How A Song Happens: “Today”

I’m still in awe of the Memphis trio K9 Arts.  I never missed a show.  In their heyday back in the 1980s, I showed up for the scene and the beer and everything else, but through the haze, I was studying every note.  My band the Trainwreck shared many a bill with K9, and for a few months in between apartments, I also shared living space with bass player Craig Schindler in the loft above Dent Cleaners (now home of 3 Angels Diner) on Broad Avenue.

Dent Cleaners afforded minimum privacy.  You could hear what everyone else was doing whether you wanted to or not.  Parties, jam sessions, and general mayhem irregularly and  spontaneously erupted.  I rented the room next to artist/musician Robert Fordyce, and Craig lived with his girlfriend Diane Green in the back.  Craig and I were each growing as musicians and songwriters during this time, but neither of us was very happy.  Craig and Diane had a rocky relationship, and I spent most of my time alone in my room working on songs, trying to invent something I couldn’t name by shaping unknown notes into chords, inspired and influenced by the gauntlet of Craig’s playing and singing in K9.

Craig’s lyrics were inscrutable, changing and evolving from performance to performance, with lots of animals.  A particular favorite, “OSS” (for “Ostrich Suicide Song- one of my favorite K9 conventions was the acronym song titles) contains an ostrich, a newt, a frog, a fly, a bird, and a dog.  I’m still caught up by the tentative vulnerability of the vocal part juxtaposed with the majestic sweep of Jim Duckworth’s guitarring.

Months later, after I’d moved out, I came up with a song to Craig.  “Today” was the long-missing 3rd piece of what I’d been calling the K9 Arts Trilogy- even when there were only 2 pieces, a Jim song (“LAFF”) and a Rich song (“After Talking”).  To keep the song from coming across as smugly preachy, I came up with an instrumental break that’s both a nod to K9’s wild heaviness and an attempted foil to the song’s hopeful sweet lyrics.

“Happiness is within you, and it can be Today.”