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Category Archives: songwriting


I’m often at a loss for what to do with myself when we visit Elise’s families in New Jersey. At home, or at any friend’s house, my default position is guitar playing – it gives me something to do with my hands in idle moments so that I don’t feel like I have to carry on a non-stop conversation at all times.

I don’t usually bring my guitar with me to NJ, which means the families haven’t witnessed this particular phenomenon too often, but Elise was planning to leave me marooned while she went on a wedding dress tour, and I needed a way to pass the time. I added a wonderful new “print-version” feature to my lyrics database, so for the trip I printed out sheaf of my fifty most incomplete songs to workshop while Elise was out on her wedding whirlwind.

Isn’t that a little crazy – fifty songs that are unfinished and still relatively new?

I really vacillate about this sort of thing. At this point Gina and I have a solid sixteen song set, and I have ten or twenty of my strongest songs that go in and out of solo rotation. It’s a comfortable point to be at, but then I look at my freaking database and I see all of these unfinished songs – some of which I really adore and like to play, such as they are in their unfinished state. And, since my current setlist is heavily influenced by my 2003-04 stuff, there are incomplete songs hanging around that are about to be four years old.

Four years old! Which is a problem when I have a whole new fleet of unfinished songs to be working through – I only have so much headspace to to to push these things forward. So, I sat down with my sheaf today and had a touch of a workshop. I re-notated a few things in a more complete fashion, and I think finished one from 2001 – “4th of July” – once and for all.

All that rehearsal meant I was plenty limber for my post-dinner conversational gambit. Except, these are people who aren’t used to my schtick – that I like sit and underscore a conversation without needing anyone to pay attention to me, and that if there’s a lull I might sing for a bit before tucking my voice back under the din.

It made for a few awkward moments … I don’t know that Elise’s father has ever heard me play my own songs before? Certainly not songs about his daughter, anyhow. But, they won’t be getting rid of me anytime soon so they might as well get used to the incessant underscoring of my life. Along the way I turned in possibly my best vocal of all time on the bridge of “Love Me Not,” and also a very respectable version of the recently on-hiatus “Little Love.”

All of which is why I need to go home tomorrow and record a Trio. And then I need to record another another one. And then another. And so on.

Right. But, first I need to drink this glass of wine. And maybe another one.


Endlessly Avoiding Perfection

Heading East recently shared a theory that each artist has only a single great “story” inside of them waiting to be released. A particular quote really resonated:

Some artists escape by fashioning alternate versions of their story, never actually telling it perfectly, always leaving a bit of mystery in the center, always working their way around and around the one truth they know, but maybe these artists are doomed too as they will always fall short…

Though I don’t agree completely with the one-story-only theory, I do believe that each artist has a limited amount of ways to portray any single given archetype within their sphere of art, with each attempt a facet of a perfected portrayal. As alluded to in the quote, the artist has a choice (though not always a conscious one) of spending a lifetime drafting an incomplete version of their truth, or of crafting one version that is crystalline in its perfection.

I certainly feel that way about songwriting. I used to specialize in a particularly jilted sort of breakup song that I spent most of my time writing and re-writing. Suddenly, early in 2005 i wrote “Regrets,” and I was suddenly no longer bound to tap and retap that archetype for my material. Since then my songs have expressed a much wider array of emotions – I freed myself by closing a door on a particular story.

Penning that perfect story is a frightening concept; what if you finish it too soon? What if you don’t have any other important stories to tell? Yet, as daunting as those questions are, if you let them handicap your creativity you’ll never attain that perfect story. And that means you’ll never get to try your hand at its sequel.

My Favorite Trio Tracks: #2 – Granted (from Trio Season 4, #2)

While surveying my Trios for this list of favorites tracks I decided against including the fully-mixed songs from the middle of Season 4. Though they appeared in Trio they didn’t adhere to the spirit of Trio – I built them piece by piece from a click track rather than recording them live.

Except for “Granted.”

“Granted” came to me in the middle of the night. I awoke, bolt upright, crying, and reached for a piece of paper. The next thing I remember was crossing out a line in the final verse, and the next thing after that was getting through a guitar/vocal version of the song in a single take.

