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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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
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
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
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:
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.
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)
I’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
(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
Last 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.