Making "But Only If"
This post is written by Cathy Terranova.
I'm not sure what people imagine when they think about the musical creative process. I used to think of it in a very small way. You had a person write a song, then, the same person would play his or her instrument and make a melody. This product was then delivered to a band and each member added something. From there, a song was born.
In a similar fashion, many of Beggars' songs have been constructed.
I would listen and sing melodies and harmonies to the preference of (usually) Sly, and that was the extent of my contribution. Add a few lyrical verses and some vocal coaching and, creatively, that's about the extent of it. Certainly I could nod my head with the best of them, but most of the time it didn't occur to me to have creative input. Especially at first, I was more or less on a speak-when-spoken-to platform.
As things evolved I developed not just a singing voice that was all my own, but a creative one as well. Behind many keyboards and for many hours I poured over lyrics with Sly. The words seemed wholly mine at first, lighting up the page or smoothly gliding from my lips; tiny, sweet victories of something I had done. But with every performance and practice, everything bled together. They weren't MY words any more. Each song was its own. It belonged to none of us. In the truest sense, and without being dramatic, they began to belong to GOD. Effortlessly, I found myself ceasing to keep creative "score". For the practical use to denote distinction, this song or that song was merely "Zack's" or "Lindsay's" or "Sly's" just to know who was singing lead when.
Then, Sly and Nathaniel asked me to write a song for the album. I could tell you which lyrics I've written for what song, but honestly they don't matter to me. Not like any of my poetry. And certainly not like "But Only If".
That song is the beat of my heart set to rhythm and all my flowery vocabulary stripped down to just simply, what I needed to say. It wasn't, "just a song to put on the album", it was a conversation I'd been putting off. It just so happened that a very intimate prayer ended up on the album, not that I had written something to try and be deep. GOD very much inspired every part of the song.
I fought for not perfection, but sincerity. Each piece was important, even if I didn't know how to word it. I fumbled and fought and clapped and even cussed to get it where I felt comfortable. And with the trust that can only come from having every kind of fight and nearly every kind of triumph you can have with another person, I gave my perfectly bare song to Sly for dressing. Knowing, he knew just how to tailor the debut accompaniment to my naked prayer.
If you think that description an exaggeration, go make some music.
I've written lots of songs. Most of which have been set to the capable, trusted hands of my friend and fellow troublemaker, Eric.
Those are different, duplicitous, half truths hidden between absolute truths and absolute lies.
"But Only If" is as close to my heart as one can get without danger of the intense inconvenience of loving me.
To have it placed among songs that have passed through my hands so many times as to feel like old friends is an honor. To know that maybe, because of the unapologetic boldness of recording it and slaving over it, it may inspire something in someone else is an even higher honor.
I don't know what you imagine or will imagine as you listen, but "But Only If" is not exceptional. Each song was tediously loved and woven into existence.
Is there another song you'd like to hear about?
To hear more of Cathy's story outside the band you can check out her blog,
In and Out: And Other Useful Breathing Techniques
Her book, "Before the Dawn", is available online at lulu.com
Follow her on Twitter @CaffySupernova
Or keep up with her artistic ventures via Facebook