Shades of Grey
Shades of Grey
The New CD
Now available on iTunes and these other fine online retailers:
and for members of Napster, Spotify, Moozone, MySpace, Rhapsody and many others!
Lyrics from Shades of Grey available here
From IJ's Blog: "Winter on the wetcoast can be a grey and dreary affair, but for me this last month has been anything but dreary. At the end of January I spent a marvelous 9 days in Maui with my husband, and only last weekend I was back at the spa with my fabulous friends on our annual getaway. What a spoiled brat I am!
To top the whole month off, I have finally managed to finish recording my last CD...one that has taken me over 10 years to complete. I've been pondering the question of why it has taken me so long; the last CD I released was in 2000, and I actually released two of them very close together. "Catnip" and "undressed" came when I was at the top of my game, having a very prolific period of writing, recording and performing. But at this point, I haven't written a song for several years, I have stopped performing completely, and finishing this latest project has been such a long and arduous process. What gives?" Read more...
The Story Behind The Songs
Gravity – The opening guitar part was really the beginning of this particular song. I very rarely used open tuning my Ovation guitar because it would always break the strings! I know, I know, I’ve gotta get that looked at :-). Anyway, I liked the sound of a double drop-D tuning, and once I had my new Larrivee guitar, I didn’t have to worry about breaking strings anymore, so I was able to really work on developing that guitar part into this song. Topically, of course, it isn’t hard to figure out. I realize that there are many songs out there named Gravity, but too bad! I’m keeping the title. At first I thought it was about a great relationship in spite of the singer getting older, but as I worked on the lyrics I wanted to make it more about everyone in the singer’s life being a positive and uplifting influence. I love the metaphors referencing the earth and the stars (I used them previously in a song called Fusion and Fire), so they run rampant in Gravity.
49 Plus 1 – this song came out of a request from my good friend Debra to play something at her 50th birthday party several years ago. She was hoping a few of us would revive a certain musical event we had come up with many years earlier for a Christmas video that we partook in. Instead, I started to fool around with an idea for a new song, and 49 Plus 1 was the result. I got a couple of the same ladies to help me sing it at Debra’s 50th party and it was a hit! A couple of people came up to me afterwards and suggested it was a kind of an anthem for women turning that age, and I ended up singing at a couple of other 50th birthday parties after that.
It’s in a pretty different style than I usually write, so when it came to recording it, I wasn’t sure what to do. I wanted some kind of Dixieland style of instruments behind it so I experimented, but it never sounded the way I wanted it to. When I was trying to come up with melodies for clarinet and trumpet and trombone, I started singing the parts, and that’s when I had the brilliant idea to actually do a funny vocal version of a Dixieland instrumental. I laughed and laughed in between recording those vocal bits…that probably helped give it a happier feel :-).
I put the song away for a long, long time and just couldn’t finish it. So, the end part “Over the hill and far away” was actually one of the last things I recorded. I wanted to just have a nice instrumental fade out, but when I came up with that line, I realized that was a much better way to fade out. Literally and figuratively :-).
Meant 2 B – Again, this was a song where that opening guitar bit came into existence first. More often than not in my songwriting, the chord progression and melody come first and the lyrics later. As I developed the lyrics, I used the idea of opposites between a couple (my marriage proved to be a great resource for that!) and I took it to a songwriting workshop in Vancouver as a song that I wanted to work on and finish at the time. The two workshop facilitators, both prolific and well-known songwriters in my neck of the woods, really liked the song and gave me lots of input. It still took me a couple of years to finish the thing, and when it came to recording it, it actually went through several different versions. The bass part was really fun to play, and it seemed to give almost a Latin-like feel to the song. So I was going to use a brass backing in a kind of a Tijuana Brass fashion, but I just couldn’t get a very nice brass sound from my existing software. Eventually I gave up on the brass altogether and started fooling around with little guitar bits instead. In the end, I think I got a much better result…I jumped out of my chair the first time I listened to the whole thing once I had finished recording it. It was one of those “dammit I’m GOOD!” moments. Well, we all need those once in awhile to counteract those “crap, who am I kidding?” ones :-).
