Hotter song 1: We Have Only Begun

I wrote "We Have Only Begun" as a set opener, something simple and not too fast. For several reasons, it felt right to be the opener for Hotter as well.

When I wrote it, I was in the midst of one of the worst depressions I've experienced in recent years. It was bad enough that I sought help rather than trying to tough it out on my own. Being depressed is not a good time for creativity, and I was very stuck trying to write anything new.

To try to break through, I decided to go very basic. I came up with the chords, the melody, and the phrasing. But I couldn't figure out any actual lyrics! I didn't know what I wanted to say. I kept singing the melody and phrasing to myself to try to find something that would fit in. I made several false starts. With the phrasing so fixed in my mind, I started to try out words and lines without much regard for whether they made sense or not. And finally the song began to take shape. I wrote the verses out of order and rearranged them. I tweaked the vocabulary more than I have often done to fit cooler words into the phrasing. I didn't just want to fall back on my usual pathetic vocabulary.

It's curious that such a hopeful song would come out of such a depressive period and also such a struggle to create. I guess it was part of my fighting back. I got help, but I also had to be active in my own healing.

The song wasn't an easy sell with the other Hotcakes. They weren't sure about it at first, but it grew on them.

In the studio, it was not a difficult song for which to get a good bed track. I think I kept the live rhythm guitar. Nothing complex about it! T stayed nice and steady on the drums, with those little rolls on the bridge, and C did simple but tasty licks on the bass. G did the vocal somewhere in the middle of vocal day, so she was fairly well warmed up. She was deliberate in singing all but the refrain of the first two verses in her head voice, even the third line, which goes lower. And then on the third line of the third verse, she switched to a very strong chest voice. On the last time through the repeating refrain at the end, she went up on the note on the second syllable of "reason," something I don't think she had done before. I think it's brilliant. But I had to adjust my harmony line!

I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the second guitar. I cranked the Marshall up louder than for any other song. I wanted to keep the sound on the edge of feeding back without getting out of control, so I moved toward or away from the amp as required. And I played that sucker from the heart. I put everything I had into that. I messed up that one harmonic in the third verse (it goes "clunk" instead of ringing), but I left it. I'm pretty sure I was crying at the end of the take because it was such a release. I know I cried when I heard the playback for the first time. That song had come out of a great deal of pain, and now it was recorded.

During the remix, I noticed that the song was sounding too nice, not jagged enough. "Needs more Lou Reed," I said to Jesse Gander, our engineer and co-producer. Amazingly he knew what I meant. We kicked up the rhythm guitar, and I liked the result much better. That guitar is supposed to feel relentless. Jesse is brilliant.

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