It’s not quite like riding a bike, but that’s how the saying goes, so I’ll go with it. This session was the first songwriting demo session I’ve had in some time. I’ve been doing some vocal production and some vocal features for hip-hop, but nothing in the way of what would be considered an opportunity to demo my writing.
After years of professional writing, including what feels like hundreds of sessions, I was actually nervous. Weird, right? As I pondered this feeling, I began to think about this process I’ve come to love. Empty tracks from a producer. Hours spent listening to those tracks and choosing which one to begin with. Then, finally narrowing the possibilities and starting the writing. Loving it. Hating it. Loving it again. Hating it even more. As time drew closer for this newest session, I began to feel the pressure. But though that pressure was slightly overwhelming, there is an adrenaline rush that flows through that moment like a rushing river feeding my mind excitement for the possibilities. Every song may not be a grammy winner, but it could be. Every line may not be one that changes lives, but it could be. The scratched out lyrics in my composition notebook are proof of the tug of war I experience when choosing each thought.
Then the day comes. I hand my amazing engineer, James, the chosen track. He prepares for recording. And he asks that magic question: “What’s the title?” I always pause here because this is the moment I am forced to put the first semi-permanent mark on the work. This day, the answer is “You Are”. Strangely enough, it may not be the most fitting title. But the words escaped my mouth before I could filter them. I let destiny have its way.
In the booth, I tuck headphones between tangled curls. It always starts off that I’m still considering how I look. By the end, I’ll be using the headphones as a headband to pull strands as far from my eyes as possible. I start with the hook of the song and begin to sing the words “you are”. I sing it. And I sing it. And I sing it. It sucks. And it sucks. And it sucks. That feeling of nervousness returns. And this time it is accompanied by embarrassment. It is in moments like these I realize the parallels that exist in my writing. Though the lyrics of this song speak of love and romance, the less than stellar execution of those words transform into words of defeat for my dying spirit. With closed eyes, I sing the lyrics again: “YOU ARE”. “There we go!” James says as I finally nail the soprano melody.
With that small victory, I feel the freedom that singing and songwriting allows. Hours pass as I sing each word. Never getting it right the first time, I keep pushing until the last harmony has been executed. I stand there, hungry and tired, and with a worn voice, I ask James if we have all we need. He answers “Yes” without hesitation. Although it is a response I am expecting, I still ask to solicit affirmation. I accept that “yes”. Yes. I have everything I need. Inside of each of us, we possess everything we need to execute the vision we have been given. Past the failures and beyond the shortcomings, there is a song. And that song reminds us: “You Are”.