The Studio Sessions Journal: Recording Other People 5/22/17
After a few days of rest, I am still in quite a lot of pain. I think it’s associated with my autoimmune disease. It can be tough to explain to those around me because others often say that I seem happy and sound fine, however, it's more associated with the way I feel, and I'm not one to be walking around complaining about hurting. Especially when it's a feeling that I've come to get quite used to. Still, it can be very difficult to have fun (even doing something that you love) when you're in pain. Which makes me very upset and almost feel guilty, I would say, because I feel like one of the luckiest people on the planet to be able to do what I love. It can be tough to get your mind off pain. It becomes the center of focus...you know like when you have a migraine or have cramps or feel nauseated. I think that is why thinking about songs as an acting exercise can get me into the emotion and out of physical sensation. Even still, it sometimes doesn't work as well as I would like it to. But it's better than nothing.
I hate to have to bring up that type of stuff, but I also want to be completely transparent and honest. I want to say that it's all rainbows and butterflies, especially when people ask, "How excited are you?!" and believe me, I am so excited, but it can also be incredibly discouraging to be doing what I love more than anything, wanting to be present for every aspect of the process, and yet have chronic pain that makes it sometimes unenjoyable. I'm not sure if any of that makes sense. But I feel like it has to be said if I am going to be truthful. I've committed to creating this project despite anything and everything, and so, of course, I'm pushing on.
I had it in my mind that I was going to sing this big, belty song that I had written, which is normally quite easy for me, but knew in my heart that I just was not feeling it today. There is another song that Bill (my producer) had picked as one of his top 7 that was not yet finished. I had written the verse and pre-chorus melody, part of a chorus and some sort of an outro and that was it. I'm not sure why I threw it into the mix to be considered...it was the only completely unfinished song that I did...but for whatever reason I felt there was a little seedling of something special there and so I included my half-written voice memo. I was surprised he had picked it as one of his favorites being its current status. But then when I played the "song" for Jack (my boyfriend) and Belinda (my best friend) this past weekend (the only other people in the world to hear it) they both said that they already loved it and definitely think it needs to be at least finished to be considered as a contender. I thought this reaction was so strange (but I guess, awesome?) being that there was maybe five lyric lines written and the rest was just a melody. Thankfully, the main chorus lyric was there, which I guess is what they were going off of. "Please finish it," they both encouraged.
I had started that chorus back in the beginning of December. I don't even remember where it came from at the time. It was when I was writing a lot of finger-picking styled songs (something different for me) and so it was a bit unique and pretty sweet, mostly all finger-picking. I found the first voice-memo. It was different back then. The song came to me in parts. First, it was just the verse melody with a different chorus. Then it was the current outro that I thought may actually be the chorus at the time. Then it was the current chorus that I mistakenly thought could be an outro. Then the pre-chorus melody popped into my head months later. It's weird when songwriting happens like this. I wasn't trying to write this song (clearly, considering how long it went unfinished). But parts just kept coming slowly. Now I had to finish it. There was a deadline.
I knew Bill wanted to work on this song. I loved it too, but was nervous due to its state and how many other songs I had that were, in fact, finished. Verse lyrics came to me over the weekend. The first pre-chorus lyrics came to me with the original melody so thankfully I didn't have to worry about those. The chorus lyrics and melody also came to me simultaneously, except for the end of the chorus which had lyrics that just didn't feel right to me. Jack and Belinda both said they liked them as is, but they just didn't feel right to me. They felt like placeholders for the melody.
I knew that this song was just writing itself differently than the others. I could feel it. The song was on the brink of being there, just out of reach. I told myself that I would be recording the song on Monday so that I would have to finish it. Then, on Sunday night, I had the strangest dream. It was unlike any dream I've ever had before. The best way I can describe it is that I was very consciously aware that I was dreaming and could affect the outcomes of this dream - unlike every other dream I have ever experienced, which is more like you're watching a movie. There was a large moth and some mystical woman. It was weird. I shook myself awake several times just to assure myself it was, in fact, a dream because it was quite scary how real the whole thing felt. In the dream, the entire bridge for the song came to me...(Sometimes I think I see your face, in a crowded bar or an empty place, and then, you're gone again - And I wonder what you've been up to, 'cause it's been a while since I've heard from you, and I, hope you're doing fine...dancing with other people), and I somehow remembered it when I woke up the next morning (the day I would record the song). I swear, it was the strangest thing!
