My band, Duke Rushmore, is making an effort to write more of our own material. Back in the day, I used to write songs all the time for myself and for my bands, but I sort of drifted away a bit. Now, I back a bit on my guitar, tinkering around. Both our lead singer and drummer write lyrics, with no music, so I have asked them to send me their words, hoping maybe I can find a way to bring them to life.
This past week, I did work on a song with lyrics from our singer, but I don’t think the tune will work with the band. But he was thrilled to have his words put to music, so that was a nice gift that I could give to him.
Looking at the lyric sheet, I realized: what a mess I make of it when I work on a song. Literally. I scratch out words, rewrite phrases, put lines through whole lines and then remove the lines, draw arrows. The chicken-scratch-lyric sheet is like a roadmap of ideas that can be interesting to examine. Or maybe interesting for the singer, to figure out what I was doing with his words that he graciously and courageously sent my way.
You see, this kind of collaboration requires me to block out the world for a stretch and remake the writing of someone else, which can be both exciting and unsettling. It’s exciting because you are bouncing off the words of someone else. It’s unsettling because there is a lot of responsibility that comes with this kind of endeavor. Most of all, I did not want to lose the meaning of his song, even if the words were moved, deleted, changed, altered. The story had to remain true. I think I did that for him but it weighed heavily on me as I sat there with my guitar, wondering where to even begin as I looked over his words and thought about what he was trying to say.
Yeah, it was a mess but it came out OK in the end.
Here is a demo of the song. It’s rough and the recording didn’t come out so great because I was quickly working to get it down.
Peace (in the collaboration),