Week 35: By my echo

A song about staying in touch with what I feel, and not hardening myself, and how it really helps to have someone around to reflect my true self back at me. Chris did some very cool things with the production of this. It was a really nice surprise when he emailed to me, totally wasn’t expecting that. We’d been chatting earlier about the album we’re going to be making next year once the ‘song a week’ thing is over – about choosing the songs, and how we’re going to decide about how to produce each one. This is a nice taste of what’s to come in terms of interesting production techniques.


35 Be my echo
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Lyrics:
Help me to find a way to stay soft in all this hardness
My skin is starting to grow so tough, in all this heartlessness

Be my echo
I’ll be your echo too
Two sounds colliding and rebounding in the blue

Help me remember my reasons to smile in all this sadness
Give me a place to unload my tears, when the world is cold

Be my echo
I’ll be your echo too
Two sounds colliding and rebounding in the blue

Somehow I keep on rolling forward through my days
And though sometimes I stumble still I find my way
Somehow I keep on finding colours in my grey
And though I sometimes mumble, still I find the words to say

Help me to weather my dangerous moods and help me move through
This string of tiny courageous moves connecting me to you

Be my echo
I’ll be your echo too
Two sounds colliding and rebounding in the blue

Week 34: Wall of shame

I’ve always loved the idea that in art there are no rules, that your job as the artist is to express your experience, no matter how weird or socially unacceptable or shameful it is, because by doing so you’re helping to bring things out of the darkness of repression into the light where they can be thought about and hopefully accepted as just part of what makes us all human. For me shame is the big obstacle to this kind of expressive freedom, and I guess it’s the big obstacle to just being who I want to be in the world in general. It’s something I’m always coming up against as a songwriter, the pressure not to overshare, vs the voice saying, ‘there are no rules, you can sing about whatever you feel is real in your experience’. So, this song is an attempt to push against that pressure a bit, and to address the very thing that gets in the way of that freedom.


34 Wall of shame
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For a playlist of all the songs so far, click here.

Lyrics:

I got in a fight, I couldn’t release
It sucked me dry all weekend
I couldn’t write, I could hardly speak
There was no-one I could call

Shame on me for being so
Taken by the undertow
Shame for being so wooed by woe
And shame for shame

Wall of shame
With nobody else I can blame
It’s my ball and chain
My wall of shame

I went out looking for love
I came home with nothing
The lonely tears the lonely bed
The lonely huff and puffing

Shame on me for being so
Lonely in the afterglow
Shame for being so wooed by woe
And shame for shame

Wall of shame
With nobody else I can blame
It’s my ball and chain
Wall of shame

Now I suspect it’s not just me
That suffers from these feelings
That everybody’s burdened by
The secrets they’re concealing

Shame on me and shame on you
Here’s what I propose we do
Put our secrets in a hat
And pass it round

The wall of shame
We’re basically all the same
Behind this pain
Wall of shame

Week 33: Ordinary guys

I love the way this one came out – the atmosphere of the recording is fantastic – great job Chris Tuck, the producer who records my weekly songs. A song about being real in a world where it’s too easy to go in for illusion, where we’re encouraged to see ourselves as a personal brand that needs to be carefully airbrushed and presented in a way that’s going to help us get what we want out of people – and how this mindset just makes the world a lonelier place somehow, where our real selves get obscured we all end up a little bit alienated as a result. Hope you like it.


33 Ordinary guys
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Lyrics:

To all the ordinary guys and girls who look like
People you might meet on any street on any day
Don’t let the stars distort your mind, don’t let the movies teach you
that you’re s’posed to look and feel a certain way

To all the ordinary girls and guys that you might
See about to buy a beer to drink themselves ok
We loved you just the way you were
Before you blew your wages on designer clothes you hope will get you laid

And every time somebody tries
To fool the world with their disguise
The world becomes a little bit lonelier
And every time somebody lets
Somebody in on who they are
Beneath their skin
The world becomes a little bit cozier

To all the ordinary guys and girls out there competing
To find someone to complete them
The best that you can do is make sure when you find someone
That you’ve got someone real inside to meet them

To all the ordinary girls and guys who try
to fill their empty insides by accumulating tokens
Maybe the answer isn’t seeing how to fix yourself
But rather understanding just how everyone is broken

And every time somebody tries
To fool the world with their disguise
The world becomes a little bit lonelier
And every time somebody lets
Somebody in on who they are
Beneath their skin
The world becomes a little bit cozier

So come on let us in
Underneath your skin
Come on let us in

Week 32: Small soft animal

Another song in the “google song” tuning – hence the nice ringing chords. Found a whole bunch of new chords up the neck. The great thing about alternative tunings is that, because you can’t use the usual chord shapes used in standard tuning, you’re forced to experiment and it usually leads to something surprising and different. Once I had all these jangly chords, I just started singing and writing whatever lyrics popped into my head, and this is the result. Hope you like it.


