“Take The Corners Gently“
intro by tom johnson
words by dre babinski
photography by isaac ravishankara
Take The Corners Gently is the third LP from Steady Holiday, the musical project of LA songwriter Dre Babinski. Following up 2018’s Nobody’s Watching, Dre travelled to Nashville, Tennessee, to record the album with Blake Sennett, lead guitarist in the much loved Rilo Kiley, who helped bring these vibrant songs to life.
A document of complex, difficult times in her life, Corners is both buoyant and beautiful, a tight collection of smart, heartfelt pop songs that grow an inch taller thanks to the spiritedness with which Babinksi approaches them. Perhaps its key aspect is its vulnerability, however. There is real heart and soul in these songs, and the impulsiveness which always comes with such things is given centre stage, adding depth and warmth which radiates throughout the album’s eight songs.
Released into the world last week, you can stream the album at the bottom of this page, and be sure to listen along while reading this track by track guide written by Dre, for both us and for you. Enjoy…
Take The Corners Gently
Take The Corners Gently was written during a period of turmoil in my family. The details aren’t mine alone to share, but the lessons learned from the experience are threaded throughout these songs. It’s an album about embracing uncertainty, relinquishing what can’t be controlled, appreciating small moments as they happen. Humility.
I recorded with those things in mind too. At least… I tried to. I went to Nashville to work with Blake Sennett, an old friend who understood. Our best intentions weren’t always aligned. But we knew it. Embraced it. And in a way, that was the point. I also dragged my friend Chiffon Myst along. He makes everything better.
So that’s how we got here. That’s the quick version, anyway. I’ll probably try to thesaurus my way out of words like “acceptance” and “humility”, but that’s what I’ll be dancing around.
I’m uncomfortable with collaborating when it comes to songwriting. Admittedly, because I’ve done it so few times. It’s my boogeyman. One day, I finally mustered the courage to ask Chiffon to come over and give it a go. I set up an SM57 in my living room and recorded him dicking around on piano. He was throwing out beautiful idea after beautiful idea, so I had him focus on one. We refined it, played it over and over. Eventually, it distilled into the main hook. I personally skirted the vulnerability part of collaborating, but hey… baby steps.
After he left, I chopped up the ideas from the day and structured a song around them. The lyrics being about how easy it is to fall into familiar patterns, and wonder why nothing changes. That day (and this song) being an example. Again… baby steps.
Sunny In The Making
This is a song about being fortified by tough experiences. About being scraped and bruised, but told from enough distance to breathe some perspective and optimism into them when looking back.
As we were recording, Blake suggested I straighten out the verse melody to be more monotone. I pushed back on that, the main reason being that I have a hard time letting people into certain creative spaces. Apparently, this was one of them (see White Walls, paragraph 1). I’m so glad that he challenged me on this. The relentless and colorless melody helps the chorus explode. I didn’t intend for this song to sound as bright and hopeful as it does, but it feels so appropriate now.
Here’s a pickle: needing love, but not letting it in. I’ve resided in that pickle jar for most of my life, and my feet still dangle in the deep end. But I’m getting better at acknowledging my own paradoxical behavior when it’s happening. Repeat is like a children’s learning song. Instead of learning how to count or put your toys away, it’s about learning how to ask for the love that you need.
The first spark came when I was at a restaurant with a friend and her son, who was busily playing with his food and launched it all over her. She reminded him how we eat at the table, cleaned up the best she could (her shirt was a wreck, by the way), and seamlessly went on with our conversation. I was moved by how unphased she was, now with a stained and soaking wet shirt in public. It’s a small thing, but it was so graceful to me.
Living Life is about staying out of your own way. Yes, maybe your proverbial shirt is covered in pesto, then lemon water. But are you gonna let that ruin your day? For me, on most days, yeah probably. But I know what I want the answer to be, and there are examples all around if I pay attention. I’m beginning to know it when I see it.
Candles was originally about gun violence in America, but the meaning continues to evolve. I see it more broadly now as the trouble we find ourselves in when we don’t learn from our mistakes. Mistakes at any scale. Stubbing your toe on the same step or, I don’t know… gun violence in America.
I wanted the lyrics and melody to repeat over and over, while the intensity built underneath. That idea was a nod to Bolero by Ravel (sort of), a song that gradually turns into chaos while mostly remaining the same.
Tangerine is a fairly abstract song, and it’s the only one of its type on this album. It’s about witnessing someone’s decline, and paying attention to behavioral changes and warning signs. I can’t say that I’m at peace with the subject matter of this song, even today. So in hindsight, it makes sense that I wrote it in a somewhat veiled manner. Sidenote: isn’t that a trip? I can only see that in hindsight. At the time I was probably like “hey cool chords Dre” and kept going.
I always saw it as this bubbling, foggy, eerie song, but when we were in the studio we experimented with playing it about 15 BPM faster, turning it into a rock song. I love the added energy. It remains somewhat ominous, but not in a Halloweeny way like it could have gone.
Exactly What It Means
I can get obsessed with righteousness. Fairness. Meritocracy. Those spirals always lead to disappointment and cynicism. Exactly What It Means is a story about a woman who shared that negativity, but turned it around and created a meaningful path for herself. Call it an invocation.
The lyric: “One day my dear, I’ll show you my wounds” was a quote that I pulled from my grandpa. I’ve had those words saved in my phone for years. It was his response when I asked about a bandage on his arm. There was something poetic about the way he dodged a subject matter that wasn’t important in the end.
Love Me When I Go To Sleep
On my last day in Nashville, Blake and I decided to squeeze this song in right before I had to catch my flight. I had planned for last because of scheduling, but also because it’s an emotional one for me. I was prepared to leave without it.
It’s the first song that I wrote for the album, and I knew right away that it would set the thematic tone: humility. On that note, allow me to quote myself: “Fragile aren’t we, who would guess? / Here today, tomorrow’s taking bets / Maybe lightning, maybe worse? / Hey we got this far, in other words” It’s a reminder to appreciate the moment we’re in, because who knows what is barreling around the curve ahead.
I understand this idea, intellectually, and yet I get so caught up in my own bullshit all of the time. That disparity haunts me, and is probably the reason why I still cry when I play it. I did eventually make it through a full take, after many false starts. If you listen close, you can hear the snot.
Buy the album here