The Secret Life of LP 9 part 2
It was sometime between 4 and 5am. I was sitting in one of those baby corrals filled with misshapen blocks and noisy gizmos trying to find a comfortable sitting position with my guitar while one of my little dudes practiced pulling himself up to a standing position. My wife and I would switch off these brutally early mornings. They were always magical, to be sure, but it would take me a groggy 15-20 minutes to be willing to acknowledge it.
I had one line kicking around in my head that the whole song started from - “how many cakes do you have to jump out of before no one yells surprise?” It was something I could hear coming from a more acerbic writer like Paul Westerberg or Blood and Chocolate era Elvis Costello. It would be a song about wasted potential, about growing up with charisma and promise only to have everyone else awkwardly watch it squandered.
I had no intention of writing that morning, but I definitely had nothing else to do beyond drinking coffee and getting crawled on (and enjoying every second of it). Without any decisions being made, it just started getting written. I’ve heard that early in the morning, when we’re still nice and sleepy, our critical faculties aren’t quite up and running. We’re able to access a level of creativity that gets harder to find as the day goes on. I have no scientific evidence to support this theory but it definitely felt true that day. The first two verses just fell out. I had a title, I had a verse structure and I had a direction so after this initial arrival of the song, I didn’t push it and I let it live as just two verses, knowing I’d find some more later on.
I also knew I wasn’t keen on the feel or the melody or the progression. At this initial stage it really just served as a way to get the lyric written. It sounded too much like things I’ve already written. And when that happens it means it won’t have its own place on a set list. And that’s important. I want there to be something about the groove or progression that helps a tune stand apart from everything else. Something that makes it the only time “that” happened at a show. Or else it ends up feeling like folk song #439. So I wasn’t paying attention to melody much at all. Just getting a sense of the cadence and structure. Then I recorded it, knowing I would have more soon. You’ll hear some baby chirps in the background.
As a way to bring you all in to the making of this album I thought it would be nice to show you the several iterations of a song. How it starts, how it builds out, and eventually where it lands and why. So keep your eyes peeled for more versions of this same tune, “Surprise!” It doesn’t sound anything like this anymore, but this is where it began. Paid subscribers can listen below. Live from a baby corral at 5am.