Acting The Optimist

by Val Emmich

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1.
I’m changing my mindset I’m leaning on common sense I’m kicking the creeps out of me I’m acting the optimist Off the edge of the precipice I’m gliding so light on my feet But I get that feeling Like I can barely breathe Yeah I get that feeling But it soon lets go of me I return to the positive The abandon of college I’m young everywhere but my knees I rely on community To invite me for talk and tea Or I think so deep into sleep Yeah I get that feeling Like I can barely breathe Yeah I get that feeling But it soon lets go of me It soon lets go of me And I’m free
2.
Get Down 02:57
Been so long since I took a stand on anything Been so long since I did a stranger Been so long since I gave my time to charity Been so long since I saw my uncle But I get down Yeah I get down I get down Every single day Every single day Every single way Been so long since I made a fire in the woods Been so long since I broke my routine Been so long since I took that trip Down Under Been so long since I gambled everything But I get down Yeah I get down I get down Every single day Every single day Every single way I gotta get up get up get up get up get up
3.
Crumble 03:27
Waking up baby In your bedroom Having dreams lately Of madness and doom Skip the eggs I’m just not hungry It’s hard to stomach my only country All I really want to do is crumble right into you All I really want to do is crumble Cracking up daily Muscles spazzing Holding on tightly To what I’m not having Talk is cheap and that’s a good thing Cuz your steady voice it’s kind of soothing All I really want to do is crumble right into you All I really want to do is crumble I’m so tired of all these pictures Everybody out here taking pictures All I really want to do is crumble right into you All I really want to do is crumble
4.
Falling 03:29
I think I’m fa fa falling falling for you I think I’m fa fa falling falling for you It’s not the kind of thing I normally do It’s not the type of thing I’m accustomed to I said I think I’m fa fa falling falling for you (Chéri je suis prêt) This is what I’m feeling (Chéri je suis prêt) I’m soaring through the ceiling (Darling I’m ready) Can you tell me you deny This crazy thing connecting you and I? Can you look into my eyes? Can you tell me you deny This crazy thing connecting you and I?
5.
Lift Me Love 02:48
On my knees A gentle breeze Comes soaring Over me It’s you my dear Inside my ear Your light defies All my fears Lift me now love Dig me out of The hole I’m inside With you I can fly So high above Lift me love The energy Seeps out of me I’m full of holes And sinking Stop my leaks With true beliefs There’s something good Inside of me Lift me now love Dig me out of The hole I’m inside With you I can fly So high above Lift me love
6.
I’m an eager kid I’m revving up a bit I see it freaks you out I guess I came on strong You became alarmed Left you with some doubt Won’t you let me down easy ... I’m so brittle Oh won’t you let me down easy ... I’m still little My therapist she knows How I ebb and flow How I fall and rise You see I’m high right now But when you knock me down it’s such a big surprise I’m in your fingertips And I don’t want to slip I know I’m hard to want So many things I’m not And nothing’s set in stone Together then alone Yeah it’s a theme I know It’s a theme I know So won’t you let me down easy ... I’m so brittle Oh won’t you let me down easy ... I’m just little
7.
All the hours I spend Making invisible friends Put in my effort at work Then stuff my face with dessert I vote for who talks the best Make sure I’m properly dressed I spend my money on you and me I take you out on a walk I listen up when you talk I never rush the romance I do the song and the dance But still I struggle with doubt I hope I figure it out I wish that someone would comfort me I can’t escape the feeling This is just a waste of time I bring my car to a stop I give donations a lot I do say thank you and please I pay my taxes and fees I wait to watch Game of Thrones So you don’t have to alone And in five minutes you’re fast asleep I got my college degree It’s something I never need I spend my life writing words No one has time to observe I wonder what’s it all for These days it feels like a chore And where’s it get me? This honesty I can’t escape the feeling This is just a waste of time I don’t want to cause a scene I just move along I don’t want to make a sound If the words are wrong I'm tired of being on guard I wish this wasn’t so hard I don't mind trying if it means something But I can’t escape the feeling This is just a waste of time I don’t want to cause a scene I just move along I don’t want to make a sound If the words are wrong
8.
Echo 03:37
I’ve been lying On a bed of bees So busy buzzing I don’t get no sleep I want to call you Wake you up I feel caffeinated But I haven’t drank a cup Like a newborn bruise It feels tender when I move A reminder that you’re here Like a whisper in my ear They keep repeating in my head All the words you said Like an echo When I met you I didn’t know You’d be a troublemaker You knew which parts to show Now I see you I like what I see Even though I’m certain You’re not good for me Crawling through my skin Like a hurricane within And I try to kick you out But it’s too loud in hear to shout They keep repeating in my head All the words you said Like an echo
9.
Longest Days 03:47
September A reminder Of moments lost Bright sunlight Replaced with frost I’m anxious To face this The coming night Feels so long It feels so wrong to hide away I can’t hide no more The summer is gone too fast and now the longest days are over I waited all year for the sun to come down on my shoulders Can’t face the cold, can’t make it no, another dark and lonely winter The seasons Aren’t even The hard ones last The good ones So quickly pass The planet She’s had it And so have I Can’t make it Way too long to hide away I can’t hide no more The summer is gone too fast and now the longest days are over I waited all year for the sun to come down on my shoulders Can’t face the cold, can’t make it no, another dark and lonely winter
10.
I’m alive once again It's good to have a loyal friend I’m okay now I’m okay now Wish I could be a steady guy Let it go, let it slide Be okay now Just be okay now Sometimes I got the straightest lines I’m a porcupine Don’t mess with mine Then other days I get a little crazed I get a lot crazed I don’t like those days Up and down Left and right It’s an ugly fight It’s an ugly fight I’m trying to learn I’m trying to learn How to glow not burn How to glow not burn I’ve been singing this kind of song Man, I don’t know how loud and long It’s cliché now But hey, it’s okay now So let this be a new melody Something more understanding It’s okay now It’s okay now Sometimes I got the straightest lines I’m a porcupine Don’t mess with mine Then other days I get a little crazed I get a lot crazed I don’t like those days Up and down Left and right It’s an ugly fight It’s an ugly fight I’m trying to learn I’m trying to learn How to glow not burn How to glow not burn Right now I’m on the path and I’m never gonna ever look back No I’m never gonna ever look back, I done my time I’m done doing all of that

