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Song Sources: Out of My Mind

July 9, 2020

This is part of an ongoing series about our recordings. To read more in this series, click on the category “Song Sources: Stories behind the recordings.”

Looks and sounds 50 years old.

This classic country song was one of my 2017 February Album Writing Month compositions. The song was really born out of the desire to use the ambiguous wording of the phrase in the title: Because while most of the time it refers to someone being crazy, it can also just mean that you aren’t thinking about something. So a breakup song it was.

Lyrics

Once I had the title, the lyrics came fairly easily. One of the only lines I remember struggling with was the second line — I wanted to reuse the word “worry” from the first line in the sense of the potentially physically damaging act of “worrying” something.

I was eventually led to the (rather unpleasant) mental image of picking at a sore. Luckily the word “sore” fit the rhyme that I’d already established by ended all the verses with “anymore,” and I was off to the races:

I used to worry you would leave me
I’d worry myself sore
About things that would displease you
Now I don’t worry anymore

I put your out of my mind
When I close my my eyes
Honey believe me I don’t
mean to be unkind
I put you out of my mind

I used to miss the golden sunsets
And the birds outside the door
And the way your curls fell on your neck
But I don’t miss them anymore

I used to tell you that I love you
But I can’t do that anymore

The lead-in to the final chorus, which currently works a little like a bridge, started as a full verse, but unfortunately I’ve lost the first two lines!

There’s not much clever going on here lyrically. There are some rules to writing classic country songs, one of which is the dictum that you say what you mean and say it plainly. That’s not to say that there aren’t any clever country songs, but if you don’t have a killer story to tell it’s best to stick to the basics.

Music

While I was playing around with the chords, I knew I wanted something that sounded familiar but resolved in an unexpected way. Here, I’ve used the minor chord at the end of the second and fourth lines in the verse to provide a different type of tension than the typical chord progression based around I – IV – I – V7, with the dominant seventh wanting to go back to the I chord. Instead, the verse ends on that Bm, which acts as a stand-in for both the tonic and, if you squint, the II7 (also common in many country songs) before “resolving” to the V chord under that bouncy little bass walkdown that leads into the chorus. The bass walkdown is absolutely the hook for the song, and it tends to get stuck in my head.

I had been practicing the piano quite a bit starting with the 2016 FAWM album, so when it came to constructing the solo, I knew that I wanted to have the guitar and piano trade off. I played around with both instruments during the instrumental verse and chorus, and the piano offered a bit more of a detatched stateliness during the chorus, which fit the “I don’t give a darn” nature of the lyrics best. I thought about writing a slide part (as a stand-in for the steel guitar), but ultimately decided that I didn’t want this to necessarily sound like a generic country song, so the instrumentation remained simple.

Recording

The FAWM 2017 songs were produced a little differently overall than the older songs on the album. One big change was that I had built a stereo rack compressor, which I generally used on the vocals and electric guitars during tracking, but even more importantly during the final mixing of each song. This became a bit of a challenge during “mastering” (such as it is) all the songs on the album, because I didn’t go back and perform the same final mix process on the older tracks. The low end on the older tracks wasn’t as consistent, and I missed out on some of the character, but it proved too much to remix the older songs entirely with the revised final mixing chain in mind, so I left them as-is.

By 2017, I also had some microphones that better fit my voice and the character of some recordings (here it’s a FET microphone I built with a U47-style capsule), and further I was recording in our library (the other bedroom), which is treated but smaller than the dining room where I had been recording the older songs. The room size definitely helped make this song sound intimate even with heavy reverb. (You can also hear how dry the room is during the bridge, when I turn down the reverb.)

The guitar is my Sheraton 50th Anniversary, played with a pick. Since I lost some of the notes for this song, I don’t know which amp I used. I suspect, listening to the raw recording, that it is direct to a preamp. The piano is the Roland FP5, played with my fingers. As usual, the drums are played by the computer. Originally the song didn’t have a bass, but I found that it sounded too bright and stark without it, so after FAWM was over I went back to this song and added the bass (also direct) for a major improvement to the song’s overall feel.

I steered clear of too much digital manipulation here, sticking mainly to reverb and a couple milliseconds of delay to add space. I will admit, however, that the backing vocals are autotuned in this one.

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