Songwriting in Narnia
Click HERE for Part One.
My boyfriend drove me to the airport.
We met on Craigslist this past July, but not in the way that you’d think.
I was diagnosed with a bad case of tendonitis the day before my 26th Birthday when dependent coverage stopped being a thing I could use, so I was pretty much on my own for treatment. I placed some calls to physical therapists but everyone was looking for a few hundred bucks for an initial consultation AKA to confirm what the Doctor already told me: I had tendonitis and it would take quite a bit of stretching and waiting and not playing guitar to clear it up. After a few days ignoring Doctor’s orders to try to ‘play’ it through, I came to terms with the fact that it would be anywhere between 3 weeks to 6 months before I could play again.
Two days went by before I realized that this was bullshit and there was no way I was going to just not do music for 3 weeks to 6 months.
I browsed through the musicians community page on Craigslist in DC. I found an ad from a guitar player looking for a vocalist and I replied. We went back and forth trading mp3s before scheduling a time to jam. At one point, he offered to meet me at a park to prove that he wasn’t a creeper. I figured that the gesture alone was all the evidence that I needed so I went over to his place and we hung out for maybe an hour before something came up and I had to head out. I guess I was sort of flakey up front.
Lucky for me, Mike doesn’t scare easy.
The next time we met up I had three songs worth of words and melodies that I thought we could work through. Neither of us really knew what we were doing so we sort of just sat there for a minute.
“I guess I could just start singing?”
Shyly, I did.
I was nervous but I kept going, repeating verses and choruses as Mike worked through things on his guitar.
By some magic — two hours later, we had our first three songs.
That’s basically how it’s worked since.
Some variation of one of us having something that the other one builds on. Other times Mike will play some chords and I’ll think “I know what song this is!” and from there, and without changing them, I’ll take words and melodies that I’ve saved up and put them to his chords.
We both knew that we’d stumbled into something special.
When I got a call from my friends at Back Yard Fence asking if I wanted to play The Riverstone Rockfest– within days of meeting him, I asked Mike if he wanted to play it with me.
He was down!
So we set off to prepare for our first show. We had an hour of time to fill and about a month to fill it. We wrote a handful of songs and then worked on a handful of covers. My tendonitis hadn’t cleared up quite yet so I only got to play on two songs. I’m actually still building up strength nearly 6 months later and while I’m antsy to play more guitar, I also have to appreciate that not being able to play made me focus exclusively on becoming a better vocalist.
I’m not sure I would have otherwise done that because the truth is that never really wanted to be a singer.
I sang in choruses when I was a little girl but the thought of trying to get good at singing didn’t occur to me until I picked up a guitar. If I wanted my songs to be good I had to be good at singing them. I was a downright bad singer when I started but luckily practice is a thing that makes a difference.
So after a ton of practice– with Mike at my side, we were ready to take the stage for the first time.
We were one of the first bands to play that day and while there weren’t a ton of people there for our set, we were pumped to go out and have a good time. As our set ended and we started working our way off stage the event organizer Casey called us back for an encore.
Oh man, we had no songs left really!
We went back and played a work-in-progress for the first time since writing it a week earlier and miraculously managed not to make a total mess of it.
Just like that we’d done it, we’d played our first show.
We didn’t really have a plan beyond that initial show — and in fact were introduced that day as “Uh, Mike and Sara?!” – but we both knew that this was a thing that we wanted to keep doing.
A few months later, with more practice and a stronger set, we played another Riverstone Rockfest.
This time as our band Music Bones.
I’ll have more to say on that, soon.
But for now; back to Mike.
So in addition to being a super gifted guitar player, Mike’s a pretty awesome human being.
Within weeks of us writing together a friend foreshadowed: “You’re going to fall in love with him.”
No way, he was my band mate!
Plus, this wasn’t an episode of Nashville, this was real life!
We kept writing together and started practicing with increasing frequency.
We had a lot in common so we obviously became friends and started hanging out when there wasn’t band stuff to do.
Still, a relationship was literally the last thing in the world that I was interested in and I made sure that he knew it. Penis jokes, embarrassing horror stories from being single in New York, repeatedly talking up all the groupies we were sure to get when we hit the road, I held nothing back.
For weeks I was in top form. I felt all sorts of things, but I had no interest in entertaining thoughts about what those feelings actually meant. I sort of picked up on him doing extra friendly things but I brushed those off, too.
Then there was the time that we were driving in his car and he started super effusively, at the top of his lungs, singing along to one of my favorite Fall Out Boy songs from high school.
Talk about a move.
There was also this other time we got attacked by a dog while walking his dog Dixie and he pushed me out of the way and covering Dixie with his body to protect her.
They don’t make em like that anymore…
(Side note: Have I mentioned that we’re literally building our band out of Jane Hamsher’s basement?)
Brian Sonenstein being a producer, NBD.
Long story short– we landed in New York and on our first night, after more than a handful of drinks, I kissed him and yelled at him for it.
I told him why No Doubt almost broke up.
He ignored me.
What about the groupies!
He ignored that, too.
I rambled about concrete hearts (did I mention that I can be SUPER dramatic after more than a handful of drinks?) and horror stories of why this was the absolute worst idea ever!
Lucky for me, Mike doesn’t scare easily.
Anyways what I’m basically saying is I’m one million percent in love with the other half of my band and he drove me to the airport to embark on this Beverly adventure with his own ticket booked to meet me in Atlanta on Tuesday night.
I don’t actually intend on saying much more about this in particular beyond what comes out in song lyrics (yeah I know, I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO I AM ANYMORE) but sitting in the terminal of BWI with a connection in Charlotte being the only thing between myself and Atlanta, I couldn’t help but think about how he’s a super important part of this story.
Beverly would actually say as much within hours of meeting him.
We’ll get there later– but for now, as the US Airways employee said into the intercom as I boarded the plane;
“Zone 1,2,3,4,5 Let’s Go to Charlotte!”
Mandatory airport french fries
Like a Beverly: Starting Somewhere