The Story Behind Glitter & Bliss.


Glitter & Bliss is one of those tracks that had a rather unorthodox path to the final version you hear.  Most of the tracks we are releasing during our Year of the Groove have come about in one of two ways. Either it was a track Kurt started and then I wrote the lyric and melody over the top [which in songwriting is called "top lining"], or I write the song on my own and then do a rough demo and then present it to Kurt.  

 If you've read my blog entry about Come to Me, you may remember my mentioning a folder of track snippets Kurt had put together during my creative hiatus after having a baby.   Glitter & Bliss was one of those nameless tracks, but the final product is rather a departure from what that track was.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let me share a little back story…


[If you can't handle pregnancy stories, feel free to skip to the next section.]  For me, that season of creative hiatus wasn't voluntary, I was just completely used up figuring out how to survive life after serious medical drama and giving up so many of the things that had made me feel like me.  Before I got pregnant, I was not only working on the Chillodesiac Lounge album [I personally programed and produced several of the tracks on that record], but I was also administrating a song contest, teaching adjunct at a university, and acting in both a sketch comedy group and an improv comedy troupe.  I wore a size 1 and, while never feeling like I had the body of a goddess, I could generally buy things off the rack that fit me.  I mention this because my pregnancy resulted in me growing several fibroid tumors, including one grapefruit sized one which I named "Brutus", and it wasn't long before I didn't even recognize my own body and couldn't figure out how to dress myself. 

Actually I want to take a moment to publicly share what a very generous and kind friend of mine did for me when I was so sick.  A friend of mine named Tiffany Lee, whom some of you may know under the artist name "Plumb", knew that I was struggling with having clothing to wear.  I was far too sick to go shopping for maternity clothes.  So, she packaged up her entire maternity wardrobe and sent it over to my house and let me wear it for my entire pregnancy and much long after.  Then SHE got pregnant and asked for her clothes back.  And then, when I sent everything back to her, she wrote ME a thank you note for taking such good care of her clothing!  Can you believe it?  She's the real deal, people. She kind of saved my life in a way. Anyway, back to the story...

At 4 months pregnant I went into preterm labor and was put on bed rest.  I had already quit both of my comedy groups by this point since I was barely able to keep up with my regular duties anyway by that point but then I had to quit my teaching job in the middle of the college semester.  I was exhausted and quite ill, and yet until they mandated bed rest, I hadn't given myself any breaks because all of the other pregnant women seemed to not slow down at all, so I didn't feel as though I could ask to be pushed in a wheel chair at the mall even though I felt like I was going to fall over from exhaustion. Our Chillodesiac photo shoot happened when we realized I had such large fibroid tumors, my body looked 13 weeks further along than I actually was [according to the doctor], and we knew we needed to get photos done fast because I wasn't going to look like myself again for quite some time.  

Anyway, after being in preterm labor and having regular contractions for the remaining months of my pregnancy, I had an emergency C section at 34 weeks when I went to one of my 3 weekly doctor appointments [the only time I left the house by that point] and they informed me that my body was too sick and the baby must come out.  This was six weeks early.  I had gained 7 pounds in water since my last appointment which brought me up to 150% of what I'd weighed before I was pregnant, and my blood pressure was sky high.  The only time I had to call my family was the amount of time it took them to put me in a wheel chair and take me through the halls to the OB wing of the hospital. During the C section I was barely able to stay lucid and after hearing my sweet precious baby boy cry for no more than one second, I finally succumbed to sleep as they sewed me up. I had told Kurt his job was to stay with the baby, not with me.  So Kurt followed the baby and my next awareness was the medical team trying to wake me to transfer me onto my own bed, and then I endured the 24 hour IV of medicine they give people with toxemia and preeclampsia, the medicine that saves your life but gives you double vision and dry mouth among other things.  All that night, I was so cold I could not stop shivering. The nurse didn't leave my room at all.  She laid her body across me at one point to try to get me to stop shivering.  I could only lay on my left side because that was the side the biggest tumor was on [they couldn't remove it during the C section] and to shift the weight of it was excruciating.  

