“Sloan River,” a tune that came to me almost exactly on this day in 2019, was finally released today. I say finally. Really, it was one of those rare ones that just came all at once, even pretty much the lyrics. If, back then, I was thinking like I am now, I would have chased it down and gotten it out then. I never thought it was the greatest thing in the world, although I did think it was interesting and organic, and I was impressed by the way it made me sing (really high, especially on the verses!), but what I mean by that is that it captured the mood of a moment in time very accurately and spontaneously, and I think it’s better to chase those down in the moment and get them out closer to when they are born. Maybe all of them should.
Another reason I think it’s good to get them out quickly, especially when you get the rare gift of the music and lyrics right there all at once, is that doing a million different demos sucks the soul out of you and makes what is exciting (making art!) suddenly not just a chore but a neuroses! And it nags at you! This little song, which again, I don’t think is anything special, has been nagging at me for the better part of two years! That’s just not healthy, either for the artist nor the art. I think what I’m looking for is that exact middle ground between rushing (as if it has to be out tomorrow) on the one hand versus procrastination on the other. That middle ground is a psychological state of acting, of progress, but within the bubble of calmness, relaxation. It’s a state that’s rewarding in and of itself, no matter what activity it is applied to.
I am proud I at least got it out though, and with each new release I feel like I’m learning more and getting better.
-Stephen Pickering, Little Rock. July 2021
Lyrics for "Sloan River":[Opens with four line chorus]
Sloan River takes you down
Sloan River makes you drown
Sloan River takes you down
Sloan River makes no sound
I wanted to pay
Pay my mistakes
Tried to walk away
But I could not escape
[chorus first two lines only]
I wanted to skate
And walk away
But memories of your face
I could not erase
[Chorus first two lines]
I wanted to leave
I wanted to find
The lady of the lake
Lady of your mind
[Final Chorus full]'Cuz Sloan River takes you down
And Sloan River makes you drown
That honey river will take you down
That haunted river makes no sound.
This Hypeddit Landing page has links to most of the places it is available for streaming or purchase. The top two, Spotify and Apple Music, I think account for something like 90% of music consumption these days, but as I come across others, I’ll add them both to that page and this one.
I just realized that in the example I just read it’s mostly a British English usage. “Garage forecourt” is simply the area in front of a gas station where the pumps are. Of course it sounds better in the British version. I was going to try and use it in something I’m working on now, and maybe I will force it in somewhere just for fun, but I realized most of what I was visualizing in my own story are areas we refer to simply as “courtyards.” Still, if the area is large enough, such as the areas in front of government or university buildings, it’s tough to refer to those places as courtyards. “Courtyard” has a more intimate connotation, and really more of an inside the building feel to it than out front.
The second time was a bunch of posies—pink carnations—from the garage forecourt, a spontaneous gesture after a cheap but fun restaurant date.”
I settled into it until I was certain, then upped the tempo and went on by her in a long sprint finish, was clinging to the ladder when she arrived, feeling less like a beached blowfish than on other days. “Well now!” she gasped, looking startled and owlish.”
John D. MacDonald, “Bright Orange for the Shroud: A Travis McGee Novel” page 66 of 288 on Kindle, first paragraph of Chapter 5.
I don’t think the dictionary definition does this one justice. “Wise and solemn” is not the sense of it here nor in a way you may want to use it literarily. To me it’s the subtle widening of the whole circle of the eyes yet simultaneously keeping the rest of the face frozen. I feel like I’ve gotten and given spontaneously without thinking this subtle yet powerful expression a million times in my life without ever having been able to put it into words. I don’t think I would have gotten it here if John hadn’t added the world “startled.” When the expression of surprise comes only through the eyes, ironically, because the expression is trying to be hidden, it’s more powerfully and deeply felt. Normally when people are trying to woo or flatter you, they consciously add in the facial expressions. Ironically it loses effect. You know it’s not emergent from the heart in a spontaneous way. It’s when they really do feel surprise (I think mostly in the positive sense at something you’ve done or how you look) that you could describe their face as “looking owlish.” It’s a neat and fun word to use. And a very common experience. It’s power comes from its spontaneity, and “owlish” is a great way to describe it.
My new single “It’s Spring” was released today via Distrokid which means it should be available just about everywhere you stream your music or buy digital downloads. It’s also on Youtube which I’ve embedded below.
The track was written and recorded at the beginning of April 2021. I wish I had written in my notes the exact day that little riff came to me. I know I was sitting at my desk with a guitar in hand working on the lyrics for another song, when it came, as they do spontaneously out of the the ether. Usually with such things, I’ll record the fragment into my phone and get back to the task at hand, thinking I’ll come back and finish it later. Nine times out of ten that never happens. I was a little proud of myself for going ahead and finishing a complete draft which I was happy with and is more or less how it is. Maybe it’s the generic nature of the subject. Maybe I just got lucky. It happens.
I had some specific images in my head from past Springs that feel so idyllic now. I think that helped drive it. Even if they’re not there exactly on the page in specific detail, I do think having pleasant memories in mind that you are working off of, playing off of makes the process more fun, and your mind becomes less judgmental, critical of what you are writing.
“April is the cruelest month” — My first impulse when I hear this, is that nature becomes so beautiful so much what a fairy-tale or magical mythology looks, feels, and tastes like, that it fools you more or less into thinking you are on the right track to embark on an adventure of an everlasting kind, but then when the season ends with all its mythologically inclined and emergent sensations, so does your sense of everything magical coming into being. In this sense, Spring is the ultimate “bait and switch.” It seem to be fucking with you.
Women are born multi-taskers. Men are built to focus like a laser on one thing. By multi-tasking women bring forth their clarity of purpose, and by focusing men bring forth a sort of ability to “do it all” and “be many places at once.” It’s completely ironic and none of it is conscious. It’s emergent from leaning into accepting their strengths (one might call it their calling) and most importantly not expecting anything else. Not needing anything else.
Hey Whitney, I read Joseph Campbell all the time, and I can’t remember if it was his idea, or he got it from Jung or even something more Eastern and ancient but the idea of turning your weaknesses into strengths was looked at as the right track and not something to be ashamed of. It’s almost as if we’ve been brainwashed with this idea of being the perfect “all-around” person (College both academically and socially re-enforces this mode almost psychotically) as the goal when ironically that is the perfect exact recipe for schizophrenia, inauthenticity, and not bringing forth your true self and or creativity. Also, back in the 90’s when I had a retail store and thought I wanted to be a business tycoon, I read this guy Peter Drucker. He’s considered like the greatest consultant ever. I remember him saying you don’t want to hire the perfect “all-around” individual. He said, “The people with the greatest strengths have the greatest weaknesses.” Oh, and another famous quote of his is, “Stop solving problems. Instead pursue opportunities.” People get so literal, of course it doesn’t mean don’t call the plumber when the shower doesn’t work. It just means, in the bigger picture, focus the majority of your mental energy on opportunity instead of problems. Of course, I should have said this first, I’M OBSESSED WITH YOU AND YOUR SHOW! I think I’ve watched them all and thoroughly enjoyed. And that thing ya’ll mentioned about “Friends,” if I’m panicking, I can turn on your show, and it it’s so soothing in that way too for me. I totally understand that thing with parents and “Friends” but with me as an adult it’s like I need something current as well as having that soothing nature of your voice and your take.