Permanent Vacation

There’s something about the desert…

There’s something about the desert that keeps me coming back.

I first visited Palm Springs in 1997, just a few weeks after moving to New York City. I was dating a woman who worked in Joshua Tree National Park, and spent a few days camping there. (I ended up turning the trip into my first post-collegiate freelance article for Swing Magazine, “Lines In The Sand: Young Biologists Save The Threatened Desert Tortoise.”)

But there’s something about the desert that keeps me coming back to make music.

I recorded the “Happy, Not Happy EP” in Palm Springs in 1998 (don’t look for it; it’s out of print). I mixed “Crash Site” there in 2001 (in fact, this blog was started in ernest then).

So in the middle of all of the Grammy hullabaloo, I stole away to Palm Springs. I packed my guitar, my laptop, a decent mic, swim trunks and flip-flops. And apparently, that was enough.

I wrote five songs in less than forty-eight hours. Before long, they will reach you as, “The Desert Star EP.”

The first to come was “Boomtown.” I was trying to capture the feeling of first arriving in Los Angeles. Kids come here with dreams. I know about dreams. And I know about thinking you might find them somewhere other than wherever you are. So I was imagining Axl Rose getting off the bus in the “Welcome To The Jungle” video. And I was thinking about Justin stepping off the bus from Kansas.

Lights so bright here
There’s no night here
There’s no place to call my own

The second was “Flirting With Disaster.” The film of the same title was fresh in my mind thanks to Hertz renting me a silver Taurus. The concept was fresh in my mind thanks to this relentlessly paced life of mine. I strung together a pretty catchy chorus while I was running Saturday morning.

You’re flirting with disaster
You’re always on the run
Your heart is beating faster, on and on and on
You need a permanent vacation
On the far side of the sun
Three days of inspiration, on and on and on

The third was “Angels In The Atmosphere.” I kicked the title around in my head as I drove east on The Ten. Angels have been on my mind all year. Well, I think I may finally have found a place for ’em. And being that I watched “Angels In America” Friday night, and I was in a place where angels probably dwell, well, it came pretty easily.

There are angels in the atmosphere
And the sky opens up when they’re near
And the air grows heavy with the light
And you say, “Glory, I’m alive”

The fourth was “Rainmaker.” I’m not sure why the word was in my head, but there it was. I was thinking about how we invest each other with powers we don’t know we have. And how that can be disappointing.

Bring me rain
Let it wash me away
Bring me rain
Make me clay
I can’t leave and I can’t stay
Rainmaker wash me away

The fifth was “Carmelita.” There’s a street in Palm Springs by the same name. It got me thinking of a street in Beverly Hills by the same name. I’ve run on both, and thought both times, ‘Hmmm, good name for a song.’

She’ll keep you safe
And keep you warm
She¹ll stay awake
Through the thunderstorm
And when day breaks
She shield you from
The blinding light
Of the prying sun

So I wrote five songs in less than forty-eight hours (plus two others I like a little less that may or may not make it into the light). They’re all different. “Boomtown” sounds frenzied. “Flirting” sounds chaotic, all quick changes and minor keys. “Carmelita” sounds patient and sad here, have a listen).

A guitar, and open mind, and a whole bunch of sun can go a long way.

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