Love’s A Big Word

I began writing Love’s A Big Word just last month. For most of that time, we’ve been backpacking around Vietnam, Cambodia, and then back to Malaysian Borneo. As a result, my approach towards composing the tune has been quite different from normal.

Under normal circumstances, I’m probably too methodical when it comes to songwriting. I make a lot of use of my laptop – trying out crude arrangements on Audacity, transcribing tricky bits using Tab Editor, listening to lots of other music to find things to steal, reworking things heavily to make sure the theft is not so obvious, trawling through dozens of little audio and video ideas to see if I’ve already got anything that might gel with the latest song.

On the road I didn’t have my laptop, nor was I following my normal routine. I embraced the change, and tried a more naturalistic approach to songwriting.

 

There are pros and cons to this approach. On the plus side, I didn’t spend nearly so much time wrestling with the music, although the riff that ends each verse was a bugger to get right, especially when singing over the top of it. The chords are straightforward, using just C, G, F and Am, although I’m pleased with the different progressions I’ve used – my usual tendency being to just find one cycle and keep it loping along ad infinitum.

Just letting the music flow without analysing it too deeply left me with a guitar arrangement which is a distillation of lots of stuff I’ve been listening to lately. First of all, I’m ripping myself off – when it comes to fingerstyle I can’t stay away from C chords – it’s just so  easy to marry bass lines with some easy lead along the treble strings. Cases in point: Monsoon and A Dance for Sharks. The melody owes a small debt to the Tallest Man on Earth. I’ve also been trying to learn some Africa rumba pieces as arranged by French/American guitarist Cory Seznec – Love’s A Big Word takes the feel of those pieces without bothering to provide a proper rumba bass line.

The title of the song has been with me for some years. An old girlfriend said those magic three words quite early in a rather brief relationship. I was surprised, touched and a little alarmed – we barely knew each other well enough to profess love. It led me to thinking about how we all interpret language in different ways. Important words like love have a different definition for everyone. I notice how my American friends say “I love you” all the time, with such ease, and to such a wide gamut of friends, that the words start to ring hollow to my cynical English ears.

Have you ever really thought about just how much your words might weigh?

Expanding on this idea inevitably leads one to think about politics. As Europe faces its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War and the Paris attacks subsume compassion with fear, our political leaders try to square their conviction of us being the good guys with their commitment to ensuring our own comfort and wellbeing at the expense of the rest of the world. With the more overtly religious leaders (a few Republican presidential hopefuls come to mind), these contradictions appear more and more ungainly.

Love’s a big word baby,

It’s the heaviest in the book

People like to throw it around

The same people don’t dare to look

Have they ever really thought about all the oaths that they forsook?

I’m a big fan of my rhyming dictionary, and I’ve been known to dip into a thesaurus from time to time. Again, I didn’t have such resources around the last few months, so the vocabulary of Love’s A Big Word is not as complicated as other compositions. Despite the title, there aren’t too many big words in the song!

Overall I’d say a simpler approach produced a simpler song, but that’s probably not a bad thing.

As I reflect upon the songs I’ve shared on this blog it strikes me that I’m recording my compositions too quickly. The excitement that comes with completing a new song drives one to share it with the world as quickly as possible. As soon as I’d finally cracked Love’s A Big Word, I wanted to get it out there. Not that I’m kidding myself that you, the adoring masses, are impatiently hankering for new work, but the process of filming a finished song, uploading it, writing a little about it and sharing online is a satisfying full stop to the creative process.

But here’s the rub. Last night, a few days after having made the video here, I grabbed my guitalele and ran through Love’s A Big Word, and performed it a hell of a lot better than the video shared here. Of course, without a camera on me (and the camera’s operator hissing with frustration as jungle mosquitoes nibbled her ankles) there was no pressure and no hurry, but it wasn’t only that. My filmed performance of Love’s A Big Word was just a little too fresh. In particular, I’d spent so much time trying to get the trickier parts of the fingerstyle arrangement right I just hadn’t given enough time to consider where my vocals were going. In the filmed performance I rush the chorus, and sometimes I’m not even sure which register I’m supposed to be in.

The conclusion? I probably need to give new songs a little more time to settle before they head out into the big wide world. Wait until playing them through from start to finish without error is a matter of course rather than a lucky strike. Once a song is properly completed, perhaps I should aim to play it every day for at least a month before trying to record it.

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A moth we met in the Crocker Hills National Park.

Another motivation behind the hurried filming of Love’s A Big Word was my eagerness to capture the sound of my backing musicians – in this case the peeping tree frogs and chirping insect life of the Borneo rainforest. We made this little video whilst camping in Crocker Hills National Park in Sabah.

 

Love’s A Big Word

Love’s a big word baby

Be careful what you say

Don’t you know that this kind of talk

Could leave us both astray?

And have you ever really thought about just how much your words might weigh?

Love’s a big word baby

People might overhear

It’s more potent than a magic spell

Deeper than your darkest fears

Have you ever really considered what it takes to be sincere?

There’s a stumble as you mumble

I still hear the stutter when you utter

And if you just can’t spit it out then remember all the facts

Love’s too big a word for you to say

Too dangerous a game for you to play

Love’s a big word baby

It’s the heaviest in the book

People like to throw it around

Same people who don’t dare to look

Have they ever really thought about all the oaths that they forsook?

So don’t stand upon a mountaintop

Lest the lightning strike you down

Don’t misspeak the sounds

Don’t twist your tongue around

And don’t promise with a single word

When a life belies a lie

If you didn’t understand the meaning

Then you shouldn’t even try

Don’t speak falsely now, don’t speak falsely now

Don’t speak falsely now

Love’s a big word baby

Both the beginning and the end

Set the ships of Greece to sail

Or a broken world to mend

So please consider carefully all the hopes that you might send

There’s a stumble as you mumble

I still hear the stutter when you utter

And if you just can’t spit it out then remember all the facts

Love’s too big a word for you to say

Too dangerous a game for you to play

Love’s too big a word for you to say

Too big a word for you to say

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Love’s A Big Word

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