Child Actor

I see this song as a cousin to a song on the Baby Teeth EP “For the Heathers” called “Heather via PS”. Both songs are about formerly glamorous characters who now find themselves in the ol’ hospital bed. In “Heather Via PS”, it’s the junkie girlfriend, but in “Child Actor,” it’s you, the protagonist, the former child star who’s now lost in a sea of depression. It’s one of those tumbling-lyrics songs that I enjoy writing from time to time, songs that gain some weird energy from being unwieldy, or, in Van Morrison’s phrase, “Too many words…too many syllables.”

I’ve been on a little Magnetic Fields kick lately, and so I was trying to see if I could use cheesy synth sounds the way they do… i.e., letting cheesy synths somehow make a song more emotionally affecting (instead of less). My favorite element of the arrangement is the pulsing synth that goes through most of the song…. it ends up sounding like a heart monitor. The mini-solos on the other synthesizer patch (“tremolo strings”, if you’re keeping score) are meant to represent nodding off into a dream. You wake up, look around the room, become suspicious of your loved ones, and then nod right back out again.

My songwriting process this time around was inspired by a Rolling Stone article I read about the Shins. Their frontperson, James Mercer, said that he wrote the songs for their (mediocre) new album by watching TV with the sound off, guitar in hand, and beer on the table. I replicated this process here, hoping for better results, and I found myself drawn into a talk show, Jenny Jones or something like that, dealing with the heart-wrenching topic of child actors all grown up (and all screwed up).

This song contains secret (or not-so-secret?) references to the Shins, Van Morrison, and Bobby Conn.

7 Responses to “Child Actor”
  1. Jon Boyd says:

    I agree about the synth sounds: well done. The short instrumental sections are particularly effective. (If we’re being perfectly honest here — and we are, right? — this track somehow grabs me less than last week’s “Let It Roll”: did right out of the gate. Maybe it’ll grow on me as the lyrics soak in, but….)

  2. abraham says:

    glad you dig the instrumental parts…. they kind of emerged from the wilderness. and yes, honesty is much appreciated. maybe this song just doesn’t have the heft of “let it roll”. I’m ok with that, I won’t cry too much.

  3. Jon Boyd says:

    Or if you cry, at least write a song about it! You’ve got 50 to go! 🙂

  4. Those instrumental parts are very nice, those synth parts sound like the ques for a string quartet. I’m diggin the bass parts and the backing vocals, as well. In this tune, I think the scum-y dictaphone piano feels like an intro part. I keep expecting a full, hi-fi piano to drop in. I think a shimmering, pretty pop piano would express the high drama, the grandiosity of the peaking in the character arch this song traces.

  5. Abraham says:

    good idea, brian. thanks for listening and commenting on this song…. it is currently the “poor sister”, statistically speaking, but thanks to you, it has wiped its eyes for the night, and its self-esteem is on the rebound.

  6. Peter says:

    This one also definitely rules. Dark, Disney undertones. Great lyrics. This one is epic. Greek tragedy style.

  7. Abraham says:

    glad you like it! I’m glad you picked up on the dark disney vibe… this is definitely inspired by the star-making factory they’ve established down there in orlando. I think this version of the song is maybe not very fully realized, but the song itself might be workable…

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