For someone who usually has no trouble finding words and expressing thoughts, I have internalized this story more than shared it. But it is truly extraordinary to have experienced it.
My dear friend and my steadfast artistic advocate, Jesse, had been helping his mother Deborah, as she lived with cancer for the 2nd time. Not only was he there for her medically to get resources and physically be there for her, but also in creating “make a wish” types of experiences. It was touching to witness and I honestly just hope my children care for me in this way someday.
One of Deborah’s wishes was to record a song she’d written recently, Heart Comes Home, but did not have the ability to perform herself. They approached me about it together. I listened to the demo Jesse helped her record and while a big departure from my typical projects, the song had good bones.
I met with her to better understand her vision and what the lyrics meant to her. She told me beautiful stories about when Jesse was a baby, how he came into the world, and the home they built as a family. I helped her pull more imagery into her lyrics with those memories. From there, we booked time with my dear friend Omar Vallejo at 512 Studios. Cole Grambling and Haydn Vitera brought their talent on piano and strings, and we adapted and recorded the song.
This was a gift for her to have excitement, artistic expression, and something to look forward to with her son; not to mention the recording of her idea itself. It was a gift for me to have known her better, to push myself in ways I honestly didn’t know I needed, and to love with an open heart. It was a gift for Jesse in the creation of stories that live on and a rare and beautiful chance to share music, something they were both so passionate about. I’m speculating, of course, but it seemed bountiful even if the whole reason this was happening was tinged with melancholy. Lots of “big feelings” as I would say to my 5-year-old. So what did I learn?
I am gracefully reminded to live full out by watching someone actually do it in front of me. Thank you, Deborah, for being the bright light that you were and making Jesse in your image. I will never be the same.
She’s on her way Neither going nor arriving late Baby boys stay your babies forever We all came with her Painted one more picture Together the grandest gesture Of love, of kindness Of knowing but not showing It burns us too Being so close in the fire with you So close in the fire with you
She won’t feel much now The weight and the light In a fight for her mind Is this door the opening kind But I cannot cross with her So she gave me the picture In hopes I’d remember The love and the kindness Forget that it burned me too Being so close in the fire with you So close in the fire with you
As someone who has written and released two albums and over 60 singles, I have to admit that writing for a sample pack has been kind of a mind melt. I wrote 6 songs, then promptly dismembered them. 16 GB of my music “data” is out there with minimal guidance on bpm and key… for anyone to create with. Additionally, I never have the finished product that for me, is one of the most rewarding aspects of writing music.
To not have that, initially, felt weird. But the Black Octopus demos helped give them a story, even if it is just one of infinite possibilities. And that has been the revelation in this. There are so many paths a song can take. Just because I am not choosing the singular path for the song doesn’t make it any less real. I can’t wait to hear all the things people make. Even the bad ones! Haha. Please send your creations if you want me to listen. I always do.
I don’t know that I’ll write another pack, definitely not any time soon. But in the mean time, there’s a lot to explore in “Souls”. The lyrics came from personal journals I’ve kept all my life. Some go back over a decade! Each idea was a point in time for me, capturing a little piece of me along the way. Hence the name. I truly hope others can experience it the same way I have. Either way, it’s out there! And just like most new things I do, at the end of it I’m really glad I did 🙂
I’ll start this by saying that I just had a project wrap and I am super excited to see it release this month. A group of fellow collaborators and artists took one my originals and gave it a completely new feel through a cover. I have been fortunate in my career to have 2 of my songs covered now. The experiences couldn’t have been more different. It opened up a deeper question I couldn’t really answer myself but I’d like to explore.
Covers: They make music accessible to an audience broader than what the original would have reached on its own. I myself have found songs through the covers (I suspect everyone has) and sometimes I actually prefer the cover. I never gave it a second thought before I started releasing songs that touched millions of listeners.
However, as a songwriter, the flip side of covers is that the original artist’s work can be completely ignored or forgotten as listeners discover your song as though it is someone else’s. You don’t have to do anything other than clear the publishing and then release it. No permission from the original artist is needed; information which sometimes surprises people.
