I have been writing this summer. Piles of lyrics, most with melodies attached, that now need to be composed on an instrument. Ah, the slowest part of the process for me. Which chords will express the ideas? Which progression? I, IV, V? Ah! No! Trying to get out of that pattern. It sometimes helps me to get away from the guitar. In the photo posted here I am singing "Makin' Honey," a melody that I composed on a kazoo. My friend Robert Gallagher showed me how to walk that tune up the neck of the guitar. It took me a long time to learn how to play it, but worth it. It expresses the sentiment and playfulness of the words. I am always working toward that.
Right now I am working on a draft of a song about elephants. The original story was drafted two years ago in long complicated lyrics that I am boiling down into a more simple set of words. But music? I have been taking drum lessons for almost a year. I'd love a good drum beat. I am learning Afro-Cuban rhythms. Will they work their way into the song? TBD.
Whatever I decide, I am having fun. As always. Crafting stories into songs and learning to perform them. My favorite activity.
Fun at Rocket Boy Records on November 21. Drew Howard was laying it down. John Natiw was picking it up.
I have been taking walks in this beautiful autumn weather. The sky has been the bluest of blues and the colors of the leaves on the trees and on the ground are spectacular. I pick up leaves by the handful and breathe them in. The memory of the fragrance of fallen leaves goes way, way back into every corner of my self. I don't remember in years late really taking the time to appreciate the season quite like this. Everywhere I look right in my neighborhood, I see the brilliance of fall. I gather leaves to make bouquets, experiencing a child-like joy. I can't stop looking and feeling amazed and absolutely grateful. The artistry of nature lifts me like no other. I find myself singing my songs as I walk in this world I have the privilege to be in. As I connect song to soul to surroundings I vibrate with absolute joy.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Theodore Roosevelt, Paris France, April 23, 1910
Ok, maybe Ted is talking about greater things than entering a music contest, but for me, this is an act of personal courage. Of pushing beyond my limits and daring to fail…perhaps greatly. However, if I can get myself out of the way of me … and sing my songs out loud and clear … that would be a great personal accomplishment. I don't have to do this. I don't have to work this hard and get sick nervous and put myself through this. But I do it because I love my songs. And because everything good that I have today came because I pushed myself into seemingly impossible situations where I always say, "dare to be stupid.," my version of "dare greatly." Winning to me is trying new things, putting myself in uncomfortable circumstances and pushing to deliver my absolute best. Win or lose.
Results: I played and sang my songs clearly. No freezing or bumps. Sweet Willie Tea won. A young woman, Alicia Marie came in second (ok, we were not supposed to hear the standings but someone blabbed and she posted it). There was another guy who was fairly traditional blues and me, who was more "bluesy" than pure blues. Perhaps I came in fourth.
See again, "The Man in the Arena," and carry on.
33 years. That's how long I have been blessed with a corporate job. It's a creative job, copywriting, that has taken me places and shown me things I might never have happened upon. Celebrities. Travel. Hotels. Food. Drink. Funny, talented, quirky, ambitious people. I needed the work, I needed to learn to stretch and grow and do things I never thought possible. That road led me to try songwriting, and no doubt, laid the groundwork for me to muster up the courage to stand on a stage for the first time at fifty-something and sing. Production experience helped me become comfortable in a studio very quickly. On and on. But there was the time thing/age thing. The mellowing. Slowing down. Understanding the value of time over almost anything else. As an artist, yearning for the time to explore and create during the hours when I am most awake, I gave myself the gift of three months without pay … to explore and discover and reflect and work. (That was, of course, with the blessings and permission of my boss and company.) After three decades of work I was lucky enough to accumulate the means to take three months off. I also built myself a backyard studio for writing. All it needed to complete the dream was me, in it, day after day, working. I put myself into that dream. Today is the last day before returning to the workforce. What I learned I will post periodically here. Two very important things came out of it 1.) I want to do another rewrite of my previous novel and take on other writing projects 2.) a greater sense of the importance of songwriting to my soul. Both feed me and are necessary to me. They also feed each other. Writing of any kind demands that a person go deep within themselves to find what is there. I have a song, "Pearl," that I wrote about my grandmother. Some of the lyrics came from a poem I wrote a couple of decades ago, others from passages of my novel reflecting the character based on my grandmother. I don't know what this work means to anyone outside of myself. But it's enriching and exciting work for me. And I am grateful that I afforded myself the luxury of time to find focus and begin to stitch the pieces of my work together.