Connect with us
April 2024
Vol. 23, No. 7

Talkin’ Craft

Weathering Heights 

by Lindsay WhiteMarch 2024

San Diego recently experienced quite a bit of uncharacteristic rain (not to mention some characteristic environmental racism), which was somewhat comforting (the rain, not the racism) considering my gloomy disposition of late. Funny, ain’t it, how stormy skies can either rain on your parade or parade on your rain depending on your mood?

We humans love to express our emotions through the elements, which has me thinking about weather metaphors as a timeless songwriting tool. Looking back on my catalog, it’s basically a 25-year feelings forecast with lyrical nods to the earth, wind, fire, rain, clouds, snow, sun, desert, and, of course, the entire state of Oregon.

Nowadays, I’ve traded most songwriting sessions for the role of personal jukebox to my two-year-old, but even River’s been getting acquainted with this strange life via my (absolutely stunning, mind you) 5am renditions of “You Are My Sunshine,” which, of course, adds to my theory that weather is one of the simplest, most steadfast building blocks we songwriters have at our disposal. Next time you’re stumped for a lyric, just throw open the window and point to something that reminds you of how you feel.

Curious about the discussions this topic might spark, I reached out to this month’s featured Songwriter Sanctuary artists and invited them to share how Mother Nature influences their songwriting or appears in the work of those who inspire them.



Mangosauss, a duo comprised of musical and matrimonial partners Jordan and Brian Mageo-Sausser, listed Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants, particularly  “Black Orchid” as a “chef’s kiss” when it comes to weather-themed inspiration.

As for their own songwriting practice (much of which pulls from journal entries that give way to raw and melancholy lyrics). Jordan shared that the recent rain “feels like a cosmic sympathy that allows us to go even deeper in self-reflection and expressing emotions.”

The duo is currently in the process of recording a song called “Rainbow.” In it, they draw upon nature’s bittersweet paradoxes…

Sometimes forest flames create new breath
delicate roses have blades for a stem
earthquakes break the ground but they never meant to hurt anyone

…in a way that resonates beautifully with the human experience. For me, that first line is my coming out, that second line is the way my mom handled it, and the third line is my first divorce. How do they apply to you? (I know they do).

Jesse Ray Smith

Jesse Ray Smith, whose sound has been described as “heartland rock and heartbreak soul,” threw it back to one of his favorite lyrics in Paul Simon’s “Graceland”:

Losing love is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody feels the wind blow.

“I love songs with imagery that can access fundamental human conditions, and so often Mother Nature gives us that access,” said Jesse. “When I listen to this song, I’m transported to a country home, longingly watching the fields sway through an open window.”

Shane Hall

Shane Hall

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to connect with award-winning blues badass Shane Hall in time for publication, but I’m Category 4 excited to see him play live in the Sanctuary on March 22!

Final Thoughts
Since every thought that crosses my mind circles back around to the million or so Palestinians who are too occupied (pun painfully warranted) with trying to survive living outside than to think about how the outside inspires art, I’ll leave you with one more tune that describes what has been the coldest winter of my lifetime. I hope it makes your heart hurt enough to write your representatives, but hopeful enough to come out for some healing music at Songwriter Sanctuary at Normal Heights United on March 22. Til then, “keep a clean nose, watch the plain clothes,” and you know the rest.

Thanks for Talkin’ Craft with me!

Photos provided by the artists.

Continue Reading