These humble songs are the product of the dissolution of a 3+ year relationship with my former bandmate. We created and released a CD together, we worked together, we toured together, we were together almost constantly and then we were not. I use the word 'dissolution' and not 'breakup' for a very specific reason.
Suffice it to say that when you spend a large amount of time with someone (anyone), whether that time is mostly good, or mostly bad, you will live with their presence and their ghosts for a long, long, long time. I wrote the title song quite a while after the relationship had ended, while I was sitting and fully marinating in the feelings of what it means to love. What it means to lose. What it means to go from seeing someone every day and every hour to hearing from them less and less and less, and exactly how that feels.
We have so many songs, so many poems, and so much incredible artwork devoted to the fine art of falling in love. There seems to be an almost infinite amount of creative outpourings dedicated exclusively to the delicate process of getting to know someone, first infatuations, discovering the smell of their hair on your pillow and the glorious moment when your love for each other is fully expressed. We also have a huge library of breakup, revenge, and heartbroken songs. Everyone I know has that one record or that one song you pull out when you feel your heart is so crushed it cannot continue on.
But when I think of songs that deal with the more subtle aspects of ending a relationship, I personally come up short. I cannot think of songs that described the way I felt driving by the house we recorded our old album in. I can't think of any artistic output that matched the feelings of horror, of lifelessness, of utter fear that gripped me when I came back to Santa Monica after 3 months in Europe and a couple months living in San Diego. I saw ghosts on the streets. I felt like I was a time traveler and that there was a distinct possibility that I would run into my former self and my former love in the past, walking through the tunnel under the 10 freeway as we used to do. Meeting at the sink in the McCabe's staff kitchen. Discussing plans and trading responsibilities back and forth. Giving each other rides. Rehearsing together. Fighting bitterly. Making up lovingly and with many tears. Fighting even more bitterly. Breaking up. Getting back together, predictably. I could barely stand to be in my old neighborhood for over a year.
I try to think about the fading process that happened once I moved to San Diego, which I had to do in order to preserve the tiny shreds of myself that were left. A friend of mine here in Paris was talking about a recent breakup and she said, “I don't want the past to be a myth.” I can't think of songs that matched my feelings when I went from seeing things that reminded me of him every day, to seeing them once a week, to not seeing, not noticing them at all. It reminded me of a dying star; rays of light and warmth long gone but still requiring the massive time and space to travel from the logical center of my brain to the feeling center of my heart. The depth of the feelings required an even deeper space to process themselves. We don't talk about these things too much in our culture, I don't think. We want to rush to the end of a relationship to play the blame game, to be the first to move on, and it sometimes does work like that. Sometimes we get dumped and we are heartbroken, sometimes we end things and do the heartbreaking. And other times it's just too intense to be simple.
My pain, anger, regret, sadness, happiness, and joy waxed and waned like a rogue moon during most of the first year that we were apart. I think the songs capture that. And the irony is not lost on me that many of the songs people love the most and talk about the most at shows are songs I wrote about my ex. When we were in a band, I had to sing songs with him about his unrequited love affairs. Every night we performed together, I sung songs with him about his crush on a friend; now I'm alone and singing songs about how I used to love someone.
I don't know if these songs will fill the gap in artistic output that I'm talking about; I'm not sure they even do for me. I'm just sharing what was on my mind while working heavily on these songs. These are vulnerable songs, they're delicate songs, and they're songs deeply and truly, incredibly, from the heart. My heart.
Things like auto-tune, heavy compositing, and especially “perfection” are not a part of my work ethic. My aesthetic inspirations come mostly from the school of 1950's and 1960's R&B: virtually everything that came out of Motown and the Brill Building. I am also heavily inspired by the songs of Cole Porter, jazz music (especially from the 1930's and 1940's) and the artistry that came out of Tin Pan Alley in the earlier part of the century. I am not into the “newfangled” thing and anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that I spend most of my time living under a rock. In a mix or a song, I like hearing breaths, distortion when the recording technology can't quite capture the performance, slightly “off” notes, and anything that reminds me that I'm listening to another human being creating sounds with their imperfect body.
It's unusual for my work ethic to “sit” on songs for so long, but in this case, I'm happy I did so. I've been playing many of these songs out for two, three, four years and it shows. I've had time to develop these songs, time to let them breathe in front of a live audience, and that's been fun.
Thank you for listening. Please enjoy these songs.
released 15 November 2012
All music & lyrics written by Normandie Wilson
All instruments performed by Normandie Wilson with the help of:
Niklas Björk – bass on “Nobody Loves You (Like I Do)”
Conor Deasy – guitar on “Undercover” and “Nobody Loves You (Like I Do)”
Leia Hohenfeld – flute on “If Only”
Erik Sunding – drums on “Nobody Loves You (Like I Do)”
Gabriel Sundy – clarinet on “My Careful Lover”
All piano, except on “Nobody Loves You (Like I Do)” recorded by engineer J. Lopez (Casa De Lopez Recording)
at Kingsize Soundlabs in Los Angeles
All vocals recorded by engineer Erik Sunding (Discrete Motion Recordings) except “Like I Do,” recorded by engineer Walle Richardsson (Discrete Motion Recordings)
in Tambourine Studios, Malmö, Sweden
“Nobody Loves You (Like I Do)” mixed by Erik Sunding
“Undercover” mixed by Normandie Wilson
all other songs mixed by J. Lopez
Mastered by J. Lopez (Casa de Lopez Recording)
Additional mastering by Nate Clarke
Photography by Clémence Veilhan in Paris, France
Design by Bacilio Mendez II in New York, NY
and Megan Tarr in Los Angeles, CA