What could be more quintessentially Trio than that?

After hearing the guitar/vocal I realized that a lot more had come to me than just the basic structure of the song. Without even thinking about it I added a lattice of background vocals and guitars around the original demo, replacing some of them in the coming days with more polished versions. The end result was one of my most professional-sounding tracks of all time, which wound up as the opening track of Trio Season 4, #2.

As a song “Granted” exists across opposing worlds – awake and asleep, alive and slipping away. Now you can hear it two different ways for the first time – fully polished and completely naked. At the core of each is my voice, hoarse at 3am from waking up crying, singing words straight from a legal pad pockmarked with arrows and crossouts.

I love this song so much that I’m afraid to hear it any other way.

My Favorite Trio Tracks: #11 – World In My Hand (from Trio Season 3, #7)

Today’s song is “World In My Hand,” originally recorded in January of 2003 for Trio Season 3, #7.

When I wrote it in 1998, “World In My Hand” was my first “hit,” in a manner of speaking.

At the time I had only been writing songs for a few months, and only playing for about a year, but when I wrote the lyrics out on the first page of my new poetry notebook I knew I had tapped into something both more personal and more universal than anything I had previously written.

As my songwriting has become more and more refined my older songs have a tendency to drop off of my setlists – especially songs I wrote before college. Yet, no matter how much my songs evolve, this one will always be a favorite.

And it’s mucked up that I can’t decide… ?

Gina and I just came from a rehearsal with the Melange Theatre house band for our appearance at the September 20th show. The band rocks, and thus we will rock mightily. I hope you’ve bought your ticket.

During the course of said rehearsal I received my first ever request to censor a lyric. The lyric in question is in “Wait,” and goes as follows:

You call me on the phone
and I wish I pretended I wasn’t home,
’cause every time I hear your voice
I let you get too close.
You twist my guts up baby,
and it’s fucked up how we can’t deny
these feelings for long enough
to avoid climbing on for another ride

They asked very nicely, yet I still went into fight or flight mode. Why take out the “fuck” when the song has other gems in it like “next thing I know you’ll come over and stain the sheets”? Is the use of fuck, not even referring to fucking, any more explicit than that line?

The real issue is not that I want to say fuck so bad, but that “fucked up” maintains the assonance on the line, and the device is not satisfied by “effed up,” “messed up,” or “screwed up,” which were so helpfully suggested by others at the rehearsal.

Also, it provides an emphatic point for me to rejoin Gina on harmony, which was one of the reasons we split up the vocals the way we did in the first place.

(At the time I snapped defensively at the change I didn’t realize that I had all of those reasons running through my head, but now that I’m sitting down to write they’re all plain as day, which is exactly the problem with censorship – sometimes content is only part of the intent, and changing one piece of it to a soothing alternate often has a bigger impact than intended.)

If it was a song other than “Wait” I think I’d probably cut it from the set rather than change the line, because I don’t like the precedent it sets for further artistic direction. However, we really like to play “Wait,” and the band liked to play “Wait,” and we don’t really have another tune that fills the same sort of sonic space. So, I’m probably going to change it.

What to, I’m not sure. Suggestions welcomed.

Happy Birthday To This

I spent the majority of my day yesterday moving my best friend & bandmate Gina and her boyfriend Wes into their first house.

We were a small team of movers – just five, plus one in the truck – yet the move went as smoothly as it could possibly go… with the exception of one instance of Gina and I collapsing into giggles while trying to carry her futon around a bend in the stairs, and the fact that the laws of physics bar them from sleeping on a queen-sized box spring anywhere other than their living room.

Gina and I have now known each other for over half of our lives – through middle school, high school, college, post-college, and now whatever this is. It was amazing thing to be a part of her big move yesterday, just it continues to be amazing to be able to see so far into the past of someone, someone with whom silliness comes so easily, and with whom I am the epitome of comfortable, willing to speak my mind even when I know we disagree.

Crushing Krisis has now been alive seven years – since August 26th, 2000. That’s more than half as long as I’ve known Gina, and nearly as long as I’ve known the rest of my best friends.

