The Shallow End

So, back in January, I went up to Nashville to see my favorite musician, Lori McKenna, perform at the Bluebird Café’s singer-songwriter showcase, along with some other artists, and wrote a blog post about how great it was.

My good friend Joe Gurner read my post and sent me an e-mail, challenging me to stop talking about songwriting and lyrics and actually try to write some.

Joe, you see, is one of those people with actual musical talent. He can write lyrics and melodies, arrange and perform the instruments, and produce the tracks, all from the comfort of his own home. He’s been in bands, and lately records a bunch of his own stuff and posts it on MacJams.

I, on the other hand, am one of the complete opposite type of person, those with no musical talent whatsoever. I’ve put my singing voice to use to good effect at improv shows — if I try to sing, people will laugh. The idea of trying to read or write music confuses me, and my efforts to learn to play an instrument have been horrible failures. I love music, I love lyrics, I love the idea of songwriting, but musicality utterly evades me.

Joe assured me this doesn’t matter. “Just write some lyrics,” he said.

So I did. I have no idea why, but I decided, with nothing else to go on, that I was going to write a song called “The Shallow End,” and, from that title, wrote some lyrics. I’ve transcribed a lot of lyrics over the last few years, so I tried to write something that looked a little like that, if less good.

(I comforted myself by telling myself that the quality didn’t matter this time, that this was just a proof-of-concept to see if I could write something that could be a song. If you listen to it, tell yourself that, too. I would appreciate it.)

So I sent the lyrics to Joe. “Is this a song,” I asked. “It could be,” Joe said.

Joe took my words, and cut them up, and moved them around, and added music, and sang them, and recorded the finished product.

He moved a lot of the lines around from when I wrote it, and so when I heard it, it sounded a little strange.

But …

He also turned something I wrote into, you know, an actual song. And that’s even more strange.

The Shallow End — Joe Gurner & David Hitt