Part One / Inspiration
I was recently in London, visiting an old friend who was performing in her first professional production. After the show we returned to her flat through the twisted streets and great caverns of London, buying wine on the way, burning with anticipation of the conversation that always envelopes between us when we commit a few hours to one another's company. As always, the conversation slipped into that abyss of a subject from which one is lucky to return with any sense of clarity... Love.
She told me of her first and only love, from which she feels she has never nor will ever recover, and quoted a character from the TV series Orange is the New Black that struck me so deeply as soon as it was said I paused the conversation and reached for my notebook..."Why do you always feel so inevitable to me?" I had never seen the show and knew nothing of the characters, but it didn't matter. Sometimes the smallest moment, look, phrase or word can spark inspiration, immediately opening up before the creative mind a thousand possible avenues to journey down.
Hearing the word inevitable used in reference to a relationship was one such spark, a context in which I had never heard it used before. The tragedy of it struck me... The blind belief that a love is inevitable, but the truth being that such a love is dependent upon the many choices and unstable, wavering feelings of another person.
I left my friend early in the morning to catch a flight back to Edinburgh for work, and with one hour of sleep and two bottles of wine in me my mind began to churn over all that we spoke, but most of all that one word. Before my plane left the ground I had jotted down a few ideas.
Part Two / Research and Writing
Like most composers I write most often at the piano, but in my early days as a songwriter in rock and pop bands I wrote almost entirely on guitar, and for this song I wanted to go back to those roots to find a more authentic, raw sound.
The first task was finding the hook, which I knew had to be some variation of the "inevitable" quote! This rough recording from my phone is the earliest example I can find of these first efforts, and although none of these lyrics made the final song, you can hear the roots of the 'inevitable' phrase that would form the base of the lyric.
Early lyrics drew heavily on that conversation in London and explored the idea of a past lover surfacing in one's consciousness, seemingly involuntarily;
"Every book that I read, there you were // every girl I took to bed, there you were // I tasted you on every tongue // I smelt your sweat on everyone // I've not begun to lose the chain you spun out of your unwashed hair"
Research into the Orange is the New Black characters (Piper and Alex) soon made me realised that there was a far grittier side to their deeply complex, lustful and humorous relationship. It became clear that the song needed a darker, funnier, filthier edge and this recording shows an early effort at finding this, returning to my old blues rock style of guitar playing;
I then finally started watching the series and began to pick out lines in the fight scenes between Alex and Piper that worked beautifully as lyrics;
"Rule number one, never fall in love with a straight girl // Is that what you think this is about? I like dick?"
I could hear the rhythms and melodies straight away, and from then on the song took form pretty naturally.
Part Three / Rehearsal
As a song begins to take form my ear always wonders what kind of voices would lend themselves well, and I had two very talented friends in mind for this one... Gemma, whose vocal versatility really shone when she played Elizabeth in my show A Gentleman's Game... and Kathryn, whose voice I knew had that same versatility - I heard the fire when we sang Come Together in a trio at a cabaret, and I heard that velvet touch of her jazz voice when I first heard her perform a rendition of My Funny Valentine.
My method of teaching music to singers can often frustrate them... basically I sing lines at them and have them sing it back (I rarely write down any music at all!) I have found that when the process of learning music is this organic and primitive, quite often as actors sing the music back to me it returns with inflections, slight alterations that the singer has placed on the music quite naturally and quite by accident. More often than not these inflections improve the quality of the line, and in their mistakes a singer can stumble upon a perfect note, lyric or dynamic that I would never have found otherwise!
Here's a couple of clips from our one and only rehearsal together;
Part Four / Performance
From being moved by a brilliant one liner delivered in conversation by a teary eyed friend in London, to a fiery romantic duet based on the tumultuous relationship between Alex and Piper performed in Edinburgh. Thanks for reading this journey, I hope enjoy the final product.
(lyrics beneath video)
How did I not see this coming? / No wait, I did / Rule number one, never fall in love with a straight girl!
Is that what you think this is about... I like dick? / I guess that is much easier / Than facing the fact that you're a drug dealer / And it's ruining everything good in your life / Is it any wonder why I left you and the shit you pulled me into
You loved it / You loved it / You were just this boring little girl from Connecticut / Who wanted to feel special and bad / I didn't hear any complaints when I flew you all around the world / So why disappear? / And why come back?
I was in love and it was all crazy / And then it got, scary / And I ran away and became the nice girl I thought I should be / But you were inevitable / You feel so inevitable to me
Every book that I read, there you were / Every girl I took to bed, there you were / I tasted you on every tongue / I smelt your sweat on everyone / I've not begun to lose the chain you spun out of your unwashed hair / And I don't care / I'd spend eternity there with you
I never forgave you for leaving 'cause you broke my fucking heart / I dealt with my pain in the usual way, pumping shit in my veins / But even alone in that place
I knew you were inevitable / Like summer turning to winter / You were always so inevitable / Tearing leave down from all the trees / Tell me this is inevitable...
You and me