Lyric Humility

"It's not good enough," said the producer. " I don't know what you're saying." I wasn't quite prepared for this reaction because I wrote the song 7 years ago and performed it for almost as long. Moreover, many of my band members say it's their favorite song. So, yes, I was a little taken aback. But then I remembered why I hired this guy -- he's one of the best in town and it's his job to hear things I can't or won't. After a deep breath, I was ready to listen and read the chorus. And he helped me. We started reworking the chord progression -- a little less jazz, a little more "accessible" and making it longer.

We started with me playing the chords agreed on with made up words and a melody I created on the fly. He liked it so now it's time for homework: I need to write a new chorus based on the new chord progression and melody. I've never done this before and delayed for a couple days before tackling my assignment.

I started with:

"Where's it gonna go?
Honey I don't know.
It's a strain of Coltrane
Sands in the hourglass..."

My local Starbucks served as perfect host as I settled in with a little lunch, Klipsch headphones and a MacBook Pro. I started with John Coltrane. What more could I say about him in the context of this song? After refreshing myself on Coltrane's story, and a couple false starts, I decide to work with the lines in tandem rather than separately. I then google and read about "hourglasses" before returning to the verses and story I hoped to tell when it all comes together. The story is about "dangerous attraction" so the chorus needs to put a fine enough point on it for the listener. My old chorus failed that test -- and helpfully I could see that now.

With work and a little serendipity, here's where I ended up:

'Where's it gonna go?
Honey I don't know.
It's a strain of Coltrane -- raw emotion -- free fall jazz.
Every moment with you leans forward then snaps back.
A bolero of human circumstance, doing a dance that has no chance,
You and me are just sand in an hourglass.'

Though I'm not sure that's the "last word" on "Traces of You's" chorus, I do know I've grown as a songwriter by having someone challenge me to leave my comfort zone and "do better."

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