#6 I Don’t Love Songs (“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. “I Don’t Love Songs” is the sixth track. For convenience, the lyrics and YouTube & Spotify streams are at the bottom of this post.

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“I Don’t Love Songs” is one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever written. It was another one that came together fairly quickly, and was written somewhat systematically. By that, I mean that I came up with what I wanted each part of the song to say before I wrote it, and then I carefully chose my words for each line. Without passion, that method can result in a very boring, lifeless song, but I adored the song’s concept, so I don’t think that has happened here.

In a nutshell, this song is about two things: first, it’s about my obsessive, unhealthy love for music. Second, it’s about depression. I was really excited about the idea of putting these two themes together in a song, because I don’t see it as being very common.

As many of my ideas do, this one came to me when I was just thinking about myself and my emotions. There are a lot of ways to describe depression, and anhedonia is often a big part of it. You don’t enjoy even the things that usually light a fire inside of you. For me, that’s music, so I can usually judge my mental health status by how music makes me feel. If it doesn’t affect my mood very much, then watch out. And I felt like “I don’t love songs anymore, I only like them now” was such a clear, concise, and poignant way of putting it.

I’m very proud of all of the lyrics because, for me, they are dripping with emotion and they paint a very clear picture. The latter is something I’ve had to work at, and I still do. For example, I was proud of “the scent of beer soaked pine makes me think of live music” and “sick to your stomach at that perfect mix of passion and purpose and harmony and rhyme.” Again, it’s that feeling that I’ve described something inside of me with absolute perfection. Even the lines that are simple and straightforward still feel to me like they couldn’t be anything else. That’s the mark of a well-written song.

Sometimes, when I really love the concept and lyrics of a song, I have a tendency to half-ass the music part, just procrastinate because I’m afraid I won’t do the song justice, and/or never be satisfied with it. None of those things happened here. I got right down to business, and even though, again, I wrote it very systematically, I thought it came out really well. The song is well-structured and there is good differentiation between each part.

Now, I can already hear the songwriting “experts” complaining that there isn’t much range to the melody. No, there isn’t. I don’t care. Range doesn’t make a song (or a singer, for that matter) good or bad; emotional expression and catchiness do. Also, I don’t know why some people say that “all hit songs” have wide ranges, when if anything it seems like it’s more common for them to have very narrow ranges, and people like Celine Dion and Mariah Carey are very much flukes. Narrow ranges mean everyone can sing along. It’s just about what you do within that range.

Anyway, I was careful to come up with a slightly more varied strumming pattern so it could be differentiated from the rest of the album. Then I only added simple harmonies (which I was pleased with) and kept it simple and acoustic. As I’ve said before, with limited production and arranging skills, it’s always better to err on the side of simple and unadorned rather than risk ruining a good song. Someday I hope to have more choices than just “simple and acoustic” or “ruining the song,” but I can wait!

LYRICS

The scent of beer-soaked pine makes me think of live music
Makes me think of a world of friends and the best days of my life
Makes me think of my inner power and of knowing how to use it
And of calming meditations and dreams bursting from inside

Music’s made me fall in love with everything
Again and again and again
It used to be my reminder that I was alive

But I don’t love songs anymore
I only like them now
And I don’t dream of open doors
Because I only wear them out

And I’ve always wondered how common it was
To get sick to your stomach
At that perfect mix of passion and purpose and harmony and rhyme
Because it happened to me all the time
It happened to me all the time

I’m not so happy with how these past few months have been going
But I’m not gonna lose my mind because I’ve felt like this before
It’s all gonna be okay because there’s a comfort in the knowing
That there’s always an ebb and a flow but I always come back for more

Music’s made me fall in love with everything
Again and again and again
And when it comes back around then I’ll come back to life

#5 Running on Empty (“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. “Running on Empty” is the fifth track. For convenience, the lyrics and YouTube & Spotify streams are at the bottom of this post.

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“Running on Empty” was one of my rare songs that came together relatively quickly. I don’t just use metaphors in songwriting; I use them naturally in my own thinking, to clarify my feelings or experiences or sometimes just for comfort. So one day when I was thinking or journaling about my music career, this metaphor just popped into my head, of being on a trip to a particular destination and not knowing if I had enough gas or resources to get there.

At this point I feel like I need to defend myself a little bit, because most people who either are DIY musicians, or who like DIY music, love to talk about how success and money don’t matter because playing music is just about being creative, expressing yourself, etc. To the point where, whenever I talk about long-term growth goals and things like that, I get a lot of patronizing comments trying to invalidate basically the entire concept of having ambitions and the resulting feelings of disappointment. Let’s set aside the obvious counterargument that you need money to survive, and while it’s all well and good to say “just work a day job and do music for the love of it,” those day jobs take a ton of time and energy away from music and limit the opportunities you can say yes to, and while it’s the norm for plenty of talented working musicians, that doesn’t make it suck any less.

But for me, the counterargument actually goes a little bit differently. Believe it or not, my primary purpose in writing and playing music is not to express myself or be creative. It’s to express myself to other people and to build connections through it. So if I’m only writing for myself — if I’m the only one who’s listening and the only one who cares — for me, it’s fundamentally not worth it. It’s fundamentally pointless. And while it is nice having 5 or 10 or 20 people who truly care, I dream of the day when there are hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands who are passionate about my music, who get my lyrics tattooed, and who have positive interactions and a whole community with each other built around my music.