Miles Away – a guitar student of mine who is also in the broadcasting business, made the big decision to move to Vancouver and take a job he had been offered there. But he decided that instead of moving there completely, he’d commute, staying in Vancouver during the week and coming home to Vancouver Island on weekends. That’s not what the song’s about, but it set me on a thought process that lead to Miles Away. Again, this is another example where the guitar part came first…I was experimenting with different chord shapes up the neck and came up with this chord progression that I liked. At first it seemed like a very odd sort of sounding thing and I really had to fidget with it to make it all work together. It wasn’t a “happy” song, so when I was thinking about my student moving away, I started to imagine the difficulty in part-time co-habitation…the song isn’t even about that! It ended up being about a distance that can happen in any relationship over time. You’re miles away, lying right here beside me with the lights on. I thought I was brilliant when I came up with a loop from a traditional Chinese instrument called a yangqin that worked perfectly with the chord progression I had. Get it? Miles Away? :-)
Stupid – I’m afraid this is another unrequited love song. I just love them. The idea of a person NEVER being able to satisfy their desire is just too juicy for me! Of all of the tortured, unrequited love songs I’ve written, however, I think this will probably be my last. Why? I’m too far beyond 49 Plus 1 to care to imagine unrequited love anymore. Don’t worry, I could be wrong! The notion of someone never admitting how they feel to another lead me to creating these scenarios in the lyric where the singer has the opportunity, but never has the guts. And in the end, the opportunity leaves too. Torture!!! I love the 70's sound in the production of this song. So sue me.
Way Back Home – This is an autobiographical account of the house I grew up in and inevitably grew away from. I walked across that park several times as an adult and thought about that house and what it meant to me. In the early 1990’s in Richmond BC where I grew up, a lot of the houses in my old neighbourhood were bought up, torn down, and replaced with what we all called “monster homes”. Many of these homes housed more than one generation and took up the entire lot, and it certainly changed the look of the neighbourhood. I kept thinking to myself, you can’t go back. But it’s funny how you’re often trying to go back, trying to find your way back home. And that’s where the song came in. As far as the production, I recorded the song as a kind of demo because several songwriters I knew from the web had asked me what my new Larrivee sounded like. This is that demo, with a bass added afterwards. I thought it worked best being kept simple.
Angeline – Years ago I had a gig in Seattle, Washington and took my friend Debra with me for the trip. We made a weekend of it and had a lovely time…one of the walks we did was in Pioneer Square where I saw this elderly woman who was obviously a street person. The guitar in this song is in drop-D tuning and the whole piece started as an experiment (well, don’t they all?), which developed into a story about a street person named Angeline who “didn’t look her name.” I thought at the time, what if this ragged, old, strange lady was actually an angel? And that’s where I got her name, and the story around her. I wanted her to be quite smart, rather than the old stereotypical drunk on the streets of Seattle. And yes, the lady I actually saw in Pioneer Square was sitting on a cold park bench, wearing lime green socks and eating a fresh-baked muffin.
Okay Here - I guess this is one of my more philosophical songs. I actually was playing around with hammer-ons in a kind of country/folk style on the guitar after I had been listening to one of Kim Richey's albums, and I also liked her self-effacing style of lyric writing, so I'd have to say that this was a Kim Richey-influenced song. I also tend to preach a lot to my daughters that they have to be with happy with where they are and who they are, so this is all of that preaching stuffed into one lyric. My favourite part, and really what sums it up for me is in the bridge: "I'm cozy in my own skin, happy with where I've been, and I don't miss what I don't know." Remember folks, no matter where you're going, HERE YOU ARE!
Grey Shades - Rather than what it might imply, this song is definitely not about getting old. There's only one black, and only one white, but the shades of grey between, that's real life. We live with lots of grey, lots of days that are neither exciting nor miserable, just ordinary. I found this song on an old recording on my microcassette recorder (always have one handy!) and had completely forgotten about it until I heard it by chance a couple of years ago. I just liked the sound of it and the feel of it so much that I ended up recording it. This also happened at a particularly turbulent time in our lives when the economy took a nose dive and my husband was laid off from a job he'd had for nearly 30 years. We were devastated and scared, and somehow a song that I had written much earlier came back into my life like I was speaking to myself. Especially the line "Don't you worry darling, don't show those deep lines, you're taking it all too hard. Mistakes give way to magic, self-doubt to clear signs, and there's beauty waiting in those grey shades." It was like a little gleam of hope.
And, as it turned out, it was where I finally got the title of the album. I liked the idea of "grey" being a double entendre. When my daughter and I talked about it, we came up with the idea for the cover from it. It was waiting in those grey shades...
Devil Inside Her - I think I had the chord progression for a very long time for this song before it actually turned into one. I wanted to try something in 6/8 time and I love playing around with open chords up the neck, or partial barre chords, if you wish. Suspended chords also fascinate me, so there's a lot of that in this song. Lyrically, I had a great time writing it. I remember being maybe 14 or 15 years old and waiting at a bus stop the first time some guy in a truck whistled at me. I had no idea how to feel about that, but I guess that was my real introduction to the male/female sexual dynamic and although it confused the heck out of me, it was also flattering. Then there's all that stuff in between, and we get to now, where I'd kill to have someone whistle at me like that again! These days I'm a little more smart, and a whole lot wilder and I'm your old sweetheart with the devil inside her :-).