ALISON STEWART, host:
Paul McCartney once sang, some people want to fill the world with silly love songs, what's wrong with that? Nothing, really. And truly, not all love songs are silly. Take the ones written by 31-year-old performer-composer Corey Dargel. His are heartbreaking and clever and catchy and very specific.
Dargel was commissioned to write 13 personal songs for couples of all configurations: husbands and wives, siblings, friends. For example, this track from Phil to his wife Catherine.
(Soundbite of song "Six Point Five Billion People")
Mr. COREY DARGEL: (Singing) There was about a one in fifteen-hundred chance that you and I would meet at Shakespeare in the park to wine and dine perchance to embark on a lifelong romance.
STEWART: That song and 12 others are in Corey Dargel's new CD, "Other People's Love Songs," from New Amsterdam Records, and he joins us from our New York studios along with one couple for whom he wrote songs, Kristin Marting(ph) and Carl Skutch(ph). Corey, hi.
Mr. DARGEL: Hi.
STEWART: Hi, Kristin. Hi, Carl.
Ms KRISTIN MARTIN: Hi.
Mr. CARL SKETCH: Hi.
STEWART: And we also have another couple joining us from member station WBEZ in Chicago, CJ Mitchell and Karen Christopher. CJ and Karen, hi.
Ms. KAREN CHRISTOPHER: Hello.
Mr. CJ MITCHELL: Hello.
STEWART: So Corey, I am going to start with you. Are you a romantic at heart?
Mr. DARGEL: I am a romantic at heart but I think I am also sort of ashamed of that.
STEWART: Why are you ashamed of being a romantic?
Mr. DARGEL: I think it's just - there is something about it that feels like it's too easy. It's like the flipside of being a cynic.
(Soundbite of song)
Mr. DARGEL: (Singing): Every single note you play in the concert hall sounds just like a miracle to me.
Mr. DARGEL: Everything is sweet and precious, and I think sometimes the thing that are most beautiful to me are the things that we know are going to pass away, the things that we know aren't going to last. And so enjoying those things and really investing and enjoying them while we can is something that I enjoy.
(Soundbite of song)
Mr. DARGEL: (Singing) But halfway across Wyoming I can't tell if we're coming or going.
STEWART: I wonder how you would go about crafting your songs. They weren't sort of syrupy and silly love songs.
Mr. DARGEL: Well, I tried to find the things about love that are a little bit quirky. I didn't want to treat love and intimacy as sort of profound and paralyzing emotions, so I looked for kind of ordinary things that make us fall in love with each other.
(Soundbite of song "Summer of Love")
Mr. DARGEL: (Singing) Remember the first movie we ever saw, it was Valley of the Dolls. And the way you stroked my arm so sweetly...
STEWART: Now did you sit down and actually interview each couple?
Mr. DARGEL: I did. I have boilerplate questions for each couple, which are things like, how did you meet? What's the most exciting thing you've done together? And those questions then opened up the door for the subjects to lead in whatever direction they wanted to go.
STEWART: Let's talk to your subjects. We've got CJ and Karen joining us from Chicago. Now, Karen, what the heck do seagulls have to do with your relationship?
Ms. CHRISTOPHER: Instead of answering a lot of Corey's questions, I just told a few stories, and one of them was that CJ and I, we took a lot of road trips together when we first met. We took one in particular toward Land's End, but we didn't make it before it got dark. So we got to this place called Hallsands, and it wasn't till the morning that we discovered that actually Hallsands was a village that had fallen into the sea in 1917, and this was really all that was left of it.
(Soundbite of song "Seagulls (For CJ from Karen)")
Mr. DARGEL: (Singing) It's a mystery to me, how those Hallsands seagulls keep surviving. A whole village falls into the sea and those birds keep thriving diving right into the undertow. Constantly struggling no matter how hard the wind blows.
STEWART: So Corey, the song "Seagulls" was born out of this road trip that had this sort of mystical, spooky part to it. Why was that what you based the love song around?
