What? Look, I have enough trouble thinking up song titles. I pull out a reasonable preposition like a 3m hook and put it up. Sometimes, upon peer or professional review, another title is suggested as more suitable, and though it does make more marketable sense, resistant to change, I keep my comfy preposition. My bad.
That was not the confession.
In thos post I want to highlight the song I have so far called “A Grain of Wheat.” It has barely and roughly bee recorded in alive setting, but I have not yet been able to swing the production of many more songs. Perhaps when I do, someone will suggest a title change, for now that is the name, and I am stiking to it, even though I am gluten-free.
That was not the confession.
The story behind the song “A Grain of Wheat” goes like this. Once I hard a story from a man who spent most of his working life in East Africa. He and his family were sent to the beach for some much needed R&R. Offshore there was a reef, and behind the reef was a story. It was a story involving a shipwreck, and the wrecked ship became a part of the reef on which it went aground. The ship was loaded with grain to be sold, during a time of great famine. It was suggested that some or part of the grain be unloaded, and perhaps the vessel could go on. Perpahs local people could help with this effort, and be rewarded with much-needed food. The owner refused the suggestion. The boat sat, in the heat, tides alone would not dislodge it. As the grain sat, in a watertight hold, gasses built up. Finally, the owner decided to offload some, but the gasses killed anyone who tried to release the grain. The entire load was lost, as well as the ship, which became part of the reef. This is a story of greed. There are words in this song that allude to this story. “A grain of wheat, festering in my hold.” It was suggested to me that I switch out the word hold, maybe for the word hand, but I did not, I wanted to keep the nautical vessel term. This becomes critical to my upcoming confession.”Hold” is a near rhyme to the word ‘soul.” Hold only that thought, that rhyming pattern, for my later confession, but that can wait. So the song is based on a combination of three things: The story above, the Holy Bible [John 12:24, Mt 19;29, and the Parable of the Sower from all 4 Gospels] and lastly, a quote from 1950’s martyr Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” You can see the similarities. The Bible is fair game because at this point it is public domain, and my reference to the Elliot quote is found in this allusion, “nothing to keep, and nothing to lose” Lots fo source words and ideas in there. But there is one word I knew shortly after the song was finalized, I had heard elsewhere, crust. My husband has a favorite song, by a father missing his son, and it uses the word crus and soul in the same phrase. The rhyme is with the word control, but still, I am sure that the fact that the idea of a crusted soul could not have been original. Though not plagiarism, or sampling ( am music plagiarism term) it always sort of bothered me that if ever that person, whose music fed me so very much, heard that line in my song, they would think…Hmm sounds familar…eye roll.
I try hard not to name drop as it directly relates to my music unless I have had asked and been granted permission. There are those whose music and ideas mean so much to me and have nurtured me so much, I feel tongue-tied in their presence, even though I know they are people just like me. But I had forgotten about this crusty little soul secret of mine until very recently. I was attending a conference where the speaker was one of those people. I saw others walking up and talking to this very approachable brother, but I was not going there. But, I did find others who I had been delighting in getting to know throughout the event. One was a man with an accent that sounded familiar, but not quite, like he could have come to form a part of West Africa I had been to twice, and I had to have word with him. Turned out I was wrong, he was from East Africa. Decades ago I could tell the difference between upper west and upper east African accents…weird, I know. But as I was wrong, I do a bit of name-dropping to move the conversation a hair off of awkward, and say, Oh you were from this region, did you know so and so? So-and-So is the man whose story my song is based upon. Then I tell them this story. it has happened before, that my conversation mate does know So and so, and yesterday, yes, it happened again. As the event was artful and spiritual, and I am an a songwriter, I say I worte a song based upon the sad story of the shipwreck, and the conversation continues to ramble about and move and make the world seem like a smaller place. BUT yesterday, I felt a quick shot of horror to recall that the presenter was whose crust I must have gotten my crust. I know, I am weird, I do not think anybody cares a bit about this, but this is just typical me. My mind runs circles around itself, and I second guess myself far more than anyone else ever would. I like to unwind others who are like that too, so I am trying to have grace with even me. At Ease!
It have tried so hard not to let my lyrics music be influenced by anyone else’s. I aim to be on the very safe side of original. I am pretty sure, with the exception of Biblical themes and references, I have stayed in my own lane. I am so thankful that I can only create songs on that which my uniformed butterfingers can play, so far so good. Exceot this word, and eaht is there are others, that I do not know about. But one word, My word, I need to chill out. So I am. I hope to look back and laugh at mid-life me someday.
