When February comes around, bazillions of people across the globe are forced to recall how lonely they are.
Thank god for music—if anyone feels your pain, it’s musicians.
In talking to Santa Fe musicians, I discovered that happy love songs aren’t really anyone’s cup of tea. I mean, who likes hearing songs about how someone is happier than you? Nobody.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, some of Santa Fe’s beloved musicians break down the process of writing a love song.
Stephanie Hatfield and Bill Palmer of Stephanie Hatfield & Hot Mess
Bandmates Stephanie Hatfield and Bill Palmer were married on the 1st of the year, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’ve whipped up a batch of lovey-dovey tripe.
“We were actually talking about writing a happy love song the other day…now that we’re married. We kind of sat there in silence for a few minutes wondering how the hell you do that,” Palmer tells SFR.
Hatfield didn’t think her marriage would impact the songwriting since, she notes, “all the best love songs I know are about loving someone but not being able to have them.”
But Palmer does have a few happy tunes.
“I have this one called ‘Let’s Make Love Again Tonight,’” he says with a laugh. “It was written back when this war started, and there was all this awful stuff in the world and on the news, but I was like, hey, at least we’ve got love…”
‘Can I Stay’ by Stephanie Hatfield
I had no clue that you’d be part of
Something I could never stop
The truest lives are hiding mysteries
But I can’t play at what I’m not
Can I stay awhile
I promise I won’t do or say a thing
Can I stay awhile
Can I stay awhile with you
I’ll read into that song you sent
A dozen plays at 1 am
I’ll have another and I’ll go to bed
And dream you simply give a damn
I can hide behind a screen of lies
And boldly stare at your lips
But it’s only when your eyes see mine
I can see what I miss
Sean Healen of the Sean Healen Band
Things are good these days for front man Sean Healen, who was recently signed to Florida’s Blues Destiny Records. “It’s a small deal,” he says, “But small deals lead to bigger deals.” A rock-folk-bluesy virtuoso, Healen also is prolific: He writes a song a day and, last I spoke with him, he had 700 songs in his catalog. I figured one or two of them must be a love song.
“I’ve got some love songs and, really, I love the despondent love song. I rarely write a happy love song…don’t recall if I have any,” Healen says. “I like a song with super-dark lyrics.”
Part of the local scene for years, Zach Maloof had been in several bands—most notably pop-punk project Sunset Drive—before he struck out on his own. He has self-recorded several albums and is always hard at work on another.
“The first song I ever wrote was a breakup song. I called it ‘Broken Boy,’ and it was written after being dumped when I was 14,” Maloof tells SFR. “At that age, a breakup had the power to shatter my world, so I channeled my angst into four power chords.”
Like so many songwriters, Maloof is at his most productive when things aren’t going his way.
“I’ve noticed that I’m a much better songwriter when I’m not in a happy relationship. Currently, I’m in a happy place in my life, and it’s been challenging to find ways to write songs,” Maloof says. “But these days, I’m taking a more narrative approach to my love songs…telling tales based on my past experience mixed with those of people in my life. Think fiction with a slight true-story angle.”
‘Broken Boy’ by Zach Maloof
People always said it wouldn’t last
But I never thought it would end so fast
Things always seem to end this way
Feel as if I was just thrown away
I must be damaged or broken somehow
Can’t keep a girl, not even now
I’m a broken boy, always screw things up
I’m a broken boy, just not good enough
I’m a broken boy
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
The good things never seem to last
I’ve learned that all in the past
Every single chance that I get
I somehow manage to ruin it
I always do these stupid things
That’s just what my ignorance brings
One of the most versatile and talented musicians in town, Josh Martin has several of his own projects—such as the Martin/Burke Band and Mary & Mars—but also is one of the most sought-after session musicians around.
“Being somewhat of a neurotic, most of my attempts at love songs are of the post-breakup, brokenhearted, woe-is-me type. There are a couple Mary & Mars songs that are downright pathetic in their self-wallowing,” Martin says. “I think the healthiest songwriters approach a love song like John Lennon did…honoring your lover while you’re involved in the relationship.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve yet to hear of Eliza Lutz, who recently returned to Santa Fe after a brief residence in Florida, but you’d be a fool not to search her out. Though Lutz is young, her punk-folk style is that of someone with years of experience, and her formidable voice is a standout in her genre.
“I used to write music that was very lyric-centric, and found this to work for affairs of the heart,” Lutz says. “But as I got older and my musical and personal interests expanded, the instrumental side of both the music I make and listen to began to speak more about the romantic endeavors in my life. I also find it can be more fulfilling and intimate to make music with someone you care for.”