To the best that I can discern, Crushing Krisis is the longest continuously running blog in Philadelphia, and has been since 2003. It’s an amazing thing to contemplate, especially considering that Philly was recently measured to be the second most bloggingest city in the United States. It also means that CK is increasingly one of the most established blogs on the face of the internet.

Just as significantly, since it’s inception Crushing Krisis has been a home to my original music, featuring the original (and, correspondingly, longest-running) singer-songwriter podcast, Trio.

Maybe more significantly than either of those distinguished roles, Crushing Krisis is a part of me – a persistent virtual reflection that helps me to see myself as I am, as I once was, and how I wish I would be.

This page is a lot of things, and a lot of me, and for each year that passes it gets a little more important, because I am getting older and starting to forget feelings from certain moments or stories from specific parties.

I long ago accepted that birthdays and new years days are not inherently transformative experiences – you don’t come out on the other side a new person more than you would emerge reborn from any other day of the year. Yet, they can mark your graduation into being a changed person.

As I wrote last year’s birthday post I felt as if I had finally reached a stable place in life, and if Year 6 of Crushing Krisis was about finding stability, then this past year has been converting stability into happiness.

Some of that conversion was literal. I went from writing and editing letters to managing publications and ad campaigns. I went from being a house-bound recluse of a songwriter to a semi-regular at area bars. and open mics. I transferred Crushing Krisis from Blogger to WordPress on November 12, in the midst of participating in the amazing National Blog Posting Month. I vowed to have a consumerless Christmas (and succeeded). And, Gina and I finally became the band we’ve always teased at being.

And now I am actually, unequivocally, at an equilibrium of happiness – which, if you read through as many hundreds of old posts as I have in the past few weeks, you will realize is a state I wasn’t sure I would reach. Not so soon, at least, and maybe never.

Year 7 of Crushing Krisis includes a slew of favorite posts. I cursed at the television. I had a headache so profound that I gave it a name. I reinvented myself for NaBloPoMo. I recounted my first heartbreak. During a single Trio I redefined one of my favorite songs, and debuted one that had been incubating for half a decade.

I almost burned down the house baking cookies in the microwave. I finally told the story of my life-altering nap at Bonnaroo. I recorded a perfect version of one of my favorite songs. I took my first trip to a casino. Septa carried out an act of terrorism against my favorite garment. And, I finally celebrated the 4th of July the way I’ve always meant to.

But, for every favorite post there’s another that’s just as essential. I offered the most succinct description of myself ever made. I retold the story of the Queen of Darkness, complete with soundtrack. I mercilessly deceived a toddler to get him to eat his vegetables. I contemplated six years of knowing (and reading) Rabi. I listened to the Beatles entire catalog while racing through my last letter of NaBloPoMo reading.

I examined my role as a narrator in my own songs, comparing it to that of an inanimate object. Elise and I found a new favorite restaurant, where we’ve since become regulars. I documented my seemingly endless struggle with organizing my home office. I started documenting my visual life. I reflected on how far my 2004 resolutions have got me.

I recorded my favorite Garbage song, as well as one of Madonna’s most obscure. I reflected on how feminism sometimes makes me cry. I drank a lot of limoncello. I helped present the fifth annual Lyndzapalooza with hardly a hitch. I recorded my catchiest song, ever. I nearly lost my mind in the middle of Broad Street.

After recapping my year in words or links I usually spend the penultimate paragraphs of these August 26th posts talking about what Crushing Krisis is to me and what I hope to make it in the future, but I don’t know if this iteration warrants the introspection.

After seven years of blogging Crushing Krisis is me or, more accurately, an integral, inextricable part of me that I hope will exist as long as I do and beyond. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how many posts I make in a year (105), or how many unique songs I feature (37), or how many times I tell you how I really feel (?). This is just what it is, and I wouldn’t want it to be anything else.

While the penultimate paragraph changes, the final sentiment never really does: thank you. Thank you, no matter how many posts you have read, or how many songs you have listened to.

