Song: If Only

This is from a series of posts about songs from my album, Broken Open.

Writing

Track number five of Broken Open is If Only.

I wrote the song, If Only only a few days after experiencing the breakup that formed the basis of the second song, Alone Again. I had been playing around with the basic guitar riff in the context of a standard blues progression for a few months and I started hearing the melody taking shape as I played guitar out in my backyard.  At first I was singing along but without words until the lyrics began to take shape…

You wake with me in the morning sun
You cry with me when the day’s undone

When I breathe
I can feel that you’re inside of me

Girl, if you only knew how I love you
Girl, if you only knew how I love you

It’s  a sweet melody and it ended up being kind of an ode (epitaph?) to my newly lost relationship – what was and what could have been.  My heart was very open (broken open, in fact)  and I was really feeling deeply my connection to my former lover, regardless my current situation.  I remember how painful it could be whenever I would see ‘two’ of anything.  I would burst into tears just seeing our two towels on the rack in the bathroom…

I see you in every place I go
I see you in everything I do

I hear you in everything I say
I feel you with everything I am

The pain of the breakup woke me up in so many ways and I was suddenly much more present whenever we were together.  The time we spent together just after breaking up was surprisingly sweet and I was seeing our connection on the deepest levels…

In your eyes
I can see the deepest part of me

And I felt that deep connection regardless of whether we were together or apart…

When you’re near
Or you’re a million miles away

Of course, when we were apart, feeling that connection could be very painful – but that’s a topic for another song.

Recording

This song had a nice quality when performed with just voice and acoustic guitar, but I wanted to create something larger.  I wanted something that could capture the exhilaration and uplift I felt in the crescendos (When I breath…) whenever I would sing the song. Rich Lamb really outdid himself on this one with the keyboard parts.  I know this was his favorite track of the batch of songs we recorded first and his playing really shines on the piano and organ. And once he laid down his parts, the song really began to open up.

I loved the organ riff Rich played during the instrumental breaks that I used it to open the song.  It’s one of the wonderful things about digital recording that you can often change the arrangement of a song even after parts have been laid down.

When mixing this song, I thought a lot about what instruments I could cut from the different sections so that the texture of the song could change as it progressed.  I remember reading about Quincy Jones‘ recording style when he was always looking for what instruments he could leave out to create more space in the song and I always try to keep that in mind.  It’s often true that less is more. It’s all to easy to end up with an undifferentiated wall of sound where you can’t hear any of the instruments clearly. I’m usually trying to go for something that feels and sounds more intimate.

Style

The opening riff with the organ and guitar reminds me of Traffic.  I’ve always loved the keyboard textures that Steve Winwood used in that band.  I love three part harmonies and both CSN and The Roaches came to mind when I was recording them on this song.