New Old Music 6: Marshall Heiser “Anyone” (2011)

DURATION: 4 min., 50 sec. This a country song y’all, titled “Anyone,” with music co-written by myself and one Michael Muchow (pronounced like mo-fo, not moo cow). I wrote the lyrics. The track was written as an offering for a singer in Italy by the name of Jacelyn Parry who was then looking for some material. The vocal range is a bit of a reach for me (I’m singing here) since it was meant to be sung by a women. This production was intended to be a (elaborate) high quality demo, but has some interesting things going on (perhaps a little too much in retrospect) and a n interesting mix ‘composition’ that justify considering it a ‘production’ in its own right.

I did the arranging, engineering, performing and mixing myself. It was recorded both at home (using an Apple Mac, Logic Pro Software and a cheap Digidesign AD/DA Interface) and at the studios of the Qld Conservatorium of Music, Griffith University, Australia.

Lyric-writing process:

Like so many songs, the lyrics for this track (ie., the first half of the first verse) were inspired by a real-life scenario, but thereon enter the realm of fantasy (universal/archetypal). Although getting the second half of the first verse lyric was a straight-forward enough process, I was unable to find inspiration for the second verse (and onwards) for quite some time.

Paul McCartney, in conversation with friend Barry Miles (1998), similarly echoed how initial lyrical inspiration for a song can be channeled relatively easily into a complete first verse, but a new perspective on the same topic (an ‘appropriate incongruity’ to use Oring’s (2003) terminology) is often needed to successfully come up with a second. In the case of The Beatles, he added that he and Lennon would often play each their work when they got stuck in this way. The objectivity provided by the other would make it easier to generate a fresh way forward.

When writing solo, simply leaving the song alone for a while can bring the same objectivity. It’s as if coming to the song for the first time again, and is what I did in the case of this song. On returning to it, it dawned upon me that the nursery rhyme motif (‘Jack n Jill’), which I had thought of as inconsequential, could be used as a kind of pivot-point. I asked myself what other characters might experience similar problems?

Since many country songs have used the country life (good/friendly) vs city-life (bad/harsh) trope, I imagined that Little Bo Peep might have not only lost her sheep, but had the whole farm repossessed and needed to move to the city to find work. It would also provide a credible back-story as to why the person in the first verse might feel so vulnerable and be prone to fall for someone who was just offering a helping hand: not in a literal sense, but by association (the best lyrics, I think share with poetry, a sense of ‘resonance’ rather than strict logic). The rest of the story/lyric then just seemed to write itself. Nuff said.

References:

Miles, B. (1998). Paul McCartney: Many years from now. London, England: Vintage.

Oring, E. (2003). Engaging humor. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.