Story Behind the Song: “Seasons”

It was November 11, 1997 when a songwriter from the UK name Derry Jones posted a critique request on a country songwriting mailing list named Orbison (so named after iconic singer Roy Orbison) that started, “I don’t usually do this, but I feel this song/lyric deserves a second look!” The lyric was called “Seasons”, and the first part began:

Her eyes were as cold
As the ice on the window
I had no words to soften her heart
In the winter

I responded, starting out saying, “Derry, I think you’ve got a beautiful lyric here overall.  I have a few minor notes in terms of my personal reaction to this — maybe a bit over-analytical for something this poetic, but I’ll share them just in case they may be useful.” I went on to suggest her eyes’ being cold suggested felt like she might be cold-hearted, as opposed to temporarily unreceptive to someone. Derry replied a couple of days later to thank me for my comments, saying he’d review them in more detail after a week’s vacation in Tenerife (lucky guy!).

I won’t bore you with the rest of the initial lyric, or my comments on it. However, the net was that, after Derry returned from his trip, he replied to let me know he wanted to take a little while to consider the comments in more detail, and that he thought the lyric would deserve “an exceptional melody”, which he indicated would give him “more problems”. I let him know I’d be happy to take a crack at the melody once the lyric was finished.

A few more rounds of emails followed. Only a small number of lines, and even words, were changed after those emails (e.g. in the section above, the only change was to substitute “words” for “eyes”), but the result was a lyric we both agreed was solid, and I emailed a (RealAudio!) work demo of the melody I’d written for Derry’s words to him on November 24th.

For whatever reason (apparently of the technical issues variety), Derry didn’t receive the demo I’d emailed him, though I didn’t realize that initially. I eventually mailed him a cassette tape (yes, this was back in the late 1990s, and that was still the main physical format for demos at that point) in early December, and he received it a bit more than a week after that, approving of the results.

There were plenty of additional correspondences on the song, including on the subject of demos and early pitches. A classical singer in Australia was briefly interested in the song, but ultimately did not use it. Derry had some tracks produced over the in the UK with a couple of different singers, and, though we never used those demos, he also sent me the instrumental tracks on cassette. I cleaned those tracks up, and a young local (in Orange County, California) singer was interested in recording the song for her artist demo, so I produced her doing that later in 1998. Additional interest developed from multiple artists from 1999 through 2001, including one demo recording made by a young singer in Sweden that was, quite frankly, pretty painful to listen to (where was Simon Cowell to mention pitch problems?!).

I eventually made a new piano/vocal demo in 2003, and that ended up being the “definitive” version of the song for upwards of fifteen years. However, by that time, I was primarily focusing on writing for the country market, and “Seasons” was decidedly not a country song (despite my having found Derry’s lyric on a country-focused mailing list), so the song more or less sat on the back burner.

Cut to mid-April of 2019, and I’d been working on a full-length soft rock-flavored album, which was getting close to completion but, due to licensing issues for a co-written song I’d been intending to use on the album, and feeling that another song I’d originally intended to include on the album wasn’t a good fit for the album’s theme, I was looking for two additional songs. I went through my catalog of unreleased songs, and “Seasons” felt like it could be a good fit from a lyrical standpoint. There was some question as to whether I could make it fit the more guitar-focused style of the album given the earlier recordings had primarily been piano- and/or synthesizer-oriented. I approached Derry about licensing the song, and he agreed, so I set out to record it. The recording took about three weeks altogether, and balances the piano and keyboard side of things with rock guitars and drums.

Because there is still one more song needed for the album (as of this writing, I’ve at least got a first full draft of a new song written, but I haven’t started recording it yet), and it had been a while since my most recent single, I decided to put “Seasons” out as a single in the interim. That meant cover art was needed, but I had a general idea of what I wanted to do for that, choosing one photograph for each of the four seasons from my photo archives. Those photos spanned multiple decades from 35mm slides taken at Clarkson University (formerly Clarkson College of Technology) in Potsdam, New York in October 1981 (Fall) and January 1982 (Winter) and Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia in April 1988 (Spring) to a digital photograph taken at Lost River Gorge, New Hampshire in August 2008 (Summer).

The recording was released on May 31, 2019 and is now available on the usual streaming sites as well as for downloads at popular digital music stores.