Monday, September 17, 2012

The story behind the song: Golden Some Day

In 2010 I began working with producer Jamie Mefford on my new album. As we sorted through the possible songs, I referenced another friend of mine with whom I trade songwriting assignments. Jamie smiled slyly and said, “I want to give you a songwriting assignment.” Great, I thought. This should be interesting. And I was right. Over the years of listening to the likes of Jerry Garcia, Neil Young, and Doc Watson-style bluegrass, I had developed a playing style that kept my right picking hand very busy. I had grown accustomed to playing a lot of notes most of the time, a habit which was not lost on Jamie. And being the producer/sage/therapist that he is, Jamie was interested in what else I could do. He then explained that he wanted me to write a song in which I was allowed to strum the guitar using only my thumb. No pick, no other fingers, just my thumb. My first thought was, “shit.” I was certain that this approach could only lead to an insanely boring song. And the more I thought about the assignment, the more intimidated I became. No fancy picking? No pull-offs and hammer-ons? But that means that people will really listen to the lyrics. I hadn’t even worked on the assignment and I felt like I was standing before a judgmental crowd wearing nothing but my birthday suit. When it comes to writing about certain topics, I tend to write about whatever is occupying my heart and mind at the time. This was December 2010, and my wife and I were in the middle of contentious discussions regarding our relationship, discussions which would eventually lead to a sincerely amicable divorce the following year. As I began strumming my guitar with my thumb one night, this beautifully simple chord progression emerged, and I quickly began to feel thankful for Jamie’s challenge. Then the lyrics started flowing, and that sentiment grew. This song developed rapidly and was completed in a matter of days. When the song was done Jamie and I fell in love with it, and decided to name the album after it. For me it is a beautiful song, a painful song, a loving song. Vocalist Anne Sibley adds to the atmosphere, and so far, this track tends to be a favorite of listeners, as well as the players who helped record it. Here is the song: It can also be heard at my website, where the CD is for sale for a mere $10. GOLDEN SOME DAY This time baby one of us will end up down One hits the runway one is sticking around Lonely sleeps here too There's no helping if the walls ain't talking to you Yours is the girl I never quite remember her name Mine is the child who always gets left with the blame Slowly grew too hot to hold Theirs is the kind that always gets left in the cold Oh tell me the lies Tell me you'll stay Oh I know if we try We'll be golden some day Golden some day The knots we tied won't come undone You just smiled and said there's only one Hear those feet dance across the floor Leave this table like it's never been set before Oh tell me the lies Tell me you'll stay Oh I know if we try We'll be golden some day Golden some day Fall like a shadow gone with the flick of the light Lead with the left and I'm left holding the right Words come clean nothing left to say Sheets of rain fall they wash it away Oh tell me the lies Tell me you'll stay Oh I know if we try We'll be golden some day Golden some day

Friday, June 1, 2012

How much are you willing to feel?

Let’s start with a blanket over-generalization: Western approaches to mental health (and medicine in general) often focus on symptom-reduction. Rather than attending to the underlying causes of anxiety (for example), we take medication to simply avoid these feelings. And while I support the use of pharmaceuticals in many cases of mental health, I also see our tendency to go for the band-aid fix first, and many times singularly. A quick glance at the pharmaceutical industry will attest to the popularity of this approach. Pfizer alone made nearly 60 billion dollars in 2010. That’s $60,000,000,000.00! In contrast, traditional Eastern approaches to health and wellness encourage us to lean into our pain and fear, befriending them, feeling their intensity, and eventually transforming them. This is the approach I adopt as a therapist and songwriter. I create music principally because if I didn’t have this outlet of expression, I may spontaneously combust. After spending my days breathing in the struggles of others in my private practice, this is my chance to breathe out. I also suspect that I write songs the way I do because I have a deeper agenda: I want you, the listener, to feel something. I want you to feel those things that you typically spend a good portion of your existence defending against. I want you to lean into your own feelings of pain, struggle, loss, love, and joy because I know a secret: The painful places are where the most valuable gifts are hidden. The more we are willing to feel our pain, the more we are able to experience our joy. Shut one side down, the other side shrinks with it. But as we breathe into the intensity of the pain, we are rewarded equally. How much are you willing to feel?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sheer Determination

You know that insatiable feeling when you want something so badly that you are willing to endure nearly anything to get it? I was reminded of that intensity last week as I taught my 6 year-old daughter to ride her bike. When you commit to learning a new skill like bike riding, you realize the learning process will be painful. You know you will crash, and you know it will hurt. And you can expect to routinely question whether or not it’s worth it. For my daughter, her sheer determination to succeed outweighed the fear of pain. She kept at it until she was able to ride - tears streaming, legs pumping and finally bike riding. It was a major moment for us both. This experience inspired me, as I saw in her a gritty toughness that I deeply admire. Please let me be so determined that I will carry on pursuing my dreams, even with skinned knees and wounded pride.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Something Else

For all its frustrations, having automated customer service options has added at least one benefit to life: Something Else.

Usually tucked at the end of an exhaustive string of prompts, the "Something Else" option provides hope of moving from frustrated to empowered.

This has led to a running joke with my friend, as we frequently attempt to select the Something Else option in our lives, instead of dealing with the current predicament. Of course the attempt at circumventing what is is futile, but it does provide momentary relief in the form of laughter. Perhaps this is the Something Else - Levity. Perspective. Respite. Something Else is my simple two word protest to the universe letting her know that I'm not fond of her at this moment. Got a phone call that a loved one is sick? Choose Something else. Got an overdraft fee from your beloved banking institution? Something else. Flat tire? You get the point.

At the end of the day, if I choose to continue to enjoy the freedoms of adulthood, I am also choosing the responsibilities that comes with those freedoms. Being a grown up is hard. But it's somehow a shade easier and more fun when I take a moment to acknowledge that I would occasionally like something else.