Week 273 // Lullaby for Teddy

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Down by the ocean
Splash in the waves
Hear the treetops
Whisper as they say

The birds in the trees
The grass and the leaves
The sun and the sea
Sweet dreams

Sunset colors
Purple, red, and blue
Father and Mother
Watching over you

The birds in the trees
The grass and the leaves
The sun and the sea
Sweet dreams

Notes
Two of my dearest friends welcomed their first child into the world a few days ago. Holly and Alex are now Holly, Alex, and Teddy! I think that’s really cool. I’m not sure when I’ll have the opportunity to meet young Theodore, but his mother texted me this morning to tell me that she was introducing him to Mount Everest songs. I was tickled by this notion. So early in a young person’s development he’s listening to me sing about stuff, and play instruments, and make sounds! It struck me that while I’m down down down in New York, far far away from my friends’ Maine homestead and their bouncing baby boy, I still have an opportunity to offer him a personal welcome to planet Earth, where he is likely to spend most of his life. I’ve done so in the form of a lullaby. This isn’t the first one that I’ve written, but it is still a form that I find to be challenging. This time I wanted to focus on two objectives. First, the music had to be genuinely soothing. Second, the lyrics needed to be simple. After all, Teddy hasn’t acquired language yet, and there’s a reason they’re called baby steps. I feel that I’ve accomplished these goals, particularly since I nearly fell asleep twice while I was recording it. Anyhow, welcome to planet Earth, Teddy! I hope you like it here!

~M.E.

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Week 272 // River Song 4 (LIVE)

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Up on the moon
In the dust and the dirt
Shouting my soul
At the planet earth
Raking these strings
‘Til my fingers hurt
But I can’t go on without it

Turning my back
To the wind and the rain
And the weather’s alright
For a serenade
And walking works out
If you’re getting paid
But I’d rather not talk about it

So let’s go down
Down to the edge of the water
Down down
And we’ll pray to the river bend
Throw stones at the great god
And wander down to the water’s edge
So I can get in

Holding my breath
In the middle of the night
Cutting my cross
By the cold moonlight
Wonder ‘bout god
If he’s feels alright
Or if he’d rather not talk about it

Counting my change
and I’m coming up short
Stealing my dinner
Ain’t a last resort
And when I’m not a winner
I’m a spoiled sport
And everyone else is cheating

So let’s go down
Down to the edge of the water
Down down
And we’ll pray to the river bend
Throw stones at the great god
And wander down to the water’s edge
So I can get in
I will get in
If I’ve done one thing right
It was learning how to swim
‘Cause I can hold my breath
And keep my penance in

Got a good woman
Yeah she treats me right
Sets the world to color
And she holds me tight
Look when she moves
‘Cause she’s quite a sight
And I couldn’t go on without her

So I go down to the river
at the end of the day
And I ponder the fishes
As they swim away
And I think about my Mrs.
And I’m a-okay
I’d just like to go home and see her

Notes
Last night, after over five years of weekly songwriting, I finally debuted live on stage as Mount Everest. The irrepressible and inimitable Nat Osborn kindly arranged my gig at Rockwood Music Hall without telling me first, which was just the kind kick in the ass that I needed to get back on stage after a hiatus of far far too many years. The room was kind to me, and I truly felt the groundswell of support from my friends and family in attendance. It felt amazing to be performing on stage again. Despite my initial nerves, there was a feeling of coming home again after a long time in the wilderness. A piece of my heart had been waiting for me on that stage these long years, and I can’t help but feel just a little more myself than I did just a day ago.

I decided that it would be in keeping with the spirit of this project to use my concert as an opportunity to introduce this week’s new song. Here I have posted two versions of River Song 4. I recorded a version at home on Saturday, just after I wrote it. The next day I debuted it live, and have presented a recording of that performance as well. There are subtle differences, but I like them both and didn’t want to choose just one.

~M.E.

Photo Credit: Kate Stitham who is really cool

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Week 269 // A Song the Night Can Sing

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Night is an empty room
Colorless light
And a slight perfume
You’re carried away
Now you’re like a dream
No, you’re more like a song
That the night can sing
And it goes…

Once on a distant world
Curious clouds
And a tilt-a-whirl
I knew you back then
As a shimmering song
You sang it out loud
And we all sang along
And I think it went…

Night, is it all we’ve got?…
If I wake with a start
And a dream forgot
If you hum the next bar
Will I know the tune?
If I dream of a song
Will it sound like you?

