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A Song is Meant to be Sung

David Curtis

There are those who pay attention to the words of a song, and those who let them stream by like a passing breeze. In my seemingly endless endeavor to stop apologizing for who I am (and am not), I have sometimes reckoned with a question: Are my songs really more about the lyrics than the music? It’s true the creative impetus usually begins with the words – and for me, ultimately the words to a song will keep it around or force its obselescence. I have often said and still believe that my songs are mainly “poetry put to music”. But, the lyrics I write for songs are specifically meant to be sung. They are often born within a melody and depend on the chords that accompany them.

Maybe I should consider myself a modern (female) troubadour – in that I take seriously the crafting of each lyric, and in keeping with that tradition, they belong inside a song.

A song that is meant to be sung to someone.

Yes, here I am still writing songs in my own poetic way, and I still need to sing these songs for others. (Have I been complicating this simple fact needlessly? For decades?)

For the month of October I will be playing every Wednesday at The Family Wash, in East Nashville. There’s a certain circuitous beauty for me about being back there – although it was the old location, I did a month-long (I think it was October) residency there years ago, just before recording Luminous, and with the incredible band that was on that record. We tracked live, and I know it would not have gone as well if we hadn’t had that experience the month before. This time I’m starting out spare, as a duo this first week, and hope to be adding members along the way. I’ll be taking the opportunity to play songs from the last decade or so – as well as of course, this crop of new songs I’ve been working on.

Also this month I am hoping to get up a new page on my website just for lyrics. There’s something about letting the words to my songs be seen so nakedly – without the music – that has always made me feel a little too vulnerable. Like they would be judged unfairly if taken out of their aural context. But I have to admit that as a listener myself, I’m always eager to read the words to songs. Reading the lyrics inside Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon record when I was in middle school (a relic I found of my mother’s) marked the beginning of my own path as a songwriter.

For now, here are the lyrics to “Goodbye Kiss”, from Birdlight – one I plan to play at the “late night residency” at some point.

For those of you who can be a night owl at least once this month, hope to see you at The Wash ~



When did you learn

Life can be savage

And unfair?


When did you learn

No number of tears

Can bring back the lost lamb?


When did you learn

Not every fallen feather

Needs to be gathered –


When did you learn

Although the road goes on


You don’t have to take it there…


Well I wish I’d learned

Long before this –

Every breaking morn

Arrives, like a goodbye kiss –


Songs from the east

Birds I cannot name

Busy bringing in a new day…

See how the creatures

Seem to just carry on

In the face, of so much lost


Well I wish I’d learned

Long before this –

Every breaking morn

Arrives now, like a goodbye kiss –


Unanswered questions

Unfinished visions

Keep hanging around

Like fog, in the trees ~


(Photo by Teresa Mason – 2007?)