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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.