Savannah Jeffreys, Garland's 18-year-old daughter, has been singing and songwriting from a young age, following in her father's footsteps.
“Take me away, no looking back, in your broken-down white Pontiac”—this was the first song lyric I ever wrote. Eight years old, sitting comfortably in the backseat of our car on a drive to the beach with my parents, there was nothing that would have made me yearn to be taken away. I was just fooling around with melody and rhyme, and observing that our car was in fact a rusty and ramshackle Pontiac Deville.
My father is a songwriter. He worked on his songs in the living room as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world, making it seem like something I could do, too. As I got older, writing songs became my way of processing experiences and emotions, and when I needed to make sense of things, I’d sit down at my upright Baldwin piano and reach for the Moleskine notebook I kept on the ledge. I’d write about “you,” most often the boy of the moment or the best friend I was fighting with. Songwriting was private, something I did alone in my room until my family and friends began to tell me I was a natural. At twelve, longing to be famous and with fantasies of becoming the next Taylor Swift, I started posting videos of my songs on YouTube and performing whenever I could. I was accepted into prestigious songwriting workshops, hoping to improve my writing and see what the music industry was all about, but to my surprise instead of other hopefuls with dreams of seeing their name on Billboard’s Hot 100, I met adults who spent their time creating works of art inspired by their lives. They did it for themselves. They didn’t need the world to reaffirm their talents, and that resonated with what I’d been doing all along, and what I was truly comfortable with. The intimacy and the craft of the songwriting process are what I love most.
My most recent song began in the middle of the night after hours of tossing and turning in bed. I’d developed feelings for a friend and was compelled to tell him, so in my pitch-black room at one in the morning I whipped out a flashlight and scrawled these lyrics under my covers: "I was curious about you in the fall/You had never looked so good to me/I was curious about you in the fall/But now I’m falling for you in the Spring." In each of my songs, I imagine I’m singing directly to the person I’m writing about. I want them to feel what I’m feeling, and one of the ways to achieve this is by playing with words and phrasing, using the same tricks and schemes that a prose writer or poet might use. Repetition in the first verse emphasizes how curious I am about the potential relationship and using “fall” as a noun and “falling” as a verb evokes both the season and my emotions. The arpeggiated major chords that accompany the lyrics are light and airy, making the song even more romantic. That’s the most exciting part of all—setting lyrics against a melody that supports them.
"In the Fall" came fairly easily, but not every song does. Phrases or a few bars might pop into my head, but I can’t depend on spontaneity; I have to shape the verse, chorus, bridge, and hook. Are the rhymes too elementary, is the chord progression too generic? There are pages in my Moleskines that have been entirely scratched out, and numerous recordings of the same songs clogging up my laptop. I don’t stop writing until I’m satisfied with both the quality of the song and the state of my own emotional clarity. Now, at seventeen, I do yearn to be taken away, not by an old Deville, but by the transporting process of songwriting.