At one point Kurt carried in my tiny 4 pound baby boy who was completely healthy and didn't even need to be in the NICU for one minute [praise God], and I was able to reach my fingers out from under my pile of blankets to touch his little hand for just a second.  That night seemed endless.  I would fall into a psychedelic sleep with strange dreams, and awaken to look at the clock.  Every single time I woke up I felt like it had been hours and every single time it had only been 4 minutes.  Every. Single. Time.  Four minutes.  I begged for a drink because my tongue kept getting cemented to the roof of my dry mouth, but they wouldn't even give me ice chips for fear I'd vomit.  On the third day when the IV was done and the medicine had dissipated, I was finally able to hold my son.  My body had swollen up from the IV fluids and when I saw myself in the mirror I felt like that episode of friends when Monica wore the fat suit, I could hardly recognize myself.  My epidural site began to leak, soaking my bed. My incision that was held shut with frankenstein like staples started to bleed. Blood pressure was still sky high. Though my darling baby was fine to go home, I was in the hospital for 8 days and too weak for visitors at all. Finally on the day before I was sent home, a doctor gave me a diuretic, and I literally lost 14 pounds of water in a 12 hour window.  I felt like I was going to die.  Before then I was so bloated, I felt like I had a loaf of bread between my legs when I walked, and I couldn't even find my ankle bone or hip bone.  

Once I got out of the hospital, it was time to care for my 4 pound baby as I tried to heal from my C section and 4 months of bed rest.  I was so physically weak, I could barely get myself up if I knelt down on the floor.  I still had those large fibroid tumors, and I looked like I was 5 months pregnant until my son was 3 years old and I felt I had the strength to undergo the surgery to get them removed. Trying to find things to fit my body and hide my belly during that time was difficult, and I was completely weak and anemic for years.  To say this was a season of crisis would not be an overstatement by any stretch.  I didn't know who I even was anymore, and while I loved my son more than anything in the entire world and would take a bullet for him without a thought, my entire lifestyle bore very little resemblance to what I'd known before and I was just barely surviving for a very long time. The reason I share all of this detail is to set the backdrop of what my journey had been in the few years prior to beginning to write songs again. And it was out of this crisis that darker and more complex lyrics to songs like "Come to Me" "We Are Human" "The Legend of the Fall" and "Make Me Free" were born. [A couple of those are still not released.]


Little by little, I gained my strength and head space, and when my son was about 4 I finally had the creative energy to do a little writing here and there.  That was when I started going through the track snippets on Kurt's computer and choosing the ones that seemed worth writing over.  Having come through such a season of struggle, I felt the need for catharsis.  Before this time, I never would have thought to write a lyric that is the least bit obscure or dark.  But life changes people, and I was most definitely changed.  That's not to say that Glitter & Bliss is at all autobiographical.  It's just darker in tone and a bit obscure.

Creatively, the first thing that came to me was the melody.  Since at the time that track literally went between the 1 chord and the 4 chord over and over with no variation, it was necessary for me to create contrast between the song sections with the melodic contour.  So, I sort of flowed out the melody and at that point, the only lyric that came to my mind which ended up sticking was "I'm trying to remember all the reasons that I loved you…"  And as with many songs, this is one that was written in little bursts of effort over a long period of time as the clouds of just trying to get by would part from time to time and tiny rays of creative light would shine through for just a moment here and there.

As I've mentioned in other posts, a song title is truly a part of the song that gives it a lot of equity.  You can get pretty far with a great song title, which was part of my motivation in writing "Supermodel Astronaut".  One day when I was teaching my composition class at Belmont University, I was mentioning songs that seem like they might be about one thing, but they're really about something else.  I mentioned the song "We Found Love" by Rihanna and how when I heard the chorus, I could imagine the context of that lyric being after a disaster when people come together, like after the earthquake in Haiti and how even in that devastation, there was still love.  However, anyone who's seen the video knows that that is about as far away as it gets from the context in which they put this lyric. In the video it's about hard core drug usage [which seems like a lost opportunity if you ask me, but the verse lyrics do hint at drug use, so I'm guessing that was the message all along].  So as I was talking I said how the video at first makes it seem like "all glitter and bliss" and then the reality shows through.  As it came out of my mouth I thought "note to self, song title".  At the time, I didn't know when I'd use it, but eventually it all came together and I hammered out the lyric over this track.

