My Life Under the Covers – Weight of It All – Matt Nathanson

My Life Under the Covers

By Mary Scholz

Song Five: 

“Weight of It All” by Matt Nathanson

…The big game changer for me as a songwriter…

One girl, one guitar, one song, one iPhone, one take. It’s not perfect, and not as clean a quality as my new recording equipment. But that’s part of the beauty and the point of this song. Not perfect, not clean. Just real.

 

The year was 2003. It was the summer before my sophomore year of college – one of the most freeing summers I can remember. I was home from school, working as a teacher for a musical theatre camp near my parents’ house and hanging out with a group of kids from high school that I had never really spent much time with.

 

I saw John Mayer and Maroon 5 in concert at the Tweeter center. I started playing open mics. I reconnected with a boy I knew in high school…I had the first of my annual summer pool parties and we had chicken fights and listened to awesome music all night.  At the end of that night I was handed a mix cd that just read “Matt Nathanson.”

 

What I knew was that I was being handed a compilation of songs this boy thought I would enjoy by an artist I’d never heard. What I didn’t know was that I was being handed a compilation of songs by an artist that would intensely shift the way I listened to and wrote music. That would change the way I saw concerts and experienced songwriters.

 

(Matt would probably be happy to know that, not too many nights later, I made out with that boy to that cd)

 

One of the songs on the mix cd was “Weight of It All,” off of Matt’s 2002 release, “When Everything Meant Everything.” It was his last independent release before his first project with Universal. The song was later recorded for “Beneath These Fireworks,” which was released in October of 2003 (just two months after hearing of him the first time).  By the time that album came out I was already a hard-core Nathanson fan. I went to see him play for the first time at Princeton that September with my friend Rick. He played on a tiny raised “stage” in a small room where we had to sit against the wall because there wasn’t really seating and it wasn’t really a venue.

 

I went to see him in coffee houses and learned the way a musician communicates with their audience.  He performed multiple times at “The Point” in Bryn Mawr, a legendary music café and coffee house where I spent my summers playing open mics. (Formerly called “The Main Point”) Billy Joel, Elton John, Bill Wither, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Buffett…they had all graced the same stage.  He was from Massachusetts but he lived in San Francisco and recorded his live album right there are The Point the following summer. I was in the audience. He actually talks to me on the album.  Seeing him live is always a damn good time. You have to be prepared for dirty humor and the chance you’ll get teased from the stage. The man in entertaining, hilarious and a fantastic musician. He’s one of those people that you can see in every motion just how much they love music.

(From his show at the TLA in Philly, April 2005. I love this photo)

 

So this song in particular has always stuck out to me. I’m not sure what it is really, just something about the sentiment of not really being known by the people you are most intimate with. My favorite line by far is

 

“I spent days, stupid, nailed to your floor

And I spent nights, pushed against you

Trying to keep warm

But you don’t know me at all…”

 

… trying to feel warmth from someone who isn’t reciprocating…Or who you know really isn’t truly looking at you.

 

Or the opening…

 

“I’m weak when you miss me

When you roll me on your tongue

When you whisper me your best moves

I almost believe you

But you don’t know me at all. “

 

Okay I love the lyrics. All of them. Of all of Matt’s songs, this one has always resonated with me the most. And I like the original version better than the second. That’s the version I’m covering here.

 

Matt doesn’t play coffee houses anymore. He’s had big hits and collaborated with awesome artists, touring through big venues like Radio City Music Hall. And it seems nowadays I can’t go into a department store, restaurant or coffee shop without hearing one Matt Nathanson song or another playing overhead. And that has been a fantastic journey to watch.

 

Matt Nathanson – thanks for lessons in songwriting, communicating with your audience, knowing yourself and not being afraid to be honest about it through your music. Here’s to collaborating one day.

 

(And thanks to the boy, Brandon, who I still call a great friend, for handing over that mix cd.)

Matt signing “Weight of It All” Live – not the best sound quality but it gives a good idea of him with the crowd…

After seeing him perform the first time: Rick and I with Matt at Princeton, September 2003 (I look so young!)

 

My Life Under the Covers – As Long As You Love Me – The Backstreet Boys

My Life Under the Covers

By Mary Scholz

Song Four: 

“As Long As You Love Me” by The Backstreet Boys

(written by Max Martin)

The Song that Taught a Girl to Stand Up for Herself…and that she was More Than Good Enough…


You knew this was coming…
Anyone who knows me well or has had a conversation with me about my musical influences through life knows that I was and will always be a die-hard Backstreet Boys fan.

And I’ll tell you exactly why.

