I got the magic switch turned on this past weekend.
Several years ago I woke up from a dream singing "oh oh oh oh Tokyo" to a melody I heard in a dream. I had no reason to be singing about Tokyo in particular, but it was on my lips and nothing else felt right when I tried switching it out for something else. I get lucky sometimes with songs when I’m sleeping, and I knew when I woke up I had caught something pretty special. But as will happen with song ideas, I sat on it for literally years, and only just got around to fleshing it out and tracking it last October.
I've been trying to plot my moves with it ever since, just sorting out how to put new music out, looking for the right opportunities to share it and partner up and generally trying to dream it all up. I wasn't sure what to do, and I wasn't even sure I wanted to go through all the headaches of making and releasing a record again. Plus, this song specifically was different for me, musically and in terms of lyrics and tone. I've had people tell me to rewrite parts, change lyrics, all of the usual stuff that plants the seeds of doubt. But at the same time I knew this felt like it could be a big song, at least to me. I have no proof it is other than that feeling I get each time the chorus kicks in, but like every other creator, that feeling's what you have to go on for long stretches of time. Mostly what you have is a chorus of voices telling you why you’re wrong. But I can't change what I do any more than I can change the face on my head, nor would I if I could. And as a writer, I can't do something I don't feel a thousand percent invested in because the result will suck and I didn't get into this to make music I don't feel, period.
Anyway, when I became aware this summer that Tokyo would be hosting the 2020 Summer Olympic games, I started getting a feeling I hadn't had in a while as a songwriter; a sense that perhaps something else was at work on my behalf besides me. Perhaps it wasn't an accident I woke up singing “Tokyo” back in 2007. I’d been trying to sort out a video for it for a while, but now I felt a bit more urgency to make something that would give the song the best shot to get heard far and wide. Try as I might, I wasn’t sure how to make something compelling without actually getting on a plane for Japan, which, suffice it to say, presented some logistical challenges. I’d pretty much decided to put this one on the back burner until I had a better sense of what to do with it that didn’t require crossing the Pacific Ocean. But then on Saturday night, the Universe stepped in and took care of the travel.
I went to an event with my wife for her work and Delta was one of the sponsors. We’d made our rounds and were about to leave when a friend told us we had to go by the Delta booth to play their game. She said that someone had just won a trip to Shanghai. The game was like playing slots; you selected different touch screens that looked like airplane window shades. As you touched a screen, the window would go up to reveal a different city – DC, NYC, Shanghai, Tokyo, Paris, London, etc. Get three of the same city in five choices and you're off to that destination. We’d had no idea that there were games in the sponsors’ booths, but I knew right then that this was my ride to Tokyo showing up.
We waited in line for twenty minutes, watching everyone take their shots and strike out. I kept watching for the picture of Tokyo at night to pop up, which it did occasionally and twice one round, but not for the clincher. My wife is always telling me you have to say thank you for the things have to get the things you want. I know it sounds metaphysical and sort of counter intuitive, but she makes shit happen and she does it all the time, so I sat there watching and saying, “Thank you for this trip to Tokyo. Thank you for this trip to Tokyo.” And as I said it, much to my surprise, I felt it. And then it was finally my turn and I stepped up to play.
It wasn’t looking good right off the bat for me. I think I got a DC, a Tokyo and then an NYC. But then another Tokyo popped up. Then with one screen left to choose and two Tokyos on the board, my hand hovered over a fifth window on the left side of the game. I got a feeling that I was over-thinking it and getting too tricky. I moved my hand back to the screen that was right in front of me. “Fuck it,” I thought. “If the Universe is going to deliver, it's going to stick it right in front of my nose anyway.” I touched the screen and lo and behold, there was that shot of Tokyo at night, al lit up like a Christmas tree. Holy fuck...
I'm loathe to go long form on personal beliefs and metaphyscs on social media, but I think this calls for it. Like anyone else, I often feel like I'm tossing Hail Mary's, but I'm telling you, YOU GOTTA BELIEVE!!! I'll get off the soapbox in a second, but humor me for a minute, it’s Monday and I’m still riding high. It doesn't matter how much of a long shot you and your thing in life feel like, if it's in your heart, it can fucking happen. Believe it. Don't listen to people who tell you why you're wrong or those voices in your own head that say “no, that’s stupid.” Fuck ‘em and keep going. Eventually the Universe takes notice and you get lucky.
Believe it!! Tokyo here we come…
Time is Now
Coby Brown is a composer, songwriter and recording artist based in Los Angeles.
Recently, Coby completed the score for “The Man Who Knew Infinity” (dir. Matt Brown), a biopic of the Indian mathematical genius S. K. Ramanujan, starring Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel. He also recently wrote the music for several episodes of the PBS SoCal documentary series “Angeleno” (dir. Peter Jones) as well as the score for Guns For Hire (dir. Katherine Brooks), an independent feature starring Jeffery Dean Morgan and Ben Mendelsohn.
He produced his latest full length record, French Exit, along with Will Golden (Meiko, Gomez). The album features a stellar band including guitarist David Immergluck (Counting Crows, Camper Van Beethoven) and new addition drummer Michael Jerome (Richard Thompson, John Cale).
His songs have appeared in films including "Nothing But the Truth", “The River Why” and “Answers to Nothing", and songs from his record French Exit (2013) are featured on Showtime's Shameless and can be heard on the Counting Crows' 2012 covers album, Underwater Sunshine.
He's working on a new record in Los Angeles.