Songs, Video Recording

Song: “Gravity”


“Gravity”

I was sitting in traffic on a Friday, driving to pick up groceries at QFC, when this line came into my head: “I am helpless when I fall into your eyes.”

My first instinct was to write a song about love-sick obsession, where the singer’s love is not requited. That’s something I haven’t felt in a long time, if ever. I don’t like the idea of that kind of dependency either — so why should I write a song about it?

So I worked on a version that made it about a person coming to grips with being in a relationship. I wrote it metaphorically, staging the song as a journey; first, falling from the sky; second, washing up on a shore; third, climbing a hill; fourth, descending into a valley. Different stages of a relationship.

I finished the song, but it felt “blah” to me.

So I went back to the original concept: obsession and dependency. It’s not really the song I wanted to write, but it’s the song that wanted to be written.

I know, I know … that sounds a bit pretentious and artsy-fartsy. But that’s the way it played out. I’m not sure whether to force a song according to a concept or go with my first instinct. Sometimes following my instinct has generated a song that sounds pretty trite. Sometimes pushing myself to think of something fresh has given birth to a better song. I don’t have a rulebook yet.

NOTE: I’ve included the lyrics for the alternate version of the song at the bottom of the page. If you’re interested in hearing a recording of this, let me know in the comments and I’ll record an audio version of it. If you prefer one version over the other, let me know also in the comments.

A little bit of sweetness

Lyrics

I am helpless when I fall into your eyes
I won’t get very far today.
I should go, ’cause we both know
what’ll happen if I stay.

You’ll be the end of me
I’m caught in your gravity
Gonna try to enjoy the ride
And hope that I can make it
out in one piece on the other side.

I am restless when I walk these streets alone
chewing my worries to the bone.
I am reckless to be standing at your door
asking you, begging you for more.

You’ll be the end of me
I’m caught in your gravity
Gonna try to enjoy the ride
And hope that I can make it
out in one piece on the other side.

Why won’t you ever let me stay here?
Why won’t you ever let me say “dear”?
You know I cannot keep on circling
over this barren land,
like a buzzard,
hoping for a helping hand,
like for something small to come crawling out and die.

You say you’ll miss me, when you kiss me,
then you make me watch you walk away.
I am drifting I am spinning in the void,
with no light to find my way.

You’ll be the end of me
I’m caught in your gravity
Gonna try to enjoy the ride
And hope that I can make it
out in one piece on the other side.

Lyrics for the Alternate Version of “Gravity”

I am helpless when I fall into your eyes 
You've got me captive as a moon.
I am streaking through your dark untraveled skies
wrapped in a blazing hot cocoon.

I'm caught in your gravity
held fast to where I want to be.
Though some days I may try to break free,
but always I return to solid ground.

Your tides have swept me up a steep and rocky shore
a wild country I must tame.
So I'm sweating up this mountain in my mind
gotta reach the top to stake my claim.

I'm caught in your gravity
held fast to where I want to be.
Though some days I may try to break free,
but always I return to solid ground.

I am sliding down the slopes of my own way
to a meadow full of green and gold.
I think I'll stay, if that's okay
and watch our afternoon grow old.

I'm caught in your gravity
held fast to where I want to be.
Though some days I may try to break free,
but always I return to solid ground.

Songs, Video Recording

Song: “Free Range Chicken”

“Free Range Chicken”

You ever think about how many words and expressions come from chickens?

Don’t be a chicken.

I feel cooped up.

It’s time to fly the coop.

Don’t brood over your problems.

And many more. Now that I’ve lived with three backyard chickens for three years, I understand how those expressions got their meanings.

Chickens are cowards. They get squawky they’re shut up in their coop. And when they turn “broody” — sit on their nest for days straight because they believe they’re hatching an egg even when they’re not — they stare daggers at you.

Most of these expressions are kind of negative. Chickens don’t come out looking to strong or worthy of emulation. But they do have a lot to offer — fresh eggs every day or so during laying season — that’s not too shabby. They keep a lot of bugs out of our garden. They create compost. They recycle our food scraps into eggs for our breakfast.

