new things next Friday.

I haven’t been writing songs much lately (yeah, I will eventually get back into that, too), so what I’m doing is trying on other people’s songs to see if they fit. You know, it’s exactly like going clothing shopping for me: browse the racks and pick out something that looks like what I would always wear, something that I really hope will fit because it looks like what I need, something that’s too expensive, and something unexpected. A lot of times the thing I picked up just for fun ends up fitting perfectly, while something that looked like a sure thing at the right price just doesn’t work on me. And the gorgeous, expensive thing is, alas, not for today.

Likewise, a song that seems ridiculous (how about a girl singing “I’m a Boy,” or an acoustic version of “Isobel” by Bjork?) ends up working because it challenges my creativity and my assumptions about myself. And I got so tired of the “sure thing” that, for the past ten years or so, I’ve mostly eschewed songs by young, white female artists so that I could find my own voice. And there’s always a song that will be just out of reach, at least until the day that I can perform “Never Going Back Again” flawlessly.

So today I have been working on “Walk on the Ocean,” that Nineties gem from Toad the Wet Sprocket. A nice complicated chord progression covers up the fact that I just stand there and strum the whole time. The recorded key is right in my range, which is a bonus. Pass!

Another one is “What Light” by good ol’ Wilco. The lyrics are simple and direct, and right up my alley. I messed around and stuck the capo down on the second fret instead of the fifth for vocal reasons - now my voice pops out nicely (maybe the musical the equivalent of making alterations to a vintage dress?).

As I played, a new thought occurred to me: I’d like to make up another verse to this song. And I might. That would really make it my own. In the song, Jeff Tweedy sings:

And if the whole world’s singing your songs
And all of your paintings have been hung
Just remember what was yours is everyone’s from now on.

So I guess he’d be cool with that, huh?