Updated: Aug 31, 2018
Written November 17, 2015 and reposted from the blog "Scratch This Itch."
The first track recorded for the last album, Love & Blood, was "Bark Right at the Moon." We were gathered at Rubicon Studios--me, my producer Daniel, and a rhythm section I had never met. It was December 29, 2014, just a few weeks after Charles died.
The song is a simple and straightforward one, and it seemed like a good way for the four of us to dive into the proverbial pool together.
The first draft of this "Bark Right at the Moon," written behind a closed door, went down in quick order. I thought little of the work. But Charles had been eavesdropping on the other side of that door, and as I played through the last chorus, he showed no restraint in blowing into my office and pronouncing that the song was a complete keeper—a straight-up, old-school, Hank Williams-style keeper.
I brushed him off for a few (reactive) reasons: first, he’d violated the whole closed-door thing. Second, he was pretty toasted. Third, it hadn’t registered on him that I’d just written another song about living on after his possible death.
But he asked me to play it for him several more times. He moved about the office, almost dancing, interrupting at one point to appreciate the unexpected use of a minor chord. When it was over, he declared that the world needed more songs like this one and cheerily marched out of the room.
I didn’t plan to record this song, ever. It’s hardly my best work. But when he died, this track immediately went to the top of the list.
Anyway, like I said, it’s a simple tune, but simple isn’t always easy. I hit a humdinger of a bad chord in there. It was so jarring when we heard it in playback that it gave us a belly laugh. I begged a chance to punch in the right chord in or give the track another pass, but the wider opinion in the room was to leave it alone. It’s still there and, thanks to my producer Daniel Barrett, it feels just right.
Which reminds me of a moment with Charles in 2003 when we were cutting my first album. I was recording background vocals, and was incredibly nervous in his company. I told him that I wanted the vocals to be perfect.
“Perfection is boring,” he laughed. “It’s the most boring thing in the world.” He was so right.
You can hear my musical dysfunction at 2:21. Sounds pretty cool to me today.