Week 366 // What We’re Made Of

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Stare into a cup of coffee
And anyway there’s something off about it
There’s something ringing and I can’t ignore it
There’s someone singing outside
Bitter notes are trailing off
Listen to it
The critics would have words about it
I’ve come to rely upon it

Go for a walk to take stock of the wreckage
Count the craters over neighbors fences
Spot invaders by the way we’re dressing
And what we’re made of is a made up question
All the while, all the while
All the kids are wearing perfect smiles
They’ve come to rely upon it

I’ll answer your question
But it won’t make sense ’til you’re older
It’s all about context
You’re built how you’re built
And that’s fine ’til it isn’t fine
And you need perspective
Whatever that means
You still need it
It will all work out
Keep an open mind

Fold into an open doorway
And where were we the night we talked about it?
And with my collar up I look suspicious
And in the shadows we can be fictitious
Make believe, make believe
We should believe in something
Shouldn’t we?
We’ll come to rely upon it

Just look on the bright side
We’re keeping our looks and that matters
It’s all about context
You’ve got a head start
When you’re young in America
And I need perspective
Whatever that means
I still need it
It will all work out
Keep an open mind

Notes
As of today, I have released a new song every Monday for seven years. This experiment has remained a sustaining aspirational force in my life. I love all of these songs, even the ones I don’t like. I’m so happy to be engaged in an act of creation, and the fact that these songs exist is justification enough in my mind for having made them up. My memory sputters attempting to recall them all, so instead I’ll draw particular attention to a handful that I’m fond of from the last twelve months. This year, most are simple meditations, and quiet acoustic numbers. This week’s song is a notable exception. I have compiled an album of my year-seven favorites to say “thank you for listing”, and you can download it for free by clicking below.


click here, and you’ll download 18 songs for free

Marking another anniversary, I’d love to thank my wife, parents, family, collaborators, friends, and listeners for the tremendous support and encouragement I have continued to enjoy since the day I announced this project. You make my heart feel full. I do this because you make me believe it is worthwhile.

Though I’ve spent the last year quietly glued to my nylon string guitar, I wanted to celebrate this occasion with big hits and rock & roll. This is a song about my neighborhood, my city, and my country. It’s about trying to understand ones place in that great latticework, while shrugging off assumptions about what that place may or may not be. It might be a bit cynical, but I’ll defend my cynicism as a critique thereof, born of a sincere desire to live sincerely. Are you still with me?

As always, I’ll be back next week with something new.

~M.E.

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Week 365 // Countdown (09)

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Something overhead
What am I to do?
Feet on the sidewalk
Next to you
Out for the evening

Wise men gather
Making choices
Noise on the radio
Sounds like voices
Sounds like voices
Sounds like voices

So disregard my words
If ever I quote the Bible
‘Cause heaven knows I just
Pretend to have read that book
I never cast my stones
While worshiping my idols
But stones fly everywhere I look

God in the Garden
Answered on cue
God up in a tower
What have we done to you?
You’re out for the weekend

So bury any questions
Of fallout over Christmas
The bombs were built to fall
That’s probably what they’ll do
And if we’ve cast our lots
With bullies and deceivers
At least I’ll greet the end with you

Any day
Any day now

So blast the naked trees
And spin the empty chamber
The birds have fled the land
The beasts will follow suit
And if we’ve cast our lots
With bullies and deceivers
At least I’ll greet the end with you

Notes
A couple of months ago, I wrote a song about the end of the world for (approximately) the 5,000th time, and came to the decision that any future songs running with that theme would be part of a series called “Countdown”, starting with 10, and ending with zero. I wrote, “let’s find out if I can squeeze in the entire count before our intrepid regime picks a fight with the wrong hombres, and wipes the whole map clean. Only time will tell”.

Here’s the next one. This song is describing a world of disillusioned zealots and resigned rationalists, and the tangible comfort we can give to each other as we (like people alive in every previous era of history) become increasingly convinced that the sky is falling, and that we’ll all be dead pretty soon. It is a song of paranoia and love. As a citizen of Late America, those are among my most dominant emotions.

