Song Profiles

Song title: Memory Picture
From the album: Entropy 29
Requested by: Eric

There's a store in the swanky little strip mall by my house that sells nothing but high end beauty supplies. If you know what Sephora is, it's like that, except it's for snootier patrons. In fact, when my mom and I went there to gawk at overpriced rouge and gloss on Friday, we were sternly ignored after the young salesgirls dismissed us as we dragged our flip floppy feet through the door. (Side note: It's always fun to realize that a $25 tube of mascara has more retail value than the album I slaved away at for three years.) Anyhow, it was in this ridiculous store that I walked past the turbo-priced candles, my nose catching a scent that reminded me of my grandmother, touching my heart in a little aching way.

I've been lucky in my life, most of the people who I love are still with me. With the exception of my grandparents. And one other family member. The song, Memory Picture, is about that other family member. It would be a relief to write about the loss of this person, because in all my years of living, I don't think any other event has affected me more than her death. Not my parents' divorce, not college, not my years of poverty, and not even the death of my beloved grandparents. However, because I'm concerned with the privacy of my family, I don't feel it's respectful to explain what happened. I can only mention that her death imprinted everyone in a different, powerful way.

When she died, it was in March 13. In the following months, I became a bit preoccupied with death. I feared the mortality of everyone around me. And I began to tempt my own. My mind became filled with constant intrusive thoughts of cold, blue skin; soil and wood; brittle hair, and yellowed, curling fingernails. The inescapable ending. It was so bad for me, I could barely function. My only distraction was the college courses I was barely passing.

My decision to move to Ireland was directly linked to her death. I bought the tickets in June. That morning marked the end of my intrusive thoughts. I was finally able to do something pro-active about how I felt. I didn't want to leave this earth before I could experience something that I'd always dreamed of. The time I spent in Ireland included lots of writing and music, but it was the principle place where I grieved and sorted out the feelings I had about walking in this world.

Since then, I've written several songs about this experience. However, I've never been able to properly express myself. When you're singing about loss, it's easy to sound melodramatic, morose, or trite. I've also been concerned about how my family would respond. Many years ago, when the pain was still fresh, I wrote a song about my grief and sung it in public. It sent someone I love out of the venue, in tears - very angry with me for writing a song that opened her wound. So, I've felt I need to be careful with how I express this particular loss through my music.

When we were mixing this song, John asked me who it was about. I told him. And he was incredibly disappointed that I wasn't writing about a romantic relationship. He warned me that I might not want to tell other people the story, because it would ruin it for them. I sincerely hope that knowing this song took seven years to write after the loss of someone who deeply affected my life, is not a disappointment to anyone reading this.

As you can see from my original notes on this song, I wrote it in one sitting, without a lot of editing. It really fell quickly out of my hands. Recording it, however, was a total and utter disaster. The album version is a re-worked cut of the demo. New vocals, added piano line...but the same piano bed. Between recording the demo and working on the album track, I recorded the song about six times. Every effort was somehow worse than the last. This was the final song to be finished on the album, even though it was written quickly in 2003. I held up production for sooooo long, because this song wasn't right. In the end, I just had to let it go.

There was also an original mix of the song that John worked on. For technical reasons, I couldn't use that version. Unable to afford his skills a second time on the song, I opted to mix it myself. It is the only track on Entropy 29 that I mixed.

Since I wrote Memory Picture, I haven't written any other songs about this experience. I don't know if this song sums it up so completely, that I no longer need to sort it out...or if it's just that other topics have interested me more. But I do find that once an acceptable exploration of a topic has been written, there's little need to revisit it anymore. The only reason I hash out the same experience over and over is that I haven't satisfied my need to express it yet. This is the best reason I have for making music: coming closer to finding peace.

March 2006