#1 Broken Heart (“Broken Heart” track by track)

Back by popular demand, I’ll be showcasing each track from my newest album, Broken Heart, in a “behind the song” blog series. I hope some listeners find it interesting or helpful. “Broken Heart” is the first and title track. For convenience, the lyrics and YouTube & Spotify streams are at the bottom of this post.

***

This was definitely the one that I was proud of right off the bat. It’s simple in a lot of ways because it doesn’t involve too many different lyrics or chords, but I felt like I did more than usual to make it interesting and varied in structure, if that makes sense. With a full production though, it could probably be a great teen pop song.

I actually wrote this during a week when I had – no lie – listened to the pop charts for inspiration. I actually felt like I was channeling some modern teen pop artist. I envisioned it as one of those all-lowercase titles — which I ultimately wasn’t cool enough to pull off — and my inspiration started with the first line, “A broken heart is not that deep, I’ve been living with one for years.”

Out of the hundreds of songs I’ve written in the past few years, there are only a handful that I got so excited about that I not only doubled down and finished them in a short time, but also that I felt like they were completely finished, a completely perfect representation of what I’d intended, when I was done. This was one of them. I basically wrote the lyrics and the melody together in perfect synchrony (a rarity for me as I often write at least one verse of lyrics before writing the melody) a little bit at a time as the inspiration came to me. I finished the first verse, and then I wrote a second verse to match it. I wrote the pre-chorus and chorus kind of parts that repeat with slight adjustments to create an interesting structure. Every line I wrote, I felt like the lyric and melody together were so emotionally intense I could feel it in my gut. It was such a spot-on representation of what a broken heart feels like to me. I don’t know if I will make anyone else feel that same pang, but if I can only make myself feel it, that still means something to me!

The “but I’m lying, I really am, but I’m lying, I’m really not” part kind of pokes fun at the idea that you can’t really be too deeply hurt over “just a crush.” And it’s kind of playing with the question of what it means to be okay, hence the “I eat, I sleep, and I dream.” If you’re okay enough to eat and sleep, then aren’t you fine? Especially with a view to the old cliché of “I’m so in love that I can’t eat and I can’t sleep.” But of course you can still be deeply disturbed on the inside without being so non-functional that you can’t eat or sleep.

On the whole I think it is what it is, it’s an overdramatic yet self-aware unrequited love song. It’s not pretending to be anything more or less.

I added vocal doubling to this song for the first time, and I think it works quite well along with the harmonies that, for me, seem to give it a dreamy feeling. The doubling made me feel like Tegan and Sara! I’ll never have a twin, but at least I can clone my own voice and sound like I do!

LYRICS

A broken heart is not that deep
I’ve been living with one for years
But still when you rub at that scar
I flinch so hard this speech seems insincere

And I’ll admit I’m disappointed
That, I could never deny
Ooh, my heart is breaking
But hearts are broken all the time

I know it seems like I’m not okay
When I’ve got no trouble telling you I am
But I’m lying, I’m really not
But I’m lying, I really am
Because you’re with her, living your best life
And I’m all right
Because I eat, I sleep, and I dream
I get by just fine

A broken heart is not that deep
I’ve been living with one for most of my life
But still, when you walk by with her
It cuts like a goddamn knife

And if I ever said that I loved you
That wasn’t something I ever meant to say
Ooh, who can say if it was true?
You never listened anyway

New album Broken Heart out this Friday!

This Friday I’m finally releasing a new, 7-track DIY acoustic album called Broken Heart! You can pre-save and pre-order it now.

This is a bit of a different direction for me, because I write a lot of songs about my relationship with music and following my dreams, because that takes up a lot of my time and emotions. Broken Heart, on the other hand, is a collection of unapologetically intense songs about unrequited love — pretty much crushes.

There are tons of relationship and break-up albums out there, but not as many about unrequited love. There seems to be a cultural belief that unrequited love isn’t “real” love and we shouldn’t feel too strongly about it, we don’t need to talk about it, we don’t need to care for people going through it the way we would for someone who’s gone through a break-up. That if you like someone who doesn’t like you back, you should just get over it. That you can’t truly have feelings for someone until you’re in a relationship with them. We view crushes as something childish that should only happen to preteens and teenagers. It would be great if that were true, but real life doesn’t always conform to expectations, and everyone’s experiences are valid.