On a separate note, there are now enough Mount Everest songs to listen to a different one every day of the year. It’s also my half-birthday. Finally, come back next Monday for this project’s 7th anniversary song!

~M.E.

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Week 363 // Us Humans

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The morning tries to break
The fabric of the night

The mist is strange today
It pulls the light apart

I can’t adjust
The finer edges of my sight

Like most,
I shun the darkest motions of my heart

Are you one of us?
Have you bowed your head into your hands
And raged the passing of your plans?

Were you here before?
Did you crack the ice and peer beneath
The blue and murky colors of the deep?

Another person struck the pavement
WIth his hand

Another person bled
And marveled at the pain

Some other person cried
The night the war began

And someone else called out
To give the war a name

Are you one of us?
Have you bowed your head into your hands
And raged the passing of your plans?

Were you here before?
Did you crack the ice and peer beneath
The blue and murky colors of the deep?

Did you whisper in your sleep?
Are you one of us?

Notes
I have had bits and pieces of this song’s guitar part percolating for quite some time, perhaps even for several months. It was a little run that I would play idly, and I didn’t think much of it. I liked playing it, but the bouncy melody didn’t inspire me enough to bring a song home. I didn’t realize that in order to make this song work, I might need to counter the cheerful fizz of the guitar lick by providing a darker contrast in the lyrics.

This song is about living with our memories, and the daily work of distracting ourselves from our darkest corners. Maybe it is a necessary impulse to push certain things aside, to try to be a lighter self, to play a more cheerful melody. We don’t usually want to frame our pain and put it on the wall for everyone to see. But we also have a lot to learn from the encounter with our tougher memories. I think the tension between avoidance and acceptance of the past is uniquely human. It requires the capacity to understand the linearity of experience, but also the vulnerability to which memory subjects us. The past is in the past, but we also carry it with us everywhere we go. “Us Humans” is a song exists at the nexus of that tension.

~M.E.

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Week 359 // Feast Your Eyes

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Feast your eyes
It’s bright and new, I know
But It’s the way you’re made to see

See the light
It plays across the colors
In the space between the leaves

See all the different mountains you will climb
The heights to which you will be rising

See all the rivers twist across the earth
That you could chase to the horizon

And all the ways your life will change
And you will need to grow

But all that’s best in life is strange at first
This you should know

Know the glow of family
That will not fade
Wherever you may wander

Embrace the love of friends you’ll meet
And marvel as you make each other stronger

And all the ways your life will change
And you will need to grow

But all that’s best in life is strange at first
This you should know

Notes
On Friday, my dear brother and his wife welcomed their second son, Charlie, into the world. I haven’t met him yet, but he’s a very important person to me. As I did for his older brother, I have decided to welcome Charlie to planet Earth with a song written just for him.

The avuncular thing to do is to offer whatever advice about the world I can muster, in hopes that one day Charlie might regard the sentiment with some appreciation for this earnest selection from my modest accumulated wisdom. Here is my advice:

Charlie, get used to the idea that all the best things about being alive seem a little strange at first. If life is weirding you out, something amazing might be happening. Take being born for example. You were probably alright with how things were going up until last Friday, and all of a sudden some blinding light was forcing you to abandon the only world you had ever known. That light was weird. All of those sounds were loud and weird. Some of those people seemed pretty weird! But that’s ok, because you’re just getting to know planet Earth, and what earthlings like to do, and what a big brother is, and how often to sleep and poop. It’ll make sense later, I swear. Trust me, I’ve been through it too.

That’s it for now. I’ll offer you a lot more advice over the years (even if you don’t want it), and before you know it, you’ll be giving me advice, because we’re family and that’s what family does.

Welcome to Earth!

Love,
Uncle Jesse

P.S. Your Aunt Becca recorded some beautiful harmonies for this song, but a big computer malfunction at a very late hour forced me to post an earlier version without her contribution. I hope we can fix it so you can hear the complete version before too long!

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Week 357 // Countdown (10)

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Oh the moon
Shattered overhead
The end is nigh
The horizon turning red

What will you do?
What will you do?
What are you gonna do tomorrow?

Oh the sun
Swallowed from the sky
Forever
And nobody is asking why

But what do you wanna do?
What do you feel like doing?
Hey what are you up to tomorrow?