I was first introduced to the Backstreet Boys at the age of 12. My friend Jillian was a fan. We had just finished the 7th grade. The songs were catchy. The boys were cute. And I got to go to my first concert since James Taylor when I was much younger. I made a sign that read “Brian I hope your heart Quits Playin Games” and thought I was the most clever girl in the world. (Brian Littrell had a heart murmur due to a hole that he had…in his heart…their first big single was “Quit Playin Games With My Heart…”)
We sang along and knew all of the dance moves and had an amazing time.

That’s the surface level reason.

Not only were their songs well crafted (thank you Max Martin), their harmonies tight and their shows incredible entertainment, they showed up in my life just when I needed them most. And they have continued to do so over the years.

As a kid I definitely went through bouts of depression. No one knew about it – I was very, very good at hiding it. There were many reasons for this – I felt largely out of place. Artsy in a school and neighborhood of athletes. Italian/German mix in a school with hard core Irish Pride. Glasses. Braces. Frizzy hair. I got picked on for having long hair when it was cool to have a short ‘do. I got made fun of for having crushes on the nicer, less popular boys in the class. I stood up for those boys when they got picked on but still was largely unrecognized by them. I felt guilty for having anything but gratitude and happiness towards life as I had been blessed with a loving family and a really nice, safe childhood. Being aware of this made me even more sad.
Despite the blessings, I had some rather dark moments.

I have always been aware that for whatever reason, I have been given the ability to experience intense joy and intense sorrow – usually coupled together, which I always found confusing. And I knew that there were so many more kids who had such difficult lives and struggles, so I felt…guilty. And invisible.

So where do the Backstreet Boys fit in? Well, if you’ve ever listened to any of their music, you’ll notice that most of their songs are geared towards placing them in the role of the guy on the outside, who sees a girl in pain and swears he’ll love her more than whoever is making her sad. A genius marketing tool as far as this adult music business individual is concerned. The 12-year-old-girl listened and believed.
She knew that those boys weren’t singing those songs to her…but she also knew it meant that somewhere, someday, someone would feel that way about her.

And somehow that was enough.

They also taught me to stand up for myself.
When I was in grade school, everyone listened to rap. I had no problem with it, but I just wasn’t digging Biggie Smalls the same way as I wanted to sing at the top of my lungs to BSB. So when we were assigned to cover our notebook with photos of things that inspired us, I included them. Kids laughed.
“The Backstreet Boys?!”
“Weren’t they here over the summer in concert? What did you go to their show too?”
(laughter)
I didn’t laugh it off or deny it as I might have before.

“They were – of course I did. We sat in the second row and it was AWESOME.”
(Silence)
Then, a popular girl, and I assume closet BSB fan…wide eyed…
“You sat in the SECOND ROW…?”
“Like I said. Totally awesome.”

I remember feeling so empowered by not backing down from who I was to appease people who thought they had a right to decide how I should feel about things.
Never mind that we sat in the second row of a section not exactly in front of the stage…
I made my point. My name is Mary. I have my own opinion and I don’t give a crap if you have a problem with that. Kids actually started treating me differently after that.

Theirs was the first cd I bought when I bought my first cd player. In keeping with tradition, every time I have gotten an iPod or any kind of music player…theirs is the first music I load on or listen to on it. It’s a lucky charm of some sort of mine.

They continued to release albums coinciding with difficult times in my life – deaths in my family, bad breakups, strained relationships…and they’ve always reminded me to be myself and keep looking forward.

So I will never deny them as a musical influence or their impact on my life. As a singer/songwriter it’s “cooler” to claim all of the amazing folk music influences that I do truly love…but I’ll always be completely honest about what a big deal this boy band was and is for me.
I’ve seen them in concert every summer that they’ve toured (minus this recent tour with NKOTB due to my travel schedule) and I will continue to buy their albums and be grateful for the fact that they saved a very sad 12 year old girl.

I picked “As Long As You Love Me” simply because it is my favorite.

And Max Martin, who wrote this song…well he’s the man behind the boys. Genius song writing – his (very shortened) list of hits speaks for itself.
Songs co-written by Max Martin:
Backstreet Boys:
As Long As You Love Me
Quit Playin Games With My Heart
Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
I Want it That Way
Larger Than Life
Shape of My Heart
Robyn:
Show Me Love
N’Sync:
Tearin Up My Heart
I Want You Back
It’s Gonna Be Me
Britney Spears:
Baby One More Time
You Drive Me Crazy
Oops!…I Did it Again
Stronger
Bon Jovi:
It’s My Life
Complicated
Celine Dion:
Love Is All We Need
Faith
Kelly Clarkson:
Since U Been Gone
Behind These Hazel Eyes
Daughtry:
Feels Like Tonight
Katy Perry:
I Kissed A Girl
Hot n Cold
California Gurls
Teenage Dream
Last Friday Night
The One That Got Away
E.T.

You get the idea….

My Life Under the Covers – “The Middle” – by Jimmy Eat World

My Life Under the Covers
by Mary Scholz

Song Three:
“The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World


 

Here we go high school, here we go!

