On Lyrics

Thanks to the collaboration of the illustrious Christopher Connors, however, I am officially in the beginning stages of New Album 2013. Earlier this past week, Chris and I sat down with a baker’s dozen or so of demos, some more finished than others, and saw what tickled our collective fancy. Out of the long list came the short list of eight tracks which were definite “yes”s for further research and development: contenders for the Ill-Fated Album of 2010 came back again for this round, as well as relative newcomers Gathering Tide and Bitter End. Ghost in the Mirror, though I love it, borrows a little bit too much from Imogen Heap to be a definite yes (until we can find an arrangement that works for it), but two demos that I had completely forgotten about, Love Snuck In and Swan River, surprised me by being at the top of both of our Yes Lists.

While Chris is off seeing just what the form and rhythmic spine of these songs will be, I took it upon myself — using a just-pretentious-enough Moleskine for the job — to really sit down with these eight songs (as well as a few on the Maybe List that I want to be strong contenders for the Yes) and make sure there isn’t a single word I cringe at when I see it on paper. I have the luxury of being able to do this now, and the added luxury of having sanded off the rougher edges on some of the songs (just last week, I changed a “Got to” to a “Sick of” in a four-year-old Maybe List song, and it made the whole first stanza leap up several pegs in my estimation). It’s just… lyrics are the worst. The best, but also the worst. The best, because there is something sublime about a lyric where every word has a purpose and place, where you can hear the lilt of syllables dancing cheek-to-cheek with the melody in ways that make them equal, inseparable partners. And the worst, because that happens so rarely.

I’m currently going through with red pen, high school English-style, and bracketing words, phrases, or entire verses (not too often, I hope) that give me pause or make my nose crinkle and the corners of my mouth turn down slightly. I think I’m up to the task; and at the end of the day, it’s just in service to the song itself. These words are the vehicles I use to tell the stories, and this sometimes-brutal editing period is what — I hope — might provide clarity and guidance to the entire process. All in all, not too bad for a late Friday night. It’s good to be doing this again.

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