“Lightning Rod” was the most complex music we had ever attempted to date. The recording used about 20 tracks of effects, instrumentation and vocals (which was a lot for us). That was in stark contrast to the way we had developed our style over the previous 20 years or so.
We went through a period in the early days when all of our music was arranged and produced by Tom Tommasello, where we actually learned the basics of how to create and record our own music—while making it. Then, after about 5 years, we shifted into a period where we did everything by ourselves in our home studio on our Roland recording equipment using only guitars and vocals that we could produce ourselves. It was a pure and simple sound (limited to 5 tracks). Then, some 8 years later, we branched out with Apple’s Logic Pro X using a full range of sounds, but still focusing on doing everything in our own studio. “Lightning Rod” represents the most intricate of those efforts. We used sound effects, talking, solos and same voice harmonies as well as our traditional shared harmonies. The music was written in an alternate tuning and used an electric guitar for the first time on the lead part. (We had actually picked-up an old electric guitar that we used for the first time to record “Two Sweet.”) Everything prior to that was strictly acoustic. We enjoyed the electric so much that we decided to use it again on “Lightning Rod” to give the sound a little more energy.
In addition, this song was written as a part of Emerson’s therapy—learning to cope with mood swings. The music allowed us to capture the process and feelings for both of us as we worked toward healing and building more resiliency together. Cheryl’s lyrics were really helpful by creating a metaphor that captured the essence of the experience for both of us. We also were able to share the story and music with our therapist, adding a layer of extra detail to the work we were all doing together.
The photo of the lightning rod was taken in the front yard of our old family home in Saratoga, CA. Years before, we had found a lightning rod at an antique store in the bay area and decided to place it among the ivy at home as garden sculpture. It served for many years as a whimsical reminder of our roots in the mid-west where lightning rods were commonplace on wood barns and houses—protecting them from the massive thunderstorms and lightning strikes that were frequent in that part of the country.
The creation of the story, music and lyrics for “Lightning Rod” will always serve as a vivid reminder of so many important aspects of our life together! Thanks for letting us share this secret story with you.
Cheryl & Emerson