Why did I write a song about a rain storm? Every songwriter knows that moment when a song idea strikes like lightening. (Roseanne Cash talks about songwriting as needing a big net to catch the songs). The best written songs contain evocative imagery (the maxim "show--don't tell" is drilled into writers), so it was helpful to me that it was an image (not a phrase or a tune) that grabbed me (a rainstorm across a long valley in Montana). You can listen to the song and the introduction in the video above taped at the 1200-seat Knight Theatre in Charlotte, NC. I performed Something True in April at the "Tosco Music Party" (a quarterly showcase of regional and national musicians). That evening was special for me as John Tosco (who created and hosts TMP) taught me how to play guitar, and it is John who introduces me on the video.
What I don't describe in the video is that it took me several years to write Something True, and the song went through many versions. I took it to 3 songwriting workshops before getting a thumbs up (and would have given up on the song if Charlotte lyricist Sarah Williams hadn't told me so emphatically to keep working on it). I knew I wanted to write about how fragile human relationships are—but in a general way so that it could apply to many situations (and any gender). I wanted to convey that moment with someone that is so freighted with meaning you can feel the electricity in the air —like someone on a death bed, or a couple about to break up, or a new friendship. I have pages of notes on imagery and rhymes to use for the verses. I started with the very first line (Tell me something true) and the bridge (in which I use the metaphor of a building storm to convey that freighted moment:
But the words fly around without making a sound
Clouding up with anger and fear
Then dry up in the air in unspoken despair
that never hits ground
But in the workshops, the feedback I received was that so many images got confusing and no one understood the metaphor of what rain not hitting the ground meant. One workshop participant wanted me to cut the bridge (a suggestion I knew I needed to ignore). Listeners wanted a chorus, but all I heard was the bridge. Finally someone in the final workshop said, "what does the singer want?" And I immediately responded: "Let me in!" And there was the chorus. Charlotte singer/songwriter DeWitt Crosby told me to listen to Ellis Paul's "Take Me to a Drive-in Movie" as an example of an effective, simple chorus. Immediately the chorus came to me. I could hear how I would hold the first syllable of the word "open" for a full measure to convey the long lonely vowel sound).
I originally wrote the song for the piano. In fact, Chris Rosser plays piano in the version recorded for my full cd: "Play Me" (unreleased). But the version on the EP is for the guitar (and is how I play the song at gigs). Guitar allows me to use a picking pattern (evocative of rain) gradually shifting the chords up the neck of the guitar during the bridge—dropping out the bass and any other low sounds to mimic rain (and words) evaporating.
"Something True" earned its place as the title song for this EP because I worked so hard and long on it. But it also makes for a great thematic image for the 5-song cd. The songs are all about navigating the storms of life (especially relationships), so it is a perfect image to use. I delayed the ep release for 3 months so the talented graphic artist, Matthew Fleming, could design the cd cover. He incorporated a photo of a storm with the rain not reaching the ground on both the back cover of my cd (in the song list) and again on the front cover (in the logo). (Matthew's artwork is another excellent reason to purchase the cd! Email me and I'll send you one....firstname.lastname@example.org). Enjoy the song in whatever form you prefer--add it to your playlists (if you stream), but most of all, share it with someone you love. May we all receive the rain our hearts so desperately need.