Have you ever been inspired by a seasonal moment and created something that needs to be shared with the world in that very season? It’s one thing to start filming a Christmas movie in the spring in anticipation of a winter release, but what if your family time at the pool inspired a song about the pleasures of summer? You can’t wait for the fall to release that one, right?
That’s exactly what happened with our family on July 4 weekend. We made our first pool visit of the year and 2-year-old Peanut was so enthralled with the experience that she didn’t want to come out of the pool after about 90 minutes in the water. The inspiration for the chorus came to me right away: “I wanna stay in the pool /until my fingers get pruny…” – such a quintessential childhood memory I saw playing out with our daughter.
Songwriting: The Family Business
Once we got home from the pool and Peanut went down quickly for a sunshine-and-exercise induced nap, Amy and I quickly brainstormed many pages worth of lyric ideas, to be later narrowed down to a page.
Our lyric ideas explored lots of possible ways kids experience the pool – swim lessons, pool toys, Marco Polo, pool safety, hygiene (Think “We don’t swim in your toilet” sign…), various swim strokes, and hanging out poolside with friends.
In the end, we chose a few sets of lines that worked well as verses and bridges.
When we recognized in Peanut’s overjoyed moments of the pool, the rites of childhood, summer and family came together as the basis for the song. An artist who vividly depicts childhood as he seems to remember it is Justin Roberts. So, with Justin’s model, Amy and I were prepared to know we were in a song-worthy moment with Peanut and set out to capture it.
A benefit of knowing who is influencing you is a heightened awareness not to copy your influence too closely. This awareness kicked in after recording the first rough demo. The chorus’ original lyrics were:
I want to stay in the pool
‘Til my fingers get pruny
Spend all day in the pool
Do you think that sounds looney?
‘Til my ears get water-logged and then for a while more
Isn’t that what summertime is for?
We felt we had a strong grasp on the importance of the moment, but for some reason, I decided to re-visit a Justin Roberts song about the pool that I had heard months ago – “Kickboard Baby Yeah,” and caught a line that hadn’t consciously registered with me: “Then we’ll know what summertime was for.”
Well, if my reference to “what summertime is for” were a throwaway line somewhere in a verse, I would have found it easily expendable – but at the culmination of the chorus? Now, we have a situation! Fortunately, Amy and I were talking with my parents about the developing song and summertime memories about the pool. When I had mentioned pruny fingers and water-logged ears, my Mom added: “Don’t forget blue lips. That’s when your Grandma said it was time to get out of the pool!”
By recalling that moment in the conversation, we came up with another strong image to close out the chorus and still make an important statement about summer.
Our last two lines became:
‘Til my ears get water-logged and my lips turn a little blue
I want to soak up this summer day with you
Setting the Musical Stage
A bouncy rhythm came to mind, so I programmed a bouncy rock/pop shuffle drum loop into GarageBand and extended the loop for a suitable song length. Then I recorded a rhythm guitar part with steady quarter notes marking each “bounce” in the beat. I added a guide vocal and shared it with Amy and Peanut. They seemed to enjoy it and Peanut requested to hear it again and again – always a good sign.
I focused our next band rehearsal entirely on this new song. First I played the demo while they looked over the chord chart, and then we dug into each section of the song, one at a time, repeating it until it felt natural to all the players.. Casey was improvising some wonderful backing vocals reminiscent of doo-wop and Motown. I stopped the band in order to highlight what Casey was doing and ask that she keep that in the song and develop it.
I pressed ‘Record’ on my iPhone’s Voice Memos app in the room with the band to capture a live rehearsal. I passed the song along to our producer, Dave and asked him for the first studio date he could get us. He heard an “instant classic” in the raw recording, just as I had. A week later we would be recording this song to get it ready for radio and commercial release.
Dave wisely suggested we shorten the song a bit, as we both sensed strong potential for a hit record if the arrangement is tight. I shortened the intro, the “Marco Polo” breakdown in the middle of the song, and reduced a double-chorus at the end of the song down to a single chorus. Now we were under the 4-minute mark. We were ready to record.