 

It was 2001, the fall of my senior year of high school.  AOL Instant messenger was still cool. Personalizing your profile with different colors and smiley icons was important. We had a family computer in the family room (of course) and I was once again bemoaning the actions of my first love and high school sweetheart to my best friend, Jimmy.

 

I was also frustrated with school, gossiping classmates, college auditions and choices and life in general. And after typing away my troubles to my buddy on the other side of the computer screen and a few towns away, he sent me these lyrics…

 

“It just takes some time little girl

You’re in the middle of the ride

Everything, everything will be just fine

Everything, everything will be alright, alright…”

 

In one of those “discover largely underground music because you’re young and resourceful and it makes you feel super cool” moments I had found Jimmy Eat World’s 1999 release, Clarity, and loved it. I truly don’t remember who turned me on to the band in the first place – most likely that same boy I was lamenting about to Jimmy. But their song “The Middle” was on their next release, their fourth album, titled Bleed American, which was changed to a self-titled album following the September 11th attacks.

 

Anyway, going back to the family room and the instant messenger…

Jimmy went on to send me the lyrics to the rest of the song, which begins as follows:

 

Hey, don’t write yourself off yet

It’s only in your head you feel left out

Or looked down on

Try your best

Try everything you can

And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away.”

 

Those lyrics leapt off of my computer screen and hit me like a ton of bricks – a warm, fuzzy, loving and empowering ton of bricks. I still recall it as one of the biggest moments of understanding of friendship and love in my life. Such a small gesture, but one of honest caring from someone I cared about so much myself.

 

I still call Jimmy my best friend today, and somehow that song ALWAYS appears, be it on the radio or after hitting shuffle on my iPod, just when I need that extra boost of confidence and that loving reminder that I will be just fine. It’s only fitting that the name of the band would be Jimmy Eat World.

 

“Hey, you know they’re all the same

You know you’re doing better on your own

So don’t buy in

Live right now

Just be yourself

It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else.”

 

Hey, don’t write yourself off yet

It’s only in your head you feel left out

Or looked down on

Just do your best

Do everything you can

And don’t you worry what their bitter hearts are gonna say.”

 

“It just takes some time little girl

You’re in the middle of the ride

Everything, everything will be just fine

Everything, everything will be alright, alright…”

 

FUN FACTS about The Middle:

 

Jimmy Eat World recorded their fourth album, Bleed American, independently after having been dropped from Capitol Records in 1999.

The album was then picked up and shopped by DreamWorks Records in 2001 – but it was written and recorded independently, meaning Jimmy Eat World’s biggest hit was created without label involvement.

 

Awesome. And too bad for Capitol Records. 

The Original:

My Life Under the Covers – “Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor

My Life Under the Covers

By Mary Scholz

 

Song Two:

“Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of James Taylor is my Dad. He always loved singing along in the car wherever we were headed. Like Amy Grant, I don’t remember the first time I heard one of JT’s songs, but they are intertwined in so many of my childhood memories.

 

Ah, childhood memories.  This one brings me back to the summer, too.

 

I have various events in mind, the first one being my very first concert, which was at the E Center in Camden, New Jersey (now the Tweeter Center).  I remember sitting on a blanket on the grass enjoying our lawn seats and watching the people all around. It was most definitely the start of my insatiable need to be at big events – I love the communal feeling of hundreds of people gathering together in the name of a mutual love (usually music) and kicking back and relaxing. Or not relaxing for that matter. Dancing, laughing, protesting (depending on the large event I was attending – I just love to be amidst the power of a gathering of people.) Live 8 was incredible for me (Philadelphia, 2005) – thousands of people gathered to listen to music and raise awareness of world issues? Bring it ON.

 

But back to the E Center…I remember feeling bad for my Dad who shuffled off a number of times to buy food or drinks for us three kids while my Mom kept an eye on us – we were so young! I knew that he was the one who wanted to sit and listen the most, even though he never said a word of complaint.

 

I also remember loving to listen to him sing, and loving how my Mom’s response would be “if you had pursued singing you’d be famous like James.” People love to hear my Dad sing. He cantors at our church every Sunday and is always greeted afterword by warm comments from congregation members about how they love knowing he’ll be the one going up to lead the song.

 

He plays the guitar like JT too – always so protective of that beautiful old Martin he has.  Dad (and Mom) bought me my first guitar (a Takamene), taught me how to string it and tune it, and showed me some of his tricks.

 

The reason I selected “Carolina in My Mind” is because as a kid (from maybe the 4th to the 7th grade) we would vacation in North or South Carolina, depending on the year. We always drove, and many of those long hours were filled with sing-a-longs. Most vividly I remember singing with every James Taylor album and the soundtrack to the animated Disney movie “Tarzan.” It’s the reason for the line I wrote in my own song, “Find Myself,” which reads as follows:

“Carolina, where have you gone?