Thank you, because each of our identities are half about our self-perception and half about others’ perception of us, and if this is a form of me it would only be half-alive without a you to complete it.

Thank you. And, happy birthday to this.

and when inspiration finally hits you it barely even breaks your fall

I’ve heard – from people who both teach and live their songwriting – that you have to keep the muscles limber. Just like an athelete who runs a meaningless mile around and around his block, you have to keep the words flowing all the time so that you’re ready to catch the next best thought you have in a butterfly net of carefully trained artistic reflexes.

It sounds like a wonderful idea, except i don’t like writing throwaway songs. I’m certainly capable of it, but i find it a little offensive – all that creative output and effort for something that just takes up space on my list of titles – i don’t want to hear or play it again, let alone pass it off to an unsuspecting audience.

I like to think instead that the more rarified that pen-to-pad impulse becomes, the more remarkable the results. Why wade through daily crap when you can have a monthly gem.

The monthly gem, as it turns out, seems to be a myth when you are a well-fed gainfully employed yuppy. Because, you are complacently waiting for inspiration to hit you, but inspiration typically needs a life event to set it into motion, and you might not be having so much of those, perhaps?

Back to those limber muscles, the value of which i am coming to understand. The trick, you see, is to refuse to write something to be thrownaway. Don’t just write aimless words. Pick a topic with legs. I’ve decided that, for lack of other inspiration, i will write a song about everyone i know. Some of the songs might suck, and they might not even correspond to people who suck. At least Elise will get a break from being the topic. Gina somehow got (apparently) the catchiest song i have written, ever. One of my least favorite people ever got sortof a funky love song. Neither seem to be a coincidence. And, this shit just keeps happening.

Now I’ve got a pile of maybe songs, some about people who really shouldn’t be told they are the topic/target because songs are so much better when they’re a little scandalous so i find i keep telling the truth in them (note to self: stop titling with people’s names). None, though, none with tight enough screws to hold the weight of me and my guitar. So, i am not declaring them done. Simple, no? Every night i come back to the gaggle to polish – write a better line where i can, restart the progression in a different tuning where it might work better. Maybe i can get one to graduate to being a real song, someday.

Working on the new lyrics MYSQL backend i now know fo sho that i have 200 songs (yes, with the help of technology we’ve finally eeked it up from 144). That averages out to 25 a year, but really it’s more like 32 a year for a while, and only a handful this last year and a half. But now i have all these half-formed things circling like little audio-vultures, picking my brain for better ideas.

I bear no promises of audio samples or lyric sneak peeks. Yet. You just have to trust me on this one.

From Copy Protection to Copy Protection, via AAA and a lot of chemistry that i very vaguely understand.

I’ve been alone in the house all day working on a paper on copy protection for my New Technologies in Communication class, and when Gina stopped by to say hello just after the second one a.m. she was only the third human i had spoken with all day . I was on a break from my paper at the time, sitting amidst a tangle of wires on the floor attempting to write a song in AAA form for my songwriting class. Gina inquired into this endeavor, and in my explanation of it i overstepped the bounds of simple differentiation between verse-chorus-verse, ABA, and AABACA to speculate on how song form effects the commercial prospects of an artists — perhaps dwelling on a day spent largely listening to Tori Amos.

I followed this idle chatter across our common area and into her room, by which point the conversation had switched over to inhabit a subject philisophically adjacent to the difference between Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Gina put on her new Donovan hits CD as i tooled around on my guitar in DADGCE, but the conversation eventually turned back to pop construction. After my obligatory monologue about the interrelation of image, genre, and songwriting Gina mentioned how pop music at least kept her awake and functioning during her grueling Saturday 7-hour laboratory class today. This particular exercise in weekly chemical punishment has become a favorite topic of ours, as Gina basically has eleven weeks to play a rousing game of “guess that organic compound” with the five seemingly random samples chosen for her by her instructor. I not only delight in the inherently game-show nature of this particular exercise, but also in the fun things Gina must do in her quest for knowlege.

