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1980. no balloons. [k.s. friday]

no balloons

1980.  it’s not often i have listened to this song since four decades ago when i recorded it.  i was a mere 20.  listening to it warbling now, in the way that only old cassettes can warble, has been a mixed bag:  this cassette master, with little studio experience, with reel-to-reel recording, with no auto-tune for my young nervous soprano-ish voice, with too-sweet flute lines and picked guitar, measures-too-long-instrumental-interlude; i am catapulted back.

it is shocking to hear the innocence.  it is shocking to hear the pain.  if my wednesday post this week was too much, i would hasten to add that this will be as well.  this is a song about stripping a young woman of choice, of what should be the blissful love of first intimacy, of no justice, of no opportunity to process.  it’s the story of sexual assault in the late 1970s.  it’s the story of sexual assault any time.  it changes everything.  every trajectory.  it’s my story.

NO BALLOONS is a song of the times.  especially for someone who listened to john denver, james taylor, carole king, joni mitchell, bread, loggins and messina, america, england dan & john ford coley, the carpenters – the A-team of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-interlude-chorus.  simple melodies, simple instrumentation, simply written, simply sung.

i can’t believe i didn’t write it in the vein of led zeppelin or kiss.  it should have been a screaming heavy metal song, full of pointed weapons of anguish, of power-stripped anger.  instead, it sounds like a sweet love-gone-bad song, “you take away my hopes, my dreams, you give me no balloons to fly.”  only it’s not.  it’s about no air.  no breath.

“and now with my eyes closed, i no longer see the pain in yours or feel it in mine…”  and that was a product of the times as well.  i closed my eyes and silenced my voice.  i stopped feeling it.  or did i?  “and i cried as long as the rain lasted and when it stopped i stopped.” was it really that simple?

until this week i really never thought i would share this song again.  after all, the song is 40 years old; i’m an alto, perched firmly on the tenor shore.  but somehow, between the #MeToo movement and the swirling-around-us-in-the-world-contention and public court battles in recent media and the lack of regard for those who truly need help or healing and my aunt’s texted article and the weeping inside of my younger-self and my silenced-silence, it felt like it was time to be vulnerable and candid and believe that our muddy-boots-narratives might make a difference for someone else.

we each have a story, a timeline, an arc that takes us through this life.  things we want to remember in detail, things we desperately want to forget.  things we have lived boisterously out loud, things we have lived in despairing silence.  the tapestry that holds all these threads together is the soul of our experience, the way we can hear others and truly listen, the empathy we can employ in a world that seems to cite MeFirst instead of UsTogether.

i wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone.  i’m pretty sure that every day since those-dark-days-in-the-late-70s i have both been affected and have effected because of them.  i have made choices and non-choices, taken action and had reflexive reaction.  i have searched for answers.

but i also know that my heart was blown open.  i am not standing on a different rung of the ladder, too high up to understand or remember, too discurious to ask, too blinded to see, too discriminating or apathetic to care.

i am next to anyone who needs me to listen, really listen.  i am next to anyone who needs me to jump and catch their balloons before they have flown too far to reach.

 

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NO BALLOONS ©️ 1980 kerri sherwood

 

 


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rough cuts. [k.s. friday]

you're here songbox 2

rough cuts.  there are lots of them.  recorded on an iRiver or an iPhone so i don’t forget.  scraps of paper with lyrics and chord indications, rhythms jotted above the words, a few melodic notes scribbled in the margins or throughout the page.  songs that haven’t yet been recorded.  songs that may some day be recorded.  songs that will never be recorded.  rough cuts.

before the cantata i prepared for this holiday season i had carefully selected music – all contemporary pieces, all meaningful lyrics that i felt would resonate with those watching, making the experience touch their hearts.  but, as i mentioned in a past post, i’m pretty picky and there was this one song.  after playing around with it with the band, i deleted it from the line-up.  with a spot still to fill in-between narrative, i decided to write a new song to fill the slot.  this is the song i wrote –  YOU’RE HERE – and you can listen to a very rough cut of it recorded on my iPhone played on an out-of-tune church piano if you click here.

it’s been a long while since i recorded an album.  more time has passed than i ever thought possible.  i wonder which songs in my rough cut collection will make it onto the next album.  i wonder if there will be a next album.

in the meanwhile, i’ll keep paper by the piano and have my cellphone ready.  the iRiver is in the drawer, along with the microcassette recorder and a pile of cdr’s.  maybe the presence of at-the-ready songs will eventually tilt the earth and i’ll be back in the studio.  maybe people buying cds will come back into vogue.  maybe i will record on vinyl (again).  maybe it will all be virtual.  more to stream.  (note my tone of voice.)  maybe.

