There is something I’ve noticed about myself when it comes to my songwriting. I have a really hard time staying the sad-sap victim in my music and writing. Sad-sapping is great material for song writing – especially when it comes to the Blues, baby! But I can’t bring myself to do it. I just can’t! I may wallow in that sadness for a minute, but you better be damn sure I ain’t gonna stay there! I just don’t have it in me.
I’d rather advocate for strength and resilience. I’d rather say, this sucks, but I’ve got my own life to live and I’m gonna live it! I’d rather say, “oh yeah buddy, don’t think I ain’t playing the same game you are, but better.” “You say you wanna leave me? Well I will help you pack!” THAT’s what I wanna say! None of this “I can’t live without you, I’m nothing without you, how will I go on?!” crap. I was something and somebody before you and I will become a stronger, wiser version of myself without you if I have to. Now, that’s not to say that despair, hurt and heartache isn’t real or valid. Boy, is it ever! It has it’s place and time. I suppose I will eventually write from that painful perspective, but in the meantime, I’m writing from the “I got this”, and “hindsight is 20/20” perspective.
I think the song that really drives that point home is Phoenix. (per Wikipedia: The Phoenix, a Mythical creature associated with the Sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.) A Phoenix is what rises from the ashes, the absolute ruins, when your sad-sap self thinks nothing is left. I really like that metaphor. I used to carry around this little black note book and write down lines or phrases that I wanted to use in a song. “I’m the Phoenix that’s risen from the bridges you’ve burned.” Ohhh that’s a good one! I loved this imagery of someone destroying all the ties to your past, and you rising above that and only shining brighter, rising higher, and burning hotter that you ever have because of it. YES.
I tried a few attempts to write a song around that line and I had the most difficult time! I was always trying to write it from an angry or bitter perspective, but I don’t feel that anger or bitterness and that just isn’t good Phoenix Mojo. So that line floated around for quite a while in my brain file of song kindling. Then one day, there I was at my day job, listening to the Ike and Tina Turner channel on Pandora and it hit me! Tina is a total Phoenix! And her style of music just fit. Sassy, Salty, Honest, Real, and Strong. While I wrote it, I imagined her voice singing it. She has a cool rhythmic way of singing that drives the song and so I tried to make the words rhythmic like that. The song just started flowing and I had it pretty much written by the end of the day. Then the guys picked up on the groove so well. (I particularly love Robb’s bass line.) We added the bridge, and the rest is herstory!
I REMEMBER THE DAY LEFT AND I HEARD YOU SAY GOODBYE
I JUST SAT ON THE EDGE ON MY BED AND OH! OH! THE WAY I CRIED
YOU WERE SO CRUEL TO ME, BUT STILL I LOVED YOU SO
I HATED MY LIFE WITH YOU IN IT, BUT I HATED TO SEE YOU GO
I GAVE YOU EVERYTHING I HAD AND THAT’S EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOU TOOK
YOU NEVER EVEN TURNED AROUND, NO NO, TO GIVE ME ONE LAST LOOK
YOU LET IT BURN YOU LET IT BURN OH THE BRIDGES YOU’VE BURNED!
MONTHS STARTED GOIN BY, WITHOUT YOU EVER EVEN SAYING A WORD
YOU GOT YOURSELF A NEW WOMAN, AT LEAST THAT’S WHAT I HEARD
WHEN I LISTEN TO PEOPLE TALKING, WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ALL OVER TOWN
IS THAT YOU’RE SPREADING LIES ABOUT ME, STILL TRYING TO KEEP ME DOWN
BUT I KNOW I’LL RISE ABOVE IT, AND I’M ABOUT TO COME INTO MY OWN
SINCE THE DAY YOU LEFT ME, YOU’D BE AMAZED HOW MUCH I’VE GROWN
CUZ YOU LET IT BURN, YOU LET IT BURN, OH THE BRIDGES YOU’VE BURNED!
NOW I DON’T HAVE YOUR BAGGAGE — TO WEIGH ME DOWN, NO
I AIN’T GOT A REASON — TO TURN AROUND
SO THE HOTTER YOU MAKE YOUR FIRE, IT JUST PURIFIES MY SOUL
SO WHEN I RISE UP FROM THE MIRE, I WILL SHINE LIKE BRIGHTEST GOLD
SO AS YOU STAND THERE WITH YOUR MATCHES
I GUESS YOU’LL NEVER LEARN
YOU CAN BURY ME IN THE ASHES
BUT I’M THE PHOENIX THAT’S RISEN FROM THE BRIDGES YOU’VE BURNED
THE TOWN JUST KEEPS ON TALKIN, AND NOW IT’S GETTING RIGHT BACK TO YOU
JUST HOW HAPPY I’VE BEEN, SINCE THE DAY YOU SAID WE’RE THROUGH
CAUSE I’M BLAZIN MY OWN TRAIL, AND I’M PAVIN MY OWN WAY
AND I’M NOT GIVIN A DAMN, OH NO, ABOUT WHAT YOU GOT TO SAY
MY LIFE IS SO MUCH BETTER AND IT’S ONLY JUST BEGUN
WALKING AWAY FROM ME, IS THE SWEETEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE
WHEN YOU LET IT BURN, YOU LET IT BURN, OH THE BRIDGES YOU’VE BURNED
I’M RIIIIISIN! RISING TO THE TOP,
OH YEAH, I’M FLYYYYIN! NEVER GONNA STOP!!
Listen, I’ve had my share of personal re-building and persevering stories. I’ve had major life events where my family and/or myself have gone from absolute heartbreak to healing and from plenty to very little and back again and I have learned some real resilience through that, I tell ya! There is a spiritual hymn called “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around” and I guess that’s sort of a mantra. Just keep moving forward. We are so much more than our relationships. We are so much stronger than our problems. Really. And rock bottom is just a foundation for the top!
I should write motivational posters.
But until then, I’ll keep writing songs that I hope give you a little bit of that “I got this” spirit, that sassy strength, that Phoenix Mojo, even if you’re in the “this sucks” time. Put that finger in the air and give the world your best sass, friend!
Go get em, You Phoenix You!
Lots of love and sass support,