So… when utilizing the title "Glitter & Bliss", I decided to write a lyric that was about something that's bad for you but that you submit yourself to willingly at first, and then it has a hold on you and it sucks the life out of you.  So, although it may seem that Glitter & Bliss is about an unhealthy romantic entanglement, it's actually fundamentally about worshiping something you're not meant to worship. It's about addiction. It's about golden handcuffs.  It's about counterfeit gods or false idols.  It's about becoming enslaved to the pursuit of empty things.   In some contexts, it could be addressing another person who is an abuser or predator. It's written to the Enemy.


[verse 1]  I was young and you knew that full well
So you sang my song
Then you gave a tour of heaven and hell
And I came along

[pre 1] I see why, why, why
You and I, I, I
could feed each other’s needs
But ‘til I wake, wake, wake
You will take, take, take
this place inside of me

[chorus 1] So I’m trying to remember
all the reasons that I loved you,
and it’s tragic how I fell
I was naive and got tempted,
but your love was only rented
first you give, and then you sell

[ hook] You’re pushing glitter and bliss
Glitter and bliss
Keep pushing Glitter and bliss
Glitter and bliss

[verse 2] You let me drive, you’d be content to ride
but you defined the road
You hid it well, behind the promise of wealth
I’d be rich alone

[pre 2] So I gave, gave, gave
And you made, made, made
Me promise even more
And I tied, tied, tied
Up my life, life, life
in what I’m not made for

[chorus 1] So I’m trying to remember
all the reasons that I loved you,
and it’s tragic how I fell
I was naive and got tempted,
but your love was only rented
first you give, and then you sell

[ hook] You’re pushing glitter and bliss
Glitter and bliss
Keep pushing Glitter and bliss
Glitter and bliss

[bridge] You are a counterfeit
You did not create bliss
You cannot promise
 such things, such things, such things as this

[chorus 2] You played it as a beacon,
so my resolution weakened
and I let you be my star.
I was shackled as your slave
in the moment that I prayed
to the cult of what you are

And your Glitter & Bliss

[hook with bridge phrases on outro]

Now, keep in mind, I was in the awkward position of trying to bridge the gap between our previous release which featured electronic reconstructions of jazz standards, songs which are about as lyrically benign as it gets by today's standards, and my own personal brokenness and need for catharsis.  I creatively needed to push out of the happy clappy bounds of "music for your next dinner party or romantic interlude" just to feed my own soul after such a long difficult season in a creative desert.  However I was also aware that we had established our brand with our previous release and I needed to keep at least one foot in that door.  So I wrote this song in such a way that if someone wanted to just put it on as background music, they might only register the phrase "Glitter and Bliss" and never really think about any of the other lyrics.  They might just enjoy the "sound" and not digest any of the meaning.  For people who only want the song to function in that capacity, I wanted it to do that.  I know that there were times we would listen to "King of Sorrow" by Sade and never once register that the lyric is actually talking about "I'm crying everyone's tears".  We just liked the vibe and sipped our wine to the "sound".  Now that I'm aware of that song's lyrics, I likely wouldn't be so cavalier about entertaining friends with such sad lyrics, but at the time I meant no disrespect to Sade.  And I take no offense if someone chooses to gloss over my lyrics and just let this track set the tone for their evening.  I hope it works in that way for them.


