I’m writing songs again. It’s been good to dust off my chops, and to focus on songwriting. Of course this is perfectly timed with the beginning of the school year which means my time is even less mine. I always struggle this time of year with my obligations and responsibilities. But perhaps I need that sort of situation to force me to value the time I do have to myself to work on things like songwriting? Probably.
I’m not thinking too hard about what I’ve been writing beyond the particular song. I don’t have any concept in mind although I’ve certainly toyed with a few ideas. One was to try and write a New Orleans style dance record. Another was to write several songs that The Love Boat band could have played back in the day. Neither of those ideas have stuck. Instead, I’m just writing to write, and that feels pretty good. Maybe after writing a few more, I’ll see what’s forming. Of course, now that I’m writing about what I’ve been writing here, I’m starting to think more about what I have, but I’m going to try and resist.
As a self-diagnosed workaholic, I used to put all my time and effort into my academic career. You wouldn’t necessarily associate what I do for work with being creative at first, but it used to be a very creative activity for me. I would work on thinking about new approaches to solve problems, novel methods of implementing these ideas, propose them to others to try to gain acceptance, and eventually convince others that my ideas were reasonable and useful. There’s also a deep set of aesthetic principles involved in developing new theories. It’s true. Some theories are prettier than others. I don’t really have the pepper in my step that I once had. Maybe that’s because I’ve been doing this for so long, I’ve lost the buzz. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good life. I like thinking about what I think about. I’m still motivated to do it, and I think I have some interesting things going on, but it just doesn’t excite me like it used to.
Nowadays, I feel more compelled to focus my creative energy on songwriting. I’m still having my honeymoon with songwriting and making records. I’m excited by it and by seeing what I can do here. I want to see how far I can push myself. Have I ever written a good song? If so, could I write several good songs? What would that mean? What would I do with myself I were to establish that? There’s a healthy anxiety for me about these things. I’m motivated by that.
I realize that this post is rather ego-centric and introspective. You’re probably needing a picture of some sort. And it’s been a while since I’ve talked about food, so here’s a picture of some pork chops that I had for dinner last night at Wool Growers, a French Basque restaurant in Los Banos. Although I’ve lived in Merced for nearly ten years now, this was my first time here. Everything I’ve heard was true. It was a tremendous amount of very good food. Let it be known that when I have a cheat day, I make it count.
If I have the good fortune to make another record, I’ve started envisioning it with less songs that my previous two (the first one has 13 and the second one has 14). Ten seems like an appropriate number. Since the release of Fifty Shades of Yellow, I’ve managed to write four fully-formed songs and some little bits here and there. If these were good songs that worked well together, that would be approximately 40% of a new record! Of course these sorts of numbers are arbitrary. Thinking about this sort of stuff is just a way for me to manage expectations until I have the next batch of songs.
I posted a video of me doing one of my new songs called “The Lesson” on YouTube. I was pretty hesitant to do it. I have been worried about self-promotion and getting a video presence out there, but now that I’ve done it, I don’t care that much. I guess it’s analogous to when I first started using facebook. I used to worry about who would see this or that. Now, I don’t care. It’s there. It might be embarrassing, but I find that after the initial shock, having it there helps me diffuse any embarrassment I had about it in the first place. Plus, I get to obsess over how many hits it has had!
Now about this post’s title. It’s a lyric from a song I wrote yesterday tentatively titled, “Shoulder the Pain.” I got the idea for this song from a magazine interview with Marc Maron that I read on a plane. I noted it as a memo on my phone. In the interview, he was saying some typical Maron stuff, but seeing it on the written page affected me differently. I was able to read it from a third-person perspective (rather than have him talk at me in his WTF podcast). From that perspective, I was able to distance myself from his words. I cannot articulate exactly what the difference was, but my reaction was “Wow. Really?” Anyway, he didn’t say “All art is, is just stealing. All love is, is just dealing.” I wrote that. In case you’re worried, I don’t believe that to be true. Well, I don’t believe that to be entirely true.