32 Small soft animal
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Lyrics:
Something inside of me is calling me imploring me to come on home from the war
They’re searching the hills and forests and the fields for the guy who won’t fight any more
Something is shaking me awaking me and making me believe in my freedom to be
At home in the ups and downs as I’m rolling and I’m coasting down from the highlands to the sea
And what I got’s enough for me
And there’s peace in the lands for as far as my eyes can see

The sun is shining on my window sill
Talk to me about the ordinary love
That requires no special skill
Just an opening and a letting it run in until you’re full
No special force of will
Just a small soft animal

Sooner or later gonna get the renovator to pull down these crumbling walls
Feel that sunshine spill into spaces where before there was no light at all
Under the moon I’ve been a sleep in my cocoon but now I’m spreading my wings in the light
And soon I’ll rise gonna head into the sky with a song in my head and a feeling that everything’s gonna be all right
cos what I got’s enough for me
And there’s peace in the lands for as far as my eyes can see

The sun is shining on my window sill
Talk to me about the ordinary love
That requires no special skill
Just an opening and a letting it run in until you’re full
No special force of will
Just a small soft animal

There’s something in a mammal that seeks out the warmth of another
And the child will dig a tunnel for miles to get back to the mother
It’s the thing that makes a stranger change into a brother
and sometimes if you’re lucky it’ll turn a stranger into a lover

Can you feel now the moon is full?
Help yourself to all the dreams you find scattered among the moonbeams
No special force of will
Just a small soft animal

Week 31: Coulda mighta shoulda

Here’s another environmental song – sung by my great great great grandson, living in a biodome in Greenland in the 22nd century, surrounded by a ruined planet, wondering why we didn’t do more to stop the catastrophe that we could see unfolding around us. Once I had the concept, the song was fairly straightforward to write, it just involved doing a bit of googling to get an idea of what the planet might be like in 100 years’ time given the projections of climate scientists. Enjoy!


31 Coulda mighta shoulda
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Lyrics:
My name is Tim, I’m 23, you’re my great great great grandaddy
I live in Greenland in a dome of glass
In the 22nd century, I’m part of community
Descended from the wealthy ruling class
I’ve read of how it used to be before the slow catastrophe
Before the sea got sick and the forests died
Did you understand how good you had it then? I hope you could
When fields were green and skies were blue and wide

Chorus
You coulda mighta shoulda
How I wish you woulda
Taken better heed of all the
Signs screaming at you about the state of our home
The scientists were saying no
But still you wouldn’t stop the show
You acted like you didn’t know
You saw the levees overflow
You saw the coral reefs turn white as bone

A hundred million refugees are running from the rising seas
Now that Manhattan’s more than 4 feet deep
Remember when the ice sheets fell you carried on like all was well
Now it’s high tide on 47th street

Chorus

Now I guess I’m in the lucky few who had the means to make it through
And find our refuge in this biodome
And so we have the means to eat and synthesise our slabs of meat
And keep the hungry hordes out where they roam

Week 30: I don’t know what to do

A song about the general frustration I sometimes feel at trying and striving and working and thinking to find a way forward and feeling like nothing is working, and not knowing what else to do. It started out with the guitar part, which immediately interested me with its change from C minor to C major at the start of each chord cycle in the verses. Once I came up with the line “I don’t know what to do”, I was able to work backwards for each verse, finding words that rhymed with “do” and building the verses accordingly – so from there on it was fairly quick to write the words – although I decided each chorus should have different words, instead of just repeating the same one four times, so that ended up taking quite a bit longer.


