Stars: a Song by Fiona ER Canfield

Recorded the vocal for this about 2012, when Fiona was 6 or 7. It’s taken all these years to learn enough about music and have the equipment to put it to music.

I was astonished to discover that other than a few flat notes, she’s singing perfectly in the key of F. This is worth investigating. I wasn’t aware a small child could, a capella, sing exactly in key. (I adjusted the final note because she was precisely two semitones flat; I suspect that was voice control, not pitch awareness. Also she was 6.)

Maybe children are more musical than I’m aware. Maybe I have an overdeveloped proud father muscle. Maybe I just love my little girl and music and when they come together, why wouldn’t it be perfect?

Stars
Fiona ER Canfield

If the stars could talk
What would they say?
Would they say those words to you?
If the wind could tell secrets
Would it share them with you?
Would you protect them with all of your strength?

If the sun could make you smile
Would its smiles be for you?
Would your eyes have protection from the rays?
If the moon could give you dreams
Would they be happy?
Would the dreams be for you?

Good night for now
And when we wake up
We’ll have dreams of the things that I said
And when we meet again we’ll discover
That the dreams have come true

A Winter of Sorts

You can tell when the conversation is running dry because the talk is all about the weather.

Turned the heater on this morning for the first time since a 4-day stretch in December. It was 63º inside the house. Upstairs. It’s normally about 76º up there.

Fiona sleeps with her window open and her face near the window. I used to sleep like that as a kid in San Diego. Winter nights there get down in the 40s, so I always had cold air to breathe. I like heavy blankets and cold air when I’m sleeping. Trying to sleep when it’s warm is hard.

Took a drive today and listened to all 19 songs I’ve written so far this month. I’ve done well. Two more I need to finish, a travel song for with Fiona, and a third song to go with Not Just Believe and Laminated Map of the World.

Thus far, every song has been entirely voice and tenor guitar (except a collaboration, which really needed bass and screeching electric guitar; if someone shares their lyrics I play what they need, not what I want.)

More Songs, Including My Daughters

I’ve written another handful:

but the real treat is that my two girls collaborated on one, and we can actually hear the Little One singing: Sister.

2 Happy Songs and 2 Long Drives

Tucson

Our little one visits her sister in Tucson every month. She usually stays 3 nights. They have a studio so while the little one and her sister are up all night singing and laughing and making videos, the good husband is trying to sleep so he can go to work in the morning. We’re all (especially him) hoping they can move to a bigger place soon.

It’s 3 hours down, drop her off midday, then 3 hours back. Two full days at home, then do it all over again, pick her up late afternoon, arrive home wiped out after dark.

Music

Two more songs, making it 4 for 4. Four for four. Fore! These two were happy.

The next one will be pensive. Many lines will begin “I remember . . . ”

I never know which list songs will end up on: lost and forgotten, performed once and abandoned, or regular rotation crowd faves. Some songs I thought were great when I wrote them don’t interest me much anymore, and some I thought were throwaways get played all the time because people love them.

This is the planting time. Harvest will happen later, and as always, will surprise me.

I Don’t Want to Sleep

Needed to jot some notes about a song and this is as good a place as any

I’m tired, but I don’t want to sleep
One more thing I need to do
Almost done
It’s something for someone
Only take a minute or two

I’m tired but I don’t think I can sleep
Rather play with my friends than shut my eyes
It’s just a song
It won’t take long
We’ll sing a while and then say our goodbyes

I’m so tired, might be time to go
There’s one more thing I have to say
I look at you
You’re tired too
So I love you, now I’ll be on my way

Yeah I’m tired, but I don’t want to sleep

Okay, that’s all I’ve got right now, but the bones are there and I’ll flesh it out on our drive to Tucson. [Edit: I had a few more minutes. Pretty much done.]

February Album Writing Month Rides Again

Tomorrow begins a month-long exercise in artistic immersion.

I’ve been participating in February Album Writing Month (FAWM) since 2006, making this my 13th year. (I missed the first year it went public, but I’m still one of the Old Folks in the forums.) Nearly every song I’ve ever written has been born in February. For a while I wrote throughout the year, partly because I couldn’t afford to shut down all my other activities during February.

It wasn’t the same, though. Writing three songs in a week isn’t the same depth of immersion as writing 14 (or 30, like last year) in 28 days. Now that my schedule allows it (thanks to Best Beloved who loves my art) I’m back to diving in unrestrained.

