As I listen to the developing songs, sometimes as I draw, and sometimes as I write, they seep into my mind and body. Then they seep back out again.
The songs are mostly about people and their circumstances, their relationships and their places. They have been inspired and influenced by real people and places, and observations. They go through my filter of experiences, then come back out as new people. I know them really well. They have personalities and backstories now.
When I draw I have one-sided conversations with them… well… I say one-sided… the seeping back and forth happens. My lines and marks are blown about by melody and rhythm.
Occasionally a real person is overheard, a phrase sticks in my head: “Who on earth would want to move from here?” and it contains its own rhythm. I ask “Where is this place? Who is this person?” “Does she want to move or does she want to stay?”
As I write this I realise it hadn’t occurred to me that it wouldn’t be a woman.
Last year I made a small drawing/collage and I extracted the following words from a collection of old book pages, torn out for the purpose. The words were “Eighty seven steps to the top floor”.
As I draw, this word soup swims about and things find connections. The woman who didn’t want to move lived on the top floor. Of course. Obvious now. “Oh the view!”
A year later it is a fully formed song. One of my favourites, because having written the lyrics, with the rhythm of the words clear, I hand it over to MC, who writes the perfect melody for it. It sort of halts and limps along as a waltz time stumble… pizzicato… scratchy noises, walking stick on wooden steps noises… but with a smooth top line floating over it, with odd peaks and troughs. Distant clangs that might be church bells… or not… the personality and the place are all there…
As I write this I realise that many of my songs start out in a bad place, but hope lands… this one tells of a wonderful life… with a sad ending. I love it, but it’s really difficult to sing.
She counted every one every day
Eighty seven steps to the top floor
Every day she climbed them
Every day she wondered “Is it worth it?”
The smallest room in the world
Every corner cramped and
Every book a treasure kept
But the view, “oh the view!”
She could see so far
She could see where
One day met the next
A tangible sense of time here
As a living moving thing
Who on earth would want
To move from here?
Eighty seven stairs to the ground
But no one bothered to count them
On the day that one day
Didn’t meet the next
Lyrics by Elena Thomas 2020