I know that many people will still scoff at this dream and say I should just be satisfied because I’m writing music and expressing myself, but oh well, this is how I feel. Connection and community are what make music beautiful and special and worthwhile to me, and I long to play an actual role in that aspect of it. It is the main reason I’ve been obsessed with music for my entire life, and it’s the main reason I’m obsessed with making music now. And I’m totally on board with the idea that you should try to feel happy and fulfilled with yourself and your life as it is, no matter how it is or what you ultimately want. It’s just easier said than done, and probably easier for some people than others. For me, it’s one of the hardest things in the world.

So this is all just a long-winded way of saying that when I talk about a “destination” in my music career, I’m generally not talking about making a certain amount of money, winning an award, or getting signed to a big label. I’m just talking about reaching a tipping point where I can actually say that a significant number of people care about what I’m doing, that people are listening, and that my music actually matters, at least to some little corner of the world.

(By the way, the “resources” and gas in this metaphor, for me, represent the traits needed to succeed in music and to truly build a thriving fan base. I suppose I’m mainly referring to talent and charisma, though I know that luck plays a role too. Hard work is the one thing I will definitely give myself, though!)

On the other hand, the crux of this song is that even if you never reach your destination or ultimate goal, it doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy the journey. Chasing this dream for the past several years, I’ve already had many priceless adventures that I never would have had if I’d been settling into a safe and secure life, and that means something to me. If I keep chasing this dream for the rest of my life, I’m going to smile on my deathbed at all the memories and adventures I’ve had. I’m not going to look back with boredom and dissatisfaction and have to ask myself, would my life have been more interesting and fulfilling if I had chased my dreams? That is how I am choosing to live my life already, and while I might never get even a modicum of what I want out of it, what I get back still has some correlation with what I put into it. In other words, back to the metaphor, “no matter where I stop, at least I got to feel the wind in my hair.”

I was quite pleased with the concept and lyrics of this one. I also came up with some really good harmonies in my opinion, which took me many tries to get them sounding as I wanted. The electric guitar chords and subtle (virtual, of course) strings that come in later were easier to create, but I also like what they add to it. Actually, this is another one of my favorites! I will say that truly being proud of and enjoying your own song as a listener is worth it. It might not be “enough” for my greedy brain to feel completely fulfilled and happy, but it’s one of those little victories to check off along this journey that could end at any time.

LYRICS

Sometimes this whole thing
Feels like I’ve gone on a road trip
Without the resources
That I actually need to make it to my destination

Still don’t know if I’ve got what it takes
But I feel like whatever I can give I already gave

And I don’t know how much farther I can go
Running on empty
But I won’t give up until the engine blows

I don’t even know if I mind where I end up
When I reach that time
I’ve heard it said that it’s about the journey
And that just might be

And I know I’ve always wanted to get there
But wherever I stop
At least I got to feel the wind in my hair

I’ve already made it so much farther
Than I ever dreamed in my early days
You never know until you try
That little tank might just make it all the way

#4 You Could Do Anything (“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. “You Could Do Anything” is the fourth track. For convenience, the lyrics and YouTube & Spotify streams are at the bottom of this post.

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I actually finished this song a year or more before I released it. It was another one that either didn’t fit into the theme of a release, or I just wasn’t sure how much I liked it. Honestly, I liked the lyrics because they were very relevant to my life, but wasn’t sure the music was compelling. I thought it was another one of those songs that only I would appreciate because it was so idiosyncratic to me. However, I got better feedback than I expected, including from one of my worst critics, my sister, who got emotional over how relatable she found it! It turns out I can never predict how my songs will be received, no matter how much experience I get.

This was one of those songs that took a while to write because I was trying so hard to get it right. Most of the words came pretty easy, but I tweaked them from the first draft all the way up until recording. I think I’m satisfied with the final result! I suppose my favorite part is the bridge, plus the way the verses are 100% true. My dad has literally been telling me to become an author and buy him a yacht with my bestseller money since I was 8 years old, when I used to write stories for fun. I grew out of that, but unfortunately my dad never grew out of his dream for me. I guess I should just be flattered he thinks I’m that much of a world-class writer, when I think it’s pretty clear by now that I’m not, haha.

Music wise, the first melody I wrote was quite boring, so I went in and shifted notes up here and there, and I guess I’m sometimes surprised how effective those little tweaks can be. I did the same with the strumming pattern, which I tried to make slightly more varied than the Old Faithful and I think I succeeded at that, at least.

I made this one of the more “produced” tracks on this release, although I’m not sure how much any of them can really be labeled that way. I added some pretty little electric chords and riffs (which still often just sound like keys no matter what I do) along with a bit of power chords and percussion just to make my genre more confusing. Nah, just because I liked all of it.

I’m not gonna lie. I just went and listened to this track myself, and it’s pretty good! Probably one of my favorites. I might have underestimated it, as I often do with my songs…

LYRICS

My dad always told me to be an author
He said I’d get so rich I could buy him a yacht
But is it really easier to pen a bestseller
Than make a living wage if I give this everything I’ve got?
My mom was more patient, she’d just say…

You could do so many things
You could do anything
What do you want to do?

I always had a knack for numbers
So if it was just money
I would have been an engineer or a CPA
But it’s hard to find the space inside my mind
For those numbers
When I’m writing a song in my head every minute of the day

Everybody’s always getting at
Some different way that I should be
But I’m not here to please anyone
I’m only here for me
And the more this life disappoints
The more certainty that I seem to find
This is what I want the most, by a catastrophic landslide

You could do so many things, you could do anything
And this is such a simple thing
Might never lead to anything
But it’s all I ever wanted to do