love and strange horses *

I am convinced my soul was constructed to belong entirely to a life of making up songs, just as the cowboy’s was to rope calves and the sun was made to lay its palm over the window in my studio this late afternoon.

I spent time this week with two lawyers and someone from A&R. All of them pushing papers with big words and lots of numbers to keep the conversation going.

I have to confess there’s something about being with the fine people who work at these jobs that leaves me feeling alone. I’m the only one of my kind when I’m with them: an outlier, not easy to lasso into their carefully scripted conversations. I stand at the crescent of my hoofs at these meetings, head jerking away from the halter, ears searching for the stablegirl’s caress.

It’s different when I’m among my own kind, musicians and other artists, or when I’m home doing all my comfortable alone things: making up songs, tuning an instrument, reading, or just looking the day away in a pasture empty of everything but wildflowers and witchgrass.

At these times, I feel peaceful and occupied with all the things I know I’m meant to do.

strange horses

* The title of a book by the amazing Nathalie Handal

she’s a rescue

I got myself a new guitar today. Well, not really new: an old Gibson J 45, rich and deep on the low E and A strings, with round shoulders, a wine-red finish and tortoise teardrop pickguard.

She’s a rescue from a city pawn shop. There she stood, so beautifully abandoned, in reverent silence. I imagined her maker reclaimed wood from an old church pew in order to create her.

She came with an exile’s suitcase, and a belly filled with songs.

The music just lives in these old guitars. If you really want to write a song, if you have no ideas and can’t go thinking or don’t want to, go to a pawn shop. Go ask a guitar. Buy one used, because she has music in her.

Think of her as your grandfather’s cane, take her on a walk. She will talk to you. She’ll tell you about places she has known, the wrong turns she’s made and who she’s seen. About the café chairs she’s rested on, and baggage carousels she’s ridden, her wild ways. How one night in a downtown club, she found grace. And why her strings are sad and full of regrets. Could be the one who played her before had no heart.

Tune her up and, warbling out the old, she will begin anew. Tell her to find you a B minor, A major song. Maybe the next day suddenly you’ll have something.

People will turn to see where the beautiful notes came from. They’ll feel transfigured. Those that heard will say the holy spirit spoke to them as from an eternal tree. Anyway, that’s what my new song will say.

abandoned

audible

Sometimes words are just music themselves.

Like “Strawberry” is a very musical sounding word to me. “Dandelion” is another.

I like “Honeysuckle” and “Hurricane,” too. And “Hallelujah.”

Standing on the edge of the vowel forest, I also encounter:

A blossoming almond tree.

The thicket grown loud with nightingales.

Skin and heart. Bed. House. Heartbreak (and with it, the tentative hope for happiness).

And a cloud of starlings.

Sometimes I think that my main instrument is idiom, my voice is just a dialect, and my actual purpose as a songwriter is simply to report on the human heart in the most musical of observational terms.

To make the notes audible in the key of English.