One thing about song writing is that there are sometimes gray areas in what constitutes a verse or prechorus or chorus.  In this song, what I have labeled above as a verse and prechorus might easily all be considered a verse.  And what I have labeled as a chorus, some would say is more of a prechorus.  And what I am calling the "hook" would be what some people say is actually the chorus.  I went back and forth with these, and while it may seem like just semantics, it is important for us to know what the chorus is as we are producing the track.  Because even though Kurt had created a snippet of this track which I wrote over, once the song was written, we knew it needed to have some variation from the 1 and 4 chord repetition.  Especially in the bridge.   In terms of how song sections function, the verse sets the stage, the prechorus acts as a transitional bridge into the chorus, and the chorus takes things up a notch and delivers the central statement.  While my chorus may lyrically function as still building up to the hook section, what I did NOT want to happen was for the track itself to not "arrive" in the instrumentation until the hook section.  I wanted the groove to kick in earlier, so… I called the earlier section the chorus.  But even as I type about it, I still kind of see it going the other way too…  ah… whatever, it's just semantics.


As I've mentioned before, after releasing our Chillodesiac project in 2007, we were so caught up with "life" and money work that we found it difficult to make great strides in releasing our own music for several years.  After writing the lyric and melody to Glitter & Bliss, we fine tuned the track and then on a rare day when my son was gone for the day and I wasn't teaching on campus, we recorded the vocal.  Now, when Kurt originally produced the track, he was just making a track, he wasn't thinking about the key it was in compared to my vocal range.  And when I wrote the song, I just went with the melody and didn't really think about my vocal range.  I have no problem hitting high notes, so it didn't phase me that I was writing in such a high part of my register.  But in terms of "vibe", I usually tend to write in the very bottom of my range for our chillout tracks.  So simply due to lack of worrying about it, this song threw me into the high part of my range, so we doubled much of the high stuff down and octave, and I've gotta say I kind of like the way this vocal came out.  It was kind of nice to use that part of my range.  

After we recorded the vocal, the song was promptly saved into a folder on the hard drive and left to collect dust for a couple of years while we worked on other music and tried to finish the other songs that would be on our next album.  But then we eventually abandoned the idea of releasing these on a whole album and instead put them out as singles, so it came back into play.

Once this Year of the Groove kicked in, I had Glitter & Bliss on the list as one of the monthly releases, but as I reviewed this now probably 2 year old track, I started questioning how excited I was about it.  I was happy with the lyric and the vocal performance, but I just felt like the track was a bit lackluster.  Of course, originally, it was just a snippet of an idea that would be a proper follow up to our Chillodesiac vol. 1 album.  So for what it was at the time, it was completely fine.  But then I wrote over it, and it became its own thing.  And now that we are in the Year of the Groove, these songs are each getting released on their own and we don't need to worry so much about making them cohesive from one to the next, they can each have a little more individuality.  

So, knowing that I felt this way… when the Year of the Groove as a concept was first on the discussion block, I started saying "Glitter & Bliss needs some major attention" to Kurt.  Naturally due to our busyness with the money work, we started the Year of the Groove by putting out the songs that were closest to being ready to release.  I purposely didn't slate this song until the back half of the year because I wanted time to rework it a bit.  And here we are, now in the back half of the 12 months and we are left with not many more "almost ready to go" releases, and we now must muscle our way through and really pull out all the stops and finish the remaining tracks. And we just got a BIG JOB from a regular client. I mean like really really big. Yikes!


Before we go further, I'll post here what the track was like before we reworked it.

I mean, it's not terrible.  It was what was considered "almost done" at one point in time.  But again, I feared it was rather lackluster and I just wasn't very excited about it, to be honest.  I wanted it to be cooler.  Or as I told Kurt, "I want it to be funkier and groove harder".  My suggestion was that we begin by replacing all the drums and writing a better bassline that would function more as an instrumental hook and serve as the backbone of the track. Yeah, just replace all the drums… NBD right? #sarcasm

And this is the part where Kurt doesn't choke me and instead rises to the occasion, and that is why we are still functioning as a music duo. It's amazing how much credit is due to Kurt not being a volatile or violent person.

