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Groundhog Eve (and more about Turn Out The Lights) 

Well, it is, right? February 1st. Therefore, Groundhog Eve. I hope you remembered to hang your stockings up and gather with friends and family to sing those classic, heartwarming groundhog carols on this fine winter evening. "Shall We Gather By The Burrow" is one of my favorites!

Ahem. So I thought I'd use this week's post to share a little more about the new single that came out the other day, Turn Out The Lights. (You can hear it on the Music page, and I'll be putting up a couple more songs from the new album there soon.) Turn Out The Lights was the first song written specifically for the new album. A thought I had in mind at the time was that the first album didn't have anything with a 6/8 kind of groove, and I like a lot of songs with that groove (think "Black Friday" by Steely Dan, or "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" by Tears for Fears, or...well, many others), so I should write a tune that uses it. I'm not usually that calculating when I start on a song idea, but anyway...I had the main riff and the chorus together on piano fairly quickly, nothing too complicated yet. Maybe a week or two later, I was playing around with a few lyric lines for a different song idea and decided to try them on this one - those became the chorus ("So you don't have to tell me twice/I think I'll call it an early night/would the last one to leave the party turn out the lights"). 

Really, though, I didn't have a strong idea of what those lyrics would mean within the song yet - they could be describing a lot of different situations. Why does this person want to leave? I'm often fascinated by characters who find themselves trapped one way or another, and I started thinking about conspiracy theorists locking themselves away and going further and further down rabbit holes on the Internet, pursuing their pet theories. Each day getting more isolated, becoming more convinced that everyone's crazy and only they see the truth...well, this guy COULD be a cockamamie conspiracy buff. But I'm also fascinated by stories where someone actually stumbled on an amazing breakthrough, only to have everyone disbelieve it. (Alfred Wegener, who came up with what we now know as tectonic plate theory, had this happen to him - it wasn't until well after his death that scientists could verify he had been right all along.) Maybe THAT's this guy.

The song never tells you which one it is, but the paranoia is steadily closing in either way. Someone who heard the song and read the lyrics early on wondered if it was about suicide. I wouldn't say I had that in mind, though I'll leave it open for interpretation - I wasn't going for anything that specific, just more of a vibe, someone's misshapen world closing in on them too fast. 



Song of the day, January 9, 2020 

Hey y'all - I said I'd start posting songs of the day, and so here I am! Half the battle won. "Song of the Day" usually means a song by someone else, but today, we're keeping it Trembles:

First song, first album. Most of the first album was made up of songs I'd had around for many years, this one included. It was written sometime in 1999 or 2000, I think, though the roots of it can be traced even further back. WAY back, as it turns out:

Yep, it's from a Peanuts comic strip - but that's not how I discovered the phrase, and I didn't find out about the comic strip until many years after I'd written the song. The story of how I picked up the phrase is funny, too: I had seen it in a string of bathroom graffiti in the early 90s when I was in college - two graffitists were taking turns arguing about some salient point of religion or human nature or I forget what, and there it was. I thought it was hilarious in context, and the phrase stuck with me. 

When I finally did write the song, I was in a band called Banana Seat, which mostly did (super fun) 70s and 80s covers but branched out into originals as well, and we ended up recording it on an album. That version of the song, which I'll need to find for you guys sometime, had a completely different intro and bridge/solo section. They were nice enough parts and I liked the chord progression, but when I revisited the song for Trembles of Fortune later, I felt like the song seemed to lose some energy at that point, so I rewrote those sections entirely. I made a demo of the song at home in 2012 and was pretty happy with the arrangement, but when I eventually got into recording Trembles of Fortune, there was still one change to make. By this point I'd started working with John Hegner, a name you'll hear a lot here; he's the engineer for lead vocal recording and mixing for both Trembles albums, and his work on these albums has definitely taken them to a level way beyond what I could do on my own. When we were recording lead vocals, John mentioned that the piano section after the bridge felt a little stiff to him, and while I thought I liked the part fine, I did have to admit that, yeah, it was good but nothing special. It wasn't a full-blown solo at that point - more like a few bluesy licks and rhythmic patterns, rather sparse. So I went home and played around with some ideas, and that's what became the more frenzied piano part that ended up on the album.

One other odd thing about the song: unlike every other T of F song, there's no guitar. There was guitar on it originally, but I wanted things a little simpler. If I ever rerecord it, I might try adding some back in, though very sparsely. (The Banana Seat version had horns on it too, and they might be cool here in spots. Only have the budget for so many horn songs, unfortunately!)



December is about half over, and it's almost time for the third annual installment of what I'll call Trembledecember, because I don't have a better name for it at the moment. At this time of year, I usually find myself alone at home for a few days. So I spend those days in the home studio, goofing around, letting loose and generating as many new song ideas as I can. No rules, no goals, just go with whatever comes to mind. The majority of the songs on the new album came from the first such session in December 2017. (The first Trembledecember was fueled by a large bottle of Captain Morgan, unwisely consumed in its entirety, along with lots of delicious, delicious beer. I quit drinking a year ago, but no regrets!) I did this again last year, much more soberly - I didn't end up writing that much this year, being busy with making the current album and other things. But again, six or seven of the song ideas from last year's Trembledecember have become decent contenders for spots on a third Trembles album. But the more songs to choose from, the better, so I'll be doing it again this year. There's a good chance I might post some snippets here, either because I think they've got potential or because they're ridiculous.