or maybe i’ll just put the piano at full stick, pull up a boom stand, throw on a mic and sing.

listen to the rough cut of YOU’RE HERE by clicking here or on the image just below:

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YOU’RE HERE ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood


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before and after. galena. [k.s. friday]

galena songbox

your toes curl.  your breathing is shallow.  adrenaline rushes.  your legs are a little shaky. your hands feel tingly.  butterflies in your belly.  you are on the edge.  in that tiny place between before and after.

i gingerly walked to the edge of the canyon, my daughter encouraging me.  at the moment i stood there, feet firmly planted, no guardrail, nothing between me and canyon wall, my heart slowed down and i breathed in both the enormity of the moment and the taste of both before and after.  my girl and i laughed, loudly, the sound echoing across the vast canyon.  and then, it was after.

i sat at the piano, ready to record this first piece GALENA of the first album, 24 years ago, savoring the safety of before but ready for after.  at the edge of the put-it-all-out-there canyon, i walked onto the stage, brand new cds in the lobby, ready, with quivering knees and boots that gave me confidence.  and then, in what felt like a minute, it was after.

now, many album and stage edges later, many life and love moments later, many work and play split-seconds later, i wonder what the next after will be.  i can feel the edges; i can see them.  i’m aware of my toes curling.  my breathing is shallow and adrenaline rushes.  my legs are a little shaky and my hands feel tingly, butterflies in my belly.  there is a canyon beckoning.

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GALENA from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

 


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(it is) as it is. [k.s. friday]

AS IT IS songbox copy.jpg

ken calls this my MUSH album.  he is an amazing producer and i feel fortunate to call him my dear friend as well.  he produced 14 of my albums and, although one of my albums and a few vocal singles were done in nashville, now i can’t really imagine any other recording projects without him.

MUSH stands for made-up-shi* and is aptly named.  this album came at a really inspired time for me.  artists have their highs and lows, inspiration-wise, and this was one of the highs.  i’ve mentioned the story before, but i’ll short-story it here again:  i had a list of titles – titles i wanted to use eventually for compositions; i carried a notebook and scraps of paper everywhere i went.  i had this list with me as i recorded two other full-length albums in nyc at yamaha artist services.  in-between recording the two other albums, i would choose a title and play it.  simply play it.  my heart is laid out in the tracks of this cd; every title was meaningful to me, every piece tells what it means.

AS IT IS is the title track so it’s interesting that i gave over the melody line to a flute, the only piece on all of my albums that has a flutist playing.  it’s also rare for me to step away from the piano and, in the production-post-initial-recording phase, play a keyboard.  but life is like that. you have to give over sometimes.  the texture changes.  the melody isn’t yours to own; sometimes you are support staff.  make peace with it.  it is as it is.

AS IT IS:  life.  we are right here…where we are supposed to be in this part of the journey…the best time is now.  simply because life is as it is. (liner notes)

purchase and download the album AS IT IS on iTUNES or CDBaby

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AS IT IS from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

 

 


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a painting is born. [d.r. thursday]

andthentheydancedprocess

i have a unique front row seat to paintings in process.  running downstairs to throw in another load of laundry or seek out a tool i need, i will glance at the easel in the studio to peek at what’s up next…this time, the sketch of two people dancing made me stop.  it immediately made me thinking of when we have danced in the front yard or the kitchen or out on the deck or on a mountain trail.  i got lost in the tango and wandered back upstairs, no new laundry spinning in the washer or tool in my hand.

the next time i looked at the easel i found these two people emerging and color exploding off the canvas.  i have learned, in this time of living with a brush-in-hand-artist, that this is the under-painting, a place that involves steps at which i often want to tell him to stop!wait!it’s perfect!  sometimes he does – stop.  other times he keeps going, for the vision in his mind’s eye is beyond what is on the easel and there is more to develop.

it’s a unique place in the front row.  maybe more comparable to back-stage or the green room or the recording studio before “record”…a place of preparation, a place of reflection, a place of swirling beauty, a place of possibility, a place where the-painting-someone-dreams-of-hanging-on-their-wall is being born.

