Remembering The Forgotten Place, part one, writing the music.
When I first read the words, I saw the story of someone who had traveled so far he was unable to get back home, not just physically but mentally. For me, this unquenchable longing inspired a chord progression and melody that together are meant to evoke the feeling of a person trying to get up a hill to some idealized place, but never quite making it. The progression starts on a major, which is full of optimism, and climbs upward, but ultimately slides back to a minor as hope and optimism dissipate. The chorus reflects a mood of "well, I may not be able to get back home, but I've sure had a hell of a journey".
When Dave heard the first demo he said he liked everything, but struggled to be able to remember to final notes of the chorus melody. To me, however, I liked the way those last notes for "called home" are hard to remember how to sing, because that is what the song is saying, I think, that home has become hard to remember. But there were other, bigger problems: one, I could not think of good music for the middle 8 and two, when I played the demo for Catherine she instinctively felt that the verses wern't quite right. * Once I calmed down, I realized she had a point, and I put off solving the middle 8 issue for while to noodle on ideas for a fix. This must have been happening around the end of 2008, because I remember working on the song when we were in Hawaii (see photo). In fact, I'm pretty sure I remember being in our Kona coast hotel room with my Steinberger guitar and playing Catherine the new chord progression I was thinking about for the verse – actually, it was the same progression she'd already heard, but with one change – and she said she liked it. Mai Tai!
Back home from Hawaii, I started working on the middle 8. This went on for months. I would sit in the living room at night with the lights off and the harbor lights outside the window flickering on the water and The Maton (hallelujah!) in my lap and a lyric sheet and just noodle and noodle and noodle. I can't remember the exact night, but at some point I honed in on the notion of a strongly church-going chord progression, one with a couple of good "amen choruses", or movements from the IV to the I (D to A and A back to E, in this case). This meshed with the confessional feel of the words and seemed to be the missing bit for the song. Still, I had to get to the middle 8 and then get out of it! Argh, so much to do! Again, after much additional noodling, I hit on the groove you hear before the middle 8 begins and the outro from the middle 8, which was somehow Beatles inspired (from the Abbey Road period). Then I had the harebrained notion of ending the song with a verse and chorus that are different from the verses and choruses at the beginning of the tune. There was method to the madness, though! After all, the song is about never being able to go back home, so why should the song go back home?
In part two, I'll do my best to recount how this song came together in the studio and over the phone, on the Internet and even at a bar. Till then, please visit Dave's blog to read about lyrics to The Forgotten Place.
* The original progression was E, B, C, B, C, D, Em, with the offending chord being that first C. I'll talk about the new progression and the music in general in the next post.