"A Stranger to Talk To"

Each Sunday, I send the Sunday Haiku Milieu email. The first Sunday of each month is New Song Sunday, and I include a new song.  Here is this month’s song, “Stranger.” 

TWO VERSIONS 

There are two versions: the Sunday Haiku Milieu version, in which the song is literally hot off the presses, and this version, which looks similar but has significant differences in production and performance. 

If you would like to hear songs within hours of their being written, and watch the creative process unfold, joining the email club at haikumilieu.com is easy and you can unsubscribe any time. 

HAIKU MILIEU INSPIRATION 

almost all the time  
there is nothing really wrong  
with the way things are 

and 

however it looks  
whatever it feels like now  
you will be ok

LYRICS 

Here are the actual lyrics: 

I wish I had  
a stranger to talk to  
I’d tell them what  
I wish wasn’t true  

I wish someone  
who didn’t know me  
could show me how  
this could go  

Cause no one  
you know  
can tell you  
what you don’t want to hear  

But you  
can hear  
a stranger  
whisper in your ear  

I wish I had  
a stranger to talk to  
someone I  
could really hear say  

However it looks  
whatever this feels like  
nothing is really wrong  

PROCESS

I like to write something every day, and usually it turns out to be a short, sweet 16 lines and a list of things to do, alongside the kernel of ideas for that day's haiku (which are almost always written on that day.)  

I started writing this, my IPhone tells me, on Thursday, May 20 at 7:53 am.  I just checked my work calendar for any clues as to what I might have been thinking.  Nothing unusual.  The idea started, and then it kept going.  

You may have noticed the first Friday Jenny & Friends live stream is on a break.  I hurt my shoulder somehow, and it is making it difficult for me to play guitar.  It only took taking the month of May off to decide that I'd had enough of that!  I told Robin he better get ready, because while my shoulder gets better, he and I are going to WRITE.  

So then we began the pitch sessions.  We talk about the ideas we had, or tried and tossed out, and new ones that seem to be bubbling up.  And this was one I pitched to him:  A Stranger to Talk To.  

I read him the lines, which in their earliest incarnation, rhymed.  There were a lot of them!  And at the end, he said, "Sounds like that song is already written."  

Well, I thought.  Maybe it is.  

So after I confirmed one of my ace-in-the-hole Titans of the Studio was available on short notice to mix it on Saturday (a mere 3 days ago, if you are reading this Tuesday when I posted it), I gave myself some parameters for the song.  

it had to be written, recorded, and sent for mixing by noon on Saturday   
- it had to be something I could sing, and play with my shoulder the way it is  

Plus...I wanted it to surprise me.  I really love when I learn something I didn't know I was thinking in a song. 

Given these parameters, I thought...yeah, maybe we start with the Stranger song.  

By 7:00 am Saturday morning, I was in my little studio room, my leg propped up on something I can't remember now, my right arm gingerly leaning over the guitar to separate my shoulder from my body as little as possible.   

Anything adventurous that required me to use my body to brace the guitar while I played, like bar chords, etc, were out.  It was going to have to be extremely low impact, like a few fingers of the left hand on the strings, and gentle movements of the right hand strumming or plucking the strings.  

I started, then I said, shoot - this sounds like me.  I want to do something different!  Surprise myself!   

Still, I played the riff into my phone, and halfheartedly sang a few lyrics, so I had a trail of breadcrumbs to follow should I decide I wanted to take that path. And then I started a different song.   

After awhile, I wandered upstairs for water.  When I went back downstairs, it was as if the Stranger song was waiting for me, saying, “Did you get over yourself yet?  Let’s get to work!” I sat down, again, gingerly in my chair, and got right to work.  

This time, instead of singing to the riff on my phone, I sang and played at the same time.  The words arranged themselves around the guitar.  It's like the song was a train that was laying the track at the same time as it was traveling over it, my heart beating faster and faster as we got closer and closer to noon, when the song was due.   

Do you ever notice how, somehow or other, if you decide to do it, it somehow gets done?   I wrote the song, recorded the guitars and vocals, and got them over to my mixing friend in about 5 and a half hours.  

The real magic happens here.  It's not just that the person who mixes your song has the know-how and ability to turn your raw tracks into what you hear in your head (and heart), it's that you trust them, and they trust you.  I am very lucky to have a number of people in my life who take what I give them and mix it into gold, including Blaise Barton, Klem Hayes, and Jon Smith.  

For this song, Jon made himself available to mix remotely on short notice. 

Quick side note:  mirrors are important.  It is how a dancer knows if their form is correct.  Many painters look at their painting in a mirror to see if it is working.  Each of us give ourselves at least a quick glance in the mirror before leaving the house. 

A musician’s mirror is a beautifully mixed song. 

When the first round of mixes came back to me -- within 2 hours, I might add -- I learned that the song needed to be edited.  There is literally no other way I could have come to learn so quickly that the song needed the third verse, one entire voice, and its final line removed, without Jon showing me, mirroring back to me, the song as I had given it to him.   

And about that final line.  Originally, the last verse of the song went like this:  

However it looks  
whatever this feels like  
nothing is really wrong  
you'll be OK  

But I couldn't get myself to sing that last line right.  The "you'll be OK."  

But we were short on time.  "Let's do what we can here," I thought.  I tried singing it many different ways, and finally sent it to my mixer with 3 different harmony parts.  Right?  Harmony usually makes things work, right?  

Except for when it doesn't.  

When he sent the song back to me, not only did the voices sound as uncomfortable as I'd felt when I was singing them...tying things up in a bow at the end like that, kind of ruined the song for me.  

So I asked him to get rid of that last line.  Which he did.  And now the song was ready for the Sunday ‘Milieu. 

With 24 hours reflection, Jon and I worked together virtually to tweak the song a bit more (both versions are on the Haiku Milieu YouTube channel.)  The form settled down during the first mix, and now in the second mix, there are differences in the lyrics, the performance, and the arrangement. 

It may not stay in this state forever -- who knows, I may add a verse, an instrument, or take one away -- but this is how it is, right now, a few short days after coming to life.  

I hope you enjoy it.  Thanks as always for reading to the end.  If you feel like it, let me know your thoughts about the song, as well your own artistic process.

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