To Ryan Michael Galloway (http://www.facebook.com/rmgalloway) and others like him who make opportunities available to songwriters like me. Ryan is one of the founders of the Collin County Songwriters Association (ccsongwriters.org) and an active writer and performer who also takes the time to hook up local performers with local opportunities. He also offers some genuinely useful information at his site wedontneednostinkingrecordcompany.com. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only musician in the area depends on guys like Ryan and local organizations like the CCSA to find a place and time to make music. Thanks Ryan.
OK, when you have your own web site and you put your own recordings up for the world to hear you clearly aren’t shy. So here it is. One of my songs – “Open Mic Night” got an Honorable Mention in the “Other Category” for the Austin Songwriters Group annual contest. Two others – “Fool’s Paradise” and “Leona” were finalists in the “Bare Bones” and “Singer Songwriter” categories. I was in Austin on Wednesday night for the awards ceremony, which featured a lot of the winners. I’d like to say that might were just as good as the best, but unfortunately they weren’t. Which just means keep writing.
I wish I had said it first, but it comes from Francis Bacon – not the modern artist, but the Baron of Verulam and Lord Chancellor of England in the late 14th and early 15th century. Since I can’t paraphrase him better than he wrote, here is the first part of his essay on truth.
Continue reading ‘Lies made for pleasure’
Inspired by the seminars I attended this weekend I went back through all my old seminar notes. There was lots of technical stuff about song forms, rhymes, rhythms and such, but mixed in were a lot things that aren’t technical, but everyone that writes professionally seems to say. So, from notes of seminars with Gary Burr, Continue reading ‘Songwriting Wisdom’
I’m just finishing the first necessary cup of coffee before heading downstairs to day 3 of the Austin Songwriters Organization 2012 Annual Symposium. Like many of the participants I rounded out my Friday night by staying up till 2 playing in a song circle. Earlier in the evening I played in the songwriter’s showcase and not only did folks not walk out, many of them smiled and even clapped. Better than money in my book. Continue reading ‘Everything is beautiful, in its own way . . .’
The first chance I ever had to play one of my songs for a genuine publisher from Nashville I was told, in a kindly way, that the song was boring because the second verse said the same thing as the first verse. It was a song I really liked, and I decided he was just wrong. Then another song got the same comment from a NSAI critique, and I realized that the second verse might be a real problem. It turns out that it is a notorious problem; one you hear about at lots of writing workshops. Continue reading ‘Take a left turn at the second verse’
Last year at the Austin Songwriters annual Symposium I was struck by one comment from a very successful songwriter from Nashville. When asked about the formulaic approach to songwriting that seems to pervade country and pop music he said that he had helped write hit songs he didn’t really care for, but that his job was to make the song work, and he was happy when he did that. That got me thinking about what it means to say that a song works. Continue reading ‘Songs that Work’
“Three Chords and the Truth” sums up what country musicians and songwriters claim about their music. Country music is about the truth. That doesn’t mean country songs take place in the real world. Like the characters in the Illiad or (more recently) The Lord of the Rings, the characters in country songs live their lives in a mythical landscape that is more real than the real world. Here’s my description of that world.
Continue reading ‘The mythical landscape of country music’
If you attend enough songwriting seminars you’ll soon be stuffed with rules about how to write hits or even how to write good songs. Last week I got into a discussion at a meeting of my local NSAI chapter about first lines, and what they have to do. Since it was my first lines that were being criticized I immediately went out to gather evidence that my lines were good lines. I ended up writing this little essay for our group. Continue reading ‘First Lines – what hit songs really do’
I heard James Taylor sing Sweet Baby James in a concert last week. He’s probably sung it ten thousand times, and the audience must have heard it that many times, but it didn’t sound old or tired or boring. So I thought I’d take a close look at the lyrics and melody to see what he did, in hopes of imitating some little part of it. I don’t know if he consciously thought about all this when he wrote the song — genius isn’t always explicit — but I think its helpful to find by analysis what genius may have found by instinct. Continue reading ‘Sweet Baby James – Why is that song so damn good?’