Irene Jackson

Songwriter, Guitar Teacher, Music Producer



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Catnip CD Catnip - The CD

The Story Behind The Songs


Let's Make Trouble

As with most of my songs, I had the music down first. I found a fast moving chord progression: D/F#, G, A, Bm, which became the starting point of the whole song. If I remember correctly, the chorus chords and melody came last. The song went through quite a few different changes before I was happy with it, but when I came up with the phrases "crime of passion" and "let's make trouble" I knew what the song was about :-) I had quite a problem decided what the title was going to be. For some reason, the line "crime of passion" seemed too cliché to me, and might also mis-identify what the song was about. Crime of passion is usual associated with murder, and I didn't like that idea, so I went with "Trouble". Again, I thought that didn't identify enough of what the song was about, so I renamed it again, "Let's Make Trouble".

It's Me

I always introduce this song as a songwriter's self-indulgence at its peak :-) What else would you say about the title? I don't remember the process of coming up with the music at all! But the lyrics were another battle, as most are for me. I decided to take elements of myself (of course!) and my own personality, so most of the "quirks" in there are my personality. I was going through some kind of personal crisis at the time (that happens every 6 months or so :-), so I wrote a song about accepting myself and hoped I'd learn from it :-)

What Do I Know?

This rather upbeat song actually came after the death of a friend, Becky Bernson. Becky and I both taught guitar and I worked with her at a non-profit teaching organization for several years called the Whistling Gypsy. We had our troubles with each other, and had been out of touch for awhile. Out of the blue she called me up, and we started talking. I knew she had recently been diagnosed with colon cancer, but we decided we were going to get together. Soon. We never did. When she died, I already had the music, as usual, for this song. I sort of had the feeling that we are all just sitting ducks...sometimes sh*t happens, and what can you do? So out of this sense of helplessness came a kind of "to hell with learning and growing, let's just enjoy" song.

Alright To Cry

I remember where I was standing when I heard the line "alright to cry" in my head, melody hook and all. This song began while I stood at the diningroom window, looking outside and thinking about something I'd just seen on TV. It was the funeral of the well-known golfer, Payne Stewart, who died when the plane he was in lost oxygen after take off and crashed when all of those on board passed out. All of these MALES were standing solemnly at the funeral, some were close to tears. My husband, who was also watching, said "It's alright for men to cry." For once, a phrase with a melody came into my head simultaneously, not my usual procedure. I sat down and had to work the guitar around the melody for once! I'm sure it changed slightly, as songs often do when they're being crafted, but I decided that it wasn't about golfing or dying, it would be about a mother and her son. I don't have a son, I have two daughters, and when they were young, we used to read them a children's book called "Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch. It's a wonderful, sentimental book, and a must for any parent and child! The song basically goes through the life of a mother, starting when her son is first born. I wanted the mother to successfully teach her son that one lesson...that it's alright for boys to cry. Get out yer kleenex!

Out On A Limb

People always tell me my songs are so happy...I set out to write something a little darker. There's a song on my earlier album "Motor Scooter" called "Oh, No" which sort of sets up the idea of personal conflict and addiction. "Out On A Limb" continues along that line. I had a guitar chord progression that sort of fascinated me...then I was watching a show where a Canadian artist Holly Cole was singing, and I got an idea how to extend that progression. I ran downstairs and finished the melody and chords. I don't remember too much about how the lyrics came to be, except for the fact that the music kind of dictating something darker. Out On A Limb was a famous Shirley MacLaine book, but my version has more to do with kind of enjoying playing with fire :-)

Should I

This song was part fantasy, and partly based on a real experience. It was slightly influenced by a song that had been popular a few years earlier, but I didn't lift the melody or the lyrics, don't worry :-) If you can hear that influence, let me know, but I doubt it! Anyway, I imagined that little moment in time when two people are together, attracted to each other, but nothing has happened yet :-) I actually took this song to a demo listen through the Songwriter's Assoc. of Canada, and the two panelists who listened to it got into an argument as to whether or not the singer in the song "should"! One of the panelists was a guy named Bill Henderson, better known here in Canada as a member of Chilliwack and more recently UHF. His favourite line in this song was "even my thoughts are blushing" :-) I decided NOT to tie all the ends together in the song and left it pretty much as I'd written it. So there :-)

Green Light

This chord progression was inspired by a conversation I'd had with a songwriter online about minor chords. She was talking about the sound of them and how she loved them. It made me realize that I don't use minor chords nearly enough, and so Green Light was born. I also loved the line "where the rubber hits the road", but changed it slightly. In fact, I think I had that line first, and it also happens to be the first line of the song! This occasionally happens, where I will just start with a line, and the story will reveal itself as I go. I decided that Green Light was about making decisions, about taking charge of your life and getting off your arse. It is also one of the rare songs I've written that ISN'T in first person. I thought it might be more powerful to tell "you" what to do :-) I found a funky little drum loop that worked really well with the groove of the guitar, and this is one of the rare songs on the CD in which I recorded everything myself.

