Well, it looks like this is my final song! I have finally recorded and posted all the songs I have written so far. Phew. Now I am free to move on to something new… maybe I will grow my fingernails out into out long, golden talons studded with rhinestones and tiny teddy bears. Ah, that sounds like paradise!
I think this is a decent song for my grand finale, because… well, I remember when I wrote it, the sky was so so blue and the song unfolded page by page in my mind like a storybook, filling me with a sense of eternity. Which is to say, I have positive associations with it.
Also, this song captures a world I frequently try to capture in my songs– a place I call “Checkerboard World.” Checkerboard World is more or less the same as this world, except that everything seems slightly more luminous, more crisp and defined. Plus there is a giant checkerboard that covers the earth and one in the sky as well. The checkered squares in the grass are large- maybe 10 feet wide on average- but in the sky they are even larger, maybe up to a mile wide! But the size of the checkerboard grid varies from place to place, sometimes expanding, sometimes condensing. It all depends on how much space the space contains.
But don’t confuse Checkerboard World with heaven. This is not the land of golden angels. There are still thugs in their dark alleys and scoops of chocolate ice cream that topple onto new white shirts. But there may be something about the clarity and spaciousness of the place that makes it easier for people to recover completely from the bad things that do happen. And in Checkerboard World there is no time, meaning there is plenty of opportunity to sit and cry for as long as you need to. Well, technically time does exists, but only as a way of subdividing eternity, which stretches out around people in all directions (like a checkerboard). Even death is nothing but an opportunity to evaporate up to the giant checkerboard in the sky so you can pour down again like rain.
Download MP3: Made Love to My Father
A song about my desperation to leave the cold world of outer space and feel earthed again. I wrote this song in Nashville. As a kid, visiting Nashville from Kentucky, I had always liked its warm, earthy vibe, like pizza cooked in a red brick oven. But when I moved there as an adult- around 2006, I think, it didn’t seem the same anymore. It had become citified, slick, black, stylish, and cold. Sure, there was country music, but there wasn’t anything country.
What is country music, anyway? To me, it would be any music inspired by a southern, rural life. It wouldn’t have to fit a certain mold- it could be strange, nonsensical, angry, dull, sad, or wild. It could express the full range of human emotions and the crazy imagination of nature. But Nashville music isn’t rooted in the country, it is rooted in the tradition of country music, which is a very different thing. It pulls its tradition from a handful of 20th century country heroes, a well that becomes more depleted with every song written. Art that draws on other art as its foundation… well, I think it can get a little inbred. That is how we end up with blank canvases and the like hanging up in museums.
But that is just my opinion. The point is, I felt disappointed that Nashville had become more cosmopolitan than homey. I wanted something soft, warm, and natural, but ended up with something cold, hard and plastic. It may be no coincidence that so many of the songs I wrote in Nashville relate to being lost in outer space.
Download MP3: Mister Will You Make Love to Me?
It is called Dragonlance, because he was the type of guy that collects dragon figurines, Magic the Gathering cards, and things of that ilk. I love people who are into that stuff- they seem so innocent and pure- but I can’t relate to it myself. The whole fantasy genre is anathemic to me. I can’t bring myself to watch Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. How can I get excited about something that isn’t real? I would rather have some french fries with ketchup.
Of course I do like dwarfs, but to me they aren’t a fantasy.
Download MP3: Dragonlance
I hope I don’t get sued for writing a song called “Black Man,” but the truth is I believe there are beings in every color of the rainbow who live side by side with us humans. And of these vividly colored peoples, the one I think about most frequently is the famous “Black Man,” a jet black figure about 33% larger than a regular person. I think these colored beings might show up in our lives to compensate for our weaknesses. The black man seems strong and protective to me, though also opaque and aloof. But after all he’s part of another world, and “their ways are not our ways.”
