Those of you on the mailing list probably know that this blog entry was a week late. Week 22 brought some complications in the form of severe shoulder, trapezius and neck pain. It was a challenge just getting the week’s song finished and out, let alone the blog entry. I’m afraid I didn’t have much choice but to delay it. Some of you might be interested in a few more details about the pain, so here goes…
I’ve been experiencing a lot of tightness and soreness in my left upper back and neck for a few months now. I have every reason to believe that it’s is due to the volume of time I spend at the computer. I earn my living as a freelance television editor and that requires hours at the computer. Pile on putting out a song a week and it’s a lot of time ‘hunched over’ screens.
As I worked to manage the tightness and soreness, I tried a variety of approaches including heating pads, ibuprofen, ice, and even chair massages. They all seemed to keep the problem in check but not make it go away. That all changed about a month ago. I began experiencing occasional tingling sensations up and down my left shoulder and arm. Once that started, I knew I’d better consider more aggressive measures.
Two weeks ago, I visited to a chiropractor. (I know some people have reservations about chiropractic care. However, I’ve seen a chiropractor for two separate back/neck problems over the years and it worked out very well in both cases.) After an initial intake appointment, I proceeded to have two adjustments (Wednesday and Thursday of Week 22). I felt a little sore each evening but nothing that seemed abnormal. That all changed when I woke up Friday morning with the shooting pain I described in that week’s email. It was like someone had stuck a fork into my trapezius muscle.
Now that you have some (or maybe too much) background, let’s get to the song. Remember Me started as a bit of a challenge. I was asked if any of my music might be appropriate for a child’s First Communion mass (or service). (For those unfamiliar with it, in the Catholic tradition, second graders receive communion for the first time. It’s a very special occasion, so to be asked was a tremendous honor.) I responded that I didn’t think I had anything finished that would work but that maybe I could write something new. I don’t always like setting out to write about a specific topic but I was up for the challenge.
I woke up early Monday morning with the intention of getting started on it. Now that you know a bit of my medical history, I can also tell you that I will sometimes sit for a few minutes in the morning with a heating pad on my back to loosen up the tight muscles. I know it makes me sound old, but the practice did keep my neck and shoulder troubles at bay for quite a while.
As I sat there, enjoying the heat and my contemplative state, I began reflecting on what I might do with this song and that’s when the lines started coming. (And with no guitar around! This might be the first song of the year to be born away from the guitar!) Having my iPhone handy, I just recorded the lines as they came. If I remember correctly, they were the verse melody and lines such as ‘We’ve walked a lot of roads together’.
Once the back was loose, I grabbed the guitar and set about writing some more. I think I ended that first session with a lot of verse ideas and the ‘Please remember me’ ending. Over the next few days, I fleshed the lyrics out a bit more and came up with the simple bridge melody/chords (but no bridge lyrics). At that point, I felt like I had a structure for the song. I wasn’t satisfied with the words but I felt that they would come. That’s been pretty much routine for me this year, going through many drafts before getting to a point late in the week where the song’s lyrics finally feel right. As for instrumentation, I was thinking I’d keep it simple so I was feeling it was all doable in the next couple of days.
Then the shoulder pain struck Friday morning. It was awful. I had an edit job that Friday but I didn’t last more than a few hours. On a scale of 1 – 10, I’d say the pain was holding in the 8-9 range. Traditional painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen did nothing. I was pretty desperate, even trying the breathing exercises I had learned in my wife’s birthing class.
The bottom line was that I could barely focus. All I can remember about those next few days was working in short bursts. At some point Saturday morning, I got the lyrics where they needed to be. And then I just kept at it in little bites, recording guitar, vocal, bass, etc. I soon realized that I wasn’t going to get the song out that day, and that brought a lot of disappointment to go with the pain.
Sunday rolled around and I felt like the song was getting there but needed something more. I wanted to add a piano part and ultimately did but it gave me some grief. The virtual piano software that I was using kept crashing my computer system. That went on for about an hour. Again, not fun with the excruciating pain. Finally, I tried an alternative piano plugin and was able to muddle my way through the part.
The final challenge involved getting the end of the song to work. I had had this idea of a series of back and forth lines ‘When you love…Remember me; When you cry…Remember me’, etc. I recorded it that way but it just wasn’t working. After a little thought and experimentation, I decided to put the ‘Remember me’ on a separate track and add some reverb, essentially pushing it back into the mix a bit. It worked. In the end, I gave the song a quick mix and out it went. (Honestly, I wasn’t happy with that mix and did revisit it the next week, which is the version that’s online now.)
And that’s how Remember Me came to be (as best as I can remember it). Pun intended. I know it sounds like a lot of misery and it was. However, this was a special song for me. It was a great privilege to write it and I take great satisfaction in that. And once you’ve finished a song, the idea of any of the circumstances having been different, means that that particular song might never have come to be. So it was worth it.
That’s it for now. Thanks for following. Have a wonderful week!