Notes
It used to be that I couldn’t go a couple of months without writing something about the end of the world. Artistically preoccupied with the apocalypse though I may be, it has been a little while since I put one of these together. Reflecting on a recurring theme, I feel a twinge of regret that I haven’t named my end-of-all-things tracks as a series, like have have done with my “River Songs” — I’m up to four of those, for those of you keeping track at home. Today I rectify that error. Henceforth, songs such as this will be titled “Countdown”. I’m starting at ten and working backwards until I reach zero. Let’s find out if I can squeeze in the entire count before our intrepid regime picks a fight with the wrong hombres, and wipes the whole map clean. Only time will tell.

Some of my previous songs about this topic described the almost religious wonder with which humanity would surely meet its end. This song supposes an alternate collective reaction. In this vision of our end, we are distracted and docile beyond even recognizing what is happening to us. Which fate awaits us? Once more, only time will tell.

~M.E.

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Week 352 // Sift

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Gold in the sand of a river bed
Lord I need it so bad I’m losing sleep
When I sift the grains all I find is lead
And I’d leave the gold if it were up to me

I’ve got this
I’ll take it from here

Hand to my heart I’ve got it made
I forget my fortune when I’m losing sleep
I forget the order of the plans we’ve made
And we’d hit the road if it were up to me

We’ve got this
We’ll take it from here

Notes
I didn’t have the courage to write about Charlottesville in this week’s song. I thought about it a lot, but if I’m going to write about that, I will need more time. The reinvigoration of white supremacists operating in the open is the most grotesque expression of our American national identity, and it is a larger subject than I had the power to adequately address here today. Instead I wrote something personal and unrelated. I like this song, but I’m unsatisfied by my reluctance to confront the moment we’re living through. I will circle back to this later.

This is a song about letting yourself rely on somebody. I’m in a marriage, so its a topic I think about a lot. I focused on the sweet interplay of guitars, and I think the vocal performance has the right lilt and sway. Listen to this, and think about working together with somebody good.

~M.E.

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Week 350 // An Afterthought

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The car is on the freeway
And the house is an afterthought

You see the tilt of the frame on the wall
But the picture’s an afterthought

And it makes your head spin
The way the past is an afterthought

The words make you queasy
But the scheme is an afterthought

The holes in your chest make you blue
But the gun is an afterthought

And the way we move to the cause
Of course is an afterthought

Praise to the constant ideal
Although we missed it all

Diligently working on myself
You know we missed it all this time

Friends in high places
But history is everything

Yeah, the ice in my drink keeps it cold
But your company is everything

And every conversation
We don’t have the time for is everything

Praise to the constant ideal
Although we missed it all

Diligently working on myself
You know we missed it all

Praise to the constant ideal
Although we missed it all

Diligently working on myself
You know we missed it all this time

Notes
This website has been my constant companion for 350 weeks, which is a large, round number. I have written many, many songs with the help and support (both moral and material) of kind and loyal friends, collaborators, family members, and listeners. Thanks to all of those people (who know who they are), and special thanks to my wife and parents whose constant encouragement has kept me doing this for what has become a very long time!

Mount Everest has been many things to me over 350 weeks. Lately, I must admit that it has sometimes felt more like a habit than a pursuit. I don’t think that is a bad thing at all. Songwriting is a safe and healthy habit. It is kinder on my system than drugs, and way cheaper than therapy! Still, I feel some nostalgia for the early days of this project when my blood bubbled with the mysterious potential of the next song, and every subsequent entry felt like a life-defining success or failure on whatever merit it ranked.

I wanted to agonize over this week’s song a little bit, so that’s what I did. I stopped short of the blistering guitar solo that I had planned to perform just after the first chorus, opting instead for a very simple instrumental break, but my itch was still scratched. The details received their due attention.

Speaking of details, that’s sort of the subject of this song. This song aims to speak to great big details we tend to overlook as we fret over the tiny ones. It is about losing the context of a life as we obsess over the importance of a moment. It is about striving for an ideal without recognizing our unpolished merits. I’ll let the song tell the rest.

