A few years ago, I was writing to thank someone* for being such a good friend when the words “She’s lemonade in the shade of a summer afternoon,” popped into my head. I told her “You just inspired a new song, if I can pull it off.” At the time, I wasn’t so sure. Trying to capture a 30+ year friendship, and someone who is both playful and profound, in three verses and a chorus seemed daunting. After a few fits and starts, the spirit of our friendship mirthfully (and mercifully) took over. Appropriately so, given all the guffaw-ing Kathy and I have done over the years. This is the last song I wrote on my ukulele before I got sidetracked by the guitar. Kathy also plays the uke, so it's perfect that my last ukulele-song is for her.
The story behind Mimosa trees: In the first verse I ask, “Where do I begin?” One of my oldest, fondest memories of Kathy was our yearly Mimosa tree-hunting rides. She and I would hop on our bikes every August in search of the sweetest, late-summer scent on the planet. Kathy would always and repeatedly exclaim, “Mimosas make me so happy!” Years later, I learned about a medicinal herb called “He Huan Hua,” nicknamed “the happiness herb.” Turns out, the happiness herb is MIMOSA!
Beginner’s notes: As with all of my songs, I saw Lemonade In The Shade as an imaginary homework assignment for my imaginary Singer/Songwriting class. Tip #1: Honoring (clinging to) the Eternal Beginner archetype is very helpful when discouragement comes knock, knock, knocking on inspirations door.
Recording: I don't know about other Beginners, but survival-mode kicks in when I push the record button. My desire to get through a track in one take without mistakes is the first mistake I make. Tempo, timing, and tiny finesses never survive, and I always end up with pauses that are too long and too short. In LITS, I managed to put a bandaid on it here and there with a bit of finger-picking, but otherwise, I had to accept the error of my timing-ways. (For my song Empty Roads https://youtu.be/o8yDDCUYHX8, I put down a drum track first. Somehow that helped. Somehow, I forgot that it helped.) Tip #2: Before recording, set up multiple tracks (at least five). If you make a mistake, immediately jump to the next track, and continue from there. Repeat, if necessary. It's almost as good as getting the song done in one fell swoop, and it might eliminate all the stress-breathing picked up by the mic that you'll have to edit out later.
Originally, I thought this song would be an easy, little project—strum, sing, done! I set an imaginary deadline for August when the Mimosas would be in bloom. But the strum track was ho-hum. It needed notes, melody, flamenco flares! While I worked on the song, the Mimosa trees bloomed, wafted, and faded. I completely missed my imaginary deadline, though I did go on many happiness-bike rides.
Song structure: The lyrics in the second chorus are different than the first, and the two
bridges don’t match at all. How many songwriting rules did I break? (PS: If you want a hook, don’t do what I do.)
Wins: I think this is the first time I added parts of the melody to a song.
Loses: If you notice my picking fingers sound a little frantic, you’re not hearing things!
Realization: There’s no such thing as an easy, little project.
Video: I haven’t complained before, but I find iMovie pretty frustrating. When I flip between visual possibilities at warp speed, iMovie freaks out and freezes, my computer starts to wheeze, and the spinning beach ball appears. Apparently, iMovie can’t handle artistic frenzy!
*The sweet message from Kathy (about one of my videos) that inspired this song can be found here in the comment section: https://youtu.be/MZF2Ca79h7o