A friend asked for a list breaking down each track for her, and I thought this might be something I should share with everyone.
You can stream the album free on my website, and read the lyrics to all 18 songs. HERE
- Willing to Coast
After borrowing a lady friend’s ukelele, and putting it in an open tuning and coming up with a riff I really liked, I thought that I should try and write a love song, instead of my usual disgruntled love song. It really came together when I started playing on my U-Control keyboard and adding organs. Though, now I wonder if it’s a little rude that the character is asking her to stop working on her art, to go experience an afternoon that was inspired by her art. I like it when ladies support me finishing my creative projects.
2.. Into My Sea
I had written a song called ‘How Do You Tell a Stranger She’s Beautiful” that is on Besides. I didn’t like it. So, I set out to write the opposite of it. A skeezy, pickup song. It came pretty easy. Though, I slowed down my initial guitar riff quite a bit, and built the rest of the song around that. The voice was inspired by a friend who seems to always change what his hobbies and interests are to what those of the woman he’s talking to are. At least he used to. I haven’t seen him in years. But when I was thinking about skeezy, I knew who my inspiration would be. The drone line was in a journal of mine, and I wanted to fit it in.
- I spent the last year pretty disgruntled at my job. And I know I’m not alone in the American experience there. So, I set out to write a song about it. Though I started my musical career in junior high as a rapper (for realz) I knew my voice wasn’t going to cut it for what I was hearing in my head. I asked my dear friend, Ian Thompson, who nailed it. I knew his voice was what I was looking for, even before I had the song tracked out. And it really was. After Ian laid down his track, I synthed some horns on the keyboard behind him, and added the “I’ll retire…” bit behind him, echoing the piano melody, because though there are very little drums in these rap verses, I wanted a hip-hop like hook.
4. The Ideals of Cartoons
During February Album Writing Month, one of the weekly challenges was to write a song from an adult, giving advice to a child. I have very little experience or motivation here. So, I thought about advice that I would have given myself at that age. I built the music from the guitar up. Once I asdded the organ parts though, I started hoping that my dear friend, Brian Rovegno, who helped produce this entire record, would like this song. He’s a father, and I know his musical taste, and I was hopeful that this one would speak to him. Well, it was his favorite on this record, so I think I won that round. What’s funny though is that he says he likes my voice a lot on this song, and I really don’t at all. I think because I’m in a character that I don’t really understand, other than I think the advice is good for all of us. Try to be free.
- Your Mantra Is Contagious!
Many, may years ago, friends and I were in a car and pulled up to a dude who just looked like the most content dude in the entire world. And we all sang, “Bippity Boop Boop Boo” and it just made sense. I journaled the middle verse, and decided that remembering that fella, (but changing him to a lady, because it’s sexier) was a good place to go with that song. I thought it’d make a nice little pop ditty, so that’s where I went with it.
6. All of the Insects
There are songs inspired by both of the women I used to DJ with in the 90s on this album. This one was inspired by early morning walks on the lake in Chautauqua with one. Though there was nothing romantic about us, I found the walks romantic and penned this song, back in 1997. And it sat. I just didn’t have much confidence in it. Then I came up with a drum-line to it in FL producer last year, and fell in love with this long-forgotten song of mine. The rest of the layers came easily and a song I’d long forgotten became a new favorite. If you’re a Chautauquan or have ever lived in a lake resort town, this song is for you.
- Morning Would
When I used to play out , people always seemed to really like it when I’d write and sing cutesy but dirty songs. So, I challenged myself to write a love-song-like duet about morning wood. The premise was silly and thin, so I tried to layer it with lots of fun stuff. I convinced Lonna to sing the dirty parts, after 3 other women passed on such opportunity to sing about my junk, and she nailed it. Ha! Nailed it. Anyhow… Hopefully it’s funny, cute and just a little disgusting.
- Hey! Go On, Holliday!
For many years, in the 90s, I DJ’d with my best friend at the time, Holliday. We were tecting one night last winter, and I felt bad that I’d never written a song for her. She was as influential on my becoming a man as any of the romantic women in my life. And though we’re not romantic, we love each other. She needed a song! I scribbled out lyrics riddled with inside jokes and got to work. You can tell that I was listening to a lot of indie rock stuff at the time. SO, we got a poppy little love note to a dear friend.
- Temptation (New Order cover)
When I recorded the album Heroes & Villains, my favorite song was Wolf at Vespers, in which I reference this New Order song. It then became my mission to cover this song in a unique way. Jukebox the Ghost had already done an amazing, fun, danceable cover. So, I went the other way and made it a ballad. Using my U-Control MIDI keyboard, I scored both the piano and string parts digitally, then assigned voices. This took a very long time. But, when it was done, I really loved the arrangement. I approached my close friend Brian Rovegno about how it will need harmonies. He was on board right away. Better yet, he nailed his vocals in just a couple of takes. This is stylistically different from a lot of my stuff, but it’s exactly how I pictured it in my head. Hopefully a nice tribute to a favorite song of mine.
