This Is How I Am Holding You

  • Submitted on time! May 10, 2020

I remain stuck in the bedroom with covid (my symptoms are gone, but I’m still testing positive for the virus), so this is another voice memo. Had big plans for this song—really wanted to try my hand at playing it on piano. Alas.

Recording this was almost comically difficult. False starts galore! It reminded me of bowling. Psyching myself up for several seconds, focusing soo hard, thinking “this is the one,” feeling so confident when I release the ball and then 9/10 times, it hits only one or two pins, or goes right in the gutter. I must have done at least thirty takes over the course of a week, only to end up selecting one of the first I recorded. There are a few things I’m not happy with in this version—the melody in the bridge is a bit vague and shaky; there are later versions where that part is better sung, and where I incorporated a more interesting chord… But this version has a warmth to it I wasn’t able to recreate. I like how full the low notes sound.

I loved this assignment. I loved the time limit. I’d originally written a second, gratuitous bridge, and was relieved when I realized it made the song too long and I could just remove it. (I know I still came in longer than 1 minute but this is the best I could do.)

And I was soo relieved to be able to use a melody from another song! Usually I’m terrified of inadvertently stealing a melody, so I loved having permission to do it without shame. (#TheParametersWillSetYouFree.) It’s “Man in the Box” by Alice in Chains.

Dedicated to my mom.


This is how I am holding you.
My girl, my baby in blankets blue.
Woke up with fever
and nothing to do.
Obsolete street signs
blocking your view.
My girl, my baby in blankets blue.
This is how I am holding you.

Looking for feedback on

Vocal phrasing. I'm trying to be better about emphasizing only the choicest lyrics, but it's tough in voice memos, when I'm trying to nail everything in one take.


alechutson May 12, 2020 6:27pm

so powerful lyrically while your voice stays so soothing. I agree with nick’s comment on recording quality being a really nice texture. beautifully done

juliapiker May 12, 2020 1:35pm

God.. every time Nora you are an angel. Your voice is perfect on this. I love the phrasing as well. I dont find there to be too many lyrics at all. I really enjoyed the vocal phrasing as it perfectly followed your guitar movement. Really beautiful.

nick May 11, 2020 3:12pm

Super warm, and really strong low notes. Love the voice memo quality of this one, grabbing the traffic noise as if on cue. In regards to vocal phrasing, I love for the most part how it is straight and simple—easy for kid to latch onto. However, if I were to pick a spot where you could add something, I think grabbing a big breath to carry you through the bridge, and placing “fever” at the peak could be very impactful—maybe letting the walls shake a little bit. I can imagine that being the scary part of this lullaby’s Pixar movie. Really excellent all around.

Sam Pearce May 10, 2020 10:20pm

I love how there’s a 1:1 word:note ratio until the “hold” of “holding”. In that moment it’s kind of like you’re wrapping around the listener with melody. Regarding phrasing, I think it’s compelling throughout, and I noticed that you sang two notes on “how” when that part comes back, a variation that I think is subtle and convincing. I clearly don’t know without asking, but I imagine that given your query and your training, you assess your singing in some dimensions that I don’t necessary know how to consider, which is awesome, having that awareness. I’ll listen one more time to see if I notice any phrasing that takes me away from, instead of into, the feeling of the song.

Sam Pearce May 10, 2020 10:23pm

Yeah, listening again, I just noticed a couple more details that I like. I think if there are specific moments you have doubts about, I could offer an outside perspective on those particular concerns.

May 17, 2020 3:19pm
Edit Delete

Thank you Sam! So appreciate that you took the time to listen so closely and notice those differences in the phrasing of “how”—that was def intentional. There weren’t any specific places I was concerned about, it’s just a very strong/forward melody that jumps all over the place, so I wanted to make sure my phrasing was able to tamper that down a bit.

Ryan May 10, 2020 7:21pm

Nora, I absolutely adore this—definitely one of my favorites from you. What a lyric sheet! I think I’ve listened to this fifteen times already haha. I’m sorry you wanted to do something a bit more ambitious and weren’t able to—but! I think this is *exactly* how this piece was meant to be recorded. Hearing the room and reeeeally hearing your voice absolutely make this track. This feels like a sung poem. One that should actually become a lullaby for a kiddo or two. And to answer your question, I feel like every lyric was meant—hence the poem comment. Each word counts. Very well done.

nurphgun May 10, 2020 7:40pm

Thanks, Ryan! This is so nice to hear. I guess what I meant to say was I’m working on trying to emphasize the most important words in each phrase. Like I did a few takes where I was singing every word in the first phrase with the exact same tone, strength, and inflection, because I was kind of being lazy about it. I want to make sure the word “holding” was the sweet spot of that phrase. etc. But so glad to hear it came across!

RyanMay 10, 2020 7:47pm

Ah, gotchyou! Sorry, I misunderstood that a bit. In thinking about it, I find the melody used here so strong that I think that’s the first vehicle I notice on a word-by-word basis. But listening again, your inflections come across just right, as well. So it’s certainly a combination. But yeah I’m definitely feeling pretty dang non-critical of this track in general hah.

aubspeeps May 10, 2020 6:34pm

Nora, this is beautiful. It instantly brought tears to my eyes. The song is so vulnerable lyrically that I think the vulnerability of how you were feeling trying to record it and the vulnerability of the voice memo quality actually really adds something very emotional that compliments the lyrics really nicely. You said so much with so little, I think your phrasing in this song is wonderful