Songwriting in Your Sleep
A funny thing has been transpiring lately. Something completely unexpected and almost supernatural in a way. If there is any “one thing” that I do well, out of the thousands and thousands of things we do or learn to do or are forced to do while we’re journeying here in the earthly realm — for surely every person possesses such a trait — for me personally, if there is one thing that I do better than every and anything else it is having a natural proclivity to prolifically writing songs and music composition. This is no secret, I know. It is common knowledge. So much so that I don’t even believe the main point of this entry should be to even remotely explore this strange character trait or why it comes so easy to me compared to so many other things. I am sure we have discussed it before here in these pages over the years.
Instead I simply wish to make note of this rather incredible new event that has begun transpiring lately on a near nightly basis. A little backstory…. We just finished recording and finishing over 45 new songs for the “new album”, which we now know will turn into three new albums that will be released over the course of this year. Choosing the songs is always one of the most challenging aspects of entering the recording studio with the guys. For I come in with alphabetized binders filled with thousands upon thousands of songs. Each in my humble estimation as good and worthy as the next to be included on our latest new album. So begins the process of me sitting there singing and playing the guys and the producers and engineers the songs that I have tabbed for whatever new album we happen to be working on and together as a group we semi-democratically choose which songs are yeses, which songs are maybes and which ones are flat-out nos.
Sometimes the decisions make sense to me — often times we go in with a set idea of concept in mind and thus only certain kinds of songs would be appropriate. While other times the group’s decisions about which songs are definite nos disturbs and confuses me. Everyone hears music differently. It is so subjective that it is impossible for one person to even be able to comprehend how another person hears a song let alone why they may or may not like it. And I must admit that at times I even find myself getting hurt a little at how quick they are to dismiss a song that I absolutely believe is “an incredible song!!!” But that feeling is usually fleeting for as soon as the discussion ends I start up another and the process begins all over again — every song carries with it such a special collection of feelings and memories and emotions that it is easy to get carried up and away with it as it was with the last. We will easily listen to a hundred or so songs before we eventually narrow it down to fifty or so. And from there we are all keenly aware that the hard part is yet to come as we have to keep narrowing it down to the ten or so that will eventually be known to be on that new album historically.
With this latest project — lord knows we were very aware that time was of the essence and that we needed to record and release the follow-up to Ballad On Third Avenue as quickly as possible. Ed Hale the artist had never garnered such overt commercial success before and never at such a level as what we were experiencing in that moment. But instead of being disciplined and finishing quickly the project soon turned into yet another large epic battle to not only record a mammoth batch of 45 new songs, but also to create three completely new and totally different sounding albums, AND to incorporate several new innovative techniques into the recording process — using musicians from all over the world to record their parts virtually at their own studios and send them in to our engineers to import the songs into our system — a process that would at the very least create an extremely confusing and disharmonious sound but at best could just possibly create something completely fresh and unique sounding. (Since I am writing THIS post-recording now and we are in the mixing stage, I can relay that it did indeed create an incredibly massive oftentimes muddied even noisy fusion of sound and cacophony at times, this is true…but some of the songs are sounding fantastically unique and innovative in their “sound”, a sound no one has ever heard us create before with more instruments and a wider variety of instruments and sounds than we’ve ever incorporated into our music. Not that it doesn’t still sound like “us”. It does. It has the Transcendence sound all over it… Still basically Brit Pop with a classic rock bent… But the new technique we attempted worked. It is very exciting to listen to. Goosebumps inducing at times even. The mad experiment worked. It’s just taking longer to mix and finish. But the wait will be worth it I believe. )
Needless to say that since all of our attention and focus at the moment and for the next few months if not the entire year will be dedicated to finishing these new albums and then to marketing and touring , the last thing in the world I want to spend any time doing is writing new songs. But what to do when you are able to write new songs as easy as breathing, when it comes that easy to you? You see a guitar, pick it up and bam out comes a song. You sit down at a piano and within minutes I am deeply inside of the inexpressible comfort and pleasure of “new song composition”, completely adrift in it and oblivious to everything else going on around me. Not the most productive way to be when your attention needs to be on marketing and mixing and planning and implementing a new album release.