Except tomorrow, when we’ll be taking the Little One to Tucson to spend a few days with her sister. But I’ll bet I can write a song on the drive. Maybe she’ll even play the ukulele while I record it.

15-Minute Song

That’s not 15 minutes long, it’s 15 minutes to write.

Last Saturday we played some of my songs for a bunch of friends in our living room. During the show, folks scribbled notes on slips of paper and dropped them in one of 6 hats:

  • people
  • places
  • moods
  • things
  • times
  • ?

At the end of the evening, I drew a random sample of suggestions from all 6 and wrote a song. In 15 minutes.

The suggestions were

  • pensive
  • dark ages
  • Costa Rica
  • Aunt Jemima
  • old motorcycles
  • siblings
  • a cowboy who doesn’t like horses or cows

I chose 2 people which is why there are 7 on the list.

It pretty much wrote itself. The video below (lightly edited for bonehead mistakes) was shot 15 minutes after I drew the suggestions. I’m switching a lyric to specifically mention Costa Rica, but even though “dark ages” would fit where I used “medieval” it just doesn’t flow, so that stays.

Lyrics

I wonder why I didn’t post these before?

what do you do when you’re in the wrong place
in the wrong place in the wrong time?
thinking like that can ruin your breakfast
looking for reason and rhyme

roping and riding and drivin’ ’em in
is driving me out of my mind
so I’m moving on
next week I’ll be gone
the week after that I’ll fine

my sister just doesn’t get it
she doesn’t have to, she knows I’m okay
her Harley will get me to LAX
I’m flying south today

chorus

I’m off on a plane to the tropics
heading south as fast as I can
get away from those horses and smelly old cows
in Costa Rica I could work on my tan

chorus

no more bacon and eggs in the morning
Aunt Jemima’s got nothing on me
that medieval torture of saddle tramp days
is washing away in the sea

chorus

February Album Writing Month #13

Every February since 2006 I’ve participated in February Album Writing Month. (I joined up during FAWM’s 3rd year.) While I do sometimes write songs during other months, the bulk of my nearly 200 songs have been written during these episodes of shared mania.

Hundreds of participants commit to writing a full album, 14 songs, of new material during the 28 days of the month. Sort of a NaNoWriMo for songwriters, though with less emphasis on embracing low quality; it’s more like accepting it without actively chasing it.

Some of my very favorite music has been written by my fellow FAWMers during this month of madness. Here are four examples:

Fiji (Matt DiVito) Quickly (Resonance)
Dear Noreen (Phil Henry) Pig of Lovliness (oddbod)

Whether or not the styles are your cup of tea, the songwriting is as good as most of what you hear on the radio or elsewhere. Better, I think.

I’m still working on making better recordings, which these chaps have mastered. But I’m proud of my lyrics, confident in my songwriting.

And ready for February.

Dylan’s Nobel Speech

Just discovered the full text of Dylan’s Nobel speech at the Nobel website.

They’ll be debating whether song lyrics (and/or specifically Dylan’s song lyrics) are literature for many long days. I don’t care. What I care about is Dylan as a songwriter.

  • All Along the Watchtower
  • Like a Rolling Stone
  • To Make You Feel My Love

One man wrote all three. All three and a hundred more, dozens of which everyone alive has heard.

Nobel literature? Doesn’t matter. Best songwriter alive?

Absolutely.

My Music Website

After more than a decade writing music, I’m slowly putting all my demos online. There are more than 2 dozen already live at http://tunehenge.com (that’s out of 30 I wrote in February of this year, 2017.)

Eventually I plan to have all the demos worth listening to at tunehenge. Some of my demos are purely experimental or for my own fun. Trust me, you’re missing nothing. There are still more than 100 songs I’ve written and recorded rough demos for that’ll end up at tunehenge.

… more … “My Music Website”

Greenback Blues

You should have married Andrew Jackson
I know that you think more of him than me
I’ll bet Ben Franklin would be fine with you
and that’s fine with me as far as I can see

Alexander Hamilton is only half as much
as Andrew Jackson in your twisted mind
George Washington is peanuts and Lincoln’s not much more
but Grover Cleveland would be quite a find

too bad Woodrow Wilson don’t circulate no more
got your hands on him he’d never leave
but gimme just one Roosevelt to call a cab
and I’ll be gone for good you’d best believe

Bald Man Can Dance

If I can get Keilan B up here for a couple hours, I’ll record a demo for this, because he’s the only one I know around here who could do the guitar solo the way I want it.