30 I don't know what to do
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Lyrics:
I put my best face on, tried to write a happy song
But it just came out blue, I don’t know what to do
I tried to say the thing I was ashamed to sing
But it remained taboo, I don’t know what to do

Something is driving me crazy
This feeling I’m in need of repair
Suspecting that I’m basically lazy
And if I just tried harder, somehow I’d get there

I tried to hypnotise myself with little lies
But they remained untrue, I don’t know what to do
I tried to meditate, restricted what I ate
But still I got the flu, I don’t know what to do

I need a week at the ocean
Let that sea breeze scatter my woes
Maybe replace this commotion
With the sound of seashells crunching under my toes

I went to therapy, please tell me how to be
He said it’s up to you, I don’t know what to do
I read a hundred books, to find out what it took
But still I had no clue, I don’t know what to do

Life’s got me itching all over
But I’ve got no clue where to scratch
Just trying to keep my composure
My calm exterior hiding my inner train smash

I thought I’d take a chance and make a brave advance
But slowly she withdrew, I don’t know what to do
I live my lonely life, meet a potential wife
I blow the interview, I don’t know what to do

Not sure I want to be human
In this unnatural style
How about adopting a family
Of mongrel dogs and charging off into the wild?

Week 29: Plastic Island

My first environmental song. I was listening to a podcast where they were discussing the dying out of a species of microscopic snail that was a component of the plankton at the bottom of the food chain, a dying out brought on by a half-degree rise in sea temperature, and the scientist being interviewed was saying that this is just the beginning of the catastrophe that climate change was slowly causing. Scientists have been warning us for decades about this, but nobody seems to take much notice. Well, I figured if there’s one thing I can do to make a tiny difference to this situation, it would be to write a song about it.


29 Plastic island
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Lyrics:

Chorus:
Now that we’ve got more than we have ever had before
Seems all we can think about is how to get some more
The squirrel puts its acorns in a hole inside a tree
While the humans build an island out of plastic in the sea

It was a helluva time I had yesterday at the mall
I tried so hard to keep my eye on the ball
But by the time I had found what I went there for
I’d spent all my money on god knows what all

Chorus

The price is too high I heard someone complain
For a thing that would astound a caveman’s brain
Constructed in china where children are cheap
Only to end up on some stinking heap

Chorus

Like overfed grubs in fast food chains
Feeding our faces to forget all the pain
That we think we can fix with a serving of fries
But the thing that we need no money can buy

Chorus

Stream all the songs from the blog using the player below:

Week 28: Hovering on the edges

This started out with the opening guitar part, which I really liked, and after playing it for a day or so, on and off, words started to pop into my head and so I just sat down and wrote whatever came, thinking I would try to work it into something more melodic, but then when I found the chorus, I decided the flatness of the verse was nicely offset by the melody of the chorus and it was fine just to leave the words as a sort of chant. It was a song I was not entirely sure was good enough to post, because of the kind of directionless way it evolved, with no clear plan. But then I played it to Chris, the producer of these song a week songs, at one of our recording sessions, and he said I should definitely put it out there, so here it is.


28 Hovering on the edges
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Lyrics:
I was hovering on the edges and I was aching to be loved and I was taking the strain as I shoved to try to rise above and I was trying to find a way to make you see me
I was heavily engaged in some kind of dimly-felt rage and I was rattling my cage and I was trying to hide the fact that I was scared and I was needy

Chorus:
Where’d you go? I sat on the edge of the world and waited
But you didn’t show, leaving me lonely and unregulated
And slow to know, the world only sees the things you choose to show

I was a meddler on the make I was the rattle in the machine I was the sun-baked rain-drenched cloudburst landscape of all that comes when all your hopes have slid the ropes to nothing
I was the corona on the sun I had just turned 71 I was looking for some last-minute fun before I fired the gun that shook my frozen glaciated mind to gushing

Chorus

In the cadences of my thoughts there’s an echo of feeling out of sorts and like when it’s Tuesday and it’s sports and I forgot to bring my shorts and like the dream you had again that you were failing
I was accorded an officious role in the curating of my soul and I was vicious in my control and single-minded in my goal but then the heart of me came bursting free and sailing

Chorus

I was in an elastic state of knowing and in an elated space of nowhere and excited about nothing and I was talking about nothing much of consequence to no-one
I was the cold that creeps beneath the door when you forgot what love is for and as the rain began to pour I was trying to make my choice between the high road and the low one

Chorus

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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Lyrics:

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

Chorus:
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

Chorus

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

Chorus

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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Lyrics:

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

Chorus:
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

Chorus

Bridge:
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

Chorus