This brings me to a story within a story. This songwriter, whose I heard speak, and whose music nurtured me from my late teens, through early and mid-parenting, and still has an impact on me, helped me through dark times, helped me to understand things I had read and wanted to get deep into my heart to overflow into do ing, not just thinking. I can honestly say that his teaching had a direct influence and can be credited, though I am sure he would not want to be associated, but with my band name and the foundations of my fake name. (By the way, I pronounce Selah with a hard “A” and an accent on it. it is a play on words, and dances lightly on my real name. I chose a fake name, in case I ever worked a job where it mattered, that there could be a degree fo separation. I have found out that that was an over-kill thing to do too, I sure am a person of extremity! But it is too late now. I’m in the interview process, and it has added a layer of complication to my paperwork. But I digress on my digression. The fact is, I am finding out that everything seems to have been influenced by something. I watched yesterday as this speaker artist performed his songs, the looking at the lyci sheet, and not the crowd—(way easier and cooler to do when you self-accompany, rather than front a band, with no wood or electronics to hid behind!) I watched as he enunciated for clarity, with a sense of feeling like maybe me and my dense lyrical content are OK. I have been told to weed out words, and not make my songs instructional….yet such songs have preserved me for decades….scary hard decades. I listened as I heard songs which made me feel more at home in my own life and caused me to imagine and do better in my whole life floated on the air from the front to the very back where I was sitting, enjoying seeing the delight and attentiveness of the crowd as well.
It’s OK, it is all ok, and it is going to be OK. This weekend of being a “Mary” came in the midst of a most “Martha” season. I am entering something new and took a year to count the cost. I have had three paths to choose, and as I have knocked on many doors, the one that is opening is leading me to let go of some long-held ideas about how I was going to most likely spend the rest of my life. Doors which have opened might close others. I tried so very hard to make space for the other 2 paths. I was told I could do both. On Monday, there will be phone calls, and bags packed, and my shoulder is to the plow and I can’t looks back….except Oh NO!!! that was very lyrical, and I might have to write that in my song-hook book, which tyr as I might, I cannot shut out, because I hear lyrics and music in everything I think about and even when people are speaking, I hear words in tones.
Oh my very few readers, I must leave this lyrical life for a while. I must go where I am lead, and if all doors are open to me, this is going to be an intense year or learning and grasping a job that I am wiser to do, but it would have been easier to do in my 20’s. But it is good, and if I am supposed to be making music full time, or as was suggested, on a dual track, where I can self-fund by music-making alone, then it will be un-mistakably known. For now, I might not be here very much, my mind has got to be on pressing knowledge inot my brian, and polices and procedures into my memory, and catching every cold and virus my body has not already pitched out, I might lose my voice. No matter what I lose, I will be losing only things which I could not keep anyway. it is possible, that this “day job” will make it eaierfor me to work on newer projects, eventually. Them I could say that letting all these songs fall, over 70 in my regular performance catalog, then if they yiled 100fold, then I cannot imagine the good that could come from laying them down.
I am sorry for not coming out with my music earlier in my life. because when I heard about how heartbroken many singer-songwriters were about being on the road, I was afraid, really afraid to even make dated commitments on a calendar for events within even my own community, for fear one of the kids would fall out of a tree, or have a burst appendix, and have to go tot he hospital, and I would be off singing soehere, with my heart torn in half. Now, the itinerate life is upon me, but will not involve music, it involves loving and caring for people, in ways that have been proven to give back to me as fast as I pour out, and I am even gonna get paid…I will not know what hit me! I mut do this to be able to continue to give music freely. I have had interest from an independent filmmaker, and I do have some projects for film sync submission to quick get in the studio and do before I head out for hurling novicely for a feature film, and I might even see if I can hire someone to clean up a privately released album, and excepts form a live album, if I think my voice is going—rather than wait to re-make them. Those are things I must tie up in the coming weeks, or try to get back to as soon as I can add it back.
Who knows, But I DO know that the kindness of God is going with me.
Thank you to each one who has come to my live events, or has contacted me via the internet, or those of you deeper in the business who have reached out to me to encourage me toward suggestions and plans you had for me. I know, I winced, but you don’t know my heart or the needs of those nearest and dearest. Maybe if I weened out, I will get tougher, and come back to you somehow, with more stores and songs, because maye the stories and the songs will never stop, but for now, I am assuming that this chapter may very well close. But it is OK, and it is going to be OK!!!