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and then they danced ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 


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count on you [k.s. friday]

count on you song box copy

i drove back and forth and back and forth to nashville when i recorded this album, each time returning with a cd of the work we had done on the album.  i’d play it numerous times, taking notes to share with my producer, re-writing, practicing, sometimes sharing the songs-where-they-were-at-the-time with others.

joan was the one who told me i needed a “strong woman” song included on this album.  so i walked across the street home, directly into my studio and wrote one.

now, this isn’t my favorite song – it’s a little kitschy if you ask me – but i have had many tell me how much they like it and one of my favorite performances of it was when beth’s students sang it.  (i was long-term-subbing for her. she’s a dear friend and an amazing choir teacher in a middle school in our district.)  those kids really rose to the occasion and kitschy fell by the wayside in favor of strength and power and belief in themselves.

recently d and i listened to some of my first recordings.  they were from 1979-80 and recorded in a studio in a town called port washington on the north shore of long island.  i had found a cassette (now isn’t that retro word dating me!) and we have a boombox (another retro word) that plays cassettes so we settled in to listen to the three songs on what would now be called an EP.

one of the songs is called leaving and is a song i wrote for my parents as they retired and moved from our long island home to florida.  i remembered that song well.

the other two?  well, it’s funny.  i could sing every word, but i didn’t remember the intense emotion behind them.  THESE were my #metoo songs, i discovered (rediscovered?) as i listened.  one of these days i might share these songs, not because they are great songs but because they are truth and every artist has songs that are life-defining.  not the ones necessarily that chart (although those are lovely, indeed!) but the ones that speak from deep inside, with lyrics or music that must be spoken.  these two songs were written by a vulnerable (and pretty angry) young woman who wanted to unleash the power of her crayon and live out loud, who definitely wanted to live without fear, who tried hard to break away from an experience i still would rather forget and who prayed – alone at the time – beseeching words.  all this is what i wrote about in this week’s melange.

my heart goes out to all those women who are also card-carrying #metoo survivors.  the out-loud ones and the silent ones.  my wish for each of you: unleash your crayon, live without fear, break away, pray with another, count on you.

from this song of today’s melange post COUNT ON YOU, which may be more #metoo and less kitschy than i thought,  “just move forward and then believe – you gotta trust…in you.”

DOWNLOAD the song COUNT ON YOU track 12 AS SURE AS THE SUN on iTUNES or CDBaby or purchase the CD on kerrisherwood.com

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COUNT ON YOU from AS SURE AS THE SUN ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood


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freefallin’ in love. [k.s. friday]

freefallininlove songbox copy

you can’t help but listen to country music when you are in nashville. there’s something about the storytelling in country songs that i can really identify with.  i love telling a good story.  ok, i even love bad stories.  i’m sure there are a slew of people rolling their eyes around me most times i am talking.  when i was writing for this album and traveling back and forth to the studio in nashville, i decided i wanted one of the songs to be a little bit of a nod to that genre, of which i am a big fan.  i wrote this song on a single page of notebook paper on an airplane.  some songs just show up.  my favorite part is the happy ending. 🙂

download FREEFALLIN’ IN LOVE track 9 on AS SURE AS THE SUN on iTUNES or CDBaby or PURCHASE THE CD (or several hundred for your closest friends)

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FREEFALLIN’ IN LOVE from AS SURE AS THE SUN ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood


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peace. as it is. [k.s. friday]

peace song box

i distinctly remember recording this.  i was at yamaha artist services in nyc and it was winter.  the word “peace” was on a list of words i wanted to use as titles for pieces.  “peace” is a big word for me….i’ve talked about how there are peace signs and the word peace all over our home and it was no different when i wrote this.  the trouble with writing and using a big word is that you feel an imperative to make it count.  there is a kind of heavy emphasis on this choice to use THIS word as a title – that you write well enough to support such a big word, that you do it justice, that it FEELS what the word feels like.  it’s super-charged with self-induced pressure.

but the moments i spent composing this were extraordinarily special and i was wrapped in a cloak of peacefulness and love.  it is not a complex piece of music; it has a repeating theme and, like a song with lyrics, returns to that theme again and again.  like statement-question-answer-lift-statement-question-answer-lift structure.

“it’s fine” ken, in his infinite wisdom, orchestrated this so my heart weeps with gratitude each time i listen.  cello lines and strings and french horn pull the simple melody out of the place of simplicity and reach, for me, a depth of being.

every artist has compositions that are their favorites, the ones that really express who they are. maybe it’s because i can so distinctly remember initially recording this.  maybe it’s because i remember being back in the studio in chicago with ken as he tracked the other instrumentation.  maybe it’s because it’s THAT word, the piece with THAT title.    regardless of the reason, THIS is one of mine.

download PEACE track 5 on AS IT IS on iTunes or on CDBaby

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PEACE from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood