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Howdy dear readers (or reader) we continue this week with some surprising activity. First of all, you may have noticed that I am not posting every week…good observation! Well, it’s because I am not nearly as prolific as I thought I would be. However, I am writing, writing, writing all the time, it’s just music and not lyrics so it’s difficult to talk to you all…or just you my lonely reader, about the musical composition of the song (especially since I am writing folk music). The post would consist of “KPO 3rd fret, Dm to A”…etc and no one really wants to here about that stuff.
FYI, it’s FREAKING DIFFICULT TO WRITE A SONG A WEEK. Seriously guys, no joke. This shit’s not easy, but I won’t let that get me down.
So I started off last week writing something of a punkier song…which is still it the works, however, yesterday I was hit by inspiration. I am not sure where it came from, I am still working out what the song means to me, and I don’t think it’s a song to play live, though it may be for the new album, and of course I will video it and slap it up on YouTube and on the blog. That said, it flowed out of me at a pace of a little over 3 hours (give or take). I haven’t had a moment like that in years. What’s more, it does not sound like any other song that I have writen. Mike calls it adult contemporary…though, if you notice in wikipedia the source of all things that must be true because they’re on the interwebs, the picture that pops up is of Celine Dion and fuck no, I don’t sound like her. Don’t get me wrong, she has an amazing voice but the music that she sings is just not my cup o’tea.
I like to think of it as more of a folksy soul tune. It’s somber, not gonna lie, I think I am calling it “Heartbreak”, though it’s not about actual heartbreak so don’t be alarmed. If I had to compare this song to another artist, I would say that I was inspired by Fiona Apple and Eva Cassidy. The thing I love about Fiona is that she makes no excuses for the music she produces, popularity is not the goal, she does it because she has to, because she can’t make anything else except what comes out, and I appreciate that. Eva’s voice was just so warm and lovely that you would melt with her. In the spirit of that type of creativity, artistic nature, and vocal prowess, I wrote this song. Though I didn’t realize that was what I was channeling at the time. In fact, I didn’t have any clear goal in mind. It just pored out of me like water (more possibilities included pored out of me like 2 day old tacos and choice others that were far grosser…but I refrained…somewhat).
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It can not be helped that as a musician you emulate what you are listening to at the moment. It helps you grow, it stunts you, it opens your horizons, it set limits. Though there are always two sides, the more music I discover, the more I listen, the more I break it down lyrically & instrumentally, the more I grow. This is why I listen to such an eclectic mix of music. But I think all musicians are fans at heart first. In early lessons, I was not writing my own songs, I was playing others, though according to my mom, I would sing my actions with a chorus so…who knows.
Back to the point please!!
Sorry, I digress, but I always seem to huh? Anyway, as I said, last week I was writing a punkier song with the concept of the cult of celebrity vs. the working musician…the song that came out yesterday, not even remotely close to this platform, but sometimes it happens that way. I have been attempting to maintain this structure, this story telling, to expand my abilities as a writer in general and more specifically as a songwriter. This song seemed to harken back to some of my earlier stream of consciousness pieces. I began to recognize this so I took preventative action, I expelled the concept, the lyrics that were flowing, and then I revised. You see I have always been a writer, a poet, an essayist. I work at this craft year after year to hone my skills.
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One of my favorite professors told me that the best writers to explain themselves in as few words as possible. With this tenet in mind, I approach my lyrics in a few different ways: sense (touch, taste, smell), place (space, surrounding), and emotion. For example, in this new song, I wanted to express that something that was unmovable , that wouldn’t yield or change. Then I thought about a physical thing that would never really evolve. A rock, it’s generally the same for 1000 or more years right. The line became: “sitting here silent like a stone as the decades slide by, you can’t move me, I’ve made up my mind”. This paints the picture in your head of the rock of course, but clearly it’s not about the rock at all.
The more I play with this daunting project, the more I solidify my mission so to speak. Mission sounds to pretentious, let’s revise, I am learning a valuable skill for my songwriting style. I want the listener to see the images in their head, not just hear the song. Those of you who know me, know that I am a reader, avid some may say. Hell, I listen to audiobooks while a work, mostly because I am always in school so the only physical books that I have time to sit down and read are about instructional technology, but, again I digress. The only, and I mean only books that I like to read draw me in so that I can see it as a movie in my head. Including historical non-fiction, David McCullough is the master of painting the picture in historical non-fiction by the by. This is how I have always felt about reading and writing. I never thought this deeply about the concept when I was younger and writing a lot of poetry, but the best poems that I wrote, the ones that were published (yes shameless plug I know), were the ones that you could visualize what ever was going on. This is how I approach my songwriting. I was calling it story telling, implying that each song would have a plot, a theme, an intro, climax, a change of some sort, and a conclusion, the basics of story telling. So let’s make another revision, some songs tell an actual story, and some paint the picture, which tells a story in its own way.
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The deeper I dive into this project the more I learn about myself which is a surprising element. Furthermore, I am gaining more skills, becoming a better musician and player, a better singer, a better writer and a more thoughtful story teller/songwriter. All and all this endeavor, though daunting and far more difficult than I imaged, is proving to be the most valuable thing I have done as an artist. I am sure that it’s because it forces me to practice daily and reach outside of my comfort zone. By creating these arbitrary yet necessary deadlines for myself, I am forced to produce something for you, dear reader/listener, mostly because the shame of failure is not something I enjoy, though I know it well. So the adage is true: success (or Genius as Edison put it, though I am not one) is 1 % inspiration and 99% perspiration. Doing the work truly pays off.