One less than delightful thing Gina has to do in this quest for knowledge is use an array of photoscopic machinery to determine the nature of her compounds, rather than more traditional means like boiling things and making their colors change. However, Gina did all manner of machine-assisted processes at her co-op job, where she basically spent all day in a lab running reactions on organic polymers. After talking about several aspects of her employment, such as how she spent weeks getting a particular product to the ideal shade of “water white,” we finally came to rest on the benefits and similarities of ultraviolet and electron beam curing of… um… this thing that i’m going to ask Gina to name for me again when i wake up tomorrow morning. Basically, she was testing one element in the process that makes the wierd peely adhesive labels you find on plastic soda bottles, or the gloss and ink sealents on magazines.

This particular thread of conversation went on for a good long time, with several stop-overs for debates of when in their employment life-cycle a worker stops actively attaining/retaining knowledge of applicable technology and begins to merely sustain it. Coming back out of that, i attempted to make my understanding of electron beam curing more complete by asking what it would be more and less efficient to cure. Adhesive labels – good. Magazines – probably. Vinyl flooring – maybe not.

Consequently, Gina brought up that the sealants in questions were similar to those used on fiber-optic wire, which in turn sent me into a five minute discussion of fiber optics based on a presentation i saw in my New Technologies class this week. At the tail end of that it suddenly occured to me that the polycarbonate layer in the middle of a compact disc and the acrylic layer on the outside probably both made use of the chemical technology that Gina had been describing to me for the better part of two hours, and my mention of it lead into a brief overview of how a cd is put together. That in turn lead to an equally brief description of the differences between a CD and a CD-R, which in turn lead to a discussion of how CD-Rs are sometimes hard to read for older units but a cinch for CD-ROM drives. From there naturally headed into error correction and how CD-ROM technology error corrects more than a typical cd drive. And, before i knew what was happening, i was back at copy protection … explaining how sinister it was to corrupt the error correction of a disc to protect it from copying because it would degrade the overall lifespan of a disc.

I knew that extra hour would wind up being useful for something other than sleep.

I have been transformed, though not completely.

The assignments in my songwriting class have so-far been very involving, especially to me — a non-music major. For example: write a melody for a completely instrumental piece and turn in an accompanying paper discussing your use melodic contours and devices. Less perplexing (though still very involving): write three different titles for each of three different subjects, then expand each title into a brief synopsis of plot, and finally re-write each original title using idiom/axiom or assonance based on what you outlined in your synopsis.

I thought i would be alone in my venture into this musical territory, and went to the length of getting the program head and my own dean (a music major himself) to sign off on adding me to the class. Much to my surprise, there were a few non-music major in my section of the class by the end of the first week. However, their introductions went something like “Hi, i’m Bob, i’m in this band…”

They all dropped the class after the melodic contour project.

To the best of my knowledge i am the only student in my section who turned the assignment in complete and on time, despite harrowing and somewhat vague instructions including having to notate the entire melody and perform it in class.

This week we had a myriad of assignments due, capped by one particular task: write a song. By no means did it have to be a good song, or a very well-written song, but it was meant to make use of all the exercises in title devices and word-painting that we had been employing earlier in the assorted assignments. As directed, I wrote a song, but i was less than pleased with what i came out with. Having already made a somewhat big point out of all the writing i’ve already done, i was definitely hesitant to turn something so equivocal and boring in masquerading as a masterpiece. So i wrote another… not my best song ever, but something i really enjoy playing. Because of my extra work i wound up scrambling before class to photocopy the scribbled lyrics out of my poetry book and to pencil in the chords, but i still had it turned in on time..

To the best of my knowledge i am the only student in my section who turned the assignment in complete and on time.

Complete and on time… there’s something about that. In the past i’ve been one of those students who turns things in incomplete and begs for extensions to wind up with their A. So far this year i haven’t done that — not once, even when i had the opportunity to do it to save myself from a logistical mistake.

