A few years ago a bar and restaurant in Rochester, NY had a song writing contest. I thought I could use it as an excuse to write some new material and get all of my instruments and equipment out, taking over the dining room.
They sent a topic to you although I don’t remember what mine was. I got mine and started writing. The song went through a few different iterations until the day of the contest. I think you had a month or something. The song went from a 50’s doo wop vibe to country to pop. It was a weird wild ride with pages of notes and lyrics. I did not win the contest, but had a fun night with a few friends, drinking beers and performing. I made a little kick drum out of pieces of rafter from my basement and an old bongo and used it to cover Can I kick It by A Tribe Called Quest.
The strangest thing about that is that I never recorded the song. I almost always record myself, a few different times actually, to listen back to the song and make it better. I’ve been doing that since 98 so I’m not sure why for this track I didn’t, or if I did do it I lost it. What’s even stranger is that I’m an obsessive lyrics person, saving the original lyrics and scrawlings, sometimes even stapling them to the finished version so I can look back at the differences. I have no lyrics at all for this song. I can’t even remember what it was called! No idea what it sounds like, no idea what the lyrics are…it’s almost like this song never existed!
This has happened to me before, but not very often. I’m fairly certain I wrote the song for my son, and that it was about being happy for who you are not what you are. But that’s as far as I can get from memory. It was performed once in public at The Lovin’ Cup. I don’t even remember the date. March of 2018 maybe?
What did come from that era was the track that got me into the contest in the first place. In order to be selected you had to send in a track. I hadn’t been writing much since my son was born but was playing a little piano at the time for his entertainment. I used to record a song in the morning that he could dance to throughout the day when I left for work. It was usually something quick and made up on the spot.
But one day I did a little fugue and it stuck with me for a while. I kept whistling at it until I reached an idea for a chorus. After a few beers one night I put it together on the piano and thought it sounded kind of cool. I wanted to pen some lyrics but couldn’t think of anything to say. It sat around for another week or two.
Then one day the line “The day I fell astray” popped into my head. I thought it sounded good enough to be a line in the chorus. But fell astray from what? My school work? My life? The last band I was in? I decided that maybe it was planet earth singing and not me. Maybe earth has always thought of herself as another inhabitant, a self-aware being that sees itself as one of us, just another human trying to survive. So the chorus came out “I’m melting away and I’m staying away, the day I fell astray.”