How is it that life can throw a pail of curve balls our way and then expect us to dodge every one of them? That's what my life has felt like over the past month ever since returning home from summer camp. I expected a slow, paint-filled and largely uneventful August, but that came and went. Now, September is blurrily halfway over and I can barely recall its first half. It has been a mournful month thus far with us having experienced the double devastation of losing Danielle's father to cancer and that of hurricane Gustav, all on the very same day.
Ben came to the house this morning, and we worked on developing some of the songs. I believe this is called pre-production, where you tweak, manage, and massage verses, choruses, lyrics, melodies, bridges, or add or subtract dynamics, develop flow and energy as a song moves from point A to point B. It's figuring out how and where to trim the fat and how to get the most out of every single word and note. Most days this would sound like teeth-pulling to a slow-brained person like me, but Ben (Shive) was ridiculously helpful in fine-tuning the lyrics to "Living For Myself", the overall melody to "Come Back A Fool", and the bridge to a song called "Run Down" (think, a takeoff on the rabbit epic, Watership Down).
We started the meeting by my playing him a new song I wrote last week while in south Louisiana chainsawing tree limbs and picking up branches and dragging storm debris to the curb at my newly widowed mother-in-law's house. It is a rare event when I am able to write a song apart from the guitar, so with boots too big, shorts far too baggy, in borrowed gloves, socks and longsleeve shirt, I penned the majority of "Louisiana In The Dark". The heat and humidity, I remember, were rampant. I am grateful for the song, and especially grateful that Ben seemed to sense its gravity and meaning to me in the sad and losing events that transpired on Labor Day 2008. In my mind, the song could more than likely stand alone without any instrumental accompaniment whatsoever -- a rare accomplishment for me.
We broke at noon for leftover spaghetti and chilled Dr. Pepper, and continued work until Danielle and Ellis returned from running errands. Ben and I drove the two minutes it takes to get to nearby Portland Brew where we hashed out budget stuff, and then whittled the song list from 14 down to 10 (maybe 11) songs that we feel are the strongest of the bunch. I have no idea what I'm doing by telling certain songs that they're not up to snuff and are being cut from the team. [I'm an LSU football fan, so, voila, there's your sports analogy. Down, set, hike.] We compared calendars and got a general idea of nailing down some work days. Tracking (drums and bass) day looms near. That means I need to get these songs in really good shape before then.
I'm sure I said this before when I was recording Scarce a few years ago, but I simply cannot overemphasize the value of having a producer, a friend even, who is quite possibly more excited overall about the songs than I am. I realize I'm just another paycheck for Ben - he would never say this - but his genuine enthusiasm and investment in this project is a therapy to me in my lethargy and acedia. We pressed the record button only once today in order to get a quick verse idea down for posterity sake. There were no expensive microphones, no patch cables, no studio hobnobbery, but this day of work, as bare bones as it seems, was quite productive, reassuring and encouraging. Progress, though plodding, is still progress.