Over the years, I’ve had a lot of humorous, heartbreaking, poignant and lovely encounters with beautiful people. And over the course of these friendships, I’ve often been inspired to write songs, some serious, some not so serious. I’ve often said that although I am not easily impressed, experiences and people often do make a deep impressions on me. And musician that I am, these stories and impressions often find their way into songs.
It suddenly occurred to me that I really have been blessed over the years to have crossed paths with some truly amazing people. And I know that these are just simple songs, but looking back on them, I hope they do these inspirers justice…
I decided to post the stories behind several of my songs.
Although I am not posting the lyrics in their entirety, I will include choice lyrics for your reading pleasure;)
P.S. For future reference, if you are really good friends with or date a songwriter, chances are you will likely end up in one or more of their songs. Or a dozen. It’s inevitable.
You’ve been warned.
Spoon Guy: Kate Lundberg
I wrote this song as a high schooler at a Christ in Youth Conference at Milligan College in Johnson City, Tennessee. Kate and I had both been eyeing this really cute guy all week. (You know how those Christian camps/conferences are breeding grounds for such ogling). Anyway, one morning at breakfast in the cafeteria, Kate and I were getting Apple Jacks from the cereal section and both found ourselves stunned to be eye to eye with this guy over the stacks of silverware. So we dubbed him Spoon Guy. Which birthed the famous song in all its naive, cheesy glory. The heart of the story and the week at the conference and my concept of theology as a 16 year old is best summed up in this line: “Spoon Guy/I’m all alone/Spoon Guy/I like your cheekbones/And If I never ever see you again/ There’s always heaven.”
Sacred Story: Bethany Miller-Winfield
I wrote this as a graduation present for Bethany, my small group leader/mentor/friend who kind of took wide-eyed-freshman-me under her wing during my spring semester at UF. I remember sitting next to her on a train from Birmingham to London and we had some honest beautiful conversation about who knows what, but I just had this moment where I realized I was grateful to have her in my life. Since she was graduating this year, I wanted to write her a song for some reason. It wasn’t until Christine and I took a random, spontaneous road trip to Jacksonville to the mall there to get a Build-A-Bear because Gainesville did not have a single Build-a-Bear store and I sat in the back seat with my guitar and finally penned this song. Props to Christine for helping me with some of the lyrics. “I captured this memory of you/put it in my pocket; but a picture can never tell a sacred story”
Intricate: Paulina Calle
I worked in the back section of the UF library, among stacks of dusty, yellowed newspapers. It was my job to microfilm them. One beautiful October Day, my co-worker Paulina came waltzing in, exuberant about the perfectly crisp, blue skied- weather we were having and gushed, “I’m in love with the day.” I so loved that line, I spent the rest of the day in that dimly lit camera room writing a jazzy, chill song in my head. “Love is intricate like that/it pierces the hand that has chosen and woven the threads…I’m in love with the day/I don’t want to move/but I know I can’t stay/Let me be/in love with the day”
Silhouette: Amanda Cooley
Every November, Amanda and I had this ritual where we would go to downtown Gainesville for the annual Art Festival. We wandered around, drank Billy Bayou’s cream soda (endless refills), checked out our favorite pottery section and just generally soaked in the weather, which never failed to be stunning the day of the art festival. Amanda had gone through a lot one particular year, in regard to health and heart problems, and I have all these memories of seeing her weak and sick one moment, then bursting with energy and life the next. I love the line from Anne Lamott’s book Traveling Mercies that says (paraphrased) that God is in the business of doing “alchemy,” of taking something common and unremarkable and making it golden. I loved the idea of alchemy, and I saw it expressed in Amanda’s life. “Silhouette of beauty yet to be/This rumor of You making all things new/is coming true.”
Autumn Rain: Max Lee and Chris Small
My piano studio buddy Max lost a friend of his in a car accident a few years ago, and I wrote Autumn Rain to kind of commisserate with him in the confusion and sense of loss he was experiencing. Even though I had never met the friend who had died, his story and watching him deal with the loss affected me deeply for some reason. A few months later, I lost my good friend Chris in a car accident. Even though I had written Autumn Rain prior to his death, I still felt like that song also belongs to Chris. We miss you, Smalls. “I’ll be okay with unfair this time/’cuz you’re dancing on air/and I’m wondering if I’ll get to dance with you there/Where the world’s like the rain/and the rain is right again”
Soni’s Song: Chalis Stefani
My friend Chalis spent several months working for a missionary organization in Haiti. I remember she wrote this beautiful letter, describing her friendship with a young boy named Soni. Although the Creole-English language barrier was significant, they still connected through other ways. As Chalis was preparing to leave Haiti to return to the States, Soni spoke to her in Haitian Creole the words “Le ou prale msonje ou/domi pa kontan/domi pa kontan.” In English, this means “When you leave I will remember you/And I will sleep and be sad/Sleep and be sad.”
Nobody Needs to Know: Sydney Schaef
The very first time I met Sydney, we worked on writing a song. I guess you could say that first encounter set the tone of our friendship for the next few years. We were constantly sharing songs with each other, asking each other for feedback, bouncing ideas off of one another. I think, more than anyone, Sydney has affected my songwriting, in terms of lyrics. I learned a LOT from her. Oddly enough, I had never really written a song inspired by her until this one though. I wrote this after she shared with me a really hard truth about herself. I so appreciated her transparency and penned this song later that week. “Your laden heart darkened my door tonight/Poets can dream/prophets can sing/but I can only scream inside/I can hear you now/I can see you now.”
My Favorite Things (the remix): Jeanne Cannon
Okay, so Rodgers and Hammerstein may have written the music. But I take pride in the fact that I was able to come up with so many alternate lyrics. So Jeanne was having a really rough day at work, and I thought of this past Sunday morning at First Watch, our favorite breakfasting joint, when we all pretty much broke our self-imposed “no sugar” rule and delved into sweet Tea and Coke like it was nobody’s business. Leslie joked that we should re-write My Favorite Things to list all our favorite things via song. And we have many, many favorite things. Some might call them addictions. Anyway, I took it upon myself to do just that, and have forever immortalized a beautiful Sunday morning brunch in a song. “Dancing and shopping and buying new shoes/Scrabble and Scramble and games you can’t lose/Aviator glasses and Bret and Jemaine/Just some of the good things that help keep you sane/When your job sucks/When boys are lame/when you’re feeling sad/just simply remember your favorite things/and then you won’t feel so bad”