Jeannie Caryn - MOTHER’S SELF-RISING - Song Stories
“Mannequin Song” - Written August 2010
After years of loving her music, I finally got to go see Ani DiFranco perform live in Little Five Points, Atlanta, at The Variety Playhouse. Her authentic music helped me through a really difficult time in life in the year 2000, where everything had changed, and nothing felt real, so it was very special to me to get to see her perform. In fact, I’d spent the entire year of 2000, listening almost exclusively to just her album, Living in Clip. Ani is an extraordinary and brilliant songwriter and performer and attending her show is somewhat like cleansing your soul of any type of hypocrisy. She’s so real. I recently heard a songwriter, Diane Patterson, who tours with Ani, say the same thing about her: “She’s just so real.”
Anyway, right next door to the the venue, The Variety, is a retail clothing store called Envy, and as we were leaving the show, driving passed the the little shop, I saw silver naked mannequins in the window with “for sale” signs across their chests. They had such sad wicked eyes watching from behind the glass.
The contrast of Ani’s authentic music and the commercialized store window captured my attention - it was as if the mannequins had heard the music and wanted to tell me their story and tell me that they wanted their own authentic souls. By the time I made it home, I had the lyrics to the song in my phone and the music in my head.
“Hey Baby” - Written Fall 2016
For many years, I have performed in Helen, Georgia, in the North Georgia mountains. Helen is a little Bavarian alpine styled town nestled in the Smokey Mountains with German style buildings and river rafting and tourists everywhere. The town is always fun, especially during the summer and through Octoberfest.
Specifically, for the years 2012 - 2017, I’d drive almost two hours there and back to perform at a Tavern called The Hayloft, three to four days a week. It was an amazing time. I played outside on the deck and people were just happy, dancing, laughing, singing, drinking, flirting and celebrating life, and most of the time, many of them were dressed in German attire or fedoras and walked around with pints of beer.
The deck where I played, is on the second story of the Hayloft and open to the street below where the Harley’s would rumble in as they parked, and the owners called me the pied piper because people would come up to the deck and say they’d heard my voice and followed it to the Hayloft! .
While I’d perform, the owners of the Hayloft would always sit at a table right next to my performance corner with “the regulars” and I’d take song requests and drink whiskey (Fireball) with them all night long. One “regular,” named Charlie, always said, “Hey Baby” when he saw me and always tried to steal a kiss in that friendly flirty way an older gentleman can. He’s still a great friend today. The song is really a tribute to the amazing people I met there and who I now consider family.
The song also reflects and references some of the cover songs I’d sing every time I performed: “Summertime,” “Goin’ Straight to Hell,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “Love is a Battlefield,” and “Three Little Birds”. The lyrics also reference the names of two of the bands that also played there, (Rival and The Bullfrogs), who usually played after me and were a big part of the party atmosphere.
Eventually, the tavern was sold and now has a new owner with a new style, but luckily, I still get to perform there about once a month! It’s different now, with different owners, but still a special place.
One theme I hoped to capture in the song is that we don’t always realize when something so good will end. Luckily, good things live on in our memories. This song takes me back to those mountains and that wooden, smokey, loud deck with people I love.
“Just Like the Movies” Written January 2020
Down in Southern Georgia, is an adorable little town called Washington. My good friends are musicians who grew up in Washington, and when they went to college, they formed a band called, “The Surf.” They did really well in Athens music scene while at UGA and competed on the NBC show Star Search in the 1980’s, advancing a few rounds in the competition, and then toured the southeast, playing at large venues to thousands of people.
I met them when I was hosting a little open mic in Marietta, Georgia, and we became great friends. They were going to be performing a “Surf Reunion Show” for Washington’s Fourth of July Celebration and they invited me to open for them. They are “the town band”.
So, I drove two hours south, through the tall pines and past the grazing cows, dodging the lurking deer, to Washington. Immediately, I was charmed as I came upon the town. The Washington town square has historic brick buildings, an antique store, a beautiful old hotel called The Fitzgerald, an ice cream store called Jamie’s Ice Cream, and several other small independently owned businesses. People were lining the charming town square shopping or setting up lawn chairs in anticipation of the town band playing and the fireworks show which would brighten the sky over the beautiful old Court House clock. Kids were playing in the park with great anticipation, running and screaming over the DJ’s music, the smell of hot dogs and the like floating through the air. I was introduced to everyone that the band knew from when they grew up in the town, which meant everyone! It was the perfect image of the celebration of traditional American Independence-- it was “Just Like the Movies”.
That night, I was honored to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America,” and as I finished the final words of “The Star Spangled Banner” to an audience of at least one thousand friends and families standing quietly, they all burst into cheers as the fireworks began during my final note. It gave me chills!
The following January, the same friends invited me to open for them again at a Chamber of Commerce gig they had. It was a much different setting, more formal, with a huge buffet and formal tables for the business leaders of the community. They said grace before the meal, and the gentleman stood for the ladies as they returned to their chairs-- true Southern charm.
My friends and I sat with the owners of Jamie’s Ice Cream Shop, who shared their story of why they moved to Washington. They had been on vacation and when they got to the town, they fell in love with it and wanted to “stay for awhile.” and so they opened up his dream store.
As I sat listening to the host of the event say grace “from eternity to eternity,” and then read the descriptions of the local businesses receiving awards, such as BeSouthern and Jamie’s Ice Cream, the atmosphere overwhelmed me, and the song poured out into my phone.
“Don’t Think” - Written April 2012
We often think too much about everything, forgetting to appreciate the moment. Sometimes we forget to notice the details that make us feel secure, loved, and happy. We also forget to love and appreciate ourselves for who we are.
