A song inspired by frustration


A somewhat frustrating bout of spring cleaning inspired this next song.

I tend to save way too many things for sentimental reasons and my husband is more of a “can we just get rid of of this whole pile without looking through it?” cleaner. His method is probably more productive, but so far I haven’t converted to his way of thinking and still find the idea of clearing the clutter a bit overwhelming.

Soon after I listened to the audiobook “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo, I was inspired to declutter. I even started another blog about it to help with the process – mydecluttering.wordpress.com), but I didn’t get very far. However, I did write this song at the time.

I’m thinking about what I could live without
If I had to choose something to lose
Piled high in the next room
Evidence of my life to go through

Memories can look like clutter to an untrained eye
Fragments of the chapters from the story of my life
Souvenirs may be faded links to yesterday
Please don’t tell me to throw it all away

I’m holding on to a time that’s gone
Can I let it go, I don’t know
Rummaging through this room
Where shadows dwell no flowers bloom

In a songwriting workshop I had attended around that time, we had talked about list songs, where you just list things in the song. I thought that would work well for this song and used items I found in the first part of the bridge.

Found: an old zoo map, ticket stubs, a baseball cap
Scribbled notes on an old notepad, a roller coaster photograph

The next part of the bridge were not objects I found, but made up to go with a story of somebody having trouble letting go but then finding some negative things that let the person easily throw them away (aka “a twist at the end of the song,” another song element we had discussed during the songwriting workshop.)

Found: a game we played, promises that were made
Crumpled letters that I saved tell the tale of better days

Songwriting journey notes

Around this time, I was having sort of a mid-life crisis, shifting gears after working 17 years in one place that was going through major changes (see previous post). I really wanted to follow my heart with songwriting, but questioned if that was futile.

I had started listening to some audiobooks during my time in the car shlepping the kids back and forth from school. I love to go to the library and wander through the aisles to see what books or audiobooks speak to me as I pass by. These were the ones I picked around that time:

All three had a similar message – that everyone is here on Earth to fulfill some sort of purpose and everyone has their own purpose. For me, since third grade it’s always been to write. Whether it was poems, songs, articles or journal-writing, writing has always been a part of my life. (I also tried fiction and screenwriting, but neither of those pulled me in the ways the other types of writing did, although it would be cool if they did.)

So after listening to these audiobooks, I put a call out to the universe to show me a sign if I should still be pursuing songwriting. I thought I’d search through Groupon to see if there were any music classes I could take. What did I find? Songwriting lessons.

I took that as a sign and bought the Groupon. Over the next few weeks, I had four lessons with Bob Hermes. He was wonderful. So patient and answered all my (many) questions. He listened to some of my songs up to that point and had a similar response to the Nashville producer a few months earlier: the lyrics are good, but they all have a similar sound. He taught me some new strumming techniques and gave me some charts to better understand chord structures. I feel like I learned so much from him in those four half-hour lessons and am grateful for his patience and willingness to share his knowledge.

Unfortunately after the Groupon lessons ran out, I wasn’t able to continue for financial reasons and because his studio was about a half hour away and it became trickier to coordinate the 1 1/2 hours each weekend with my husband’s and sons’ schedules.

Feeling discouraged about this, I thought I’d check out our local community colleges to see if I could find a music class that would better fit with our schedule. What did I find? A class about songwriting copyrights and the process to make a demo. I signed up.

As the class got closer, I noticed that it was no longer listed in the online version of the class schedule but since I didn’t receive any notice of cancellation, I showed up anyway. When I got to the class, the door was locked and other students were standing outside the door. When I asked someone if they were there for the songwriting class, they said no, they were there for a beatmaking workshop.

It turns out my class had been cancelled (an email was sent to an email in the college email system, which I didn’t know existed) but the beatmaking workshop instructor said I was welcome to stay so I did.

It ended up being an introductory lesson to Ableton Live, a software music sequencer and digital audio workstation. It was really cool and opened my eyes to electronic music. I downloaded the free 30-day trial and used it on this recording of “Throw it All Away, ” adding some “ooohs” to the bridge on a third track. It was fun (and a little frustrating) to play around with and I haven’t had time to do much with it because it is so time consuming, but I’m glad I showed up to take a cancelled class and still got to learn something new.

Notes about this song

This song took a long time to write. I remember singing it over and over again in the car and really liked the chorus but struggled with a couple of lines. I write drafts of my songs on a WordPress blog so I can make changes from my phone from wherever I am and a plus is that I can also see the history. Here’s how many times I changed the last line of the bridge over a three-month period:

  • Resurrected doubt and shame
  • Resurrected doubt and rage, reminders that I turned the page
  • Resurrected doubt and rage, reminders why I turned the page
  • Treasured moments slowly fade, revealing the masquerade
  • Disillusionment remains, why was all this crap saved?
  • Disillusion still remains, now no longer mine to save
  • Delusion’s one remains, now no longer mine to save
  • Delusion grew stale with age, now it’s time to disengage
  • Crumpled letters that I saved tell the tale of better days

In January 2017, I had taken a couple of songwriting lessons from someone closer to my neighborhood. Basically I would play some of my songs and he would give me feedback. Out of all the songs I played, he liked this one the best. Since he focused more on the music and wasn’t that focused on the lyrics, I was encouraged, especially since he said that this one sounded different from most of the other songs I played for him. (Same message as the others: my songs tend to sound the same because I’m using many of the same chords and strumming. I think I’ve finally gotten past that with my more recent songs, at least I hope so.)

When I brought this to my songwriting workshop about three months ago, it was more than a year after I finished it. I wanted to make a different recording of it, but never got around to it and back in 2017, I was still too nervous to play my songs live at the workshop and this one is especially challenging to sing because it has some high notes I don’t always reach.

When I finally played it live at the workshop, I did mess up a few times and didn’t hit all the notes, but I got the best response I ever received from any of my songs I’ve brought. Even the producer who often attends said it is really good, which is HUGE. It was really encouraging and this is one I’d like to record on my EP someday. (I’m starting to visualize my EP, as visualization is one of the suggestions each of the inspirational authors suggested in their books, so why not?)


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