I was so tired in the studio the next morning from my weird wide-awake-while-sleeping state, but regardless, felt like this song was the one we had to record today, even though it still wasn't totally finished. Yes, I now had a bridge, but there was a whole second verse and pre-chorus to write.
Bill started working on the track. It started to feel a bit like Send My Love (To Your New Lover) by Adele. I had mentioned that and Bill was all like, "That's a good reference!" The song had a certain rhythm to it while I played it on the guitar and I wanted to make sure we kept that aspect as it felt like a key part of the song. Bill agreed and took to the keys.
I went into the tracking room to write. I sat on the piano. I played the guitar. I pulled out my super spastic notebook that I started writing the song in. I came up with three different options for that second verse and pre-chorus. I ended up adding some lyrics from one of my alternate second verses that I didn't use into the second pre-chorus. I repeated part of a line from the first verse in the second pre-chorus, but changed the melody. I never do that. But it felt cool. Bill was really feeling the one that also felt right to me, which is always a good sign. So we ran with it.
Again, today was a lot of singing. Not only was there singing to arrange the track, but I also had to sing the song a bunch of times to finish writing it. Then I sang lead vocals. Writing a song and recording it within the same day is as awesome as it is exhausting. Thankfully, you're riding on a wave of adrenaline and excitement that comes with creating something new that can push you through.
There was a moment when Bill said, "Damn, this song is kind of sad!" I sent my mom a voice memo of me playing it on guitar and she said, "It makes me sad." I'm like okay, mom, "...but is that good? bad? indifferent?..?!..?!..?!!!"
I think I would use the word melancholic over sad. Maybe a sweet sadness. I suppose the two sort of go hand in hand though, don't they? We shall see where it goes once the production is finished as that can change a vibe and mood.
I texted the memo to my best friend Belinda and she said, "Okay. I love it. Def think it makes the cut." There is another song I wrote called, First Love, that is on a similar topic and is one of her long-time favorites, so I asked, if she had to pick this song or that one, which would she pick. It's unlikely they would both go on the same album. She said that she thinks she picks this one. I agreed. First Love is also Jack's favorite song. I asked him which he would pick and he picked this one as well. We were all preferring it right now, but we couldn't tell if that's because it's new.
But yes, the song makes me sad. I was hit with that lingering sadness while writing and recording it. I have to say, that the writing of this song really opened my heart up to a feeling that is, I guess always there, but one I don't tap into frequently. I write a lot about the passage of time and the bitter-sweet nature that goes along with it. And I guess this song is no different.
I sometimes get caught up in making sure the lyrics are factual to my actual life experience. This time I didn't. Not that they aren't. But it was more about capturing a feeling. The feeling of being so close and yet so far away from someone, simultaneously. I think the distance between when I started the song and finished it, gave it the perspective that it needs.
The entire story for the album as a whole sort of came to me today. All the pieces started to fall into place and it all started to make some semblance of sense. Ultimately, I'm a storyteller. I think in terms of story. I think that is evident within my songwriting, but also the reason behind my work as an actress and also writing a screenplay.
Albums don't have to tell a story. But thinking of mine and the potential track order in this way helped me to narrow down which songs don't belong in this specific movie so to speak. Picking songs for an album doesn't have to be done like this. But it seemed to make the most sense to me and allowed me to not feel as conflicted about not including certain songs I wrote and really care about on this album. Maybe they're meant for Album #2, just like certain plot-lines are meant for the second season of a TV show or in book number 3 of a series? It also just seemed to be naturally occurring in this way.
Anyway, Other People seemed to unintentionally fall into place as the final chapter of this story that the album seems to tell. I didn't mean it to be that way. But then again, it is about my life and so it only makes sense. I think recognizing this pattern will inform future decisions regarding the songs selected for this record, however (potentially). I'll tell you the story at some point. Maybe once it's done.
Bill said this song was his new favorite.
I'm proud of myself for finishing the writing of this song on the same day of recording it. I mean, I've done that before. But this was different. It was just me, writing in the dark tracking room of the studio, while Bill was in the other room, producing simultaneously. It was exciting. There was an energy to it. So despite the physical pain I spoke of earlier, the writing of this song made all of that singing and lack of sleep worth it.
I like the fact that there is a song on my record that not even my closest friends who know all of the words to my songs have heard (except for Belinda, that is).
And I think this one is my favorite so far. But mind what I said earlier...the latest song I write is always my favorite. At least for 2 weeks.
I hope it’s interesting to read about the process.
Love you guys,