Notes on Swimmer
I was listening to a fair amount of Sara Bareilles when I wrote this, which might explain the bouncy piano. The hook popped out of me one day while I was doing "musical morning pages"— see my note about them at the bottom of this page, I've found doing them so useful for switching from my left to my right brain. I have no idea why my husband Tom thought that the song needed a flugelhorn, but I'm glad he did.
I Want I Want
This was inspired by the book Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow—Henderson is prone to going on long rants that often ended with "I want I want I want". Friends in my book club were discussing what an unlikeable protagonist he was and I said "But I completely relate to that feeling!" A much more famous songwriter was also inspired by the book—there's a passage in there about having seen "life from both sides now" and Joni Mitchell has said that she was reading the book when she wrote that song.
Love Beats Time
This song is dear to me since I was writing it during the last few weeks of my mother's life. At the time my family thought she had a few months more to live but she left us sooner than expected. The two of us spent the weekend together, and she talked a lot about how much she loved my father and their life together. The song was buzzing in my head in the background while I was there, so I always link it with the last time I saw her.
The Good Fight
I've co-written with a bunch of great writers, but this is the only co-written song that felt true to the mood of the album. Kelleigh Bannen is a very gifted writer with a gorgeous voice, check out her website. The first time we got together to write we yacked for awhile, and the topic we settled on was how over the years we both have had some juicy fights with our spouses. I actually had a boyfriend years ago who got so mad he threw a cup against the wall instead of at me, so he gave me our first line. When it came time to record it, I knew my pal Dana Cooper would be perfect for the harmony vocal.
In Another Lifetime
Inspired by real life, as are all these songs. I'm pretty astounded that my husband likes this song, but that tells you how awesome he is.
I Can't Fix You
When Maura O'Connell came in to sing her harmony vocal she said "Wow, your family sounds just like mine!". I think there are a lot of us out there.
I Forgot I Was Strong
I've been in a couple of a cappella bands and I miss them, so I really wanted to write a song that would work with vocal heavy production. I wanted different voices in there, not just mine, so I dragged in several friends to sing the other parts one by one. They couldn't really tell how it would sound since they were just supplying one part consisting of "Hey yeahs" etc. It was fun to play them the result. All the singers finally met at the rehearsal for the CD release show and we got to hear and perform it for real.
This was the last one I wrote for the CD. My friend Buddy Mondlock had read me a piece he'd written about seeing a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral, I'm sure that's part of the inspiration.
Box of Mom
I actually have had two mothers, which might explain my need for two mom songs on the album. Mom 1, my birth mother, appears in "Forgiveness", while this song is about Mom 2. I didn't actually take Mom's ashes to Idaho: I flew there and met my father to spread her ashes, some of them near the Buffalo River she loved. I put a rock on those ashes on which I'd painted "Pardon My Dust", which is what Dorothy Parker wanted written on her gravestone. (Mom turned me onto Dorothy Parker when I was twelve.)
I should first note that Mom 1, my birth mother, did not leave me sitting on the lawn in my dirty diapers when I was a baby. I made that up. Mom was an extremely troubled woman who later took her own life. She couldn't take care of me for awhile when I was very young, and I spent over a year and a half in a foster home. I have no memory at all of being there, but naturally the experience left me with issues to grapple with as a grown-up. A few years ago I had lunch with my foster mother and asked her what I was like then—I'd assumed that I was a miserable wretch of a baby. She said "No, you were a crack-up! You loved to play dress up and laugh."
What I did during my writer's block that got me going again: I did musical morning pages, and played lots of Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell songs.
Musical Morning Pages
These are an extension of Julia Cameron's morning pages which she writes about in The Artist's Way: basically, it's noodling around on piano or guitar, with or without singing. No key, no judgement, no goal, just a lot of rambling around enjoying the feel of the instrument. Twelve minutes is the magic time I heard somewhere, and often after twelve minutes the ideas start flowing for me.