On Suzanne, David writes: “I had just moved to Brooklyn for the second time. 4 months before I had quit my job as a graphic designer for an academic institution in order to focus on writing and recording music. I had so far never performed and was so lost in worry over writing the right kind of music (which is a deadly fixation for the creative person) that I had hit a wall. All I wanted to do was write and record. But I wanted it so bad, had idealized it so thoroughly that my expectations overwhelmed my experiences. I was getting nowhere. Everything sounded to me like garbage. Those first few months in Brooklyn were really hard for me. The friends I had in town were constantly leaving for tours or busy with recording projects of their own, so I was left mostly to wander the city on my own. I remember long walks through Sunset Park, talking on the phone with friends, trying to feel connected, trying to think clearly. Randy Newman’s catalog became for me a level ground to stand on. His ability to embody his caricatured heroes, to speak through and empathize for some of the most despicable characters in music, to find distance from ones feelings, was something I was trying to muster in my own music. Suzanne, from Randy’s second album, jumped out at me on one of my long walks from Park Slope to Sunset Park. I listened on repeat for the 45 minutes I walked. When I arrived at my apartment, I switched on my equipment, scribbled out the lyrics and started recording. I took my shoes off and slapped my bare feet on the linoleum floor for percussion.
For me, it was the first thing I’d recorded in years that had a freshness to it. I was feeling like a singular character. I was dealing with feelings of loss, of abandonment and age, and at the same time that I was recognizing the predator/prey dichotomy in performer/audience relationships, I was sorting out the same dichotomy in myself. It felt good to sing from the perspective of Randy’s predator — it was necessary for me in a way.
Pity Dance started as a moan and turned into a song rather quickly. I remember bunny-sitting for Shara Worden. I would sit in her kitchen with her rabbits, guitar in my lap, and sing wordless songs to them. Her rabbits are very quiet animals. I came up with this chord progression one evening with the rabbits and found the wordless melody I sing over the chords towards the end of the song. The rest of the words and the production came one night I spent in a practice space. I slept over night there, on the floor of the studio, or tried to sleep: The floor was hard and the heat in the building wasn’t turned on. I woke at sunrise and decided it was as good a time as any to finish the lyrics. This was the first track I finished for the album, and it’s one of the only ones that came easily.
Pity Dance and Suzanne seem to me to sing to one another, both exploring the tension of struggling for strength in intimacy, Suzanne from the perspective of the oppressor, Pity Dance, from the oppressed; Suzanne looking forward, Pity Dance looking back. These tracks sound to me like beginnings to two entirely different, maybe opposite, trajectories.”