Nights when the moonbeams shined so strong

And all of my days were filled with song…”

 

FUN FACTS about “Carolina in My Mind”:
James Taylor wrote and recorded this song in 1968 while he was recording at Trident Studios in London for Apple Records (Label of the Beatles).  He was writing about being home sick for North Carolina.

 

The line “A holy host of others standing around me now” is in reference to the fact that the Beatles were recording The White Album just a few rooms over.

 

The original recording, released as a single and then later re-recorded for his Greatest Hits album, credits Paul McCartney on bass and George Harrison on backup vocals.

 

Awesome. 

 

After watching the video I’m sure some of you are wondering who that other family is! Well my best friend growing up, Maggie, moved to Georgia when I was in the 5th grade. So our families would meet up in the Carolinas for vacation – it was always a total blast 🙂 Love to the Scholz and Kelly families!

My Life Under the Covers: “Baby, Baby” by Amy Grant

My Life Under the Covers

By Mary Scholz

 

Song One:

Baby, Baby by Amy Grant

It’s hard to say when my affection for Amy Grant music started – as long as I can remember I was singing along with her. In the car, on my tape deck (yeah tape deck!), with my Mom and most specifically with my cousins Joe and Mary Liz and my Aunt Maureen.

 

I can remember riding in the back seat of my aunt’s station wagon, headed past a big green grassy field somewhere in Delaware on a hot summer day, headed for the yard sales we had found and circled in the newspaper.  I’m not sure how old I was, but it was right after Amy’s “House of Love” album came out and we were singing along with THAT tape. If I close my eyes I can still feel the warm wind whipping past my hair through the windows as we sang along.  I may still have the empty Coke-a-Cola bottle that was painted all different colors – my big find at the yard sales that day.

 

“Baby Baby” was released as a single on January 18, 1991 , putting me in the first grade.  The album name was “Heart in Motion” – by far my favorite Amy Grant album. (That and “A Christmas Album,” released in 1983…pre-Mary!) “Heart in Motion” was released in March of ’91 and went on to sell five million copies by the end of ’97. It was Amy’s first non-Christian album (although it did see those themes occasionally throughout). I recently purchased it on vinyl – you could say I was semi excited to find it hiding in the heavy metal section of a record store in Havre de Grace, Maryland.

 

There are so many songs on that album that I love, but I chose “Baby Baby” because it was the first song I heard off of the album that would eventually become one of my all time favorites.

 

I had the opportunity to see Amy in concert a few years ago – and by that I mean my Mom and Dad took me for Christmas J – she was phenomenal.  It was the anniversary tour for “Lead Me On,” the album that preceded “Heart in Motion,” so they didn’t play any of my very favorite tunes….but her encore was “Tennessee Christmas” off of “A Christmas Album,” so I was pretty darn pleased about that.

 

I used to love watching Amy in interviews – I most specifically remember her being on Oprah alongside Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston (two other musical influences of my childhood) and talking about how she didn’t feel she belonged up on stage next to these two huge voices. But it was something about the subtlety of her voice that was so appealing to me. You could just feel her through it.  And I remember singing along and feeling like I could feel my own emotion in it. Back in the purest, “I sing in front of the mirror because I can’t get enough of it” days.

My Life Under the Covers: Explained


My Life Under the Covers Explained

By Mary Scholz

 

What IS the “My Life Under the Covers” project?

 

A few months ago I was putting together a book of cover songs to have available to me when I performed down at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California. I was also compiling new covers to throw into sets at shows where the crowd seemed a little on the rowdy side, or where people had already heard the ones I love to play so much.
Then I got thinking about some of my all time favorite songs. Why had I never learned to play and perform those? I had always wanted to play the guitar and piano so that I could write all of the songs that were pent up inside of me, and so that when it came time to perform, I didn’t have to rely on anyone but myself to make it happen. But my desire to get my own music written down left me skipping what is usually everyone’s first step: learning to play the songs that made you love music in the first place.
But I didn’t want to just learn the songs. I wanted to learn about why they meant so much to me; to get to know myself a little better. And I wanted to share that with you;  so that you might get to know me a little better too.

 

So I decided that I was going to start a project – the My Life Under the Covers project.

 

Step One: Make a list. The list must consist of the songs that most seriously influenced or inspired me – either as a musician or a human being, struggling with the ongoing changes or life.

 

Step Two: Figure out why these songs meant so much to me. Why did they come to mind right away when thinking about the soundtrack of my life?

 

Step Three: Write it down.

 

Step Four: Make a simple, home recording of the song to attach to each individual song blog, and make it available as a free download to everyone reading.

 

Just a little piece of me, reaching out to a little piece of you.

 

I hope you enjoy.

(This project will also serve as a lead up to the release of the music video for “Hide,” which is where this photo comes from!)