After Dinner Music

I’m sitting at the dinner table at Peter and Isaaca’s house.  The dishes have been cleared away and the table is a clean slate, ready for song writing and fresh ideas.

I am in Byrdlandia and the hookah has been brought out and those around the table sip their wine slowly as Jeremy gets out his guitar.  The bowl of flavored, molasses soaked tobacco (and really, it is only tobacco) begins to burn slowly as they pass the pipe around and music starts to flow out of Jeremy’s guitar, bathing us in the potential of a hit song. I am an observer, only a witness to this creative session.

The girls wait for their cue and Jeremy looks up at them and words and phrases begin to float up above the table, waiting to be plucked out of the air and put on the invisible “Scrabble Board” of lyrics, with the cords that to me, sounds like something with a 1950’s vibe.

They struggle with the concept of the meaning of their creation, the chord progression and how to resolve it.  Finally, because I can’t contain myself any longer, I lean up to the table, (I, the one who doesn’t write music), ventures out boldly to put in my two cents worth of opinion.  “At this point in the song, you don’t want to be asking…you need to be begging.  That’s what people relate to.  That hooks them.  That’s money.”

Jeremy painfully argues with me.  “Mom, don’t critique my musicianship, my art”.  He winks and smiles at me.  Oh, he smiles at me but I really know that his porcupine hide has surfaced to protect his fragility.  Musicians are sensitive and the purity of their craft is their creed and a matter of pride. They are producing their musical children, conceiving and creating them, hoping that the muse will breathe life into them.  If he does, they name their baby and it’s theirs to raise and introduce to the world.  They will have to live with their created child forever.  Alright….I will defer to them.  I won’t be there to raise their children but I will be able to enjoy them as a grandparent.  Instead of pictures in my wallet, I’ll carry my iPod and throw the tunes out for anyone who will listen.

The smoke from the hookah curls up over them like a muse caressing their imaginations.  All of a sudden,  a look of inspiration moves across them like a bow coaxing sounds out of a violin and they add another line to a chorus.  They sing a few more unfinished songs, working on rough spots and I listen to them, thinking that if they finish these songs, they would have have another record.

“Good Lord, you guys.  How many new songs are almost finished?  If you had more time together you could knock these out and just keep producing new stuff.”

I said what they had all been feeling and complaining about. They came to Nashville to write and sing…to create.  But things kept getting in their way, like rent, food, waitressing jobs, social lives, bills…life.  I wanted to turn back the clock for them.  Take them all under my roof and support them so they could be musical purists, tour relentlessly and pursue music 24/7. They did that for several years when they first started their careers.  They lived under our roof and we paid for their musical dreams.  It was our duty as parents.  We were dream enablers and it was our pleasure to be so.

Natalie grabs the guitar and starts to play a rift, closing her eyes and brings up a song almost forgotten to her.  “Remember that song I wrote when we lived in Alabama and were just starting”?  She plays a few chords and then sings the chorus to a song about them not having quite enough money to travel to play a show and my motherly, “I couldn’t for the life of me help myself” response to their chronic monetary woes:

“Go down to the back room, into the closet.
open my shoebox. Take all my cash.
All the cash.
Then hit the road ’cause
it’s a long way to Mississippi.
Call me after the show.”2012-03-06_14-20-26_146

Creating an atmosphere for a visit from the muse

I smile.  I do remember that song.  How many times did I give them my secret stash?  Yes, indeedy…I did have interest in The Bridges and special bragging rights to each and every song.

Jeremy takes back the guitar.  They begin to play  stark naked country songs that are classic and simple.  Hank Williams’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and Bill Monroe’s version of “In the Pines”. The pure heartbreaking, melancholic sound wraps us up in it’s pale, slender arms and strokes our souls. She then massages our hearts and connects us to a creative flow that circles the earth like a heavenly river flowing high above us. I realize that melancholy is the muse in this instance, and she pours the water from the river over us like a priest baptizing us with holy water from the creative fount of blessings.  They become, one for that moment with the Spirit of the Ancient of Days.  Only that spirit can make melancholy a thing of utter beauty.

Natalie begins humming one of my all time favorite songs:  “Shenandoah”.  I am always drawn to it’s simplicity and beauty.  We google the lyrics and they sing them.  Jeremy strums the guitar and my daughters sing it tentatively, tears thickening the sound of their voices. I hold on to that moment  for dear life.  Time travels to allow someone’s pain from another era grab our hearts and we are caught up in music’s magic moment of transcendence.

The moment doesn’t last long but it is a perfect moment, brought to us from a creative child of a bygone era.  I wonder what grandparent held the bragging rights to that haunting beauty. Will my children leave such a glorious legacy?  I hope so.  My iPod is ready!2012-12-11_16-27-16_409

Where creative children are born… around the table.

Here’s your song, enjoy!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gina Cova
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 21:00:52

    thank you Donna for this story of the muse. I enjoy the time you share with your family. I love the song, it has always been a favorite of mine too.


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