I used to write songs in small spaces. Because I lived in small spaces. And most of my co-writers did too.
It was an exciting time of coming up…before I had a hit (or a cut on a platinum album). I couldn't afford something larger than small. Especially in New York City. All the clothes I owned were stuffed inside of (and busting out of), a single closet. Cat litter box in the middle of the room. Everything happened in one tiny apartment. I ate there, slept there, broke up, made up, wrote songs about it...there.
I’m jaded now. I've expanded. I have a partner. I have a daughter. We have bedrooms, and then one more for guests, a kitchen, a yard, a nook for a litter box. I’ve gotten used to certain comforts in recording studios: coffee, a cushy sofa, internet, room to pace. A mixing console, a vocal booth, a separate live room for a baby grand.
Yesterday I was off to the “studio” of a young producer (herein called YP) as he kindly offered to record my vocal for a project I was working on. When I got there I realized his "studio” was his apartment with just enough square footage for not much more than a bed.
Ahhh, memories. Looking back, if a collaborator was super cute and if there was no place else to sit but on the bed it could be that your mind wandered off to activities other than songwriting. Or singing. Juss sayin’. But I digress. :)
There weren't however, other things on my mind yesterday. There was a task at hand and more than a double decade generation gap.
As I got ready to sing, an eager YP picked up his guitar and said, "hey! Listen to this hook I got.” (Not the matter at hand). I thought…oh no...stop right there. That’s not what we're here to do. I only have so much time. It's a weekend, dude...I have plans...Gotta be home by 4! And also...are you taking advantage of the situation?
I get hit up all the time to work with new talent and to be honest, unless they are a shoo-in for a record deal, I usually pass. It didn’t used to be that way, but sadly, it is now.
YP plowed right into that hook. And you know what? Hook was hot! And before I knew it, we were going at it. Furiously engaged. Batting the lines back and forth. That's what hooks do. They speak louder than thoughts having to do with finishing by 4PM, or writing only with seasoned pros, or how small the room is or where the hell is the coffee?
Twenty minutes later that song was finished. It was easy. YP had the right stuff...ingredients…words, melodies, humor, off-rhymes. And you know what else? He didn't think I was old school. He valued my experience. He took my nutritious phrases and made them more...umm dope.
We were a good team. In fact YP said it was the best co-write he ever had. Uh huh…I bet he says that to all the older women.
Then I sang my vocal.
On the way home I was ashamed of myself. I had been judgy, hadn't I? I remember longing to write with more experienced writers because that made me better. Maybe now I should think about working with less experienced writers...to stay fresh, current, out of my box...to learn new tricks. I NEED NEW TRICKS!
To be fair there are valid reasons why I keep boundaries, but exceptions prevail and happy accidents happen and I’m thrilled this one did cuz we have an undeniable commercially viable potentially chart topping ditty on our hands. Written on his bed. During a session for something else.
As I type this I’m nostalgic for when magic revealed itself all the time in cramped quarters. When size didn’t matter (and I’m not talking about appendages or the amount of bodies in a crowd.) When all I was living for was music. It was a time of innocence and spontaneity, when unpleasantries such as plumbing, living wills, shopping lists, car insurance and termites weren't even in my vocabulary. No lawn mowers, toll free calls or the pull of social media interrupting creative flow.
Just songs. And SongSex. Possibility full speed ahead. Two-sessions days. Album cuts! Skipped meals. All nighters. To bed at 6am. Wake up. Do it again.
I'm living the life I once dreamed of. But in so many ways, those were the days.