For me, crushing and the daydreaming that goes along with it can honestly be a fun way to channel romantic feelings when I’m not looking for a relationship. Sometimes it’ll be a crush on some distant person, and sometimes I just choose not to express my feelings. But then there is that darker side, where you can catch more intense feelings. They can come on imperceptibly and really sting, and it can be difficult to move on from that.

I actually wrote these songs over a few years and they were always the songs that got put on the back burner because I wasn’t feeling them. I recently realized this was because I was embarrassed to have such strong feelings about unrequited love. But why? If we’re honest, all love and break-up songs are overdramatic – no relationship should be the end-all be-all that songs often make them out to be. But that’s human life. We have strong emotions about our experiences, and within our own story in our mind, they always loom larger than life. And no emotional experience should be viewed as more valid than another.

I still feel a little weird about releasing it, but I like the songs, I stand by the honest expression of my emotions, and who knows? Maybe I can inspire others to be just as open on the subject.

#7 Seeing Stars (“Coming Home” track by track)

I’m currently (somewhat belatedly) showcasing each track from my latest album Coming Home in a “behind the song” blog series. I hope some listeners find it interesting or helpful. “Seeing Stars” is the seventh and final track, which means we’ve reached the end of this blog series! But that’s okay, I’ll have more songs to release soon enough. For convenience, the lyrics and YouTube & Spotify streams are at the bottom of this post.

***

This song is an interesting case because I wrote it as a frivolous little exercise and included it in the album on a whim, but then some people ended up really liking it.

I’m not sure if I’m actually going to keep trying to complete 50/90 (50 songs in 90 days) for years to come like I thought I might, but last year was my second year finishing it. At the beginning, I was in a bit of a depression/low motivation phase, and I always need to give myself a little push to get started with these things. It helps me to start by writing without pressure, like I’m just going to write this song, and I don’t care if it’s the worst song ever written. But then, I don’t try to write the worst song ever written, so you don’t know. It might be amazing. It might be terrible. That’s kind of the fun of it. And I’m not always the best judge of the finished product because I’m always going to judge my songs based on my personal relationship with them. How much did I enjoy the writing process, and how well does it express my personal thoughts and feelings? But those characteristics are invisible to everyone else, so there’s no reason they would like the same songs as I do.

So this is one of those songs that it’s hard for me to like because it’s subjective, and subjectively, I didn’t enjoy writing this song and I don’t necessarily love what I expressed with it. I didn’t enjoy writing it because I was in a low motivation state and had to force myself.

I suppose I kind of like the sentiment, and it is relevant to my life right now – a simple song about becoming disillusioned with your dreams when they don’t seem to be coming true and no one believes in you, but refusing to give up hope completely. But I tend to find my shorter, simpler songs more boring, even as everyone else prefers them, haha. I always wish for it to be more idiosyncratic and specific to my personal situation, even though I know that will reduce its potential appeal. But it certainly makes it fun for me to sing! Plus, I guess I perceive a certain cheesy factor in this lyric. The title makes it seem like it’s more about someone who was trying to make it in Hollywood than someone like me.

The other issue is that I dared to write a higher melody, which everyone else seems to like when I do it, but I hate singing high notes. It’s uncomfortable, more difficult, takes more concentration, is hard on my voice, and I don’t personally like the way my voice sounds up there. (Of course I don’t like my voice at the bottom of my range either; I think it sounds best right in the comfortable middle.) This is why, even though I agree that it’s a pleasant, pretty little song, I barely sing it live even when requested.

But anyway, for better or for worse the song is out there now and people can hear it and make their own judgment. I kept it acoustic when I recorded it. I would say that my favorite aspects of it are the simplicity and the little chord motif with the open B string that I play in the main progression. I do like the lyrics, but they don’t excite me the way some lyrics do – that’s the best way I can explain it. I respect everyone else’s right to love it if they want to, though!

LYRICS

You could see them in my eyes
In every old picture
Mirroring the night skies
A timeless, boundless fixture

And when I’d get my wish
I’d stay content for all of time
Though they say everything dies

Seeing stars, I was seeing stars

They told me to give up
Those lights were getting dimmer
I started to get stuck
They all knew I’d never be a winner

But nothing’s ever certain
So why can’t we just keep trying?
And everything might be all right