I don’t know what’s come over me… could it be that i was destined to suddenly become responsible at the age of 21? I’m still trying to figure it out, but in the meantime all that i can be sure of is that i’ve entered every day of class so far with the intent to prove that i am a capable student, if not the most capable student, when it comes to completing the work in an acceptable fashion. Not only that, but when people show up with excuses like “i was sick” or “i didn’t quite understand the assignment” or “i missed the roll sheet last week” i just roll my eyes and go back to taking notes. I’ve done all three, and i’ve still made it out with an A in each situation, but being smarter than everyone else is so much more satisfying when i am really being more intelligent.

I really am.

I don’t know when i stopped just writing songs as a hobby and started occasionally referring to myself as a singer-songwriter. How can i really draw a line there? How does someone go from doodling to being an artist? I doodled for a long time, writing good songs that never left my own bedroom – akin to sketches in the margins of a notebook. Now i take myself seriously, constantly revising and re-recording each song until i feel as though it has reached its end point – and even then occasionally pulling it off the shelf to be aired.

I cannot pinpoint the day that i began to take myself serious enough to say so out loud, but i can promise you it had to do with my next song. Earlier this evening i told someone via IM that practicing songs was like sanding down a chunk of wood until it becomes a perfectly smooth sphere, and that i only had one or two songs out of over a hundred that had reached that point. This song, if no other, has gone there… to the point where i can get lost in the nuances of one silly little riff and then forget the lyrics entirely. I have played it so many times, in so many different ways, that it’s as if i have come back around to it being new again and i am now discovering it for the first time.

It takes a big song to fill that void, and it didn’t start out big. It still isn’t, actually: just three chords, three verses, and what was once just some fortuitous ad-libbing. When i sing it, i feel famous. It makes me sweat because i move to it underneath my guitar as my fingers dance back and forth across the riffs i have unearthed, there shape and arrangement changing on every beat. It makes me frustrated when it will not sound out correctly, and it makes me glow when i change something about it only to make it more interesting to perform.

It’s late, and a lot of bloggers are getting a little weepy, but this is how i always feel about song 25/24. Earlier tonight i tried my best to open up a new side of it for you to see, and i encourage you to click through to older audio of it through its lyrics file so that you can hear the differences i am talking about. I’m under no illusion that, as a result, you will take me any more seriously as a musician. But, maybe you’ll just be able to understand how i can feel like this about something so simple that anyone who has performed on it has irrevocably altered.

Thank you for reading, thank you for listening, and goodnight.

Songs come from nuggets, moments, tiny subdivisions of time. Some of my favorite songs were written about a single moment of inebriation or a single flurry of kisses. “What It Is” was written based on a single ten minute argument. Tangling was based on a feeling in the pit of my stomach as someone talked right past me. I doubt that she meant to, and it was only for a moment, but in that moment my perspective of the conversation flattened down just to the relationship between the two of us, and then expanded to make that relationship out to be more important than it ever really was. But all it took was that one second of my stomach twisting itself into knots, and i had a song.

Until You Awake was the last song of the Blogathon last year. For the entire week i had been stuck for something excellent to close with, and as i became more and more involved with reading Mollie the song starting coming to me, slowly but surely. I remember all of the stages: sitting on my bedroom floor, furiously scribbling down the words … on the couch with Gina, desperately trying to get the picking pattern right … in front of my computer, getting it right on the first take.

In the year between then and now a lot has happed to change everyone in the world, and a lot has happened to me individually. That song stuck through, though, and every time i play it for someone new i get to tell the story about last year’s blogathon and how i really felt as though i was having a concrete effect on something. And on someone. In a way i think it’s both the most personal and the most serious song i’ve ever written.

I hope you enjoy it. Thank you, Mollie.

Life does funny things sometimes.

A little over two years ago i was sitting on a shag carpeted floor, tearing up. Across the room from me was Lindsay, who was directing her attention at our friend Kate, who had just decided to move a quarter of the way across from the country. Resting in Lindsay’s lap was a shiny hardcover of Dr. Seuss’s Oh The Places You Will Go, and she was equally tearful as she read it to Kate. In that second something in my head gelled, something about the way that Kate made me feel like i was really a part of something here at Drexel – and now she was leaving that something behind.