Now, I didn’t set out to write an anthem for chickens with today’s song. And it’s not really about chickens. It struck me as strange and a little funny to be using a chicken as a viewpoint character. But I like it; maybe because the chicken, to mix a metaphor, is an underdog.

The first two lines came to me: “I’m a free range chicken / don’t fence me in.” And I got an image of a character with a chip on his shoulder. Yeah, he may not be the strongest of the bunch; he may not really be able to “fly”; and yeah, he may have been bred and domesticated for someone else’s goals. But he’s going to live his own life, dammit. So just let me be.

Humans are kind of a domesticated species too, it seems — a species that has domesticated itself, with its long childhoods and its immersive cultures. As children of parents and children of cultures, we can feel like our lives are not our own. But dammit, they should be.

This one’s SALTY

Lyrics

I’m a free range chicken
don’t fence me in.
To a free range chicken,
fences are a sin.

You may have bred me
to feed your own design.
But just ’cause you gave me life
don’t mean it ain’t mine.

I’m a peckin’, I’m a scratchin’
if you corner me, I’ll fight.
But I’d rather keep on searching
for that open light.

Don’t clip my feathers.
Don’t trim my wings.
I may only fly for a second or two,
but while I’m up there, I’m a king.

I dash for cover
when the eagle swoops down low;
but I’ll be back in my good time,
so just let me go.

I’m a peckin’, I’m a scratchin’
if you corner me, I’ll fight.
But I’d rather keep on searching
for that open light.

I’m a free range chicken
don’t fence me in.
To a free range chicken,
fences are a sin.

You may have bred me
to feed your own design.
But just ’cause you gave me life
don’t mean it ain’t mine.

Just ’cause you gave me life
don’t mean that life
ain’t mine.

Songs, Video Recording

Song: “Colors”

“Colors”

Sometime in my middle teens it dawned on my that my life seemed to go in peaks and valleys. Sometimes I felt great, other times I felt rotten. (I’m not talking about bipolar disorder, mind you, more the normal ups and downs that all flesh is heir to.) This realization wasn’t so much a bolt out of the blue, but a gradual recognition, like noticing you’ve been speaking prose all your life.

I didn’t care much for this. Why couldn’t I have only peaks? Why couldn’t I fill up those valleys? Surely there was a solution out there.

I spent many years looking, in one way or another. My favorite strategy tasked me with hunting down The Ideal System. The Ideal Diet. The Ideal Belief System. The Ideal Career. And so on.

Common wisdom will tell you that such a quest is a fool’s errand. Accept the peaks and the valleys, don’t worry so much about them, and do your best.

Well, maybe — but is there a System that articulates this thought?

Several, actually. The one that’s working for me is a form of talk therapy (or in my case, “book therapy”) called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or “ACT” for short. ACT grew out of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tradition. As its name suggests, ACT invites you to accept the challenges you face and then choose which values you want to act on. It then gives you a toolbox of skills to help you do that.

Today’s song “Colors” expresses some of what I’ve learned from ACT. Specifically, that when we try to erase the bad parts of life, we can end up erasing the good parts too, or at least the ability to feel the good parts. (If you’re interested in learning more, check out the book A Liberated Mind by Steven Hayes, one of the founders of ACT).

Still, the valleys suck. I’m in one right now: day two of recovering from my second shot of the Moderna COVID vaccine. I’m grateful to have the vaccine, and I’ll be excited once the two weeks are up and I can go running through the streets kissing strangers — kidding! — but yesterday was pretty awful. I didn’t feel much like accepting any of my feelings then or today.

Anyway, better days ahead.

Kind of the definition of bitter-sweet, isn’t it?

Lyrics

Some days the gods smile on me
pouring sunshine on the land.
The world's my private oyster
spilling pearls into my hand.

But other days are darker
my mouth is full of soot.
My words are slurred and mumbled
I drop anvils on each foot.

But I'll take 'em both, the bright and dark, before I take the gray.

