This song started as a joke. Mary was making herself an after-dinner drink.
“Can I make something for you?”
“What would you like?”
“Whatever you’re pouring, I’m drinking.”
I then commented that that could be tonight’s song. We both laughed that it would be a good country song title, and I flirted with the idea of taking another stab at the style. I had a good time writing I Tried to Feed Her Kale last year, but by the time I got into the studio, my mind had changed.
- Whatever You Pour, I'll Drink Ray Toler 1:15
In part, it had changed because I was quickly inventorying rhymes for “drinking” in my head: thinking, blinking, winking, clinking, sinking… For whatever reason, the thought of doing all of those simple pop couplets wasn’t grabbing me.
Also, both Drinking It Down and The Music I Want You to Hear include drinking. I worried a bit about hitting the same topic too much, though I know it’s inevitable to reuse subjects and even rhymes and lyrics on occasion when doing high volumes of writing. Also Drinking it Down isn’t really about drinking bleach, just in case you were worried about me.
The embryonic country song was heading toward the story of a smitten guy doing whatever his date wanted, or about being out with the boys and going with the flow, but as I sat down to the piano, everything changed.
I saw a guy, sitting at the bar, not wanting to stay, but not wanting to leave either. The story started getting clearer – this bar is a comfortable, regular place. High end. Suits. He knows the bartender well. It’s not a heartbroken song, it’s a lonely song. Why? His… wife? Yes, wife. His wife travels a lot for business. They normally come to this place together. The bartender isn’t just a bartender, he’s an actual friend.
Ok, so suits and a high-end bar scream jazz / vocal standard to me, so jazz / vocal standard it becomes. I had to brute-force my way through the composition. I love listening to jazz, and I can hear what I want to do a lot of the time, but I just don’t have enough theory to know what I’m doing. It’s all instinct and experimentation.
More and more, I’ve been trying to force myself into new chords and keys. If my hands want to zig, I force a zag. It doesn’t always work out, but sometimes it sounds cool and interesting. The fun part about this composition was figuring out the voicings that I don’t typically play, as well as making the melody fit some odd interval.
This recording is a bit of a rarity in that I actually played and sung at the same time. This was the second take – I screwed up the piano on the first attempt. I’ve been flirting with a personal challenge for the year of releasing an album more in this vocal-forward style and trying to do a live show. That will require me to learn to play and sing at the same time, which is pretty frightening.
There are a couple of other lyrical ideas I may incorporate into this one. It’s currently only about a minute long, which would be a great closer / stinger track on an album, but I think there’s another verse or two to tell in the story, which would make the “thanks for listening” line even more poignant.
Michael, pour another one
I don’t want to go home
There’s no one there anyway, you know
She had to fly somewhere else
Could be Cleveland, could be Rome
The house is far too quiet with the snow
So, Michael, pour another one
Whatever comes to mind
I’m far too tired and just don’t want to think
Michael, thanks for listening
Whatever you pour, I’ll drink
Copyright © 2019 Ray E. Toler, Jr. All rights reserved.
- Piano: Keyscape
- Vocal Effects: Valhalla Plate, MOTU Masterworks Compressor
- Restaurant Ambience: Public domain recording sourced from the Internet
Next up: Toys in the Attic