Track by Track: Float
One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is to just go with the flow and to not let things bother me so much. If “beating yourself up” were an Olympic sport, I’d be a world champion many times over.
I wrote Float a few years ago, a little after Diving Bell. I thought about my tendency to put myself down a lot, for letting things drag me down. It fit perfectly with an activity I’d taken up at that time: learning how to swim.
I didn’t learn how to swim until I was in my thirties. I never went to the beach as a kid and I just never learned how to really swim. So my then-husband, an Eagle Scout, taught me basics. He even taught me how to float on my back, something I never thought I’d be able to do.
As I learned to swim, I realized that the moments when I feared I was going to drown, I would begin to sink in the water a little, my body stiffening up. If I thought I was just fine, then I would float smoothly along the top.
I began to equate that with my own experiences of how my own moods fluctuate. The moment anything negative came to mind, my mood would plummet. Jus like when I was learning how to swim.
But if I kept the negative thoughts away, just let them roll away, I could swim just fine.
I have SO MANY versions of this song saved on my hard drive! I wrote this during a time when I was still writing the lyrics first, and then the music, so the music didn’t often fit with what I was writing about. I also originally wrote this in D minor. I’m sure I have a version of this somewhere with my singing it in the original key.
As I became more confident with my voice, I began shifting the keys of songs I’d written back when I didn’t think I could sing above C5. When I shifted this song to F minor, it took on a much different quality. F minor has this darkness to it that I can’t fully explain. It feels moody, far more than the original D minor key.
Not many pop songs are written in F minor, probably because it sounds so sad! A good example of F minor in a pop song is Telephone by Lady Gaga.
Eventually I settled on an arrangement that was less fussy. It still had a heavy beat in places, but it didn’t overwhelm the song. I also decided to start it with some low notes, since the song starts at that moment when you’re feeling low and down about yourself (“tied your stones around my legs”).
Most notably, I have someone else singing with me on this song: my voice teacher, fellow singer/songwriter, and friend Charlotte Martin!
I've been a huge fan of Charlotte's music since the mid-2000s. Her album Stromata changed my life and made me forever a fan. Her music was unlike anything else I had ever heard before or since.
A few years ago, she announced that she'd start doing voice lessons. So I began taking lessons with her and she has been THE best voice teacher I've ever had! It helps that she also writes her own music, so unlike other voice teachers I've had in the past, Charlotte helps me with my own compositions AND I've ever written with her too!
As of this writing, I’ve been taking voice lessons with her for about three years via Skype. I was one of the first students to start taking lessons with her actually. If you had told college-aged me that I would be singing with one of my favorite artists of all time, I would've thought you were crazy!
The day we recorded the vocals was one of my lesson days. I suggested background vocals on the chorus and a tag at the end of the song. So for thirty minutes, during my lesson, I got to watch her record the vocals that she sent to me and which got used in the song!!!!
It. Was. SURREAL! :D
I've learned a lot from Float. In the years since I wrote this song, I've grown a lot as a person and I've gotten a lot better about letting things just flow off me.
It's always a work in progress.
But aren't we all?