The attached audio is a song of mine recorded at Creeksound Studios. I suppose it's a "single." If I were to banter about it at the kind of show where a 20 minute pre-song anecdote was acceptable, this is what I would tell you about writing it...
It was April 2013 and it was just under two years since my father passed away. It was Spring and the trees were pregnant. I was in my own re-birthing, too -- the stretching and yawning and blinking of my soul waking up from it's grief.
It was warmer by the hour, and bright yellow tulips were popping up through the melting snow. I wanted to drink the dew from their stiff goblet heads!
I had a lot of time to do silly things like that. I didn't have much scheduled in the way of performances, so I was mostly practicing, writing, and reading Edward Abbey. I would throw coins and consult the I Ching. I would listen to records on vinyl, start to finish, without so much as wiggling a toe. I would walk the trails by the creek, or meditate by the water in intervals of time between espresso shots. My host Dave roasted the beans in the wood-shop out back of the house. He would come home from work and make himself two shots and ask me what I'd done with my day. "All the good stuff," I'd respond, which was understood by both of us to mean, "Nothing really at all."
This is where I was staying - "The River Road Abode" - a tiny house atop a hill overlooking a creek in the Connecticut woods. From the outside it looked like a shack with a charred roof. From the inside it looked like a poet's kingdom! It was owned by two sisters who's father had been an artist and recently passed away. They couldn't decide what to do with his art, so they just left it there and rented it out like that.
His work was all through the house, littering it, almost. Piles of sculptures crawling with spiders in the basement - alert gazelles and swinging monkeys, reclining lions and white tailed deer sheltering fawns - a zoo of marble mammals looking up with frozen, kind eyes through solar storms of back-lit dust.
There were stacks of drawings and unfinished sketches - I remember a really stunning series of boxers sitting hunched in exhaustion, others taut and drawn back like bows, sweaty and solid with feet sunk into the ground, stuck forever on yellowing paper with loose knees and furrowed brows. There were paintings, too. And colorful tile mosaics worked into the walls. Ceramics, stained glass windows, wooden furniture of hand carved character. So many evidences of a buoyant personality, just frozen in time all around me. Who was this man? What did he like to eat for breakfast? Was he a tidy creator, or a messy one?
I wandered in and out of his spaces like I myself was a ghost.
But I don't want to make everything sound so romanticized. It wasn't really such a romantic period in my life, or in the life of the community I was in. It was five months after the Sandy Hook shooting and parents, politicians and educators were engaged in a conversation about what to do with the school. The predominant idea had been to scrap it and rebuild, and now I understand that is what they will be doing. My host asked me if I would write a song for a compilation CD they could sell to support the families. I said yes and did my best to approach such a difficult subject. It really took some considering. I wasn't sure where to start. I'd already written a fair deal about the topic in my own process of loosing my father, and I felt tired by slow, sad, hymnal stylings.
I explored the idea that my father would be sixty one forever. And when I thought of the Newtown kids it brought me to tears to think that they would never turn seven, eight, nine...It seemed that, for them, the clock so abruptly stopped.
I struggled with the song for a week and still I didn't have anything to show for all my contemplating and concentration, all my willingness and desire to give an offering to the Newtown Families, and all my personal experience to draw from. I stopped trying and prepared to tell my host, "Sorry. It's just not coming."
I got up the next morning to sit through the sunrise. That evening, I sat through the sunset. At last, amid the melting light and the waking crickets, I felt a sense of relief and peace to the personal realization that really, nothing is frozen in time. And the feeling that no one lost is frozen in time, either. Not this mysterious artist character who's home I was occupying, not my father, not the Newtown kids.
"The universe is not a static thing," writes Carol Pearson in her book The Hero Within, "... it is in the process of being created all the time."
Of course, it is being destroyed all the time as well. But the point to me was, in that moment, that it continues.
And that was it. I was unstuck. The wonderful gift of my "job" as a songwriter is its inherently therapeutic nature. Having let go a little, I was able to compose and recorded this song the following day. It's called "The Circle Sets" and was engineered by David Kaye. He also plays a beautiful second guitar part. Bobby Csugie played bass. It may or may not end up on a record at some point, but for now it just is what it is and I am simply grateful for the transformation I received in making it. Thanks to David for opening his home and studio to me, and for his enthusiasm in continued collaboration.