Dear John Francis,
Now, it’s not every day you get the chance to say to your wife: “I wrote a new song about you, Babe.” You know this, Johnny. At the end of the day (a construct I am not a fan of, though it seems a little less cliche when speaking about an actual, lived marriage), it’s gotta be a net positive for the relationship, right? I mean, if she actually likes and/or approves of the song, it’s solidly positive. Am I right?
Well, I done it.
I’m not shouting it from the rooftops, but I am writing about it for our blog, which, as you know, is still in its soft release, tee hee, tee hee.
This does not happen all of the time— that my wife endorses a song upon a first listen. She can be lacerating when she does not approve of a lyric or melody. I recently sang a new verse to her acappella that went thus:
I’m not like other guys—
honest babe, I ain’t.
But still I am a guy,
and so there is a taint.
She got upset, as she thought I was tending toward doggerel, with a more physical meaning to the word “taint,” and I did what I could to protest that that was not the intended meaning, but, it seemed, fruitlessly. It does a lot more for the verse if you use the Webster’s meaning of “taint” than the Urban Dictionary’s definition, I think. (And just ‘cause I’m a guy doesn’t mean I’m always mansplaining, he whispered into the void.)
The song that I’m sharing with you today, however, she seemed to think was decent. (Insert flexed bicep emoji here.) I recorded it in the apartment here in lovely Madison, Wisc. between April 4 and 28, 2018. I wrote this song as an ad-lib improvisation on Christmas Eve 2015, after she’d been through a lot of her cancer stuff— lots of hospital time, surgeries, chemo-badness. The lyric:
“I think about
just getting dressed up
and going out and
all about fun.”
kind of hits it on the head where we were, or were not, depending on your chosen perspective. And still are, as it turns out, since she is back in chemo following more surgery. Enough to fray a fellow’s nerves, I say. She convinced me to start going to therapy and get on some happy pills to make the vertigo less palpable. I think it’s helping. And as I say to my therapist, I didn’t get married to be super happy, I got married to start a family. And that’s where we are. Still seems a lot like Eden, though. No bridge, no chorus, no problem.
I think we can agree that writing and recording music that seems fit for sharing with the public is easier said than done! And making it seem divined by the times is even more difficult. I have a song called “Down to the Well” about how young folks used to carry water from the well to their tired old parents, and humans survived because young people would linger overlong at the well and eventually, inadvertently reproduce. And I thought about that as a Michael Cohen tie-in, as he carried Donald Trump’s water, but then that week passed and the fellow wasn’t trending anymore. What can you do? Perhaps we will hear from him again. (I am a fan of that construct: “carrying water” in the political sense, btw.)
But with music, the newness of the thing is what makes it timely, or part of the time, and in some cases, defining of the times. So I chose to share this recording of “I Think About You All of the Time,” which is very new, for its timeliness, rather than the older “Down to the Well,” to see if we could learn anything as we crunch data and ponder analytics for this collaborative effort in moving forward with our autodidactic vibe and craft.
I busted out the Univox bass, the 12-string Martin, and my Danelectro Convertible reissue for this essay. (I dream of getting a nice vintage Danny Convertible in future.) I found a snippet of old drums, blocked out the arrangement with keys before starting to record, which I think was helpful, and added some strings, slide guitar, and shaker, and voila: tune-age, bra! I am going to try to use this song as the sonic palette of my new record. It might be a little crunchy yet, but it’s in the ballpark.
I did a preliminary mix of this song and played it for Henry (aged 7) and Vivian (aged 4) in the car on the way to Legacy Academy last weekend, and pointed out to Henry and Viv that I wanted their help in telling me where things were too loud or quiet or distracting. I was also listening to this mix for the first time over the car speakers, which is a crucial way of testing a mix for me. I explained to Henry that I would also test the mix with ear buds, Sony headphones, and maybe one other speaker unit. So we can list Henry as a co-producer, as he made some recommendations that I heeded, such as reducing the volume on the slide guitar on the outro, as well as some B.V.s, which is cool-guy speak for backing vocals. His first comment was about the slowed down vocal on the intro, he said: “Dad, you said your voice was going to sound like Kylo Ren on the intro, but it reminded me more of Snape.” Vivi just clapped when it was over. (Insert flexed bicep emoji here.) Eden I say!
Also, I have resolved to get off my ass and try to do a new kind of release. This new “album” of songs will be the capstone of a 5 album multi-media boxed set, that will include a video game I made, an illustrated audio book about my youth in the woods of Northern Wisconsin, and original artwork. I’ll explain more later, but for now, sink your teeth into this new cut. And please, John Francis, consider buying this song and jamming it out in your car while running errands with the boys in the back— I’d like to know what they think of this mix.
I remain your humble servant &c, and look forward to hearing your next composition,
aka Faux Jean
P.s. The photo of my wife that I have used for the artwork on this song is her old facebook profile pic from the days when you had to have and .edu email address to join. I found it on an old laptop and have not asked her if she’s cool with me using it. Got me fingers crossed, I do.
Also, this is what happens when you leave a bass laying around the apartment.