THE STORY OF “DEEP SLEEP”, OUR NEXT SINGLE
I’ll answer the question: “What do you write first, when you write a new song? The lyrics or the music?”
At the beginning of Deep Sleep, one guitar plays with the singer. I wrote that guitar part, the music, first, long before any lyrics were added.
I had two challenges when this song was written.
First, I didn’t really like writing in open chords anymore. Down on the neck, near the tuning pegs. For awhile, it had seemed to me that there was nothing left to find in those chords, E’s, A’s, D’s, G’s and C’s.
However, and secondly, I wasn’t healthy at the time. I was very sick with Lyme disease. When Lyme really takes hold, complicated mental processes become impossible. So, there I sat, playing four open chords on my nylon-stringed guitar, over and over, because that was the best I could do. Luckily, I tried adding pull-offs to improve a plain vanilla progression: E major, A major, C major and D major.
Pull-offs are a technique of poking a note with your fingertip, called a hammer-on, and then rolling the fingertip off to pluck the same string and sound an adjacent note. That’s a pull-off.
Hammer-on, pull-off, hammer-on, pull-off, hammer-on, pull-off, that’s what you hear in the first guitar entrance, a rhythmic continuous drone that plays through the entirety of the song.
Months later and slightly recovered, I was asked to play some of my songs in a recording session. I got the go-ahead to bring this - as yet instrumental - song to the session. I needed lyrics in a hurry. I had nothing. I took a walk up to Red Rock above Castro Street, desperate for inspiration. I thought:
“This is a lullaby.”
And the first words came to me: “Go to sleep. abandon despair.”
I hurried back and sat for hours with a thesaurus and a dictionary, writing those lyrics, methodically: synonym, antonym, first meaning, second meaning, archaic, poetic, interior, exterior.
The story of Deep Sleep is a drama with a happy ending.
Image credit: “Underwater Tower” (1883) by Viktor M. Vasnetsov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.