Outside the sky is growing gray, and the palo verde trees outside my window sway excitedly as a late summer monsoon blows into the valley. This has been a deliciously wet summer here in the desert, and the soil has turned red with fertility, while wild flowers and grasses pop up in unexpected places along roads and sidewalks.
Despite the scorching heat here, summer is always my favorite time in the desert. The winter residents flee to the north, or to the expensive and crowded coastal cities, leaving the roads a little freer, and the parks and the public gathering spots a little emptier. Those of us conditioned to this place wear shorts and sandals everyday, and spend our weekends by the swimming pool. The rest of the time we spend hibernating indoors, saved by the luxury of central cooling, and binge on TV shows and movies that we don’t have the time to watch when the cooler weather beckons us to spend our days outdoors.
For me, the summer marks a time when work days are a little shorter, and there are no classes to attend to. This frees me up to devote more time to working on music, and this summer was no exception. I’m proud to say it was a prolific summer, and I had the opportunity to share 10 compositions that I am very proud of. Some of them were new, and some of them new or revised versions of my old favorites.
“Exile” is a song I have been working on for over 10 years, and have finally completed a version that expresses the pain and longing of the 21 year old who wrote it, but tempered with the experience of a man who’s lived enough to know that pain and longing is not the end of the road.
“Acceptance” is a song I started writing back in 2010 as I was imagining the kind of “adult” relationship I wanted to be in. I couldn’t finish it until I realized that the sheer act of imagining an ideal relationship, is the perfect way to set myself up for disappointment. Be careful what you ask for and what you manifest. One thing I’ve learned in my 30′s is that instead of asking the universe for what I want, maybe I should spend more time listening to what it wants from me.
“One Rainy Summer” is a song I also began writing in 2010, when I was at the start of something new and exciting. It always felt a little cheesy to me, and I couldn’t finish the lyrics. Once the story came to an end, it became a lot easier to finish the song. Having James Calbert record an awesome drum part also helped a lot.
“Anahata” is a song the refers to the heart chakra. I wrote it at a time in my life when I was trying to discover a part of myself that was more patient and tolerant of shortcomings – both my own and others.
“Sensitive” is the second part of “Anahata.” I discovered that while I was trying to be more patient and tolerant towards others, my lack of outward fight apparently gave them the impression that I was weak, giving them free reign to be judgmental and intolerant towards me. One day I snapped.
“Peanut Better Cups” is a song that I wrote in the studio with drummer James Calbert. We had just finished tracking “Storytelling” and I needed to lighten up the mood. Last summer I shared a version of this song that featured the debut of my “upstairs choir” (me, overdubbed about 9-10 times). I love that version, but I love the original instrumental version too. The first time I heard the playback in the studio, it gave me goosebumps.
“Storytelling” was the first song I recorded with drummer James Calbert. For me, it was a recording dream come true. I had always wanted to do a live recording session with a drummer, and this was just our warm up! I was on the grand piano, and there must have been at least 10 mikes set up in the room. We recorded a few takes of the song, and this was my favorite. Last summer I released an orchestrated instrumental version that was one of my more popular tracks on Soundcloud. The vocal version I completed this summer came about after I received an unexpected note from someone I had hoped never to hear from again. I love the quote “sometimes you have to burn some bridges to keep the crazy people from following you.”
“Missing You” is a song I first shared last summer in much more produced version. I love that version, but thought maybe the production detracted from the lyrics. I also love the piano on this song and wanted to bring it out more. The song is an important part of the story that I am trying to tell with the songs I shared this summer. From 2010-2012, I was involved in a life-changing experience that really altered the way that I viewed love and relationships. When I was in my 20′s, I was very drawn to darkness and conflict, and often found myself in the midst drama. Eventually I started to realize the part I played in it, and retreated from the world.
Fittingly, a microburst of rain is now pouring down, and I’ve opened the door as the smell of creosote and thunder fills the air. The water cascades off the porch and the street outside has turned to a river. When it rains in the desert, it pours.
“Sandalwood” and “Unworthy of Your Contempt” are the bonus tracks to this collection. They are both songs rooted in the idea of hope, and the realization that the ability to love is something of a religious experience – in large part because it is based on faith. Faith that the pain and darkness can lead to a deeper truth and happiness – that it all means something. Of course, there is no way to say for certain.
The rain passes quickly in the summer, and the clouds part to reveal a sky turning to dusk. The sunsets here are long, and the sky is a magnificent red and orange.
I am already working on finishing the next batch of songs. I don’t completely understand these songs yet, but they are dark, even for me. I have debated long with myself on whether or not it is the time to share them. But they tell the next part of the story, and to me, they will complete the album that I’ve been working on for the last year. I have really enjoyed sharing these experiences with everyone here and on Soundcloud. Thank you to those who are listening, I love reading your comments and encouragement!