My mom was visiting, and I've gone back into BILLY ELLIOT after 5 weeks off with a fractured ankle-- and that's all been more of an adjustment than I realized.
Let's talk about THE CAR SONG.
This is really a very simple story.
Which is fitting as this is an incredibly simple song.
And i mean that as the highest compliment possible.
I was driving around my hometown of Rochester, NY while in town for the holidays during my Sophomore year at Carnegie Mellon. This was the very very used car I'd driven throughout most of my high school years which was in such terrible condition that it rattled enough to earn the nickname "The Tunaville Trolley".
I loved this car.
And I actually loved the parts of this car that were the most busted.
I especially loved the rusted out hole beneath the pedals at my feet that I had covered with a plank of wood. This hole came in most handy when I would lock my keys in the car pretty much every other day. I'd just crawl under the car- pop my hand through the hole, reach up to the ignition and voila. Of course, every time I'd drive over a puddle or snow I'd have to lift my feet up to avoid getting doused, but otherwise- it was a handy byproduct of its own neglect.
The other thing I loved about this car is that it introduced me to country music as its radio was permanently stuck on the one country station in all of Upstate NY.
So I'm driving in a minor blizzard (pretty much par for the course up there) with the lights out and the window down- which anyone from blizzard country knows sometimes is the only way to get home on a snowy night- and I hear these lovely guitar chords come from the radio.
it's hard to hear with the wind blowing...
so i roll up the window to hear the song better....
it's so very....sweet.
I start listening to the lyrics....
it's a story.
Oh Lord, I love story songs.
That was actually, another potential title for this CD- "Story Songs".
It's about a woman named Claire.
She's been waiting a long time for love (sing it sistah)...
and finally, she met a simple salesman...
they fell simply in love, and married...
they spent their whole very simple lives together.
And, already I'm hooked....
I don't know why, but I think I've always known- even when I was younger- that true love would elude me in this life. At least until 'later' in life. I've always known that I would watch everyone pass me by here...very Carrie Bradshaw but without the shoes, the rent control or the fashion sense. I don't know, but any story about someone who finds love 'later' in life- I've always been drawn to. Even when I was very ironically, still early in mine.
The beauty of this song is that...
the music and the lyrics mirror the simpleness of the story.
a great dramatic, epic love like Romeo and Juliet or Anthony and Cleopatra...
it's just two normal, average, simple people who finally finally found each other after so very long....and they didn't complicate anything. They were smart enough- and maybe they were just old enough to know better....to appreciate that fact that they found it at all. I don't even imagine that they even say much to each other. They sit on the porch- or by the fire- and just 'fit' and it's all just so very simple.
they fell in love-
he asked her to marry him.
I'm already so in love with this song my eyeballs are itching.
The song goes on....
they've been together 50 years....
they end up in the same hospital...
but in separate beds and different floors.
it's the only time they've spent a night apart-
and it's because some dumbass didn't think to put them together.
I'm already plotting the demise of whatever stupid shit-head candy striper fucked up their rooms and the song's not even over yet. If I could just jump into the radio and sort everything out for them...
"different beds on different floors? after 50 years? this is an OUTRAGE...WHERE'S THE HEAD NURSE GODDAMMIT??!!"
By now, I'm completely fucked.
I am totally blinded by tears and have pulled the car over.
I turn the radio up as much as i can....
the story goes on....
Claire starts to lose her memory...
oh mother of Christ...really?
even though the song doesn't say, i'm already positive it's because she's been separated cruelly from her salesman....
fucking stupid-ass candy stripers.
...and so it goes.
Of course, the lyrics are much more poetic than I'm giving them justice-
on purpose really-
because it's enough that I'm blowing the story itself....
But obviously, i sat in my car for at least ten minutes sobbing my guts up all over the dashboard and when I finally got myself back on the road and home the first thing i did was call the radio station to find out what this marvelous song was by Kathy Mattea.
But i will warn you.
This song will most likely wreck you.
And not because I'm some brilliant songstress or anything...
I mean, Kermit the Frog could be singing this shit with a sinus infection-
The song itself- even more so the STORY itself- is THAT powerful.
My mom literally yelled at me after she listened to an unmixed version of it last week.
she yelled at me.
because she couldn't stop crying for like an hour afterwards.
But even more pathetic...
I still can't get through this song without crying.
And it's the main reason I've never performed it live.
Because I don't want to come off like a complete and total jack weed.
There are some songs i'm on the 'edge' of emotionally....
depending on what's going on in my life...
but as long as i can go into it with some confidence in my self control...i'm ok.
But honestly, as a performer I think it's really self indulgent and irresponsible to purposely do songs that you know you're not going to make it through. That's just....I dunno. Well, self indulgent and irresponsible, I guess. People pay money for you to make them cry, and not the other way around- usually.
And this one...
can't make it through without crying.
So recording this...was....really really tough.
In fact I think I tried almost 50 takes of the last chorus just desperately trying to get through it without blubbering like a 5 year old girl.
I mean....it was a sad sad sssaaaaaddddddd scene in my bathroom there for a while.
And I tried everything, man.
Tried going for a walk...
thinking about Christmas and kittens and shiny things and shit....
I finally....narrowed the end of it down to two takes.
I got a track that even though i was indeed crying...didn't sound like i was crying.
a track where yes, i was crying but...it wasn't like...unintelligble crying-
which ya know...
never really goes over well on an album.
you all can buy the CD to find out which one i went with.
ooh that was so sassy of me, just there.
Ok but seriously...
heads up ya'll.
Ever since then.....
I have been obsessed with couples who have died on the same day.
btw- in the song there's nothing about them dying at all-
but my mind just had to add that ending on for myself cause for me there's no other way for it to go down? Cause I'm kinda....crazy? A little? Like that?
I have collected numerous articles in newspapers, and I even have an admittedly extremely creepy if you don't know the backstory- picture of two skeletons that fossilized while embracing each other on a table near my bed. Of course, once you hear the song and know the backstory then it's all terribly romantic...
so I tell myself as people politely excuse themselves and back slowly out of my apartment.
And an even weirder epilogue to this song's story in my life is....
when we were Juniors at CMU we were asked to bring in one piece of music that meant the most to us, and then....oh Jesus- i can't even remember what we were supposed to do with it. Knowing theatre school it was something dorky like....
"Bring in your favorite song and turn into a rainbow-riding unicorn!" or some weirdness.
So I guess, since I was obviously a total classical music nerd, everyone was expecting me to bring in like- Danse Macabre or Beethoven's Pathetique or something 'high brow' and a total bore for everyone to have to sit through.
I brought this baby in.
And i do remember for some reason we had to explain why the song meant so much to us...
and I simply said,
"This is the one greatest dream for my life and my greatest fear. As I know that there is absolutely nothing within my control or power as to whether I'll ever, ever have it."
Track #8 kids.
Welcome to the seat of my soul.
musical lesson of this number for me? "straight tone is the arrow- vibrato is the vibration after it hits the board"