Week 27: Love love I love you

I started out this one with a chord and a rhythm and decided to see how far I could go with just one chord. I’ve noticed this in a lot of African music – sometimes the song spends ages on one chord, and then when a change comes, it has such an impact. So the verses are just a C chord with the bottom two fingers hammering on the notes with every 2nd beat, and it’s up to the melody and lyrics to create the interest. It’s probably one of the strangest songs I’ve ever written, and really does sound better with drums behind it. I think this one could sound really great if produced in the right way.

27 Love love love I love you
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We get high out in the sun in the summer
And we get lost in love with another
We fill up our souls with smells and with sounds
We gather up the pieces and we
Pull them all around us and we offer them as gifts to each other

We go out into the world with a hunger
For something with a name we can’t remember
We gotta make do with whatever we find
We pick it up and shape it into
something like the thing that we thought was the thing that we wanted

All we ever had was love was love was love was love was love
Love love love love love love love love
I love you I love you I love you I love you …

And we fill our empty lives with our feelings
And we fight with our words to make meaning
We set it on fire and we douse it with storms
We lie awake beneath the stars
And we gather up our stories and we offer them as gifts to each other


Warm is the sun in the winter
Sweet is the dream that you’re into
But cold as ice is the ground where you go
After all the fighting to be
Something in the face of all the nothing


Week 26: After therapy

Sometimes after therapy or whenever I’ve been feeling a lot of intense feelings, like for example if I’ve been moved to tears by something, I always notice how much more alive I feel for a while – as if the emotion has cleared out some blockage in me that allows my senses to come alive. For me emotion is the antidote to depression, which is why I go to therapy, to open up all these blocked emotional channels, hopefully in a deep and lasting way that will help me to be generally more alive. So anyway, I wrote this song after therapy, when I was feeling really alive, just celebrating that feeling really.

My thoughts on being halfway through the year of songs:
a) woohoo
b) how the hell am I going to write another 26 songs?

26 After therapy
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Everything is jumping at me
All the colours thrive in the sun
Every little scent’s alive now
Coffee grounds and cinnamon buns

Suddenly the thoughts I’m thinking
Seem to me to be wise or profound
All the girls in the supermarket
Seem to be happy I’m around

After therapy and sometimes when I’ve been crying or thinking I might be in love
I get a little taste of freedom, just enough to make it clear that all I have here might just be enough

Everything that just this morning
Seemed to be a minor tragedy
Seems a part of some great story
Or a theme in some great symphony

The music I hear while I drive
Touches some forgotten part of me
My ipod can do no wrong
Tingling all down my vertebrae


Too bad the feelings crest
For just a while a day at best
And then my sorry life meanders slowly on
But slowly there’s a deepening
A shifting and a sweetening
And a creeping in to where I might belong

Kettle’s on the kitchen is calm
I settle into my dreamiest thoughts
Not afraid of things that only
Yesterday were anxious and fraught

Every chord on my guitar now
Stirring up a richness in me
I could strum these chords for hours
Resonating all I can be


Week 25: Don’t take away the butterflies

As so often happens when I write a song without thinking too much about it, I end up not really being too sure what it’s about – a bit like a dream that feels strong and meaningful, but whose meaning may only become clear with time. I’m often surprised by a sudden understanding of one of my songs months or even years later. This is one of those songs where the whole thing happened really quickly – in about half an hour. I’m guessing the butterflies and the nightjars are the ups and downs of my mood swings. And maybe I’m saying to myself it’s ok, all these feelings are important, they’re all part of a process – go with them and live them, don’t resist or reject them. This is a really fun song with the band, with its unusual tempo changes.

25 Don't take away the butterflies
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I was digging for an open feeling
Out where the edge-light opens
And every thought is spoken

I was talking to a friend of mine
About the lure of good things
And what it means for mood swings

Don’t take away the butterflies
Or the valley where the nightjar cries
Deep inside your aching
I believe in everything you feel
Even in the storm with a heavy keel
And deep with laughter shaking

Sometimes you have to sink
To find out what you’re thinking
And rise up dazed and blinking

Sometimes it takes a fool
To find the simple pleasures
And things you just can’t measure


Sometimes you’ve got to let it spin
And run in deeper ocean
To catch the prize emotion

It takes a special kind
Of wild and wily pilot
To find my lonely islet


Week 24: That bag of skin you’re in

The idea for this one came from something I read on a sign at the anarchist bookshop down the road: “Behind your mask you’re me”. I turned it over in my head for a few days and realised it was a great idea for a song. I got the chorus first, but was struggling to find something interesting melodically for the verses – eventually after a frustrating afternoon trying to find something different and interesting, I decided to go for a walk on the mountain and on the way down the melody suddenly popped into my head. Enjoy.

24 That bag of skin you're in
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When I began I was so clean and pure
I never wondered what my life was for
I dreamed and ocean but I never dreamed a shore

But then a feeling came to rock my boat
I knew I had to work to stay afloat
And my reflection came rising like a ghost

That bag of skin you’re in does not define you
Behind these masks we wear you’re me and I’m you
The you you think you are is an illusion
The loneliness we feel is just confusion

I built a self I could shelter in
I drew a garden with my magic pen
I couldn’t see the way my thoughts had fenced me in

And soon my hiding place became a cage
And like an animal I felt my rage
And I withdrew inside the war I waged


And every now and then I feel the pain
Of losing things I worked so hard to gain
Those long-lost memories rise to greet the rain

And there’s a part of me that starts to sing
I cry the tears that forgiveness brings
For all the proud and foolish things I’ve been


Week 23: What’s up with my radio?

I gave up on listening to the radio a few years ago. When I was in high school, we loved the radio. It seems the music on the radio was better back then, when DJ’s could play what they felt like playing, instead of having to play the same billboard-based playlist over and over. I have a clear memory of hearing John Lennon’s hit Nobody told me on Radio 5 when I was about 12. And who remembers staying up late to hear Chris Prior’s show? Now when I turn on the radio I usually end up getting angry. Luckily there are great podcasts which have become the new radio for me – my favourite for finding great new music is NPR’s All songs considered.

23 What's up with my radio
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I can still remember my very first time
In the backseat out somewhere for a drive
Liberated by music, sweet and sublime
John Lennon on radio 5

Sitting my bedroom completely absorbed
Hoping I might hear that song again
I got it on my tape deck, DJ and all
Next day at school I played it to my friends

But now I turn my dial searching in vain
For just one song to settle my brain
What’s up with my radio,
Where’d my favourite DJ go,
All those songs I used to know
And all those feelings?
Songs that set me free to roam
In the crowd or all alone
Songs that gave my heart a home
And set me dreaming
Oh, where did those days go?

Then we got little older, new feelings so strange
But there were songs to guide us through that fog
Began to dig a little deeper at the record exchange
For guys with names like Neil, Paul and Bob

One day we decided we might get more girls
If we bought guitars and learned to sing those songs
It didn’t take a long time before I was lost in that world
A world where all my feelings belonged


Stepping into our twenties, that fork in the road
That led us far away from our homes
But any time I got a feeling I couldn’t handle my load
Songs were there to make me less alone

It’s a special kind of magic, something’s got you depressed
You thought maybe you were the only one
I bet it’s in a song somewhere, perfectly expressed
The lonely singer sings for everyone