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On Writing. And regarding “Which Road Takes Me Home.”
by michael j merenda, jr. ∞
Writing for me has always been a refuge. Particularly songwriting. And on my best days it’s as natural (and as necessary) as breathing.
I don’t know how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t have had this outlet growing up. While I have learned over time to write all sorts of styles of songs, my favorite (and perhaps the most cathartic) are the songs that are impressionistic rather than literal. The ones that sound right, feel right, more so than “make sense.” (Making songs that make sense has never been very high on my priority list.)
I write songs that feel right. They’re not all necessarily best suited for public consumption. Some are jagged, obscene, obtuse. Some are too sweet, too simple, too sad, too ecstatic. But they’re all mine. Mine, mine, mine! They can exist no where else and in no other space and in no other time. In no other way. Other than my own.
I owe all my music education to my mentors. Some of these folks were school teachers. Extra curricular after school program organizers. Folks who floated me just the right record at just the right time. Friends (so many friends) who taught me a guitar chord or three or turned me onto The Beatles. Dylan. DiFranco. Dan Bern. Richard Buckner. Syd Barrett. Hank Williams. Malvina Reynolds. Liz Phair. Utah Phillips. J Mascis. Operation Ivy. Tom Waits. Nina Simone. Pete & Woody.
Probably more than anyone else John Lennon has been my guiding light. John created songs for mass consumption as well as epically solipsistic reveries of acutely personal catharsis. “In My Life” and “Across the Universe.” “Imagine” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” “Come Together.” “Revolution.” “Revolution #9.” “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier, Mama.” “Love.” “Working Class Hero.” Political. Emotional. Woke. Raw. Real. Worldly. Otherworldly. Confused. Confusing. Confounding. Fearless. Fun. Revealed. Whole.
Whatever “Which Road Takes Me Home” is, it’s born of all of this. Five terse verses couched in a folk form and recorded with a wall of ukuleles, swirling loops, accidental drums, dulcet harmonies, old time fiddle, “space mando” and friends. Friends friends friends.
Each verse tells a different story. A snapshot, a vignette. And if you were to pin me down and ask me: well, it’s a song of acceptance. Accepting the moment. Accepting that you can’t know all the answers and you can’t make just the right move every time. But we move forward: it’s the only option available.
May every youth have access to their own vehicle of expression and reflection. A place where they’re free to express their own identity and experience. And for that expression to manifest as literally or surrealistically as they see fit or as the muse abides. Transformation starts from within. And with the slightest puff of intention our deepest most inner dreams and whimsies may surface and come to life. Become externalized. Become us.
December 10, 2018
released December 10, 2018
Mike Merenda: guitar, ukulele, SK-5, vocals
Ruth Ungar Merenda: fiddle, vocal
Konrad Meissner: drums
Jacob Silver: bass
Ken Maiuri: keys
Charlie Rose: pedal steel
Sarah Jarosz: space mando
Lucas Miller: harmony vocal
Recorded by Adam Armstrong at Humble Abode Music, West Hurley, NY. Additional tracking by Robin MacMillan at Faraway Sound, Brooklyn, NY. Mixed by Mike Merenda at Humble Abode Music.