Other than that, I wrote with very little sense of direction back then, mostly relying on what little instinct I had, combining it with the unquenchable zeal of a teenager still new to the whole game. There was a lot of just stringing words together and hoping they’d fit, and on occasion perhaps even rhyme. I poke fun now, but in reality there is much from that process I can and do still bring into my songwriting today. Back then I didn’t think too hard about what I was writing about. Now, there are times I can get so lost in the rat-race of trying to say something significant, that seldom is it not helpful for me to take a step back and remember those early days, when the entire point was to have fun making interesting shapes out of words, melody, and harmony.
<nerd alert> … for those less interested in technical stuff, feel free to skip ahead!
Compositionally, I remember the first thing I came up with being the alternating D9-C9 riff. At the time it was actually the main riff of the song; it’s since faded substantially into the background (and in this latest release only appears in the playout section right at the end). But I had set it up to be an extendable jam-section – yes, even though I wasn’t big into the whole nineties college jam-band scene, the style of the day still crept in and influenced my writing… sending me on my way, as it were (rimshot).
Now for anyone with perfect pitch, this whole “D9” business will seem a little suspect, seeing as the song is typically performed in a different key (these days it’s typically G). Find the Sun, I openly confess, was the very song that began my case of Capo Addiction™. Now, a capo, for those unfamiliar, is a device used on a guitar, that allows you to transpose the song you are playing to a different (typically, higher) key. It can be either used to find rich, unconventional chord voicings to suit a song’s particular flavor, or abused (as I often do) to flagrantly push a song up a step or two into keys like D-flat and F-sharp, which it turns out is a very effective way to irritate your sessionists. It is an affliction from which I suffer to this day. In fact just this afternoon I came off trying my hand at writing a song, that I fully intended to be capo-free, whose main riff would use mostly bar-chords (yes, bar chords! why would anyone ever need a capo with bar-chords), only to decide that I needed open voicings in the bridge, and that, you know, it would just sound better half a step up, in A-flat. Yes, bass players hate me.
So I have Find the Sun to thank for this. I’m not sure how it happened, whether I came up with the riff in D, but then found the melody to be too low in the voice, or if I came up with the riff in G, but found the chord voicing to be lacking. This is one of those things that’s become a little jumbled. One thing that remains clear in my mind, however, is the discovery of a melodic riff that has become something of a favorite of mine, so much so that I actually recycled it in a later composition: Body of Water (released earlier, in 2010, but the first draft wasn’t completed until 2004). In Find the Sun it’s the “look into your eyes” melodic motif (“one drop at a time” in Body of Water). Yes, I admit to being something of a recycler, though that might be as much due to my interest in musical theater as anything else (in musical theater, you see, recycling is considered completely legitimate, because it’s not actually recycling – it’s “foreshadowing and payoff”… again, another story, another time).
Irregardless, I do love that minor key run. Though, in truth, I can’t really call it much of a discovery, as only a few days after writing Find the Sun I remember hearing on the radio the original version of Eric Clapton’s “Layla”, which as some might recall, has that brilliant extended playout section at the end. Of course it was then when I realized I had not so much discovered as much as borrowed this riff from there (doesn’t take too careful a listen). I felt guilty for a day or two, until a kind friend pointed out at least a dozen well known rock motifs that were clearly borrowed from other sources. Pastiche… the life blood of creativity, so it seems!
Find the Sun had a short (literally – one gig), though, I’d like to think, successful life as Kid Charlemagne’s show closer – the group disbanded in the spring of 1997 – and the song was retired and sent to the archives, while I focused on finding other ways to put my teetering academic career further in jeopardy. The song was brought out of retirement in the spring of 1999, when I began early development for a project that would eventually become the musical “States of Matter”. In this incarnation, Find the Sun closed the show’s first act, and integrated into it were some of the musical’s other themes and motifs. After a little facetime from 2000 through 2003, “States of Matter” went into redevelopment, and once again Find the Sun went back into the vault.
In the summer of 2010, I was fresh off the release of my first two singles: Body of Water and Under Your Spell, and had just met up with Crit Harmon in order to discuss the possibility of working together on some tracks. I was searching through my catalog to compile a set of options to choose from, when Find the Sun caught my eye. At the time I was sure the song was destined to exclusively serve as the Act 1 closer of “States of Matter”, but in a moment of whimsy I added it to the list anyway. This turned out to be a real boon, as some great work was done on this song during our subsequent development sessions together. Notably, we experimented with different tempos until landing upon the slower, slightly retro, but infinitely more expansive vibe that currently drives the song. Adding a little swing and committing to a backbeat solidified this song as a true groove track, which I continue to be excited about.
So, for now at least, Find the Sun appears to have found something of a landing place. That said, having known the song for so long, and having an intuitive sense of how it seems to work, my guess is that this isn’t going to be its last incarnation. “States of Matter” rewrites notwithstanding, there’s a natural restlessness to this song, maybe due in part to it having been conceived while in motion, during a time of my life defined by nothing but motion; in any case it seems to will itself to keep moving, keep searching, more so than any other song I’ve written so far. And I resonate with this in many respects, not so much the urge to keep moving physically, but to keep revisiting ideas, developing them, evolving them, as part of my own evolution. It’s been a wild and wondrous journey so far. Thank you for taking the time to share in some of it.
Travel safe and talk soon.