Simple Life

The story behind Simple Life is more or less hashed through in a column I wrote called "Step By Step" which discusses in more detail how I came up with the song. Essentially, it was one of those rare moments when a line came to me as I was driving. There was this older man, who I often see in my neighbourhood, walking around as usual. I always thought he looked like Truman Capote! So I heard the line "there is a man who looks like Truman Capote". Oddly enough, it all grew from there. The song at first didn't have a chorus, as some of my songs don't, but eventually I created one thinking that the song really required a summation. Anyway, to read the entire story, just hit the "Step By Step" link and help yourself :-)

Who You Are

This song really started out as two separate songs, neither completely written. Lately, I've listened to a recording of the first time I sat down to write the music for it (I record everything I'm working on on a microcassette recorder) and it was quite slow and much more depressing. The original lyric was about trying to help someone out of their addictions...but it depressed me so much that I abandoned that idea. Then I came up with this great little chorus, and the two songs came together. The first line of the chorus was "all you can be is who you are"...which fit with the first idea. But I was so unhappy with the subject, that I changed it completely...turned it into a song for my daughter, who was just hitting her teens at the time I was writing it. Letting go of the original concept was a good learning experience.

If I Had It

One of my favourites of the CD...this song took a long time to write, but the initial inspiration was just one simple line...'if I had it all to do again'. I thought about the poem 'When I Am Old, I Shall Wear Purple', and the idea that if we knew we only had a very short time left to live, what would we do differently? Imagine being at the end of your life and having regrets. It may sound terribly morose, but actually, it's more sentimental, I think. The music itself was easy...getting the right lyric was the hard part!


When I was a teenager, I joined a band called Estipod. Don't ask me what that means...that's another story! We played together for several years, and were good buddies through high school and beyond. In fact, I eventually married the drummer :-) There was a period of a number of years when Michael and I didn't see the rest of the gang, but one day just a few years ago, someone had the bright idea to do a reunion of the band. One of the guys owned a big piece of property about 3 hours drive from where we live, where he'd built a house, and it was decided we'd all meet there and spend the weekend. To make a long story short, it was a RIOT to see everyone and we had such a good time!! We played horribly, but who cared? After that reunion, I thought I should write a song that we could record together. Because we had a horn section, I decided it needed to be a kind of R&B/swing song, which I'd never attempted before. And that's how Catnip was born. Our next reunion was the guys all coming over to spend the weekend recording it. What a hoot! It wasn't easy to put together, and is really the only "live" sounding song on the whole CD, but it was such a joy to spend time with the guys. Actually, the crowds you hear on the CD was partly from a video of the actual reunion...just a nice way to include all of our friends, family and "fans" on the song :-)

catnip cover

The Cover Art

When we approached Dave to do the artwork, we had been messing around with a few ideas already as to how to approach the front cover...'Catnip', how the heck were we going to create THAT???

We thought of the classic animated 'cat on a fence howling at the moon' idea, we took a zillion pictures of our cat, Picard, thinking maybe we'd get some ideas from that. But ultimately, we wanted something that would be upbeat to represent the feel of the title cut.

What you always hear in discussions about album cover art is that they should reflect what's inside...well DUH! But it's true that you can't always judge a CD by its cover :-) Keeping this in mind, people have often described my music as a throwback to the 60's and 70's singer/songwriter styles of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and others of that era. That's when the idea of giving the cover a 60's look came up. Dave went to the library and got a feel for colours and designs used in that time period from 'Life Magazine'. We also knew we wanted him to design a cat character...Dave has received many awards for his television animations over the years. If you live in the Vancouver/Victoria area, you'll often see his CHEK Television animations on station ID's!

And what's with the martini? Why, that's the 'people's catnip' :-) Doesn't music give YOU a buzz??




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