As mentioned in a previous post, I have been trying to take some time lately to sit down and write in my song diary about each song on the new album “Prairie Belle”, in order of the tracks.
Track two is called “Heavy Heart”. Some songs I write a little fragment here, and then write a little fragment there and then although I can remember the initial inspiration, I can’t always remember where I was when I started the song, or where I was when I finished it. This song is an exception. I can remember the day I wrote this song very clearly. I can remember all the events of the day leading up to writing this song, and I can remember how I felt when I wrote this song… The majority of my songs are written for or about other people. This song was definitely written about, and for myself. As the title suggests, I had a very “Heavy Heart”.
It was a typical Alberta winter day. I was still working at St. Joe’s (a catholic hospital foundation where I worked for almost 4 years – currently I work at the YWCA Edmonton as their Special Events Coordinator). My dad used to play saxophone in a jazz ensemble at the Grant MacEwan Arts Campus on Wednesday evenings. The band director was an important figure in the music community in Edmonton, and also worked for one of Alberta’s largest arts funding initiatives. As my dad tends to be my biggest fan and promoter (love you dad), he had casually mentioned to the director that I would be happy to come and sing with the jazz band for an upcoming performance.
Being a slight keener and having recently graduated with my Bachelors Degree of Music in Jazz, I decided I would transcribe a big band arrangement of Carmen McRae’s “Comes Love”. I have never had the greatest ears musically, but I did it and I was feeling pretty proud of myself. I had also written an arrangement of “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby” (my favorite version sung by Dinah Washington.) These were two among the 4 or 5 songs I ended up singing with the band.
Sidenote – It’s entertaining for me to recount this day, as these were what I affectionately call my “jazz days”. I haven’t transcribed, arranged or sung jazz in a while but it still holds a special place in my heart and quite often I find myself humming a jazz standard or scat solo when I’m alone at home in the shower, or walking my dog Otis.
Anyways, back to the story. My first rehearsal with the big band was after an especially hectic and frustrating day at work. What exactly was frustrating and hectic I can’t quite remember, but I wasn’t in the greatest mental state heading off to rehearsal. Some mundane additional details – my parents were away on holiday and I was house sitting for them, which meant my dad wasn’t going to be joining me at rehearsal.
I had to go back to Grant MacEwan for the rehearsal and I hadn’t been there much since I had been a student myself. For some reason I always feel extra awkward going back to old colleges and schools. Perhaps I feel like I haven’t added up to what I had dreamt for myself back then? Anyhow to get to the point of this story the rehearsal went poorly. At least from my view of the world it did. There were a few notes I had transcribed wrong, perhaps because of nerves my voice wasn’t feeling at its best, and overall I felt I didn’t make a very good impression on the other musicians or the director. I was embarassed and felt like I was a poor excuse for a jazz grad. (I later learned that these feelings were entirely in my own head, and that the band and the director thought I had done a great job in rehearsal).
On my way home I stopped at McDonalds and had a nice little emotional eating binge on fries & chicken nuggets (this credits the especially horrible mood I must have been in because I rarely do this). Then I headed home.
It was -30 out, I was in quite the pity party mood and Jered (the husband) was working late. I came home, made myself some tea and sat down at the piano. The song wrote itself pretty quickly. I think it was a combination of things that had caused me to feel like I had a heavy heart. Work, the weather, the rehearsal, going back to my old stomping grounds… anyways as always, after I wrote the song I felt a great sense of release and relief. If you listen to the lyrics, the chorus says “and I’m just trying to find, my own piece of mind” and in the last pre chorus it says “looking for the light, when I see a spark that’s been burning all along”. It is really a song about feeling hopeless, but searching until you find that spark in yourself. Starting with a heavy heart, but ending with a lighter heart and a greater sense of hope.
Well that was a novel. If you made it all the way to the end, thanks for reading… another song diary entry coming soon.