So… even though he thought the track was fine the way it was and he "just wanted to be done with it", Kurt started over on the drums.  And then he let me play in the bass part I had in my head.  Once that was in place, I think he started to catch the vision of where the track could go and the mood seemed to brighten up a bit.  Kurt said that in order for the bass part to have more nuances and be more human that we should have a bass player come and play the part.  So, we booked a player and I notated the bassline I had in my head as a starting point for him.  When Victor came to play, he not only gave the bass part his own sensibilities but he also gave us a brief lesson in the music of Drake and the significance of his new release, Black Messiah, which I still need to check out.

Once we had the bass line in place, it seemed only right to bring in a guitar player for a wah wah guitar part on the chorus.  I'm a total sucker for wah guitar. Hiring a bass player and guitar player for a track is a rarity for our chillout music, not only because Kurt and I can usually cover all the roles in producing a finished product, but also because it's money out of pocket that we won't make back for many many years of direct to consumer distribution.  I mean, if you've seen my blog posts about what our royalty statements show that streaming music pays… my kid will be in college before we make back what we paid the bass player, much less the guitar player and mastering engineer.  So… here is what we've spent in terms of money out of pocket to get this particular song to the finished product you hear.  Bass player + Guitar player + Mastering + Registration for digital distribution = $416.00 Total for just this song.

Of course, this doesn't factor in the cost of the photo shoot for the cover art, or our monthly fees for our music profiles to get this to the public, or the software to make the cover art, or the computers and software and music gear we used to record and produce the song, or the years of music lessons, college tuition, and interest we paid on our student loans for graduate school to develop our musical skills, or the life experiences that influenced our creative direction, or the many hours of time and many calories of energy we put into this.  Much of our work was done after our son went to bed when he was younger, and those of you who've had young kids know how tired you are when an energetic and demanding child FINALLY GOES TO SLEEP. But that was the only time we could work uninterrupted.  So… that dollar amouth up above doesn't truly reflect the expense of this song. This song, and most of our other songs, cost us quite a bit to finish.  

And this is what so many people feel entitled to have for free.  


How do we as artists keep going in today's music market place?  How do we continue to pay our bills and still create?  Well… the reality is complex to say the least and I'm not sure an answer currently exists that is sustainable in the long term. It's not as simple as just working our butts off month after month and building up our following.  Our very creativity is altered by the need to generate income.  This track wasn't a total victim to the "universal lyrics" filter that most "licensable" music must go through.  This lyric is blissfully free from the "write something that can apply to almost anything" pressure so many songwriters are under these days, since pretty much the only real money to be made anymore is to license a song to film, TV, or advertisements.  The reason this lyric isn't more universal is simply because it predates when that reality was a part of our musical paradigm.  Truth be told, I don't have that much freedom anymore with my lyrics because Kurt has put in enough hours producing tracks that have little licensing potential and if I want a song to see the light of day anymore, it must have SOME possibility of being licensed.  There are a couple left in the hopper that I wrote because I wanted to write them, dammit.  But if it weren't for the Year of the Groove, there would be little chance I could wrangle Kurt to program the track, and with my current situation as a part time college professor part time home school mom, I no longer have the time to do so myself.  If we could simply make money from selling CDs and digital downloads like we did with our first record in 2007, I would be able to write from my own creative place and really explore my voice as a songwriter.  But today's marketplace does not invite such pure creative exploration unless you're living off a trust fund or have a sugar daddy.  Because creativity takes time, and nights and weekends won't yield the same results as being able to devote the majority of ones time and energy to their craft.  And so often people's lives are changed by songs that touch them, so the world needs good, honest, well written songs that are free from the self-conscious money-maker influence that the industry exerts.

But the current conundrum is much larger than anything we can fix ourselves. So, for as long as I can, I will do what it takes to keep writing songs that feed my creative soul and yet still have money making potential so that Kurt will help me bring it to life.  This is why we need people to pay for music. And we are immensely grateful when they DO.  Thank you for reading this far.