When I was in the States back in October, I started chatting to one of the ladies serving breakfast in the hotel. Minerva had a really friendly disposition and it wasn’t long before we both found a common interest: music. When I mentioned I was going into recording studios for the first time in a while, Minerva mentioned that her niece loved to write songs. Yanna is 10 years old.
I suggested that, if and when I came back in December, I’d be happy to meet up with Yanna and perhaps hear her or help with her songs. And that was how things were left.
December came, breakfast came and Minerva came over with a smile and some fresh coffee. We chatted enthusiastically and agreed Yanna come to the hotel on Saturday at midday.
I was curious as to how this would all work out but was looking forward to it. Midday came and I walked out of the elevator, past the front desk and did a 360° turn looking for this young girl. There, in the corner of the lobby was Yanna and her aunt. I walked towards them, leaned over with a big grin and shook Yanna’s hand. ‘Pleased to meet you Yanna, I’m Kathy’. Bless her, she couldn’t say much. At first.
We walked towards the main ballroom and whilst I held my Martin travel guitar in my hand, Yanna held her aunt’s hand in her own.
We sat down at one of those huge round tables with gold chairs while men were working in the corner putting up frames, shuffling furniture and banging and crashing what I wish had been cymbals instead of rigging.
Yanna passed me an envelope with large handwriting on the front saying ‘Yanna’s Song’. I thanked her and said I would look forward to listening to it when I got home. “So what do you like singing? “Well” she said “I hum all sorts of things and all the time. Here’s my favourite one. It’s the one that’s on the CD”.
Yanna then opened up a purple clad book and there, on the right hand side of the page, was the title ‘Fly, Fly Away’ underneath which were the lyrics. I read them quietly and thought ‘Wow, she has caring in her heart’.
“They look cool lyrics, do you think you can sing it for me?”. Yanna looked at me shyly. “I tell you what”, I said “if someone were to ask me to sing, I’d probably ask if they could look away. Do you want me to do that?”. Although she said nothing, her eyes and smile said enough.
I turned away and focussed on the men in the corner and waited for her to sing. It was a kind of X-Factor moment: you’re waiting, you’re waiting. Then the first notes rose. They gently weaved into the air and glided around so wonderfully and warmed my heart. I felt lucky to hear this wonderful moment when a child may not realise how good they are and, more importantly, can be.
When Yanna finished I turned to her and said “I’m not trying to make you feel better but you have a really nice voice and your words are good”. She seemed pleased. “Have you any other words you’ve written down?”. “Yes”, she said, as she flicked to earlier pages in her book “but these were written about five years ago, so they’re not as good”. “What, when you were five?”. I laughed and looked at the much larger writing on the pages and started to read her words. Really sweet ‘life’ lyrics. I can’t think what I was doing at five years of age but it wasn’t that.
We talked about what we each see when we start to hum and how the next part of a melody comes to us. Yanna said she wasn’t always sure how things come to her and asked how do I do it. “Well, I just imagine I’m walking blindfolded on flat ground that is leading to a cliff edge but I know I must keep walking in the hope there’s a bridge to carry me over. Sometimes I fall and other times the bridge appears in time and carries me over. That’s when I know the next part of the song works”. Yanna smiled and we had a laugh. She really started to talk freely and I was happy.
We played with her song some more and I did small backing vocals. She would smile as she was singing. I imagine she’s not used to having her own backing vocalist :-).
We talked some more about songwriting and words. “Singing and writing is kind of similar to what an airline pilot does: the more flying hours you put in the better you become. If you keep doing what you’re doing, which is great, then you can only get better. And,” I said, “If you’re writing these kind of words now, imagine all the other things you can to write about as you get older”.
We played another one of Yanna’s recent ‘hums’, found the chords and played the tune in three or four different styles so she could hear how varied a song can be. We had a super time and an hour sped by.
When it was time to wrap things up I said I really enjoyed meeting her and looked forward to playing her CD. We had our picture taken and gave each other a hug. I don’t know about Yanna, but I came away feeling pretty damn energized . And I’m still humming her tune. Attached is a clip of what we did together in the ballroom but also an extract of Yanna’s CD. I hope you like it as much as I do.
If anyone’s got a dictaphone they no longer use, let me know. I know a young girl who could put it to good use.