Monday, August 22, 2011

Committing To The Line

By my best estimates I have put thousands of hours into learning how to play the guitar. But when it comes to the crafting of lyrics, I have traditionally flown by the seat of my proverbial pants.

Then I met my record producer/therapist, Jamie Mefford. Through his approach to making records, he has taught me the art of listening to the song, of leaving space, and of diving into each and every word on the page.

I have since discovered a new method to the songwriting madness. When I devote time to the discovery process, I set up my home studio, slip on the headphones, grab my guitar, hit "record," and start playing. As I play through a particular song I try to free up my heart-mind to sing whatever words seek to come through. As I listen to the song and breathe into her, I aim to temporarily quiet my judgmental mind that wants to critique each aspect of the lyrical output.

This creative approach has unleashed something in me, and I am writing on a more prolific level than ever before. The other night, while working on a song about San Francisco, I wrote (sang) more 40 verses. I then listened back to the recording, and transcribed every word. Picking out my favorite lines, words, and concepts, I wove them into the finished product.

As a result, I have two new songs that are close to done. Really close, as in one line away. But that line…it's not there yet. I have written a number of options for this particular lyric, and even thought I had it. But each time I sing the line, I'm not totally buying it. I'm having trouble committing to it and believing in it. As I learn to listen to my visceral reaction to singing, I can tell when my body contracts, and I'll know that if I perform the song with the line I have now, I will regret it. I will sing that line but blur the words, mildly embarrassed by them because I know they could be better.

It set me to wondering, where else do I do this? Where else in my life am I not buying my own lines? Are there places where I feel incongruent with what I am saying and doing, but I disregard my own visceral integrity?

I now know the embodied sense of purpose that grows from singing/living the lines I believe in and I aim to embrace this in all aspects of my life. I am a musician. And also a psychotherapist. In that order.

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