This song is a sort of mash-up. I’d written the lyrics as a sort-of poem, about a woman asking a fella to delete his adult movies off of his computer. I’d just watched that Don Jon movie. And I thought that it’d make a funny song. But, what I wrote was somewhat serious. So I decided it would make an interesting serious song. The music was something I’d pitched riff-wise to my high-school songwriting partner, wondering if he’d like to try to do something together again. He kind of dropped off the planet. But the rhythms worked well for these lyrics, so I re-imagined it all as one piece, and came up with this odd-ball number.
11, Whatever that Means
I was sitting at the keys, trying to sing a happy song, and decided that I should just do a melancholy happy song to fit those chords. There’s a hodgepodge of things going on lyrically. I was going through some health issues. I was hanging out with a neat lady. I had just been to another friend’s art opening where they kept talking about establishing commercial viability. Somehow it all came together into this song. Whatever that means.
- Missed Connection
I’ve been back in Denver for five years, and still haven’t run into the woman I was dating just before I left. I’ve romanticized her into an epic character. My white whale. My paper tiger. She deserved a song. So I wrote these lyrics and then set out to record something Postal Service-esque to them. I really like this song. I really liked the girl. I should have tried as hard with her as I did on recording this. This is for you, Jessica, wherever you are. I’m sorry that I was afraid all of those years ago.
13. Rough and Tumble
I used to be a bar-room guy. I’m not anymore. But when I do end up in one, I like it to be an old dive bar. I romanticize their history. I wrote these lyrics on a napkin at one such place last year. Goofing off on the keyboard, I came up with the chorus riff, and thought that with some blues and funk organs, I could make it an interesting song. I hope that I did.
14. We’ve Got to Stop
I wrote these lyrics about a girl that was flirting with me, that I knew that I was no good for. And combined some old baggage in there as well about similar situations in my past. I wrote the music to these lyrics hopeful that an old musical partner would play on the track. He was too busy. But Brian told me that this song was worth saving, so I reached out to the best guitarist I know, Paul LaPlaca, who not only agreed to play on the track, but to produce it in his studio, as well as make a video for it if I get the footage he needs shot. Wow. Above and beyond. Anyhow, this all came together to become what you hear, a very radio-type pop song from the 90s. But, hopefully still current, because the themes are timeless.
- Doctor Strange
If you know me, you know that every year I try to write a different comic-book themed song. This year, I really wanted to do a Doctor Strange origin story type thing. He’s my favorite Marvel character, and I wanted to do so before there was a movie and I wouldn’t be as inspired. (Though, a Denver film-maker is doing the movie, so now I’m just MORE amped up about Strange.) I put a whole year into this song. At one point it featured my friend Todd Thomas reading a Doctor Strange spell in the middle break-down, but ultimately people found it distracting over the jam that was going on. The jam was stronger than the spell, so we cut the spell. I wanted a mystical, yet somewhat loungey and indie rock sound for this. I think we got it. Though, this one might be just for nerds who love Steve Strange. Personally, I think it’s my masterpiece. But, I had to keep lobbying for it to make the album with my producer, so you may have to be the judge.
- After a Serpentine Ordeal
My friend Emma asked me to write a song for her to sing. I wanted to write a big pop ballad. I wrote this song. I recorded this song. I sent sheet music for the vocals to Emma. She never made it happen. Well, she recorded them, but never got them to me. I couldn’t wait any longer. I sent the sheet to some other lady vocalists. They didn’t bite. I sang it my own damn self. The song itself is about a woman who needs a pep talk, hurting after a failed fling, and worried about being put on a pedestal by a new potential beau. Throw in some biblical references and there you go. I think it still works with my voice. But ideally, I would have had a lady sing the verses. Maybe one day we’ll get a remix of this one. Still, I think it’s a strong number, and it was one of Brian’s favorites from the entire album. He said the more he listened to it, the more he had to listen to it. Writing a pop song, that’s the biggest compliment I could ask for.
- Vagabonds and Pirate Kings
If you watch Cosmos and drink wine, then journal for a while, you come up with some neat stuff. That’s where this song was born. That, and wanting to play around with an accordion sound on my keyboard. The song takes a sciency look at the old, what if question when analyzing a failed relationship. I daydreamed about the gypsy. She knows who she is. I daydreamed about my first love. She also knows who she is. I daydreamed this song. I wrote it down. Then I recorded big swells and sang it. I like it, especially lyrically.
- Blank Page at the End
I wrote this early in February Album Writing Month, and pretty much had all the parts to it together within a couple of days. At least, I thought I did, 73 mixes ago. This is a song I could have written many years ago when I was ending an engagement. But, I wrote it in 2014. Delayed therapy. I liked the book and magazine references and metaphors. I liked the word play in the refrain. I liked the idea of ending an album with this song. So I did.