Notes
I met Amy when I was 18 years old. We were students at the same college, and we traveled in the same unbridled herd of exuberant youngsters. We were friends. I liked her unselfconscious enthusiasm, and her silly aloofness. We shared a love of making up songs. She was much better at it. We would play a lot of the same gigs at various campus venues; she with her Amy Regan Band, and I with my earnestly off-key rock outfit, Go Mordecai. Even despite our youth, she was professional and composed, transformed by the stage-lights into an icon of folk/pop perfection. Later, the guys and I would chop away at power chords and shout our throats raw. I believed her when she would say we had done well, and it meant the world to me because I admired the seriousness with which she approached her music, the finesse with which she captivated an audience, the warmth she brought into every room she played. In the years that followed she brought that warmth to many thousands of people in countless audiences on stages across the country. It was heartbreaking to learn last Thursday that she had died. My friend Amy had a gift for melodies, and a soaring voice. She was kind to me, and she made me believe I could make music. She sang beautiful songs, so this week I tried to write one she would like.

~M.E.

P.S. It’s funny to accompany a song about night with a picture of a rainbow, but there’s an explanation. This rainbow broke a rainstorm just before Amy’s wake yesterday. I was told that it hung precisely over her childhood home. This is Amy’s rainbow, and I share it here with a song for her.

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Week 268 // A Song About

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I’m writing a song about
Turning a page
How I try to fill it up
But scratch out the phrase
How I saw the light break
Words they can’t get it
No note rings clear enough
To match the silence

I’m writing some words about
The passage of time
We pause to anticipate
But tend to rewind
How I felt my breath catch
Words they won’t get it
No verse is sharp enough
To cut the moment down

Notes
As all the kids like to say, I’ve gotten a bit meta this week. I have written a song about writing a song. I didn’t do it to be tricky. I wrote it to reflect on my writing process as I contemplate the passage of time, the new year, my hopes and wishes, and my ever lengthening past. This is meant as a bit of a critique of my heavy reliance upon certain themes, and also as an affirmation of the vital importance of those themes to my work, and to the work of many other artists. In bemoaning the fact that my pencil and voice cannot do justice to these notions and experiences, I’m mining a new way to describe how pregnant these themes are with meaning and significance. There’s also a bit of a joke embedded here for my own amusement, which is that I almost never sit down to write “a song about” something. My subject matter tends to emerge as I write, and these track notes describe each song retrospectively once I’ve figured out what a song seems like it’s saying. Typically I’m lying when I say “this week I wrote a song about” anything. This was a fun one for me.

~M.E.

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Week 267 // Watching the Rain on a Sunday Afternoon

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On the radio all’s gone gray
Cold static o’er the wave
And the mist spread o’er the lake
All the misspent hours it takes to know
What the rest of them already know
How the breadth and depth are wont to grow and grow
And all that we can do is see each other
And try to keep up

On the warmest winter day
Ground soft, hold fast to life
Air thick with the passing rain
Hands crack to cut the silence low
And the best of them already know
That the coming years will rend us to and fro
And all that we can do is know each other
And try to keep up
And try to keep up

I’m watching the rain
On a Sunday afternoon
And I’m counting my steps
Catching up to you

And I’m watching the rain
On a Sunday afternoon
And I’m counting my steps
Catching up to you

And I try to keep up
I try to keep up
I try to keep up
I try to keep up

Notes
This song is my final entry for 2015. Rebecca and I are in New Hampshire visiting my parents for Christmas, which has afforded me a much appreciated opportunity to write and record music in the wooded serenity of their lakefront home. I recently celebrated five years doing this project, which means that 2015 was the fifth full calendar year of Mount Everest, and that this is my fifth year-end reflection. I’m not going to take a moment to revisit each of those other songs, but I’m certain they all have some themes in common. Like this song, I’m sure they all look to the future in their own way, while pondering where I’ve been. This year I’m using a rainy Sunday as an excuse to pause and take stock of how quickly the present gives way to the future. I’m writing about trying to keep up with the speed of change, which I believe to be a big part of our typical impulse to couple. We’re seeking a constant; the right person on whom we can keep our focus when everything else becomes a blur all around us. The first song of a new year often strikes an optimistic tone. I can’t predict precisely what I’ll share with you next week, so I suppose you’ll have to come back in 2016 to find out. Please have a safe and joyous New Year celebration!