That night i sat in my dorm room and wrote Never Say Goodbye all in one sitting, revising over and over again until it resembled something very close to what it is now. And then i hid it… sat on it for the entire summer, afraid to play a song that was so directly personal and not just about some failed attempt at romance or a missed kiss. I finally played it for Kate the night before she left, and it felt like a load of creative bricks was lifted off my chest as the words finally reached the ears they were meant for. And then i didn’t see her for almost a year.

Flash forward two years. Lindsay is now my roommate living directly underneath me, and Kate is staying with us for the summer now that she’s back in Philadelphia. The two of them are moving out of our apartment and into a new one in the next few months. And the both of them are going grocery shopping for me since i’m chained to the computer all day.

It might not sound as though this is such an unusual twist in the light of how connected i felt to the two of them years ago, but i definitely couldn’t have ever predicted that anything would wind up in quite this way. So, life is sortof funny, friends are entirely wonderful, and “Never Say Goodbye” is for the girls downstairs; i love you both.


Day 94 was a hard song to write, and it continues to be a hard song to sing. I wrote it as random scribbles on the back of a concert playbill i had in my pocket while i was waiting in a doctor’s office. Random enough? The inspiration was as much anything that song refers to as it was the fact that i was due to have my tonsils removed by said doctor within two weeks; i felt as though i hadn’t made good use of my voice for a while and wanted to work on something new before i has things taken out of my throat by surgical force.

Having written the first draft of the lyrics on it, the playbill then found its way to my floor – where it stayed for two weeks until i read them to Elise one night. I don’t remember the entire chain of events, but a few hours later i came out with the revised and arranged song that kicked off today’s event. It’s still rather young and rough around the edges (and has oh-so-many lyrics to squeeze in), but i definitely like it already.

My ears are ringing terribly.

I sat there for a minute, between swiveling from the Eight Arms to Hold You book and the Tragic Kingdom book, trying to think of what i could play. Even though i have two electric guitars, i haven’t played very much loud electric guitar in my lifetime — guitar so loud that it distorts the amplified signal so badly that what’s coming out has no relation to what i’m strumming other than vague tonal qualities. For that minute i was i was mentally paging through my own songs, picturing open chords as tight barres further up on the neck and simple strums as thrashes.

At the end of the minute i decided that, for the most part, it just doesn’t work.

This month’s Rolling Stone was unusually chatty in tone, and it failed entirely to impress me. Four years ago i would’ve told you that my dream was to write for RS, and now i’m not even sure i would tell you that i want to be featured inside of it. My opinions on the magazine notwithstanding, one feature caught my eye; the article on Incubus.

I am decidedly indifferent to Incubus on the whole, though i am of the opinion that “Drive” is pretty much the distillation of what all of my songs possibly could sound like if i had a major label deal. At the end of the article there’s one of those colored boxes with incidental information in them, and in it there are two interesting pieces of information about lead singer Brandon Boyd. One is that “[b]efore a show [he] will scat jazz, growl punk rock, improvise a slow jam, or riff on Madonna.” The other is the following quote on Ani DiFranco: “She’s an underrated lyricist. Female artists are the perfect example of a creator: They know how to make life and art with their bodies. Life comes from their bodies, so on a very basic level, they have more to write about.”

There was something about the quote that left me in stunned silence, and that silence was mirrored by the long minute spent in limbo between my books of sheet music. Boyd, more than anything, comes off in the article as a rock star version of myself. He says things i say. He riffs on Madonna. He likes Ani DiFranco. His band wrote a song that’s indicative of my entire sound. And, i don’t really like his band; i’ve turned down invitations to their concerts and have serially neglected to buy any of their cds.

On days like today i get the sense that i don’t listen to and arrange loud music not because i don’t want to, but just because it hasn’t really occurred to me. Any other day i would tell you that my influences preclude the option entirely, but they really don’t: for every Madonna i have a David Bowie, and for every Ani DiFranco i have a PJ Harvey. Brandon Boyd is a sensitive singer-songwriter fan who enjoys an occasional pop tune. So am i.

I have no idea what i’m getting at, other than that even if converting my songwriting to be primarily electric occurred to me right at this instant, i think it might already be too late.