Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On the 1st day of "pre CD release" Eric gave to me

Hey folks we made it!!!!!! Well kinda.

It is today on the count down to CD release party that I realized two errors on my part:

1) I obviously didn't pay close attention to the 12 days of Christmas song because in that song it started with Day 1 and added each day til it got to 12 where as with these blogs I've gone 12 down to 1. (Sleep deprivation takes its toll)

2) My countdown to the party ends today and the actual party is the day after tomorrow. (I guess my B.S. in Mathematics/Statistics is failing me on the task of counting to 12)

But either way, it has been a fun trip so far explaining the inspiration for or story behind each of the songs to you.

After this blog post I'll get back to more random musings. (Well tomorrow's and Thursday's post are liable to be about the release being as it is all that is on my mind at the moment. But then......back to my less structured randomness).

The final song to explain is one of my favorites

"Peanut Butter and Jealousy"

             It's amazing the clarity that comes with psychotic jealousy.
                  -Rupert Everett

             Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love -
                 -Charles Shultz (Charlie Brown in "Peanuts")

       Although this story is pretty straightforward I'll try to give ya a few extra details about the song. This song was not technically one of "the Keepers" (meaning it was not a half song that Wendell had started which I kept, then completed for the album or a half song that I had started which Wendell kept, then completed for the album). This is one we built from the the ground up during the process.

     Wendell and I always throw song ideas back and forth from our iPhones. We value each other's song sensibility greatly and we work together to great result (meaning when we work together we accomplish the mission of getting our point across like we intended. Not to say it is inherently great and you must love it. Although we like it when you do). 

    Wendell's song snippets are typically gems. I am amazed by his consistency. He is a fountain of creativity and I always get excited when I see a voice memo from Wendell because I know it is gonna be good. But one day Wendell sent something other than a voice memo. He just sent a text of some possible lyrics. I think was as simple as "Lyric idea : Peanut butter and Jealousy". It was so genius it just killed me. I think I sent him back a iphone recording of the chorus idea in about 10 minutes. It was one of the wildfire (easy to write) songs.

    To me as a song writer, songs that have a very detailed very specific set of pieces (characters, situations, locations, etc) are incredibly easy to write. I fail at writing songs when I attempt to get too broad of topic. If I fully grasp the context of the entire situation, I know how the characters (note: a lot of time one of the characters is yours truly) will react to stimuli.

 "Peanut Butter and Jealousy" is a perfect example. For me it would've been insanely difficult (and I probably would've never gotten finished) writing a song about ..... Love lost. But when I read Wendell's phrase "Peanut Butter and Jealousy" a sitcom script virtually appeared intact in my mind. 

     I instantly saw the back story and the current scene: There was a guy (who looked remarkably like me) who used to have it made. He had a wonderful girl that did everything right. She was stunningly beautiful and sweet. She was smart and funny. She kept the house clean. And most importantly she was a culinary wizard. Everyday the guy came home to the smell of paneed chicken (his favorite) or some other delicious concoction. He was always well fed and well loved. It was heavenly.
    Well the guy knew he had it made. He knew he had it made and wanted to take steps to ensure his situation didn't change. This is where his error occured. He chose unwisely as to how to go about holding on to his lovely lady.
     There is an unfortunate part of the human condition that sometimes rears its ugly head when the keeping of something or someone of extreme value is involved: Jealousy. In the situation where we are lucky enough to have something of the utmost value (whether it be a physical possession or the love of a special person), we should nourish that situation by showing our appreciation not guard it so jealously that we squeeze the life out of it. However we are humans. And humans don't always get this right. The guy in my imaginary scene had an epic moment of this "humanness". 
    The guy held his lovely girl/chef so tightly (without realizing what he was doing) that she finally got fed up with his jealousy and left.
     In the rubble of this aftermath is where we (the audience) arrive on the scene. The guy sits broken hearted and hungry. He just sits, staring into his empty oven, spoon of peanut butter in hand. He knows his loneliness is caused by his own actions. He knows his hunger is caused by his own actions. That now familiar taste of mundane, boring peanut butter is a poignant reminder of his errors.

    When four simple words (-Peanut -Butter- and -Jealousy) can illict such an explosive thought process I know it has song potential. This idea took a little massaging to get it to the final product you hear on "My Brother's Keepers" but overall it was simple to write. The story was already obvious to me from the outset. It was just a matter of making music and rhymes that told the story. 
    When a intensely specific story for a song floods my head like "Peanut Butter and Jealousy" did, the writing process is virtually always a fun and happy experience. In these cases I never run into the struggle I do when I try to write about something vague. 

 (Production Note: When playing this song in its earliest manifestations, I always played it more country. This always bothered me because I didn't really hear this song being that way. I wanted to address that fact when we recorded. I asked the session drummer, Pete Wehner, to intentionally stray from giving it the country groove. I was trying to figure out a different groove to suggest but before I could , Pete said "Let me try this". He went out into the studio and started throwing down that Mardi Gras (second line) drum groove you hear on the CD. It is exactly what I wanted but I'm not sure I could've ever articulated it to Pete. Luckily Pete is insanely competent and he knew what the song needed. His part really really elevated it to where I hoped it would get.

This bouncy Mardi Gras groove gave the producer, Rick Hirsch, some interesting ideas. He said he wanted to bring in Chuck Schwartz to play some clarinet. I am a huge huge fan of horns and woodwinds, so I was all about it. As usual, Rick's idea (and Chuck's performance) was right on time. 

The interplay between Chuck's Clarinet parts, my vocal lines and Tom Morley's violin lines might be my favorite musical parts of the album. With Quitin's bass line and Pete's drum groove as the base, those 3 other parts tell the story of that poor hungry, jealous guy better than I could've imagined. I think we captured the vibe of the lyric perfectly. 

This is obviously our "clever song" lyrically, but I love the music. The lyrics are a silly look at a pitiful situation and I think the mud soaked, revelry of the Mardi Gras music we put behind it brought it to life. 

I love it and I hope you do too.)

And that's a wrap. You now know the way the whole album came into being.



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