Last year, two days before Christmas (12/23/2019) I wrote a Christmas song. I recorded a simple acoustic version to send to some friends. I received some great feedback and then true to form, got busy with my next song. Because I have a problem.
My next song, the one I am currently writing, is my new baby. It needs my attention. It needs to be carried and fed and nurtured.
Unfortunately, this leaves a trail of creative orphans. I wrote about this two years ago and did not correct it. My friend and fellow artist, Emiko, has pushed me to take a few songs each month and care for them a bit more. I've failed in this capacity.
A few weeks ago, someone on Facebook asked me about my Christmas song - titled, Christmas Heart.
Them: "Hey... didn't you have a Christmas song you shared with me last year?"
Me: "Yeah. I haven't touched it since I recorded that rough demo last year."
Them: "You should. Do something with it I mean. I think this would be a good year for that song."
I’m going to give a brief background on how I wrote the song and include the lyrics below.
Getting Emikos help
But first, I decided to reach out to Emiko a couple weeks ago. I sent her the song and asked if she would like to record some piano, Hammond organ, and share vocal duties with me.
She wrote back with an enthusiastic, YES!
I uploaded a map/scratch track to Google Drive and included some notes of how I thought we might arrange it. We had a little back and forth on some particulars and then a couple days later, she uploaded her piano, Hammond, and several vocal tracks. Yay technology.
I dropped them into my recording project and we were off and running.
Side note: There are songs that you listen to and think, “Dammit! I wish I had written that.” One the greatest ego boost during this process was Emiko sending me a message where she said, “The song is, ‘wish I’d written it’ good!”
I showed this to my girlfriend who immediately said she needed to call Emiko and ask her NOT to send me messages like that. She has to live with me for the after-glow. 😉
Truly, I consider that both humbling and an honor. Emiko has been a friend and an artist I admire for many years.
Over the past week or so, I’ve recorded guitar tracks - acoustic, electric, clean, distorted, etc. I’ve been cutting and layering those as needed.
I recorded bass and re-recorded vocals. I’ve added some percussion and am in the process of programming drums.
I will get my drummer to record drums for this in the future but we are under a deadline to complete it right away. We are doing a promo fundraising concert with YAY+ Music on the 19th. So programmed drums will work for the time-being.
Addiction & Homelessness as Inspiration
Family is complicated. Let’s start there. One of my children has struggled with addiction and has spent considerable time living on the streets of LA. There are few things as anxiety producing as knowing this and being unable to impact any change.
I’ve had the gamut of emotions - anger, fear, sadness… you name it. And even though I have a hands-offs/legalize all drugs belief, I still carried much of the moralistic ideas from our country’s failed war on drugs. I spent a LOT of years angry at my son - trying to shame him into “getting his shit together.”
My oldest son pushed me to listen to and read Johann Hari’s TED Talk and book, Chasing the Scream. I highly recommend both - whether you know someone struggling with addiction or don’t. It’s eye-opening.
I determined that ensuring my son knew he had a family that was there for him - a community - was more important than me “fixing him.” I’m in no position to fix anyone. Instead, I’ll offer him acceptance where he’s at, share my fear and vulnerability, but mostly just express and show that I love him.
I’ll write more about this topic and my son at a later date.
But during the holidays last year I spent a lot of time with my son out on the streets of Koreatown and surrounding areas. It is a hot-bed of homeless encampments and addiction.
I got to know the community - speaking with/eating with many of the addicts who live in the streets. I listened to their stories and I worked to reserve judgement. This is not an easy exercise.
I’ve always tried to maintain some semblance of grace toward those who make mistakes - but I have often failed to do this very effectively. The addict on the streets is frustrating. I don’t understand the choices.
But as I got to know them, the focus on their addiction or fixing them became unimportant. My oldest son kept telling me that fixing them is NOT my job. Loving them is.
And so, just before Christmas, visiting my son and his community on the streets, I saw people - flawed, just like me, struggling through life, just like me, needing connection and hope, just like me. And this prompted me to write the following lyric:
There’s a baby, there’s a mother
There’s the freeway they’re living under
Carries the same-day package delivery
For all of that, “I’ve been good, what will it get me?”
I got home and the rest of the song fell into place pretty quickly.
I wanted a song that pushed me to see beyond my often materialist or personal enjoyment of the season. I wanted something that challenged me to see the loneliness of the holidays and, ultimately, do something to change it. Or, more accurately, to change me.
I hope it can encourage the listener to do the same. Again, there is no judgement or shade being passed here. I’m not in any position to lecture the world or any person on how they should experience the holidays. This is for me - but if it resonates with you - it is for you too.
I’m working on the mix today/tomorrow and we plan to release the final on December 15th. I would LOVE to give you the song if you are interested. And I would be honored and thrilled if you would share it and help me give it away to others. Please see the form below the provided lyrics.
In the meantime, here is a lyric video on YouTube. Enjoy!
Christmas Heart - lyrics
© 2019 - Matthew Moran, Arrogant Sage Music
We've got goodwill when we need it
Holiday cheer if it's convenient
Peace on earth as the bombs drop
Blessed be the poor til the sales stop
There's a baby, there's a mother
There's the freeway they're living under
Carries that same day package delivery
For all that, "I've been good, what will it get me?"
Deck the halls starts with where I am
Help me change those things I can
Let me see on this silent night
My brother/sister/humanity in a stranger's eyes
And let me take their hand and take my part
Sharing hope and love with a Christmas heart
I see my neighbor take the cans in
Smiles and waves but I've never met him
Seems all this tinsel covers the lonely
And friends and family, do they even know me
I can't fix it, if I don't live it
I can't complain if I just give in
Maybe tears are just part of season
But I'll be damned if I don't go down swinging