What Might Be Risked?
Since I released Your Fool, there have been few funny comments: “Is your marriage doing alright?” (said to my husband). “You wrote ALL the songs?” “You have such a happy life and yet sometimes your songs don’t align with that.” I don’t mind comments like these - it’s clear that the person commenting actually listened to my lyrics. I love words and lyrics must make sense to me. But it bears explaining how I write my songs, and whether these songs come from my own experience. The simple answer is yes, and no.
When I write, what works best for me is to start with something I overheard out of context; it might sound like a metaphor for one of life’s common experiences, or maybe it just makes me laugh. The phrase becomes the diving board, and into the pool I dive. I’ll use Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit as an example. I love this Southernism, which is another way of saying, “Well, what do ya know?” The phrase caught my fancy, and I wondered what would rhyme with ‘biscuit’. Suddenly my brain is entertaining: “Butter my butt, and call me a biscuit, I can’t tell if you would risk it.” Hmm. What might be risked? My experience kicks in. I learned early on that things didn’t happen if I wasn’t willing to make the first move. So now I envision a gal trying to goad a recalcitrant guy into a tryst, and the refrain of a song appears.
Butter my butt, and call me a biscuit
I can’t tell if you would risk it,
So screw up your courage so I can see if
You want to screw around with me.
There’s the central theme! Hey, you are attractive to me, can I convince you that we should try this on? Now the song has a job to do; it needs to explain the story behind the refrain, so the verses start to form. I consider rhymes I like, turns of phrase that are part of my vocabulary that support the story that unfolds, literally as I write it. I also love how mood creeps in, humor in this song, partly because traditional male/female roles are switched, and partly because butter my butt sounds like a crude suggestion for some kind of sexual fetish.
Is this song about something that actually happened to me? Maybe in a general way, but it’s not about a specific event, so no. But it does get filtered through my vocabulary, and the collection of experiences I’ve had, so yes! Some of my songs are inspired by real experiences, so are autobiographical. My California, Only One Dance, Little Waltz Lullaby for Kent are examples. But most of what I write is the combined result of general experience and my own peculiar soup of words and humor. And for the record, I have never had anyone actually butter my butt!