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The re-write ("At Sea")

Welcome to the fourth of five entries where I tell you the secrets behind the songs on the new EP… Today, I’ve got the juicy details behind the song “At Sea,” the banjo instrumental and the fourth track on the project. This song began in March as I was figuratively digging out of the depressing winter months and more literally recovering from some self-inflicted drama in my life. For sometime this song had lyrics as well, which is actually where the title for this song came from. To give you an idea of where this song started, here’s one of the verses: “The rain falls slowly, a lost refrain / Dropping to the deck and echoing in place / My heart aches, lonely, waiting for the day / These sea-kept legs will finally find safety” The song was originally titled “Stormy Sea” – and one of four or five songs that I wrote which focused on the sadness that I was feeling, grieving the loss of control that I had experienced. Prior to going into the studio, I made a conscious decision to edit this song. I decided that I wanted to take the opportunity to take the depressing dirge that it was and morph it into a tune that better reflected my feelings after I picked up the pieces. (At least the ones that I could find.) One of the greatest gifts in songwriting, I believe, is that you have the ability to edit. Even after you’ve played a song a hundred times – even after you’ve labeled it as “finished” – you have the ability to go back and change a song. Sometimes these changes are miniscule – other times they are as extensive as removing all of the words and letting your instrument speak the meaning of the song. For me, the act of editing this song was part of my own healing process. “At Sea” still reflects much of the meaning of the lyrics of the original version, but without the words. The slow, sparse melody at the entrance represents that darkness that I had felt - one of the few emotions that the original version of this song conveyed. As “At Sea” develops, tempo increases and the melody becomes more refined until you get to the point at about 1:10, where a second melody is introduced. This was actually the musical bridge to the original song – it is a melody that has a certain lightness and playfulness to it. For me, this was the musical version of my personal tipping point of hope to get out of the emotional tailspin I had succumbed to. And then, at 2:20, the song’s emotion changes completely for me – even when the song comes back to the melody that was expressed in the beginning of the song, the energy behind the notes is completely different. At one point in the process of recording this EP, I thought that perhaps I would continue to edit the lyrics of the original version of this song and that it would possibly end up on some future recording. After some reflection, it’s become clear that if I were to do that, it would almost defeat the purpose of my having edited this song in the first place. Next week: the story behind “Broken Record,” the title track of the new EP.


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Bethel Steele

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