When writing this song, I wanted to focus on what was good in my life, past and present, and what I could do to remember who I am and why I mattered. I didn’t want to overthink details or blame myself for what could not be, but instead find a way to love who I am, and not think beyond that. Nothing lasts forever and it’s important to stop and notice the little things.
It’s also good to remember that each day, “only right now matters,” and we have a new chance to make our lives and the lives of those around us better. As with most of my songs, I sat on the couch and the song just found its way out of my heart and into the world.
“Missin’ You” - Written Spring 2015
Love can be tricky, but we’re meant to love and be loved. Love makes life rich, full, and bright. Love fills our hearts. But when relationships don’t work out, try as we might to make them work, after the chaos of parting ways, we are left with missing the good parts of what we had. We miss the feelings of love. We miss the person, or maybe just the “persona” of the person we thought we loved. We miss the ideal of love we had created in our minds. Just the same, we feel loss. “Missin’ You” is that feeling.
“Remedy” - Written Spring 2015
Breaking up is just really hard. It’s especially frustrating when you still feel cheated even after the relationship is over. Especially if you have really been cheated on, of course. Having tried to express why I felt this way to friends when a relationship of mine ended, I realized that it was that I had given my all to the relationship while the other person had not. “There are many ways to cheat on your lover” indeed!
In thinking and talking with friends, I realized that getting over someone is often a case of logic versus emotion. We always know when something isn’t right because it’s just not working. We understand that love shouldn’t be so difficult. And, we understand that we’ll be better off after the fact. But sometimes, getting to that acceptance of logic in the heart, and taking the steps to move on, can make us feel like we’re trapped under a dark magic spell. Writing the song “Remedy” was my antidote to that spell.
“Dear Kiefer” - Written November, 2019
On a larger scale, this song is a thank you to all of the arts (books, plays, movies, music, television, and even visual art) for helping us through difficult times, allowing us to escape into another world, or simply to just enhance our lives. During this era of Covid, like many of us, I have relied on the arts to help me through the days. On a more focused scale, this song is a thank you to Kiefer Sutherland.
I was in such a slump when I discovered Keifer Sutherland. One particularly rainy, dreary fall day, when the house was a mess and the kids’ busy lives were consuming my own, I Googled the best shows to binge watch to escape my world for a weekend, and I found 24 at the top of the list. I literally spent an entire day of my life with Jack Bauer and stayed awake a full 24 hours that weekend to watch the whole first season of the show. I only stepped away long enough to feed the kids and walk the dogs. The show is just so good!!
Despite being of the Kiefer Sutherland generation, I had never followed him or any of the films he had done, so I Googled him specifically to see what else of his I could watch when I finished 24. And Boom!! There it was!! I was blown away to find out that he is a singer-songwriter and an awesome musician with brilliant, compelling songs, and that he was touring the world with a few albums out. I bought them both right away along with a t-shirt and a hat, both which I love to wear to my own gigs!
I had not written a song in over a year due to life chaos, but that same weekend, after listening to Kiefer’s music and after a good nap, I wrote FOUR songs in ONE day, the first of which was a thank you to Kiefer Sutherland for waking me up again and “showing me the way” out of chaos. Kiefer was my muse. Both he and Jack Bauer inspired my soul, and I know that it was this inspiration that pushed me to finish this album!
“Freak Show” - Written November, 2019
This song is an ode to my children. Out of the weekend of binging on Kiefer Sutherland, that Monday I was driving my kids to school and as usual, they were angsty and moody teens with lovingly sharp tongues. They love teasing me, making fun of my hair, my clothes, my words, and my ideas. It’s their duty as teenagers I’ve been told. They also like to say everything is my fault, all in jest, including Monday mornings. Monday is my fault.
Despite their mood, I was still feeling inspired by Kiefer, and as I tapped on the steering wheel, a song just poured out. Everything they were saying suddenly became the story. The lyrics were captured from bits of what they were saying, and as the cars beeped on the road, fighting with each other to move an inch in the dreaded carpool line, the song came to life. I started singing it before they got out of the car and my daughter said to me, “You make me want to throw up, you freak. I love you.”
By the time I got home from taking them to school, “Freak Show” was alive.
“Blizzard” - Written February 2015
“Blizzard” was written during one of Georgia’s infamous faux blizzards, where everything shuts down for days for just a couple of inches of snow! My kids were with their father that week so I was locked in with my dog and cats and my guitar as the cold wind whipped around and the thick snow fell, turning my home into a snowglobe. It was just a few inches, but for Georgia, that’s a blizzard!
My dog, a pug, Lollipop, (the only one I had at the time) had her “nose up against the glass” looking out the front window longingly, fogging up the glass with her breath. And there was the song. I’d ended an intense relationship that past December and since I was feeling free of that heartache, and very reflective, it was easy to convey the feelings of love and loss, the same feelings Lolli was having in that moment as she watched the ground turn to ice, longing to be out playing despite her hatred of the cold snow.
“New Memories” - Written November 2019
Time is a wonderful tool for growth. We see clearly with time. I believe it was Hemingway who once wrote, “You can’t write about Paris while living in Paris” - this is the same with love.
Dissecting relationships is so much easier after a chunk of time has passed. There’s just too much noise and transition during the immediate chaos of ending a relationship to see clearly. And then there is a phase of moving on and accepting that it’s over. But one day, we find that we have really let go, and we feel entirely different and ready to move forward.
“New Memories” is a song about that state of having let go of someone completely and the celebration of knowing there are “new memories to make” and being ready to make those new memories with an open and healed heart.