Writing lyrics is a joy. It is a puzzle, and a struggle. It’s a labor of love that swallows up time and takes an idea that is bouncing around in my brain, or my heart, and kneeds it, explores it and pulls words from my innermost heart or sometimes, the ether, to describe it. Sometimes a song rushes out of me like air escaping from a balloon. Sometimes I feel like it was gifted to me and those make me feel grateful, like I am a conduit, a portable speaker for the universe, just for a moment. Others are painful, like sandpaper in my head. I know they’re there, but they must be coaxed gently out of me in bits and pieces. Those ones, are the stubborn children that need all my love and attention. They’re hard to understand, and hard to sort out, but you know they’re good in their souls and you love them harder. And you won’t give up on them… you just can’t.
It’s funny how driving tends to bring me ideas. The line, “I don’t want to dance with the devil, but he’s giving me hell” just popped into my head. Maybe it was the road, and the woods on both sides and how the random road was the border. But I began to think of the line we walk as humans, about where the line is between good and bad, heaven and hell, good fun and bad fun (is there such a thing as bad fun?) And how we have to choose, and how we live with those decisions, good or otherwise. Is there a middle? We all dip our toes in the unsavory every now and again. Sometimes it results in regret, and sometimes you realize it’s not so bad. I liked the metaphor of the line, so I pulled out the phone and voice dictated the line into my “notes” feature. There it stayed for weeks and weeks, but in my head, I was constantly revisiting the idea and soon, it would not be silent.
One day, I pulled out my purple notebook and just started writing. Words came. Lots of words, and many different verses. I just let them come. I knew I wouldn’t use most of them, but that’s how this one started. I scratched things out. I refined lines, and then discarded them, but left them legible, just in case. This process happened on a few occasions before I decided to sit down and put them on my computer. I edit better on the screen. I transferred them into my Drive account and edited as I went. Then, I looked, and read what I had, over and over. Nothing sounded right. I didn’t feel it.
I left it. I pulled out other ideas. I wrote Lena Belle, a piano ballad about my grandmother. I even recorded a demo with my co-writer Eddy. Meanwhile, Devil would not give me peace. It kept popping into my head. I woke up thinking about it and really trying to figure out what I was getting at. What was my message? I sat back down at the computer many more times, re-writing, and moving lyrics around, changing where the chorus was. I flipped and flopped and just kept at it. When I got frustrated, I’d go to something new. My notebook is full of ideas like that. Then, one day, it kind of just happened. I started hearing it bluesy-jazzy which is weird because that’s not my wheel-house, even slightly, but I knew it felt right. I changed key words and it became Deal with the Devil instead of “dance”. Yes, that helped. In my new mindset, I edited, found other words and I went to Eddy with my lyrics. I told him what I thought and we recorded some music and it felt good. I let it percolate some more. We decided to change the order again and BAM, there it was!
This song is so completely different than my others, just like our kids are never exactly the same either, but we love them for that. Songs, too. I can’t wait to share “Deal With the Devil.” I think that maybe you glimpse a bit of my mischievous nature in this one? You can decide soon, I hope. I’ll have to pull from my deepest roots to pull off the delivery and serve the song the way the stubborn little delicious thing deserves.