So when we moved back to New York full-time late last year I decided to store ALL of my musical equipment including all guitars and keyboards in our storage warehouse with our other house items so that way I wouldn’t and couldn’t even be tempted to pick up an instrument and write any songs. For we already have far too many to believe we will ever really be able to get them all recorded. That’s just the hard painful truth of the matter. One that is still hard for me to bare the thought of. Thousands of songs literally equates to hundreds of albums at an average rate of ten songs per album. We’ve done the math. It’s a no-brainer. We will never even come close to recording all the songs that I’ve already written… let alone all the ones that I am destined to still write. In a word, it sucks.
And in that, this strange character trait, this gift as some call it, is (and has always been) both a blessing and a curse. For with each new song that I have composed for years going back and from this day forward I am immediately made aware that one of two not-preferable things will happen: either I am pouring my heart and soul into bringing this song down from the ethers into the earthly realm only for it to sit on paper forever never to be recorded, OR for it to be recorded which instantly mandates that another ten that came before it will suffer the same fate. It is very much like being forced to choose which of your children gets to eat and live a long and prosperous life and which you must starve, knowing that they will surely die never to live a full life or be known by anyone but yourself and never to be known by history.
I’ve played this game with the Divine Force many times before. Refusing to accept the gift and refusing to write any new songs for a while, despite the fact that it is my very nature to do just that more and better than anything else that I do in this life. Sometimes I fear that He/She/It will punish me for my impudence and take away the ease at which I can write a song. But that hasn’t happened yet. Truly I don’t believe that it ever will. For I believe that God knows and understands that I know and understand that my ability to pull these songs out of thin air and bring them to life is as pure an expression of Him/Her/It and their glory more than anything else that I can possibly do or say in this life. They serve through their very existence and how they are brought to being in this world as a glorious reminder of the mystical magical supernatural nature of the Divine Force Itself. My guess is that God gifts every person on earth a special and unique ability such as this as a means to express His/Her/It’s Divinity on earth. Our task is to find what that special gift is and become great at it and share it with the world as a reminder of this powerful connection we share with this mysterious Divine Force that comprises and creates and flows through everything in the known and unknown universe.
But I cannot help but feel impulsively rebellious at times. It is a large task. A time-suck like no other. If I did nothing but sat in a room for 24 hours with a guitar and a piano I would easily be tasked with what I guess would be at least writing fifteen to twenty-five songs in those 24 hours. That’s the easy part…the writing of them… The subtle nature of hearing them come to life in your ears, in your mind’s eye… They already exist… Somewhere else, in some other dimension, and all I am doing is hearing them as they already exist and bringing them down to this earthly dimension so others can hear them. BUT from there there IS still work to do. Flushing out the lyrics. Discovering what THEY wish to be… For they too already exist. Arranging and producing the sound of it. So it is a time consuming burden as much as it is a gift or blessing. But I believe God knows this and accepts that at times I may feel prone to rebel from the obligation.
And such was the case this year as I decided to not bring any instruments with me. And here I have lived now for more than four months without having access to any guitars laying around the house.
But something changed. A few months ago I started having dreams where I would hear these incredible songs — usually it was some random character in my dream performing the song on stage or just sitting there in a room with me and couple of friends or I even hear them on the radio or playing in the air…and then this voice in my head says “Ed you are dreaming. It is you who is writing this song. Wake up and record it NOW. Do not let this song go. Do it now.” So I do just that.
This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. And many other songwriters tell stories of having similar experiences. So I have became accustomed to keeping some type of recorder on my nightstand for just such these occasions. Now I can just use the voice recorder on my iPhone to do this. And so I do. What strikes me most though about this most recent string of new songs is the sheer quantity at which they are coming. Near nightly now. As if God had a leg up on me the whole time and decided “okay then son, if you refuse to pick up an instrument to pick out the songs from the ethers then I will just deliver them to you fully formed in the dreams of your sleep. For that is what is happening now. I hear them fully formed in my head while I am sleeping and I just wake up enough to turn the recorder on and sing them into it. I always listen back to them the next day to see if they are total shite and I was just kidding myself as we are prone to do in our sleep and yet they never are. They are always totally original and beautiful glorious new songs. And yet I have to do absolutely nothing to make them this way. I certainly am not “writing them” or creating them myself. I am simply singing into the voice recorder exactly as I hear it in my dream. It is very close to being almost supernatural. Like channeling. And it leaves me impressed with God’s persistence and ingenuity. And of course with his generosity. I thought I was in control and perhaps had one up on Him, but it turns out that the joke was on me. Truth be told, I am more than fine with this.
– Posted by The Ambassador using the BlogPress app on an iPhone