about

////// ACTING THE OPTIMIST //////

The plan was to record a new album in just two days. Ten songs over one weekend. Preparations began in May 2019. By the time the recording dates arrived, late in October of that year, everything was set—the songs, musicians, producer, studio, even finances, mostly contributed by loyal listeners. Just one problem: I was no longer the person I had been when I devised the plan. He was gone. The person who replaced him couldn’t be left alone for more than a few moments without crawling into a ball.

It was because of the medication. I’ve always been wary of medication. I’ve seen what the wrong meds can do to people. Also, there was a fear I might lose the magical creativity I often experience from periods of semi-mania. But, with the goal of becoming a steadier partner and parent, I decided to give medication a try.

The trial began in late 2018. Fast forward to August 2019. After months of ups and downs and no real progress, I decide to come off medication completely. The depression that followed was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I saw no light at the end of the tunnel. I was scared.

This is the way I entered the recording studio the weekend of October 19-20, 2019 to record my new album. I recall almost nothing of the experience. The photo above says it all. The vacant look. I was a zombie. I thought about canceling the session but I had a hope that doing what I love—playing music—would lift me out of despair as it had before. This time, though, I was just too far down.

After the session, I listened back and hated what I heard. The tracks sounded terrible. Lifeless and lackluster. I felt like a failure. That was the last time I listened for months. My bandmates had a sense that I wasn’t right but they weren’t aware of the whole truth. They’d email me occasionally, asking how the album was coming along and I’d tell them I was busy working on it. It was sounding great. I’d be finished soon. All lies. After how hard they had worked, I was too ashamed to tell them the truth—that I hadn’t worked on the tracks at all and had no intention of doing so. In fact, I had already returned all the donations I’d received from listeners. I didn’t want to promise something I knew I couldn’t deliver.

That’s the way it was until March of this year. Now I’m on new medication and it’s working. I’ve risen out of that hopeless hole I was stuck in. As I’m finally seeing the light again, the whole world is quickly descending into darkness. Stuck at home, I decide to revisit the album. The tracks have magically transformed. The same recordings sound totally different to me. The songs feel alive and inspired. The performances are tenacious. The lyrics seem timely and vital. Even the title of the album—Acting the Optimist—suddenly takes on new life; originally born of skepticism, the “acting” intended to be synonymous with “pretending,” it now feels sincere and empowered.

The finished album might have been recorded in two days but it was a long time in the making. It wasn’t just the personal stuff. Some of these song ideas have been around for ages, a few dating back almost fifteen years. It’s been a long journey to embracing hope. When I listen now, I don’t hear overwhelming doom. I hear plenty of optimism. I feel it. I hope you feel it too. With everything going on, we need as much optimism as we can get, right?

credits

released June 19, 2020

Recorded by Wayne Dorell at Kaleidoscope Sound in Union City, NJ (October 19-20, 2019)
Mixed by Wayne Dorell in Bloomfield, NJ
Mastered by Joe Lambert at Joe Lambert Mastering in Jersey City, NJ
Songs written by Val Emmich (PEZeaters Music, BMI)

Val Emmich sang & played guitars, ukulele, percussion, & harmonica
David Bassiri played guitar, lap steel, & banjo
James Stahon played bass
Mickey Riad played B3 organ, piano, & keyboards
Ron Difrenza played drums
Wayne Dorell played bass on “Lift Me Love”

The following musicians do not appear on the recording but played a vital role in giving life to these songs: Kevin Walters, Eric Micali, Jeremy Gelade, Jason Taylor. An extra special shoutout goes to Rob Fitzgerald who wrote foundational bass lines on Falling, Longest Days, Echo & Get Down.

Cover & Booklet Photography by James Stahon
Additional photos by Val Emmich

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Val Emmich Jersey City, New Jersey

Singer-Songwriter / Novelist / Actor

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