Song Profiles

Song title: The Collector
From the album: A Broke Machine

When I began to write "The Collector", I knew two things for sure. I knew the lyrics of the first verse and I knew the title of the song. From there, everything fell apart. "The Collector" is the second earliest song I wrote that made it onto this album, after to "Back to the Start". For years, I returned to the title and first verse, determined to make something of them. Eventually I had the second verse, but the finished song remained elusive. Even after I had recorded several tracks for A Broke Machine, I still hadn't finished this song. I was frustrated, not only because I thought the song was going to be something good, but because I kinda sorta wanted to title the album The Collector, which would require that I include the song in the tracklist.

What happened was this. I spent several days doing nothing but writing and re-writing this song. I finally found a chorus and a third verse, but all of a sudden, my thoughtful song about grasping for the ineffable became something bouncy and light. Hmm. The tone was wrong, but I decided it was better than nothing, so I plodded on in the wrong direction, just happy that I uncovered SOMETHING. Soon, a wacky little bridge emerged from the bones and my song transformed into an even odder tune. But I decided it was good enough, if not what I originally intended it to be, and recorded a demo version for myself.

Over time, the demo version didn't sound nearly as strange as I had originally thought. In fact, it began to sound downright normal. I brushed my hands and figured I was done with things.

Flash forward many, many months. I listened to the song again, this time thrown into the mix of other songs I considered for album inclusion. All of a sudden it stood out. In a bad way. I felt miserable when I realized that I really didn't get the song right, after all. I tossed it from my plans altogether and moved ahead on the album without it.

Then, one day, inspiration hit me and I knew what I had to do to fix the song. I added a pre-chorus and nixed the bridge. I created a new piano line, changed the tone back to my original, thoughtful intention, and slowed the tempo to a downbeat groove. And, bam. There was my song. I was so glad I never really gave up on it.

"The Collector" gave me such a rough time over the years. It carried a baseball bat and threatened to smash my windows if I didn't do it right. I'm pleased with the outcome, which I feel like I can't take credit for because I don't know where the ideas to fix it came from.

Since this song profile is featured on The Breathing during the festive month of December, I decided to make my funny little demo version available for you to download on my Myspace page. I hope you find it interesting to hear how the song evolved. Enjoy, and happy holidays!

December 2008