For example, if I want to release a Beyonce song and not credit her, I am able to do so by clearing the publishing so she gets all the royalties from my remake of her song (ha!). As you can imagine, that scenario happens all the time but since she’s the Queen, everyone knows it’s me-covering-her and not the other way around 😉 But if you flip that scenario (Beyonce covering my song)…. many listeners wouldn’t even know there was another version and most would never know I wrote the song. No, Beyonce is not covering my song… but you get the idea. Maybe I shouldn’t care… but I do. These songs are like little babies (and I can say that even after having a real baby!). To have someone take it without you knowing feels strange and somewhat violating.
When “Still With Me” (Tritonal, Seven Lions) was covered it was not a good experience. I didn’t find out until after the fact and it was already out. The covering artists did not acknowledge publicly that it wasn’t their song. Plus, I didn’t care for their cover / interpretation of the song. 5 years later that is just a memory, and I’ve let it go.
However, working with Psymbionic and Bassline Drift, both part of the Gravitas family, it has been a 180 and a truly enjoyable process. We talked, they created a beautiful interpretation of my song “All I Need”, and we all approved the final version. I couldn’t be happier with it.
I haven’t been so conflicted about something artistically in a while, so I thought I’d put it into words and see if it helped me pick a side. Ultimately, I still enjoy covers. I guess I just hope that if you love a song and find out it has been covered, you take the time to go back and listen to the original artist for context. They were probably onto something original before someone else picked it up…
With half of 2017 behind us, I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude… to reflect on the special things we’ve done together because it’s so easy to get caught up in the “speed of now” and just keep moving.
As a songwriter, there are many ways in which I stump myself and block my own creative path. It is unintentional, of course, but nevertheless very frustrating. Being set in a way that a song “should be about X” or that “this melody is the one I want” can keep an idea from really blossoming. That was not the case with the “Freefall” EP with Au5. When Austin sent me a folder of unfinished work, three songs immediately jumped out at me. When something is a natural fit, the idea comes almost instantly. My sleeping mind awakes and the music pours out. That isn’t to say that after an idea emerges my waking mind doesn’t question it – because insecurity definitely happens too! However, in this instance, Austin was able to take my pure, instinctual output and make it work beautifully with his music.
The music to “Freefall” seemed like a mischievous night out with my friends… an eccentric circus with otherworldly characters. His chord progressions gave me the feeling of a story with a great twist. I closed my eyes and put words to that story without really thinking. “Shock Diamond” continued that journey into the next day and night; riding bikes with my love through parks, the city, and into a full moon. Something about being on a bicycle, with the wind in your face, opens up a child-like innocence and sense of play. Austin originally named the song “Shock Diamond” and we decided to keep it because basically “why not?” 🙂 Lastly, “Emergence” was a forum for Austin to have fun with his unique sound. I wanted to provide a riff that he could take, experiment with and push his own limits. It all fit together as a strong finish to the EP.
The remixes have been the “cherry on top” for this whole experience. For the process to happen so seamlessly from inception to remix is very rare. Nothing blocked our creative path this time, and it will be something I look back on and remember with pride and joy.
Over 136K plays in a month for “Ghost of Me” with @CloZee – wow! Thank you all for the support! It means so much. I wanted to share a little about what this song means to me. This may not be true for you, so don’t let my meaning change yours 🙂
In 2002, after suffering a personal trauma, I developed anorexia as a desperate attempt to regain control in my life. It nearly destroyed many relationships in my life and irreversibly altered my future. While I’m healthy today, it took years of work to recover and I had a support network that others do not. Nearly 10% of college women suffer from anorexia… it probably affects someone you know.
I revisited a poem that I wrote back then when I was sick called “Starved Of” to draw the lyrics out for Ghost of Me. Here are the lyrics and the photo of the poem from an old journal.
*An apple a day is not enough*
*An apple a day is not enough *
*Who is playing God here*
*How much can be controlled*
*Destruction creates more *
*To what degree is it a choice to be made *
*By human beings*
*See, we all prefer ecstasy *
*I am slowly becoming a ghost of me *
If you know someone with this disease, please be patient with them as they recover. It is possible! Love yourself and all your imperfections, for they give you character and depth <3 Thanks again for all your support on this song, and for listening to my story.