Bald Man Can Dance

(12-bar blues, plenty of distortion and reverb)

baldI’ve heard it said bald is sexy
But I’m telling you there’s just no chance
You may have heard tell bald is sexy
. . . . . . . . . . . no chance
My baby left me for a bald man
She wasn’t looking at his head, ’cause that bald man can dance

Baby said she’s going out for a drink
. . . . . . . . . . . of milk
Now why she gon’ take two forms of picture ID
If all she’s doin’ is goin’ out for a glass of milk? (which we have plenty of in the fridge, know what I’m sayin’ ?)
I think she’s goin’ to see that bald man
His moves
Are smooth
As silk

(amazing guitar solo during which you are not sure whether I am Elmore James or Elmore Leonard)

Whoulda thunk it’d be a bald man
Who’d mess up our romance?
I never would have thought a bald man
Would be the death of our romance
My baby wasn’t lookin’ at his hairline
That follicly challenged man
That wax-buying gentleman
That comb-eschewing character
I’m tellin’ you
Oh, Lord, I said that bald man can dance

And Now, Something Without Words

icebergLast February Adam Young started posting what he calls a “score” at his website. His other website. His primary website, in case you don’t recognize his name, is where Owl City lives because Adam Young is Owl City, every 12-year-old girl’s favorite group. Okay, at least my 12-year-old girl’s favorite group. And her father is a songwriter, right? Whatever.

Each month on the 1st, Young uploads a new score inspired by some historical event: the sinking of the Titanic, moments in the Civil War, and this month, Ernest Shackleton’s “failed” voyage to Antarctica. (Not failed. Not according to history, folks. Hero stuff there.) The scores each have about a dozen tunes lasting a total of 30 or 40 minutes. Sign up for his list, and all the scores are free to stream online or to download. Yeah, hours and hours of free music. Good music.

Did I mention it was good music? Some works are reminiscent of Owl City’s retrodisco, but all of it stays close to the theme he’s chosen for each collection.

Oh, the title of this post? They’re instrumentals. For a guy who is one of the snappier lyricists in juvenile pop music, he shows remarkable restraint and maturity by creating these epic and enjoyable wordless wonders.

New Song: Every Happy Love Song

Every 3 months, I set aside time to write 3 songs. I wrote this one last Sunday.

joel_guitarseems like every happy love song sounds the same
them country singers are the ones I blame
I hear those pretty tunes of moons and junes and pretty soon
I’m hoping for a minor key and just a little misery

seems like every happy love song sounds the same
I think those britpop singers are to blame
you know those tears will start so they can rhyme with broken heart
and I’m hoping for a minor key so they’ll politely disagree

seems like every happy love song sounds the same
I’ll bet all those old jazz singers are to blame
you can bet their sorrow will still be around tomorrow
and I’m hoping for a minor key and maybe epic tragedy

why does every dance
involve taking a chance?
amazing that a light
can brighten up the night
and that star
down at the bar
is gonna go far

seems like every happy love song sounds the same
maybe those folky popsters are to blame
do they really think that girl will ever rhyme with world?
and I’m hoping for a minor key and lovers who are absentee

seems like every happy love song sounds the same
I think I know exactly who to blame
I hear those pretty tunes of moons and junes and pretty soon
I’m hoping for a minor key and just a little misery
seems like every happy love song sounds the same

Adding Music to the Mix

Joel playing a tin whistle in IrelandIt’s time for me to start making and sharing good quality recordings of my music. This year, the first post each month will focus on music rather than mysteries. I hope that’s okay with you. If not, I’ll see you on the second Friday of each month, eh?

Most of the existing recordings are rough demos, recorded within minutes of the song’s birth primarily to allow me to learn them again when I start performing them.

And then, when I play them live for a while, they grow and change.

Those are the versions I want to record.

This one came out pretty good on the first try, though I need to back off on the bass a wee bit and kill the bad drum bit.

Listen to I Wish I Had a Ukulele (lyrics below)

Are you interested in folky-rocky-country kinds of music, the stuff we now all Americana?

Lyrics

In case you like this sort of thing. I know I do.

