As I was going to sleep last night I was writing a lyric in my head. That does happen pretty regularly- unfortunately that space in between sleep and not sleep is both creatively fertile and very hard to predict or capture. But there I was writing lines in my head and trying to come up with rhymes and that sort of thing, while also throwing up some very negative self talk about how I should get my lazy ass up and at least write this stuff down so I wouldn’t forget it in the morning. Which I did not do- but luckily for me I was pondering it long enough that some of it stuck and I just finished a first draft of a song I’ve been trying to write for a while now.
So there, laziness for the win.
But the other riff that was wandering around my half asleep brain was this. I was trying to rhyme the word ‘daughter,’ which is harder than it seems. I messed with the obvious ones- water, otter, potter, and some others besides. None of them were doing anything for me. The word that I kept coming back to was ‘blotter.’ Which was working in what I was trying to say- never mind what, eventually you’ll get to hear the song, that’s not the point of this riff anyway.
I knew, as it was rolling around in my head that a) it was the right word for what I was trying to do, and b) there was a good chance that if this song ever makes it to the light of day, a fair number of people won’t get the reference I was trying to make.
Further, a whole lot of ‘professional’ songwriting people, including people I respect and whose work I admire, would say- don’t do that! And if you’re playing the ‘I wanna be a famous songwriter in Nashville’ game, that’s not a bad bit of advice. But it sort of pisses me off to even have thoughts like that in my head. It goes along with a whole boatload of advice (or rules), that I know, but happily ignore, pretty much all the time.
Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.
Ray Wylie Hubbard, for whom I have a deep and abiding admiration in a thousand different ways, used the word ‘amaranthine‘ in his song “Coricidin Bottle.” It’s 1:59 of total badassery with a word I had to look up at the end. It’s a cool word, and he used it in a song. And if I had to look it up I promise you the vast majority of people who heard the song would too, if they were the sort to care, which they probably aren’t. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.
Words are awesome. I love words. I write songs, I teach high school English, I have a graduate degree in English Literature. There are so many cool words in the world. We should use them all. I love sticking interesting words into songs (not randomly- I try to do it when the word really says something, or rhymes, preferably both). I love songs, and books, and poems that have interesting words in them. I know that that makes me somewhat unusual, and I don’t care. I’ve had this conversation with some songwriting friends over the last few years, and it really does wind me up. Language is cool, language is amazing. We should be trying to say more, in more sophisticated ways, all the time. New words are a way to do that. If all you want to hear is something safe and familiar, no one’s ever going to tell you anything new or interesting. And anyone who doesn’t like that?
Read a goddamned book.
In other news, tomorrow is the solstice. As a day to mark something, it’s my favorite. The turning of the seasons and all that. A holiday based on something tangible in all our lives that repeats on a regular basis. So jump over a burning log and drink some mead, or some other appropriately pagan ritual. It’s supposed to be really cold here in Colorado starting tomorrow- we’ll be wearing our mittens. But that won’t stop me from going out to look at the sky on the longest night of the year (the cold air actually makes the sky much clearer- if it’s not snowing) and pondering the imponderable.
Be well. Happy celebrating whatever it is you celebrate- may it help you be a better person in the new year. Wear your mittens. Learn some words. See you in 2023.
-JSFollow me wherever you are!