Download MP3: Black Man
A song about the Mexican Fire Bird… a gigantic orange bird who helps people escape constrained, repressive circumstances (including prison). The Mexican Fire Bird frequently guides people out west to where the grid of the earth is wide and spacious and they can once again take deep breaths of exhilaration and adventure.
The Mexican Fire Bird has many friends, but also enemies, including one black bird so large he is the size of four cars (and bigger when his wings are spread.) He snatches musicians with his beak and carries them way up high, so high that everyone can see them, a shining star at last, until he drops them onto a large pile of rocks by a creek somewhere in Henderson County, Tennessee. After that, I don’t know what happens… probably he eats their remains.
Some people say this black bird makes his nest on top of the large bat building in downtown Nashville. But at any rate, he is a sworn enemy to the Mexican Fire Bird. Because the Mexican Fire Bird teaches people to seek the fire within, and the Nashville Blackbird can only prey on those looking to find fire in other peoples’ eyes.
Download MP3: On a Mexican Trail
Download MP3: Mikael
This song was inspired by the fairies of fire, and the book “Enchantment of the Faerie Realm” by Ted Andrews, a book I wish I still owned. Although many of my beliefs (like the belief that wearing designer clothes will make you rich) have changed over the years, my faith in fairies has never wavered. What else could explain the growth of plants and those tiny smiley faces you see in the sunbeams?
Download MP3: Burn Baby
At the time I wrote this song, I always wore boots. Generally white boots, since brown boots represented drudgery and losing track of your life’s purpose, and black boots represented tyrany and abuse. They couldn’t have heels in case I needed to run for my life. They needed thin souls, so the pounding of my feet against hard surfaces would stimulated my electrical systems. And the toes had to be pointy- to represent fire.
Pants needed to be flexible and yielding enough to kick a predator in the chest and then escape over a tall fence. But sweat pants were out of the question, since they dampened my electrical circuits. Shorts were impossible, since they triggered water-attacks (the feeling that I was dying of thirst.) Skirts were less than ideal, since they make you reluctant to hang upside down or climb a pole, but it was generally skirts that I ended up with anyway. At least they let your legs be free (I hated it when pants touched my legs), and generally you only need to climb trees at nighttime anyway, when the bad guys are all out.
I needed shirts that would cover my shoulders and the back of my neck, which I could not bear to have exposed. But no turtlenecks- they brought to mind strangulation. And no sweaters, since I feared they would absorb the electricity from my body. Multiple layers of fabric covering my heart were a must and I preferred it to be something hard and form-fitting, like a suit of armor, which frequently led to me wearing extra layers of underwear on top of my shirts.
I always wore a hat, even indoors and even at night. I didn’t feel safe without one, and it needed to have the widest brim possible, which generally meant I ended up wearing fussy outdoor-wedding hats covered in lace and silk flowers, a look I didn’t much care for. And last but not least, I needed a gigantic cross pendant, to keep anyone from trying to steal my soul. Later, I switched from a cross to a letter A.
Download MP3: You Ain’t the Man
I like this song because it is a question song, and I really like questions. I like people who ask questions, and I love asking them myself. I’ve been trying to cut back though, because it can get to the point where I only ask questions and never make any statements at all. James (who may be biased because he hates questions and comes from a culture where they are neither asked nor answered) has also warned me that constantly asking questions could make me seem unintelligent.
But for some reason, appearing unintelligent has never bothered me. At times, it has been a source of joy, like in school, where through a campaign of routinely saying the dumbest things I could think of, I was able to change my horrible nickname “Brain,” to the more palatable “Brainless.” Being Brainless was fun. Brain had to stick to the program, saying things others could understand and appreciate, but Brainless wasn’t confined to those narrow gray crevices. She was free to explore, to soar to the clouds, to give the right answer OR the wrong one, if the spirit moved her.
Still, freedom can lead to exhilaration, and sometimes spin into intoxication and mania. One thing I have learned to appreciate about intelligence, even feigned intelligence, is its sobering and grounding aspects.
Download MP3: I Also Wanted to Make Love