It’s been a while, but I’m ready to stick my toe back in the bloggin’ waters. I spent the last several months home in San Anselmo, chasing after my future livelihood, intimidated and excited about the need to reinvent myself. But I also had a great time firing up the song machine, going to Kerrville, Song School, and the Casey Jones Music festival. I’m ready to get back to the non-business of giving the songs away. I have my friend Ellis’ song in my head. “Start where you are…”
Where I am is back in Singapore, where our exit strategy is in full swing and every day is one more sweet good-bye. It’s been a good run. Sabrina and I are so grateful for having had this experience. It’s back home for the holidays in November and December. Then January and February is our final stint in Singapore.
Of course, what we’ve missed most here are family and friends. Also playing music with others as opposed to writing music in solitude. This tune, “Days When We Lived Close” is a nod to that all-too-brief time that family gets to spend together. I wrote a whole blah-g for it last December, when we were with our boys in New Orleans. But it was so close to the holidays, which is a rough time emotionally for so many friends, that I balked about putting this sentimental song out there.
Which brings me to the other misgiving about this song; the sentimentality. I’ve always been prone to it. As one gets older I think it can be even more of a problem. Regarding art, sentiment is not necessarily a bad thing, but crossing the line into sentimentality? Kiss of dreck! Fortunately I’ve had some good role models. My songwriting guru, Steve Seskin, has been my champion of the tear-jerker. “I don’t know why they say grown men don’t cry…”
So I’m still sussing out how much sugar is just enough. Sometimes what’s called for isn’t less sugar, but more salt. I like the way poet May Ruefle says it:
“If your teachers suggest that your poems are sentimental, that is only half of it. Your poems probably need to be even more sentimental. Don’t be less of a flower, but could you be more of a stone at the same time?”
Mary Ruefle ― , Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures
Jimmy Webb is another songwriter that was a big influence. I basically learned to play guitar out of reading the chord boxes in a Jimmy Webb songbook:
A critic can call any poem ‘doggerel.' That is no more than a slur. ‘Doggerel' or ‘maudlin' or ‘sappy' or ‘sentimental' is in the ear of the listener. By the by, sentimental is okay as it is defined as ‘marked or governed by feeling, sensibility, or emotional idealism.' It is sentimentality that is to be avoided, like the fiddleback spider, being as it is ‘the quality or state of being sentimental to excess or in affectation.' Again we are faced with a judgement call and must keep a sharp eye on our outpourings to insure they are not overly gooey.
Jimmy Webb / Tunesmith
And one last quote, from Charles Bukowski. The first poet I ever read that wasn’t part of some school assignment. We spotted him more than once after sneaking into the 9th race at Santa Anita.
“I drive around the streets
an inch away from weeping,
ashamed of my sentimentality and
― Charles Bukowski, Love Is A Dog From Hell
(*** Days When We Lived Close was recorded and produced by Tom Prasada Rao at the Tofu Bar studio in Richardson, Texas. Tom played the piano and added the low-strung violin arrangement too. )