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Episode #154: Drift Away (Song starts at 3:03)
I took a drive this evening. I live on the outskirts of Melbourne, on the Mornington Peninsula, out in the country. I wasn’t sure where I was going… just following my nose. As it turns out, it lead to a nice quiet beach where gentle waves were lapping. I took a walk and when I got back to my car, I was thinking about a song… ‘Drift Away’.
Well, I was remembering the melody, not the words. I thought ‘Drift Away’ (which I later found in my song book – song #157, written in 1991)) was going to be the melody I was hearing in my head at the beach.
But no! It was another song, completely. So I thought what the heck. Let’s do this one…
When you’re on a trip like that, not sure of where you’re going, that’s how it feels when you’re composing a song: there’s a sense of adventure & quite often a peaceful feeling – at least there is for me.
You’re on the breath, you’ve got some momentum. In fact, that’s all you really need to start: a feeling, a mood…and away you go.
As I had a quick try at singing the song before I recorded this episode, as usual, I could ‘hear’ other musical elements (besides the piano & voice). So I couldn’t resist it, I recorded a quick arrangement.
That’s been one of the pleasures, recording these episodes: discovering songs I’d forgotten about, or just reworking a line or two on a song that I thought perhaps wasn’t really up to scratch. Fixing one or 2 words can make all the difference.
‘Drift Away’ was inspired by a morning I can clearly remember.
I woke just as dawn was breaking. The light drifted across the slate grey sky. It was a quiet moody morning. I’d pulled the curtains back to watch the sunrise.
It was so nice to be awake. I had no place to be that day, so there wasn’t that feeling of “Oh no, what am I doing awake? I’ve gotta get back to sleep”. No, this was the opposite of that of that feeling.
There’s one line ‘ take the time to send your fears away’ that catches the ear. I underlined it with a slight harmonic change in the music.
How do you send fears away? By doing the opposite: visualising positive scenarios & outcomes. So I was setting myself up for the day..
Catching that sort of feeling was easy enough in the lyrics. The words came quickly. When it came to the music, the first couple of chords set the mood and away I went.
I haven’t looked at ‘Drift Away’ for years. It was a pleasure to rediscover this song. As I say, it’s a peaceful one.
In fact, the feeling of the song rolled over into the entire episode & I found myself I reciting the words as a bit of spoken poetry on the spur of the moment.
Later on the episode, I recount the drive in the country I had this evening, as I improvise some piano music.
It all leads me to a mistake on the keys of my piano. So using this unexpected note, I demonstrate how I then might compose another song..one song can lead so easily to the next.
The first couple of chords were like that, notes that I hadn’t played like that before quickly lead me into the song,
Drift Away came together quite quickly, then. this is the way it seems to work for me, particularly when I’m writing music to lyrics which have been rewritten,
I do mention a song which did take me a couple of hours to finish: ‘Molly Brown’. This one came to me as a fully formed melody and chords – a piano piece – except I called it someone ( blank) ‘Brown’, definitely a female energy. And I also knew it would be a song about a historical event.
Then it came to me to write about theTitanic. I resisted the idea because it’s certainly already been done.
But the next day, on the internet a story came up unexpectedly about Molly Brown, who survived the sinking of the titanic. Amazing. Ok. I wasn’t going to fight that. So I found a dry account of her quite remarkable life, found there was a story to tell or retell… I created lyrics, imagining scenes based on the online account of her life. Here’s the link…Molly Brown podcast episode #76
So that way a completely different approach to songwriting to how ‘Drift Away’ came about.
I guess it’s a matter of just being open to possibilities, not ‘blocking’ any ideas. You learn a whole lot of theory, have it up your sleeve and just let go. Most importantly, think: ..play – with feeling. That would be the key I think, when you are engaged in a creative process.
Ok, would you like to hear more? Sit back and drift away with me for half an hour.
Lyrics are on my blog (petepascoe.wordpress.com), as usual, plus the painting I did of the the beach where I walked in the late afternoon sun.