I'm sitting in the studio with Cheyenne as the clouds are rolling in for a few days of summer storms. It’s been an interesting week so far: full of long to-do lists (that have not gotten done...yet), calls for tunings, and furious meal prepping.
On Monday, after finally calling it a day on the junk food and starting off strong with some rolled oats for breakfast and a grains salad for lunch, I set out to take my first run in 14 days without checking the temperature first. As soon as I leapt through the swinging door of my apartment block to begin my run, I knew something was very wrong. Before run-climbing the stairs up and out of my courtyard, I found I was already short of breath and breaking a dense sweat. It was 100 degrees by the time my first mile was behind me.
I had already made a pact with myself that I would run that day, and nothing would stand in my way, including a gross miscalculation of the heat index. As a new bid to listen to more music, instead of my regular comedy podcasts, I had the “70’s Road Trip” playlist on Spotify piping through my earbuds. With The Commodores egging me soulfully up my second big hill, I felt the clouds part with the sun beating down steadily on my head. I just couldn't get a good swig of air in the blistering heat, and my pace slowed to a walk as I crested the turnoff down a neighborhood street. Just then, a song I'd never listened to all the way through by Cheap Trick, "Surrender", burst forth from the lull following "Easy Like Sunday Morning", like a bolt of lightning had struck the mailbox in front of me. It was a rocking song, exactly what I needed on this fool's attempt at an exercise session. More than its rhythm, to me, was its melody--simple, yet poetic in its mushy mix of punchy, two-syllable words that yielded like a knife through butter to its third line, repeating the hook:
Mommy's all right
Daddy's all right
They just seem a little weird
But don't give yourself away
It stuck with me, hard. I was singing it in my dreams on Monday night.
I then followed up this stint of 70's listening with a writing session the next day, with a friend of mine here in Nashville. He had wanted to write a story song, and brought up an idea I'd shown him a month or two ago. It was a song about a character who I'd named Jenny, but who was really just a pseudonym for myself. I told him about the Cheap Trick song I'd been listening to, and, sitting at the piano, I suddenly had inspiration for a melody and lyric that had not been worked on in over three years.
I told my cowriter friend about the first entry of this blog; the fateful day in middle school when the kids made fun of me for my mouth, teeth and hair. It made me who I am now, but until just recently I hadn't come to terms with that fact. Something about all the thinking, writing, and listening I've been doing in the last year has flipped a switch in me. I think I have finally started to feel empowered. Which must be why the lyric "Surrender...but don't give yourself away" has meant so much to me these last few days. In just 10 minutes, I had finished my song, called "Jenny". Here is the first verse and chorus:
Jenny's got blonde hair, just like me
It falls in her face, every night when she sleeps
Jenny's got a big mouth, and big teeth
She remembers how the cool kids all were so mean
But it doesn't take much to make her smile,
She could swallow all the pain, but that ain't her style
It's all in all a good night
When Jenny sets her sights on feeling lucky
She doesn't have to be something she's not
We'll be cutting the demo on Monday; I'm really excited about it.
After three days on my new, much cleaner diet, I woke up at 7am this morning, rolled out of bed, put on the sports clothes I'd laid out the night before, and laced up my running shoes. It was breezy, cloudier, and much cooler than my journey to the sun on Monday afternoon. By my first mile, I was still smiling. And when I completed the circle back to my apartment in record time, I couldn't help but recognize how much easier things seem to go when you learn from what came before.