Coach House Songs

To The Bear

Mercury/Including The Night

Take Me Away, plus Outro

Thinking With My Eyes Closed

These are four songs (plus one outro) that I recorded in my first house in Chicago. It was a coach house on Humboldt Blvd, in Humboldt Park. For those who don’t know, a coach house is a separate building, usually in the back of a bigger building. Our coach house, according to my roommate Mike Sturgess (aka Michael and Linda Lyons and Violins), was in fact the actual old coach house (as in, where they kept the horse carriages) from when the neighborhood was a kind of playground for rich people, back when Humboldt Park was out in the country. We’re talking over 100 years ago. The great thing about the house was that we could make as much noise as we wanted. Also, during the summer our landlords, who lived in the mansion in front, would landscape the hell out of the yard, so we basically lived in a botanical garden in the middle of the ghetto. And, we had unfettered access to the giant deck over the garage, right outside our second-floor door. I don’t think Mike cooked anything not on the grill from May until October. The bad thing was that it was not really built for human habitation, so during the winter it was ungodly cold. I mean, really really really, I-feel-bad-inviting-you-to-my-house cold.

Our downstairs, living room area basically functioned as a recording and rehearsal space, which Mike and I both used. Mike had an old, really great eight-track cassette recorder, which I learned to use a bit, and which all of these songs (except “Mercury/Including The Night”) were recorded on.

“To The Bear” was the first song that I wrote after moving to Chicago, when I was staying with my cousin Brian, no job, no money. I’m pretty sure this is the first recording of me playing the drums. The water sound happened because I decided to record the vocals in the bathroom.

“Mercury/Including The Night” was written as a duet when I first started playing with my friend Anna Leja, with the idea that she would sing the question part of the lines, and I would reply with the answers. Ultimately, I got my mom to sing with me, and I think it sounds pretty good. It tickles me to hear her exclaim “This is a hard song” at the beginning. I’m really happy with the songwriting on this one, and hope to do a more professional recording of it. I’m playing drums on this one, too.

“Take Me Away” was written after a visit from an old friend. The base track, of guitars and vocals, was literally the second or third time I had ever played the song. I’ve had people tell me, and I can’t argue, that it sounds like a mournful song, but it was actually meant to be a kind of celebration of that feeling of being really comfortable being where you are with a person. The “Outro” is basically the same chord progression all hopped up. Anna is playing the drums.

“Thinking With My Eyes Closed” came about one of those cold winter mornings when it was so hard to get out of bed, knowing that I wouldn’t be warm again until I got back into bed. It’s not a profound song, but I wanted to try to write something really rocking without using a guitar. Mike, being the perfectionist that he is, spent about four hours mixing it.


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