Mr. DARGEL: Well, the first part of that answer is I based in on what Karen told me. But I found in that story something about their relationship, which is that I saw Karen as the seagull. No matter how hard was blowing she kept flying. She kept struggling to fly, and it was Karen who was the force forward. But she couldn't get anywhere without the help of a navigator.
Mr. MITCHELL: I think Corey nailed it beautifully there. It really rings loud and clear and true to me.
STEWART: Just so I'm clear, CJ and Karen, are you married or are you boyfriend-girlfriend?
Mr. MITCHELL: We are married. We just passed our 10th anniversary.
Ms. CHRISTOPHER: Yeah, that trip happened probably like 12 years ago.
STEWART: Corey, love song are usually for couples like CJ and Karen who've been together for a long time or maybe have a new kind of spark of love. But on this CD, this release, you have love songs between sisters, and there is one on a father and a daughter. What are the challenges of writing love songs that aren't sort of about when the heart goes ba-boom, ba-boom?
Mr. DARGEL: I don't know that I would say that it's more challenging. For me, it's more interesting to write different kinds of love songs, to find different ways of looking at the same idea.
(Soundbite of song)
Mr. DARGEL: (Singing) We may both be broken, just a tiny bit imperfect but each of us can detect what the other leaves unspoken.
Mr. DARGEL: So I actively sought in these commissions that I took different definitions of what love is.
STEWART: How did you find your pairs?
Mr. DARGEL: I started out by advertising this commission service on my Web site, and that's all I did.
STEWART: Sitting across from you and me is Carl and Kristin, who are from New York. Kristin, what were your hopes for the song when you commissioned it for Carl?
Ms. MARTIN: Well, it was a big birthday for him, and I wanted something special for that birthday.
STEWART: What is the personal element of this song?
Ms. MARTIN: Well, it talks a lot about the dynamic in our relationship, as well as talking about interests of Carl's, his hobby of playing poker, the passions that are in our lives because it's also talking about my work that I do as an artist.
STEWART: Well, let's listen to a little bit. The song is called "Five Of A Kind."
(Soundbite of song "Five Of A Kind")
Mr. DARGEL: (Singing) I'm an unstoppable force you know but you're my source of affirmation, my anchor, my foundation. You've always had the strongest hands of any man at the poker table, and I love that you're able to read people so well to tell the false tells from the true tells.
STEWART: Kristin, were you ever - not concerned is the right word - but did you ever think, wow, a whole lot of people are going to be let into an intimate part of our lives and the way I feel about my husband?
Ms. MARTIN: I don't think I thought of it then, but it occurred to me after the song had been written, you know. And I think it occurred to me, too, when Corey and I were sitting down and he was doing the interview, and I was suddenly realizing that the answers I were given would relate to something that a lot of people would know.
STEWART: CJ and Karen, I want to ask you the same question that I posed to Kristin. Now that the song is on a CD and so many people are going to hear it and know about this special time the two of you had together, what do you think about that, Karen?
Ms. CHRISTOPHER: I have to say, I am a bit of an exhibitionist anyways. I want everybody to hear about things that I do or think. On the other hand, the song has its special life of its own, and so it's not just about me and CJ and what Corey and I managed to agree on. I think it's fantastic if other people hear it, and I actually don't feel that it's so intimate that it can't be about anyone.
STEWART: Corey, were you in love when you made this record?
Mr. DARGEL: I've been in love with my boyfriend for eight years now.
STEWART: "Other People's Love Songs" is Corey Dargel's new CD. It's now out on New Amsterdam Records. CJ, Karen, Carl and Kristin, thank you for sharing your love stories and for coming by our studios in New York and Chicago. And Corey, thanks a lot.
Mr. DARGEL: Thank you, Alison.
Mr. MITCHELL: Thank you.
Mr. MARTIN: Bye.
(Soundbite of song "Five Of A Kind")
Mr. DARGEL: (Singing) Or whether I should just invent a whole new game.
STEWART: To hear full songs from "Other People's Love Songs," visit our Web site at nprmusic.org.
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This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Alison Stewart. Scott Simon will be back next week.
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