This is another song that was inspired by the Odyssey and also the color black. At the time, I thought rap music was especially inspiring, so I borrowed a few things from it: 1) Sampling phrases from famous songs. 2) Including references to how tough and awesome I am (although it isn’t a song about me), and 3) Including my name in the song (although it isn’t a song about me).
One of the worst things about writing songs is that people tend to assume all the songs are about you, which can sometimes be embarrassing. Although it is even worse when people assume you have written a song about them. That is truly a nightmare.
This is from a series of songs I wrote inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, but even more so, I think, inspired by the color black, which was, at the time, my least favorite color. There may be some truth to the idea that what you lack in yourself you attract in others, because the more I tried to avoid wearing black, the more I attracted friends who wore black exclusively. That’s why it is dangerous to be too nice, too good, or too positive- you will end up attracting serial killers as friends. But if you REALLY love being nice, maybe it’s worth the risk.
I wrote this after going to the library to check out some children’s book. Frequently, I think children’s books are the best books. They are simple and clear- pure content and vision, stripped of all complexity and intellectualism.
Great Works for Adults tend to be complicated and fibrous, and when you do go through the trouble of digesting them, they rarely have the calorie content of books written for children.
The Wind in the Willows vs. Crime and Punishment…
Mark Twain vs. Hemingway…
To me, there is no contest as to which books speak to us most deeply and directly.
At the time I wrote this song, I was very into soldiers. I had recently read Gandhi’s biography, and he talked about how he thought of himself as a soldier and tried to live accordingly.
I also tried to be a soldier, and pushed myself to be brave as much as possible, which caused me to have no respect for men whose primary goal in life was to pleasure themselves.
But, being by nature shy and cowardly, it took A LOT of work to be brave, and in the end wasn’t worth it… just like a naturally plump person trying to be super thin, or a skeletal person trying to be obese, it is bound to cause some strain when you try to diverge too much from your nature.
So, I had to come up with many crutches to help me push beyond my emotional comfort zone, such as taking ice cold baths (covering my whole body, including head dunks), and eating insane amounts of ginger. I disliked ginger, but found that if I ate enough (and it took a LOT) I was no longer able to feel butterflies in my stomach, just a warm gingery sensation.
I guess the Shanghai Trio were the embodiment of who I was trying to be- three beings dressed in red, made of fire, and afraid of nothing.
This isn’t a song about ghosts, per se, but rather the ideas and illusions that we sometimes mistake for reality. I wrote it about someone who lived in New York City. On the one hand, I admire people who live in big cities for their toughness, confidence, and energy, but their heads do seem to get filled with very strange ideas as to what life is all about.
Sometimes I think that we get our ideas about the nature of life from the tallest structures in our environment, whether they be mountains, churches, skyscrapers, or a big mansion set up on a hill. If this is true, it could explain the brains of city people, since they would be getting their ideas more from human sources than from natural ones. Not that this would necessarily make their ideas less valuable, but just more transient, since the thoughts and ideals of humans change much faster than the minds of mountains.
I wrote this song while shopping for nail polish, and didn’t think much about its meaning at the time- it was just a song about three feathers- one red, one yellow, and one green. It wasn’t until I had performed it and a man came up to me and asked “Was three feather man a naughty boy?” that the meaning and story line of the song clicked into my mind. Download MP3: 3 Feather Man
I wrote this song in Nashville, during which time I came across this quote from Kahlil Gibran:
“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ”
I interpreted this to mean, quite simply, the worse a relationship is, the better it is.
The dangers of reading things that seem lofty and profound!!
Just another song about the never ending quest to find a place where it is always sunny and warm, always afternoon, and I’m always sitting with a friend around a yellow checkered tablecloth as cakes and lemonade are just about to be set down on our table. All colors are essential to our survival, but how long will a person last without yellow and gold? At the time I wrote this song, I was living in New York, where I felt I was drowning in indigo, unable to function in all the mushy darkness.
I wrote this song after being inspired by a story about cranberries in Martha Stewart’s magazine. My love and respect for cranberries has only grown over time- they are such an unique fruit- equal parts passion and stoicism. If I had to choose one word to describe them, it would be resolute.
In honor of cranberries, here is my own cranberry sauce recipe- more delicious than ice cream, and as beautiful as a jewel. I like to eat it hot and liquid, but for a more professional touch, allow it to solidify.
Julien’s Famous Cranberry Sauce
1 cup water
12 oz washed cranberries
1 cup sugar
Bring water to a boil- add cranberries, sugar, a splash of vanilla, and as much honey as you like. Return to a boil, then lower heat to medium and cook, stirring, for 11 minutes. Pour into a bowl and let cool.
I wrote this song when I met James. Could it have been inspired by him? I don’t know- but just in case, it had to have an unhappy ending. As we all know, songs are a little bit like Dorian Gray’s picture- they push the bad feelings out of our system and onto the other side of the looking glass. That is why it would be extremely foolhardy to write a song like “Oh honey, I love you so much, you are the best wife ever” unless you are hoping for a divorce. I’m not sure who Eric Clapton wrote the song “Wonderful Tonight” about, but with a song like that, you can bet they are no longer together.
On the other hand, the opposite superstition also exists- that you should only speak, think (and presumably) sing about positive things because positive words lead to positive outcomes! I tried to live with this philosophy for a while, but it was a lot of pressure, and I think it could lead to insanity if a person pursued it for too long. Every now and then, a musician comes out with an album that tries to be extremely positive and uplifting and I always take this as a sign that they are on the verge of a mental breakdown.