22) Cleveland

Back in February of 2006, Jefferson Pitcher, J. Matthew Gerken, and I set about writing and recording the original demos for these Presidents songs as part of the February Album Writing Month challenge (www.fawm.org).  We wrote and did demo recordings of 42 songs (all but G.W. Bush) in Februrary–28 days and 42 songs.  Sheesh. 

In any case, as part of that, we wrote little texts to accompany each new song as we got them up on the FAWM website.  I like looking through them now as they seem part of a crazy, crazy time. 

Burr Settles, a fine songwriter in his own right and the FAWM-lord, was kind enough to get me an html backup of all the original texts we wrote, and it includes the comments other songwriters wrote on the demos as we got them up.  I’m including those as well.

22 Cleveland (Bees and Honey)

by Christian Kiefer — 2006-02-16 @ 02:40am (EST) — Alt/IndieFolk

One was difficult, the other was easy. 

I spent hours and hours trying to write a song about Cleveland. I did 2 different demos of a song. I finally did one that pieced the two disparate parts together into something that vaguely resembled a song. The lyrics were trite and stupid. It took days. People slept, but I didn’t. I wired myself on coffee and in the wee hours of the morning realized that what I had was just trite noncommital crap.

I typed up something here and figured that regardless of the quality of the piece, I would upload it anyway and move onto the next one. I typed something up about Cleveland. About how he essentially was the ward for a little girl, the daughter of a business partner, who he put through college and then, when she turned 21, finally married. Spooky. Gross. Weird. I had written a song about Cleveland but I hadn’t written THAT song. In a moment I realized what had gone wrong: There was a song in Cleveland but I hadn’t written the right one.

So I started over. Quick and dirty. A clunky four string Harmony banjo. A couple of vocal tracks. Nothing much in terms of lyrics. It’s a haiku of pedophilia. Sparse. Scary. And yet tender and loving. If there’s a model it’s Randy Newman’s “In Germany Before the War,” one of the spookiest, most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I didn’t think of it when I was writing this, but I sure do think of it now.


  1. elizadonelittle | 2006-02-16 @ 04:03am (EST)

    gross! i love it. xox

  2. j matthew gerken | 2006-02-21 @ 12:25pm (EST)

    This song doesn���t really sound like you had a lot of trouble with it, but I think I can hear little faint reminders in the background that this was not the song originally. I can just barely make out a melody behind there when the instruments drop out. Anyway, I like this song. I like the pace and dynamic of it. It will fit in great with the amazing body of work that will constitute the presidents record.

Published in: on May 14, 2008 at 5:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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