Episode #163: Living In The Movies (Song starts at 3:28)
Ever feel like you’re living in a movie? – you know, when things just seem to go weird and you think “You couldn’t write this stuff…”.
That’s how I felt back in 1992, when I composed ‘Living In The Movies’. At the time I was playing 5 nights a week in a piano bar, with Paul Dredge, my longtime friend and co composer.
It’s funny, earlier tonight, my wife and I visited our neighbour, who had some friends over. Long story short, I ended up on the piano, being ‘Mr Pianoman’. It was a great night & brought back memories of the residency with Paul, back in NZ.
It lead on to me playing my songs, talking about the paintings and the podcast.
At the end of the evening, someone asked me what I was about to do.I said I’d finish a painting then record a podcast episode. They couldn’t believe it. But that’s me, I’m a night owl – and I’ve got a ‘bit on’, you might say.
And I was a night owl, back in 1992, performing in the evenings.
When you hold down a successful residency, you’re sticking your neck out a bit.
Which can be very good. Or not so good.
There’s a thing called the tall poppy syndrome. I think society can be pretty good at supporting an artist as they grow, then waiting for a moment or an episode where the artist might record a less than great song, or perhaps a dramatic event that may be magnified/distorted by the media.
For me, in the piano bar, it was like being under a microscope: there was no stage line, as such. Complete strangers could come and talk in my ear and tell me their deepest secrets as I played and sang a song (much to Paul’s amusement, as sat next to me playing bass or guitar). What could be a simple conversation could be misconstrued by an observer…
The piano bar – the music – was my ‘rock’, so to speak. Something I could rely on, in amongst all the ups and downs of growing up and performing every night (and it still is a ‘rock’ for me).
About this time, I started to see some synchronicity in the movies, a parallel (to me at least), of what was happening in my life and what was happening on the screen…
And I thought.. hmm, yes I think that’s a good idea for a song.
So I picked up my pen at about 4am, after walking home on an early spring morning after the gig and a spot of night clubbing.
It’s a great way to get things off your shoulders. Apart from that, as I wrote, I started to think about how hard it would to be a popular movie star. Then the next day, the press leap on some rumour, or the movie star appears in a movie that bombs at the box office.
Sometimes a pack mentality sort of kicks in and the tide rapidly turns on the artist.
So I introduced more about that aspect with the lyrics, rather than what may or may not having been going on in my life at the time.
I think the result is the lyrics might have a wider, more global appeal.
On this episode, I talk about how I brought the song together, composing each section & what spurred me on to the next part.
I really enjoyed recording a quick piano/ vocal demo as part of the show. I stopped and overdubbed some strings and vocal harmony…
Now I’m thinking song #240, which was just languishing in the shadows of my a page in my songbook, could become an ‘up’ guitar driven rock song, to present to the band (P.P. & The Patient Hum) to perform and record. That’d be fun.
So it’s a good idea as an artist not to give up on something that’s ‘not quite there’. The same thing happened with the sunset painting which I’d left it unfinished when I started recording the podcast episode. I‘d been painting in circles, not progressing, unsatisfied with it.
Afterward, just as I was leaving the studio, I picked up the brush and lo and behold, with a few brush strokes, the sunset sky came together quickly.
It can be the same with a song: a few tweaks and the whole feeling of the song can be transformed.
As I share my processes and thoughts on the art of songwriting, one of the benefits of this podcast: I’m effectively on an ‘online’ stage here, so there’s a need to ‘knock of the rough edges’, to present a song that’s finished enough to appeal to the ear in the moment.
On that note, if you’re enjoying this podcast (and thanks so much for those of you who’ve been along for the ride for some time now), please do feel free to contact me to let me know perhaps what you’d like to hear more of on the episodes.
It’s an evolving podcast. I’m just following my nose, having fun, allowing the song and the creativity to lead the way..
Ok here we go – off to the movies. Let’s see where we end up…