I started this blog a long time ago, because I wanted to practice my writing every day, but also because back then, I was reading blogs like Dooce and Demon Baby and feeling like maybe I could do that same thing they did: be humorous by talking about my own life and get a bunch of cool followers who pined away for my witty banter.
I’ve grown up a bit, realizing that I’m kind of an average person, at least to the world at large, and I’m not as funny as those two. And maybe, back then, I didn’t really have that much to say, anyway.
I spent four years writing to an audience of 0 – 5 people. 5 was a really good day. These days, having less than 100 views is a bad day, and gets me all bummed out. But really, as long as people are getting something out of this blog, as long as I myself am learning something in the process, it’s worth it. It’s a commitment to myself to write something every day, and hopefully something that resonates with other people. And I always have to remember why I started this blog in the first place, why I write music, why I write words. To connect with people. To shed some light on my own learned lessons, and hopefully to hold a mirror up for you to see yourself in.
Today, I was feeling that strange emptiness I feel sometimes when I’m getting nothing out of facebook or the intrawebs (it happens often).
I put on my earphones to walk the dog. My songs were on shuffle and “Let’s Go To Bed” by The Cure, one of my all-time favorite bands, came on.
As I was walking, I felt invigorated. I was like, hey! Why don’t I go home and learn this on the guitar. So I did, and then I recorded myself singing it so that I could show it to my friends, Staci and Heather, because they’re pretty much the core of the Kyrsten Bean cover song fan base. And they liked it, and I felt good for about an hour.
I like to cover songs these days. I learn a lot from doing it. There was a period, let’s call it my “I worry what people think about me” period, in my twenties, when I was too cool to cover other people’s songs, and as a result, stopped learning to play them, thinking that writing my own was the only way to do it.
I lived in this myopic world for a time, still listening to other people’s songs, mind you, analyzing them and assessing what components made them stick, but eventually I realized what I had been missing.
Covering songs, (duh), teaches you more than what you already know. It takes you outside of your box. You can only do so much without having teachers, peers, mentors. And since most of us artists tend to be isolated anyhow, it helps to be able to pick apart something that resonates with you, lay it out, and figure out what exactly makes it tick. Is it the lyrics that you love? Is it the melody? Is it the strumming pattern on the guitar? The chord structure? Maybe it’s all of those things and you can’t change it without losing the heart of the song.
It’s a homage to the artist as well. (Er, if you don’t butcher it)
“It’s amazing how often artists write great songs by failing to play someone else’s song accurately.” – Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers/Singer-Songwriter
If you’re like me, you have certain chord progressions you gravitate towards (hmm, Em, Bm, A). Even the songs you end up covering turn out to be similar, because those sounds strike your ears in just the right way. But learning a song that is more complex than your usual suspects, or simply something different can be a godsend, suddenly opening up your creativity to different possibilities.
For example, I covered Love Is Blindness, by U2. So did Jack White. And so did another guy named Mr. Bano. If you listen to all three of these versions, (all on Youtube by the way), they’re all good, all different. The song holds up under different interpretations. The recording quality is pretty bad on my version, so I’m not linking it here. If you’re curious enough, you’ll look it up and judge me accordingly.
I covered one of my ex-boyfriend’s songs because it was the song he sang about the songs he sings to all the girls he screws in hotel rooms and I thought it would be hell of funny if I, one of those girls he screwed at one time, sang his song. My sense of humor has always been a bit off.
I had fun. And Staci said she enjoyed it…(also, on Youtube)
Oh, and guess what. It’s in B minor.
Also, if you’re playing live, the audience is going to judge you within the first notes of your opening song. If you start with a cover they like, they’re going to be more willing to give your music a chance, now that you’ve buttered them up. Think about it. How many times have you been in the car with a friend and realized you and your friend do not like the same music, at all. It’s horrifying, isn’t it, to be forced to listen to jazz when you love industrial or Karen Carpenter when you need to hear some Guns n’ Roses.
Hey, look, it’s Chris Cornell singing Whitney Houston:
I write songs to connect with others, and also, to soothe myself.
I picked up guitar at age 13 when my supposed best friends were stalking me at my house, waiting to beat the shit out of me when I walked outside. I never put it down because I found something in music, something that fills that core part of me always searching for reason, meaning, validation. When I play music, I put my emotions in a song and it can project to others what I can’t really explain. I do the same with stories, with poetry.
In reflecting on my life, and the kinds of people I’ve attracted through music in the past, I want to make sure I put out there what I want to get back. I’m working really hard on making sure every piece I write, every song I record, is something I can stand behind, that my intentions are pure. I don’t want to hurt people, I want to find them, give them something to hold onto. My music and writing have been my saving grace in this crazy, hostile world. Other people’s music and writing have moored me when otherwise I would have drifted away.
The only thing I really want out of this life is the ability to keep doing what I’m doing, and hopefully reach more people in the process. I still seek connection. I still wonder what you people reading this need to hear, and if I’m saying it, or if I need to keep playing around with ideas until I get it right.
I started this blog to connect with others. I’ve connected with some pretty awesome people, but it took a long, long time. Through those people, I’ve met other people. It’s not an overwhelming slew of people, and it’s not like we’re part of some big utopian community now. Often, we don’t even talk to each other but simply read that which the other wrote in a recent piece, poem or on their blog without commenting on it, but some days, when we’re all working to help each other in our careers by commenting and tweeting and facebooking each other’s work, it feels pretty good.
Slowly, surely, the vision I had for this thing is coming true while I keep plugging away in the dark.
We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art. --Henry James
I realize I’ve picked two themes for this post, connection and cover songs, but I think they’re related. Hard for me to limit myself to one subject, though I do it sometimes, like yesterday, when I wrote about Digging in the Past, again.
I have some questions, for the musicians out there reading my blog. What songs do you like to cover? Any song requests?