If you’ve been here all along, thanks for sticking around. If this is your first time here, this is a project called Mount Everest. I write a brand new song every week, and I’ve done that for a while now. You can expect another one next Monday.

~M.E.

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Week 348 // A National Crisis of Sorts

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You’d better wake up
You’d better wake up soon
It’s a funny thing
That everyone needs to do
But they’d rather not move
From the spot they’re on
It’s a national crisis of sorts
You’d better wake up

And rushing to the window
Each and every afternoon
When the light is best for photographs

The helicopters see it all
And never do we mind
What have folks like us to hide?

You’d better not doubt
You’d better not doubt
What you were meant to do
But all we ever do is doubt
Did I get that right?
Did I ruin it?
It’s a natural question to ask
You’d better not doubt

Pushing through a crowded street
With ringing in your ears
Because the barrier is compromised

The helicopters see it all
And never do we mind
What have folks like us to hide?

Notes
Western civilization as a whole is pretty insecure these days. If the entire nervous lot of us were distilled down into a single person, that person would be a socially maladjusted teenager with a bad skin problem, anxious about possibly failing Geography, overcompensating by cracking loud jokes in the back of the classroom, and lying to his friends about his super hot girlfriend who they would definitely be able to meet except that she lives in Des Moines and only visits in the summer when they’re all away at tennis camp.

This song doesn’t touch on much of what I just described, but I think it is a fair set of fleeting impressions from the world as it exists now, full of bluster, lacking in self regard, and fairly disinterested in challenging conversation.

~M.E.

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Week 345 // Consecutive Numbers

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Five ’til nine, I’m sewing up the weekend
Ten of twelve, I’m down, caught adrift
Judging fireworks messing up the sidewalk
Can it be we’re older than this?
Can it be we’re older than this?

Everyone has a right to act their age
Whatever it is
Just because

Oh the shadows longer than the sidewalk
Make them dance, dear, all the way back
Make them scatter all the light together
We must know we’re younger than that
We must know we’re younger than that

Everyone has a right to act their age
Whatever it is
All of us
Just because

Notes
Over the weekend, I had a lovely interaction over web-cam with my nearly three-year-old nephew, Harold. His dad gave him a melodica to play with, so I dug mine out of the closet and played along with him. So often I think of musical instruments as tools, but Harold reminded me that they can also be toys. There’s a reason we use the word “play” to describe how we make music. Feeling inspired by the young man’s musical squeaks and gleeful giggles, I didn’t put the melodica away after we were done playing. I kept it out to accompany my guitar on this week’s song.

Just as I sometimes forget that music is a form of play, all the more often I catch myself striking the posture of a grumpy old man. I curse about loud teenagers out my window. I complain about aching joints. I nearly always tuck in my teeshirts, even when I’m at home. I hate almost nothing more than dance clubs. But even as I have recognized these habits and preferences setting in over the years, I haven’t given up childish things.

One of the great things about my marriage is that we make space to play. Wherever we go together, we’re playing. We’re still too young to be reasonably accused of being old, except perhaps by the loud teenagers outside. This song is about accepting that you’re old, remembering that you’re young, and forgiving yourself for being whichever you might be at any given moment.

~M.E.

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Week 344 // The Sound of the Rain

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The sound of the rain
Wait for your love
As you bask in it
Though the sun don’t shine
We didn’t ask for it
We’ve got light enough
To make up for it

However you came
However you are
I want you just like that
From my lips to God’s ear
You’re just right like that
From my lips to your ear
As a matter of fact

I listen to the rain
And I wait for the sound
Of your hand at the door
And the whole wide world
It won’t matter no more
And the whole wide world
It don’t matter no more

Notes
This weekly songwriting project tends to skew toward the autobiographical, and this week’s song carries that trend to quite literal territory. As I sat at home, listening to the rain, and waiting for my love to return, I wrote song about sitting at home, listening to the rain, and waiting for my love to return. Summer storms create the greatest soundscapes, full of rhythm both mesmerizing and anticipatory. The sound fills the waiting with romance. I played quietly so I could keep an ear on the rain. I sang softly, that I might hear the doorknob creak.

~M.E.

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