I Wish I Had a Ukulele

Oh baby, I wish I had a ukulele
Driving me crazy
I wish I had a ukulele

My mandolin is in the same sonic range
But any acoustical engineer will tell you it’s just not the same
Oh baby, I wish I had a ukulele

I’ve got a piano
It’s actually an electronic keyboard
A friend bought when he went on vacation
So he wouldn’t be bored
We all know a piano makes a mahvelous sound
And every songwriter should have one around
But baby, I wish I had a ukulele

Bridge
My bass is like a musical anchor
I can play it night and day without the slightest bit of rancor
Those drums in the corner, I can’t do much with ’em
But I know they come in handy when you’re laying down a rhythm

Oh baby, I wish I had a ukulele
Driving me crazy
I wish I had a ukulele

Like many of you I’ve got a guitar
There’s a parlor size you can play pretty much wherever you are
But baby, I wish I had a ukulele

Oh baby, I wish I had a ukulele
Driving me crazy
I wish I had a ukulele

Adding Songwriting to the Creative Mix

FAWMEvery year I spend some time in February mixing with the folks over at February Album Writing Month.

Every year, I notice that stretching to do more creative work makes me even more creative. It fires up things in my brain I forgot were there. It dredges up old feelings and new thoughts.

What it doesn’t do is use itself up or run itself out.

If you’d like to hear what I’m doing musically, head on over. While you’re there, look through the songs and see what others are writing. The library grows by about 500 songs most days during February, and most have demos you can listen to and even download. I’ve discovered some of my favorite artists on FAWM; regular folks who love making music as much as I do.

P.S. Ginger is off to the editor tomorrow and will be ready for y’all to buy before month end.

Listening to Music Instead of Just Hearing It

One of the changes I’m making in my morning routine is spending 15 minutes each weekday doing something creative without being tied to the outcome; art for the fun of it.

winding toward the pass (west of Denver)This morning, I listened to some of the most-played tunes on my song list. But instead of background music while I did something else, I did nothing but listen, and watch the world slowly undarken through the window.

Though I know how much I love music I was surprised at how moving it was.

Another surprise: black tea has appealed to me lately. All my life I’ve had it Irish style: with milk.

The biggest surprise: black coffee. You have no idea what a leap that is for me.

Establishing new routines. Turning yet another great big corner. New year, new focus.

Ruminating Art

Been yearning lately to have an unconventional cover band again.

Working on the 9 sentences defining the critical waypoints in Into the Fog.

Planning for another 333, with a bit of time off (I hope) for songwriting.

Totally stalled on the first Jake Calcutta mystery anodyne.

Moving ahead on Commonsense Zero-Cost DIY Marketing for Authors.

Talking to the local public access TV station about doing a regular show for aspiring authors.

All underpinned by some personal things that make creative thinking harder.

House Concert August 24th

I’m finally inviting friends over to play music for them. Saturday August 24th, we’ll round ’em up after supper and I’ll play for an hour. Might be the first time my mom has really heard some of my music. First public performance of songs like Good Pair of Jeans, Into Town (maybe), This Path, How Much, and The Map so I need to practice just a bit.

If you’re in the neighborhood that night, drop by. There’ll be lemon bars and coffee.

Gordon Lightfoot
This is not me. From left to right: Rick Haynes, one of the reasons I’m a bass player; Gordon Lightfoot, one of the reasons I’m a songwriter; new guitarist Carter Lancaster

I couldn’t remember Lancaster’s name. Looking him up, I discovered that both of Gord’s earlier guitarists, Red Shea and Terry Clements, died; Shea in 2008 and Clements, who defined Gord’s modern sound, in 2011. Makes me sad.

Songwriting is Easy

Like Hemingway said, just sit at your typewriter and bleed.

I’ve written 5 songs in the past couple weeks, as part of two songwriting challenges.

I’m emotionally exhausted. Even the fun songs are emotional effort, but the ones that dredge up the past or make me look inside my dead father’s brain are like digging a grave with your own bones.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  • Into Town — A desperately lonely song; nothing at all like my father would have been if he were the one alive and alone instead of my mother.
  • I ♥ You — A totally silly diatribe, to balance it.
  • Good Pair of Jeans — Another fun one, because Poppies refused to come out.
  • Upside Down Smile — A jazzy number for my Best Beloved, which also helped Poppies ruminate in my unconscious.
  • Poppies — Finally, Poppies, which just might be my father talking to me again.