In honor of the recent tax day, I have been amusing myself with a bit of personal accounting. I find that it is most enjoyable to count the things, about which I care the most in my life. And it turns out that there are a lot of things in the world that I care for more than money.

Personal Tax Form:
Q: How many shows did I see last year?
A: a bunch!
Q: Which was the best show?
A: Grace Jones. By FARRR.
Q: How many songs did I write last year.
A: 2/3 of one song!
Q: Jesus, really?? That few?
A: well, kind of, yeah.

Is there an inverse relationship between how many shows I see and how many songs I am able to write? Maybe. There is absolutely an inverse relationship between how many songs I write and how many shows I play. This I know for certain. In the chart, below, for how many songs I have written per year, one can see this relationship clearly.

2006: three. (Only minor touring in the summer months.)
2007: zero. (Huge year of touring, barely ever home.)
2008: Something like four? (Only toured from Feb – June.)
2009: 2/3 of one song! (No touring, but engaged in an epic move to New York.)
2010: quite a few songs written, considering. (Some touring, still living in New York.)

The totals for 2006 – 2008 make a lot of sense to me. When I am on the road, I never seem to be able to catch my breath enough to write a new song. I never get enough privacy. And if I did have the focus to write a song, what would I write it about? Would I maybe end up writing a song about being on the road? My girlfriend has an explicit rule against songs about being on the road. She thinks they’re tacky. Her logic is that it’s in poor taste to write about an experience that only other musicians, and the occasional roady and groupie, are going to be able to share. She maintains the rule even for ABBA’s song Super Trouper, although she loves ABBA. Sometimes I can get her to sing and dance along with me to that song, but the judgement remains implicit.

My stats for the amount of songs written during 2009 – 2010 provide more surprising data. During 2009, pretty much all I did was lay around my house, think about the new performance I am working on, and see shows and art in New York. I had A LOT of time alone, and no tours to distract me (or to lure me into writing about tacky subjects). Why didn’t I write any songs then? Well, I did write some. I wrote a really great chorus about “The Specter of Death” which I am very excited to sing and record. But first I have to write a verse or two, and those haven’t come yet. It turns out it’s kind of hard to follow up with verses to a chorus about The Specter of Death. It just sounds so good to me when I sing the chorus, and it came hurtling out of my mouth from seemingly out of nowhere- I don’t want to do it an injustice with any shoddy lyrics.*

I think that the low rate of song-production in 2009 is solely chalked up to the fact that I had just arrived in New York, and I was acclimatizing to how intense it is to be exposed to so much excellence, so frequently. New York raised the bar on me, and I spent the year doing mini chin ups, trying to build my confidence to be able to spit something out myself. I mean, this place really is pretty hard core. It takes a lot to impress people because everyone knows someone who knows Beyonce, or they were at a party with Yoko Ono or Prince is their dad or whatever. My girlfriend and I were at the laundromat the other day, and we were singing along to the laundromat’s radio, which was playing the Alicia Keys song, “Empire State of Mind”, which of course we love. The woman who works in the laundromat said offhandedly, “oh yeah, my friend’s daughter wrote that song. I don’t really like it.” But we didn’t let the toughness intimidate us, we kept right on singing, “New Yoooork! Concrete jungle where dream are maaaade of, there’s nothing you caaaaan’t do, now you’re in New Yoooooork! These streets’ll make you feel braaaand new! Big lights will inspiiiiiire you!”

*{It isn’t strictly true that I only wrote 2/3 of one song in 2009. I wrote a song especially for a movie that’s coming out, and one for a remix compilation, and there’s a few other sleepers in there. More importantly, though, in 2010 I have already surpassed last year’s gross total, which means that I am now capable of performing one real big-city chin up, and this, I must admit, makes me very proud. I think it means I have learned how to simultaneously listen and exclaim.}

April 19, 2010

  1. Joe Maricich

    You have to remember that creativity requires some germination time, so don’t feel bad about some down time, except when you have to call me for $$$.

  2. Derek

    your insight amazes me. reading these last few posts has been awesome. thank you for being so honest and sincere about the creative process!

  3. wil

    You make me open my eyes to our secrete worlds. The lives we live hiding from the universe. What do we all do to fill our time? I have never met you. I may never meet you. I idolize you. I create stories about your life, about all the things I think you would think about. I talk about you and your music. Yet I don’t know you. Only the stories you share. All I can do is wonder if you tell us truths or lies you want us to believe. I want to always believe you are a real single individual person.

    We all are liars, everyone of us.

    I don’t know you.

    I love you.

    Thats no lie.

  4. abbey

    i loved you when a high school student of mine, gave me ‘the blow’ CD back in 2006. then, about a month ago, ‘true affection’ came through my pandora station (no one knows me like pandora and my students?), and i realized, OH! i love ‘the blow’ even more than i remembered! then, miraculously, you were coming to winooski, VT! and i live in burlington – the next town over, and we get good music up here, but it always feels crazy when someone i’ve just been thinking about shows up at our little vermont venues. and then, out of sheer laziness & confidence that ‘the blow’ concert was just for me, so how could i miss it, i didn’t get a ticket in time. and you sold out, you fame monster.

    and in my sadness to not be able to go to the show, i went a-googling, and i found your blog. after reading for a while, i want to say i’m not only a fan of your music, but your smarts & wit & way of looking at the world. reading this blog is like a nice long conversation with a good friend. so, i guess i’m saying thanks, and that you’re not only going to have a great show in vermont, but that outside the realm of the monkey bar, your fans will be griping in bars across burlington about how they didn’t get a ticket in time.

    i’m really just saying you’re cool, and i like you. good job doing your thang.

  5. Noelle

    Dear Khaela,
    I went to a show of yours in Portland, ME. I like the new stuff that you’re doing. There were some elderly people dancing next to me, so that’s probably good news.
    I meant to tell you all this and more, but I forgot everything when I went to talk to you. You are a little bit intimidating in the way that you are not at all intimidating. If I hadn’t lost the words, I would have told you that your dancing is getting pretty good. I liked all the things you had to say about not wanting to be public about certain things because you are considered abnormal. Something along those lines- I don’t totally remember (the elderly dancers were a bit distracting). That was great, is what I’m trying to say.
    I would also have told you that Fists Up is hands down one of my favorite songs, in competition with Oh Anna. Our Holes Are Dug is up there, too. Good work.
    I might have concluded by saying thanks for putting yourself out into the world. I appreciate the things you do. I hope that you’ll come to Maine again, even though I know we’re kind of boring. Hopefully Portland was good to you, because occasionally she can be kind of a bitch.
    That is all.

  6. Mitsu

    Glad to hear you’re writing new songs again, Khaela. I and many other people and friends love your songs and will always love them. And your writing and your performances. You’re one of those unique people I’m glad exists in the world.

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