The other day, I went to practice a song of mine that I had not played in a while, and I had to stop for a minute to remember how to form one of the chords in the chorus. In my own defense, it happens to be a chord that I have never used in any context outside of this particular song. For all intents and purposes, I invented the damn thing. Still, this was enough to make me think that maybe it was time to write some of this stuff out, if only so that this doesn't happen again.
To that end, yesterday, I went through and added a bunch of handwritten notes to my songbook, which comprises about seventeen thousand words in sixty-four songs (not counting the one instrumental track). Remembering how to play all of them without forgetting any of the words or music can be a bit of a challenge, but I also think that it's a good exercise in terms of keeping my brain ninja sharp.
I wrote, recorded and produced Embers and Petrichor (both 2021) during the pandemic and have never played any of these songs before a live audience. I do practice them, of course, but often, when I am rehearsing, there are only about twenty or so songs that regularly find their way onto my setlists. Basically, I have certain songs that I tend to go back to every other day, whereas the remaining 2/3 of my catalog gets left out by virtue of the fact that I cannot practice for six hours every day. My fingertips and vocal cords would likely not allow it, plus I have other things to do.
Today, I would like to share with you some of those songs that I tend to forget about. I don't mean to imply that they are bad or anything, just that they rarely find their way onto my setlists, whether I am rehearsing or performing. These are actually some of my favorite songs that I have written, even if I don't play them nearly as much as some of the others. They were also the songs that tripped me up a little when I was going through my full catalog of music yesterday, precisely because I don't practice them as often. Many required that I scribble some additional notes in my songbook.
By notes, I mean descriptions and diagrams of how to play the chords and riffs. I am self-taught. As such, my ability to read and write musical notation is pretty horrible, and my limited knowledge of music theory often functions more as an afterthought. It takes me a minute to figure out what key a song that I wrote is in, because when I wrote it, I wasn't thinking about that. In fact, I wasn't really thinking at all. I was just playing music.
Three of today's songs happen to be the closing tracks on their respective albums.
First, we have Life/Time, from my 2017 album Good Night Fahrenheit. It's about how sometimes things only make sense years later in retrospect. This is the one with the strange chord that I have only ever played in this song, which I had written down as "Weird D." I have since drawn a picture of the fingering for my own reference.
It takes a lifetime to get it right
And only sometimes do we find out why
It takes a lifetime, takes a lifetime...
The next song that I would like to share with you today comes from my 2021 album Embers. This one really isn't all that complicated, although it does have some unusual chords whose names I do not know. It's called Mixtape, and it's about expressing yourself through someone else's art. The bassline comes to you by way of a Telecaster that I ran through an octave pedal, as I found that I can play it much faster that way.
I made a mixtape on my radio
It can be your soundtrack wherever you go
I hope these songs will remind you of me
The good times we've had and those yet to be
Please take this mixtape when you go...
The third song for today is called Go It Alone, from my 2019 album Better Days. This song is about companionship, and how sharing our experiences can make life's journey far more enjoyable. For whatever reason, I think that I have only played this song in front of an audience once ever. It also contains a chord that is unique to this song, at least as far as my repertoire is concerned. I have no idea what this one is called either, but I drew myself a decent diagram.
I will take you home, take you home
So you don't have to go it alone
I will take you where you want to go
So we don't have to go it alone...
Finally, I would like to share with you the closing track from Petrichor (2021), called Wasted. This song is about addiction, and the lives that it leaves in ruin. It's one of those songs that is very difficult to recreate as a solo artist on acoustic guitar, as the composition is built upon several different riffs working together (which may be the influence of The Cure shining through). In other words, to play this one live, I almost need a band of supporting musicians to help with the instrumentation. I may indeed pursue such a thing at some point, but at the moment, pretty much the only way to hear any of these songs is by listening to the self-produced studio version. This might be my favorite ending to a song/album that I have produced.
It's not what you anticipated
I know it's always complicated
But everyone would be so devastated
Another day, another night, another life is wasted...
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