So give me red, give me green, and the biggest grin you've ever seen.
Give me all the colors I know how to feel.
Give me blue, give me brown, lift me up and slam me down --
Let me get a grip on everything that's real.
Cause I don't want to face
the endless smear of gray
So give me all the colors every single day.

Now the gray can seem so promising
when it promises no pain.
Smooth the hills into the valleys
so you trod an even plain.

But in that land of twilight
I find it hard to tell
What's water and what's poison
'cause heaven tastes like hell.

That's why I'll take the bright and dark, before I take the gray.

So give me red, give me green, and the biggest grin you've ever seen.
Give me all the colors I know how to feel.
Give me blue, give me brown, lift me up and slam me down --
Let me get a grip on everything that's real.
Cause I don't want to face
the endless smear of gray
So give me all the colors every single day.

Now I don't seek the downpour
I'd just as soon stay dry.
But it's hard to feel the sunshine
when I avoid the sky.

So if I want to see the heavens
and I am tangled in a wood
I've gotta get good at feeling
'stead of trying to just feel good.

That's how I'll see the bright and dark, instead of only gray.

So give me red, give me green, and the biggest grin you've ever seen.
Give me all the colors I know how to feel.
Give me blue, give me brown, lift me up and slam me down --
Let me get a grip on everything that's real.
Cause I don't want to face
the endless smear of gray
So give me all the colors every single day.

Songs, Video Recording

Song: “A Little Fame”

“A Little Fame”

Here’s a cheeky song … with a little basis in biography.

From 8 years old onward, I acted in plays every chance I got. I remember having a conversation with my mom, I think, about whether I should audition for commercials, movies, etc. (We lived in a small town, nowhere near close to major TV/film markets, so it’s not as if I was turning down solid opportunities. But the effort could have been made.)

If I remember right, I said something like “no, I’ll keep on acting in local plays. Have a normal childhood. Then I can get famous when I’m older.”

Now, much older, I don’t have too many star-studded dreams anymore, and I’m pretty much fine with it. (I’d like to share my songs … but not so sure about being in the spotlight.) But every so often I get the itch to stand at the center of a stage with all eyes on me. This song takes that little urge, embiggens it, and has some fun.

Not really bittersweet … but I don’t have a flavor for “cheeky.” Hmmm … maybe salty? Taffy?

Lyrics

I'm glad I wasn't famous 
early in my life.
No refreshing crop of groupies
to spoil me for my wife.

And I'm glad I learned the value
of eking out a wage.
Learned to grin and bear it
and bottle up my rage.

But now I think I'm ready for the movie to begin
Close up on my sparkling blues and my million-dollar grin ...

Ooooh, just a little, Ooooh, just a little,
a little star-struck when they see --
Ooooh, just a little, Ooooh, just a little,
I think I'm ready now
for a little fame
a little fame for little old me.

See I always had the feeling
that I should be a star.
Like everyone should know me,
but like, know me from afar.

When I speak I'd hook my listeners
without the need for a sharper wit.
And I'd just kind of glide off problems
on the wave of my latest hit.

Yes I know I'm ready for the movie to begin
Close up on my sparkling blues and my million-dollar grin ...

Ooooh, just a little, Ooooh, just a little,
a little star-struck when they see --
Ooooh, just a little, Ooooh, just a little,
I think I'm ready now
for a little fame
a little fame for little old me.

Won't I be unhappy with that spotlight in my eyes?
Just hand me a pair of designer shades
and I'll be fine.

Yes, Lord, I am ready for the movie to begin
Close up on my sparkling blues and my million-dollar grin ...

Ooooh, just a little, Ooooh, just a little,
a little star-struck when they see --
Ooooh, just a little, Ooooh, just a little,
I think I'm ready now
for a little fame
a little fame for little old me.

Songs, Video Recording

SONG: Grays, Greens, and Browns

I was walking in Shoreline one day about fifteen years ago, at a time when I was living with my Grandparents, going to college, and it was autumn, and I was wearing this grayish fleece pullover, thinking about the woods and the rain, and I thought to myself, “I am clothed in grays, greens, and browns.”

Continue reading “SONG: Grays, Greens, and Browns”