~M.E.

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Week 265 // The Lonely Mile

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Walk the lonely mile
Cut away
The sunset’s over
Hold me now
In the wreckage of the earth
Count patterns
In the light that appears
In the light peeking through the cracks

Sleep the restless sleep
Look away
The dream is over
Hold me now
On forgotten holy grounds
Count ghosts
As they curse all around
At the useless things we built

Through the front door
Burst with elation
Every website
Crashing at once

Hold your empty cup
Pour again
You’re just beginning
Wake me up
When the carnage finally stops
Count drops of blood
Between the clicks and the pops
And every ‘like’ until we sew it up

Through the front door
Burst with elation
Every website
Crashing at once

Notes
From time to time I like to indulge a luddite fantasy. The chorus of this song sounds nearly silly when I sing it, and I almost couldn’t bring myself to do it. Ultimately I couldn’t resist the image of human beings bursting through their doors with elation because the internet has finally crashed, setting them free once and for all. Lot’s of people argue that technology sets us free, and in many ways I simply can’t refute them, and don’t want to. I’m as connected as any living person, but when I think about technology in terms of poetry, it is always casting a shadow, rather than illuminating the world. I have this bad feeling that viral culture infects reality. We’re counting up likes and shares on mass shootings. How can that not be causing more of them? It must be. That’s just one example, and I won’t bore you with any more. I will just say that some of the unrest we see in the world certainly traces back to our technological ennui, and sometimes I can’t help but imagine a world in which people are free to be present. So I wrote a song about it.

~M.E.

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Week 264 // Spun

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The cold, lord it never came
The light what could blind your eyes
New ache, old familiar pain
Old sayings spun to tell you lies
One week on a leaky boat
A whole month on a cloudless moon
One hour on a desolate shore
A whole life standing next to you

Notes
This week’s song is essentially loop-pedal music, although I faked it with a computer because I don’t own a loop-pedal. In case you don’t know, a loop pedal is a relatively popular device used by musicians to layer performances in real time. Basically, a musician performs a short sequence, which then repeats again and again in a loop. The musician can play along with his or herself, layering more loops along the way. This song reaches for the loop-pedal’s aesthetic of cyclical repetition and layering, as well as slightly glitchy pops when loops restart again and again. The effect is a bit reminiscent of playing over a skipping record.

The season seems to be a bit of a skipping record here in New York. The coming winter seems to be jumping back to mid fall again and again. It’s a little disorienting, and it accentuates the cycles of routine in the midst of which I seem to have found myself. This song plays with the disorientation of those repetitions and reaches for a hopeful progression. Forward instead of back around.

~M.E.

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Week 263 // Memory

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Oh your faintest insight
Oh our bravest summer
If you can’t remember

Oh the constellations
Oh the misspent winter
Oh the endless clatter
God if you remember

Say you can’t remember
But you do remember

Notes
The response I received last week for Mount Everest’s five year anniversary was pretty overwhelming. While traffic was way up on my site, and I received some great feedback, the most touching gesture was a fifteen track cover album of my closest friends’ favorite Mount Everest songs, lovingly performed by them. I was absolutely dumbfounded by the care, talent, and friendship that went into the recordings, which I hope to share with you, my dear listeners, in the near future. I felt wonderfully disembodied as I listened to song after song. It was a catalogue of my memories, filtered through my closest friends. I have often wondered what becomes of these songs after I record them. Do they fade away, or do people revisit them? For whom is any given track a fond memory, and what does that memory mean to those people? What does it mean when we share that memory? What does it mean when my memories reside outside of myself, in some of you? What, really, is a memory? These are some of the the questions and ideas that I’m playing around with here. I wrote this song in gratitude.

~M.E.

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