Some Tunes

Friday, December 30, 2011

New Co-writer

I am constantly amazed (but no longer surprised) at what is delivered into my lap from time to time.  Just a few weeks ago I was talking to my wife Beth about how I needed a boost or change or something (maybe a new co-writer) to feel like I'm moving forward.  I swear, within 24 hours, I was contacted by another SongU member (lyricist) who asked if I would like to co-write.  I checked out her SongU website and liked what I saw and heard.

So Kimberly Hale Kimes and I decided to work with some lyrics that she had and I really think it's going to be something special.  We are working it through some feedback processes now, Muse's Muse, Just Plain Folks and SongU.  We had our first phone conversation last night and got to know each other a little bit and it was good stuff.

Time will tell with this particular song, but I can see us collaborating on more in the future.  I really feel that if you put the thoughts out there, the direction comes.  Sometimes with that amazement because you didn't expect what and where things go, but "progress" for sure.

So Kim, thanks for asking and I look forward to great things and fun in the process.

Oh, another side note, thanks to Kim, I have discovered some sites noted above.  And, when going into the Muse's Muse, I found SoundClick which is a great place to store songs and then be able to access them from my website.  Very cool, like I said, one gets taken places they didn't expect sometimes.  Very cool stuff.  More adventures to come.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Can't Say No

Been waiting quite a while to get the umpteenth rewrite done on this one, then again a while to get a demo done.  For me, it was well worth the wait.  Can't Say No is one of the first ones I started writing when I went back to the chalkboard to start writing again.  It's a swampy-bluesy kinda thing and I love what The Gator Hole did with it.  Different type of song for me, so what else is new?

As of now, its sitting at the top of the song list here on the blog, if you want to have a listen.  I'm finding it fun to go back to earlier songs and rewrite with new-found skills.  Going to try to get another song into the studio right away.  My goal was 6 demos by the end of 2011, which I think I'll fall short of, but that's all good too.  I think the quality is crawling up the scale.

Still no "takers" on pitching any of the songs, but you know, that's another part of the process to learn about.  I'm planning on keeping my focus mainly on songwriting and get more active in the business end in 2012.  I think it's hard to spread the time out properly when the rest of life pulls and tugs on the clock.  As always, it's about balance and doing what you love to do.  I love writing and getting better, not too keen yet on marketing, so we'll see where that goes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Character Ammo

I've heard real evidence of progress in my current musical adventure.  The process continues and I now find it increasingly challenging to figure out how best to proceed for the "best" progress.  I can tell you, it's not boring.

I'm mid-way through a class at SongU about story songwriting and character development.  Now I can see where I need some ammunition to reload the guns.  And here, I thought this was going to be simple.  Ha!  I think I have some real opportunity to better set up most of my lyrics by better character development.  You know, not only do you have to be adept at this process, you've got about 3 to 4 minutes in a song to get it done and tell the story too.  Oh yeah, simple.

I realize that not all songs are really story songs, but I'll just bet a lot more are than I tend to think about in that way.  Some are obvious, like "Mr. Bojangles" or "Cat's in the Cradle" (to go back a ways), but even if the story is less deep, the characters make it real.  Hmmm.  Lots of work to do.  I'm thinking about taking a creative writing class and then applying it to the songwriting.  I'm sure it couldn't hurt (not me anyway).
Interesting side-note, I understand that Harry Chapin's wife actually wrote the lyrics about Harry and his son.  No credit for the talented lady, hope she got to spend some of the cash for that one anyway.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Perfect Time

Just got back my second demo in this current songwriting lifetime.  "A Perfect Time" is my first drinking song and my first real country feel song.  I opted to try a different studio from my first demo, mainly to get some different exposure into this part of the process.  I really like the lyrics on this one; I think there's a lot of song craft in it with a lot of Gary too from the standpoint of how I would talk to someone and be semi-funny in the process.

I went with The Gator Hole.  Love the name.  Had some communications back and forth with Galen prior to taking the parking brake off.  I really loved some of the vocalists he uses and I think it paid off.  He also is a supporter of SongU, so I'm in.

Ronnie here did the vocals and I was very happy with the results.  Nice chops man.

I also decided to turn right around move on my 3rd demo, again using The Gator Hole.  This next one is "Can't Say No" which has been rewritten (severely) and I'm pretty excited about it.  Gale thinks he can get a real swampy kind of sound (ala "Bad Things" from HBO's True Blood).  I've had this on the shelf for about a year, thinking about how to rewrite, so it's time has come.

Today is a good day and I'm loving the ride right now.  Fun in the sun.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Second Demo In-Process

After one critique on a song that I felt very comfortable with, I decided to go ahead and demo it. This is a little bit different tack than I've been taking. In the past I've gotten numerous feedbacks, but due to the recent spread of suggestions and my comfort level with "A Perfect Time," I decided to pull the trigger.

I also decided to go to a different studio this time to get some feel for comparison. This time I'm going to The Gator Hole in Nashville to see what Galen can do for the song. This will have a little more country feel, contemporary, but not as much edge to it as "Convince Myself." I have high expectations.

I did quite a bit of searching online and listening and three main reasons for going where I did. First was the quality of vocalists that I heard, second the overall recording quality and sound on the available demos and third, Galen's communication was quick and very helpful. It all made me feel like the experience would be great and productive. We'll have to wait and see how my 6th sense is working.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Conflicting Feedback

Although it can be frustrating, I'm coming to realize that conflicting feedback I think is a sign of positive direction. At least that's the way I'm going to take it.

I've literally received opposite direction (referring to song content and design) given from "experts" and this certainly didn't happen earlier in the process. I really think this boils down to the human factor after some of the low hanging fruit has been picked. I'm not saying that I'm done making rookie mistakes, but I think they are coming with less density than they used to. Absolutely a good thing. It does however, make it more interesting trying to move forward. Have to learn how to trust my own inner voices, yep those folks whispering and talking and yelling that I wouldn't talk about in front of my shrink (if I had one - yes, need for sure, but have not none-the-less).

So, I've decided to turn another page in my personal soga and limit, at least for awhile, my feedback. I usually feel pretty good about a song before I take it in for feedback anyway, but now I'm going to take a couple of tunes and get one review, then go into the studio - then off to the market.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Private Consultation

I had a private consultation with Alan Roy Scott this past weekend. It was a scheduled 1/2 hour Skype-type session. I brought a couple of songs with me to discuss, but my number 1 topic for discussion was what I felt was a simple question, with very-not-so-simple answers. I wanted to get some direction and the question was, what directions, tools, etc. should I use to go from being a good songwriter to being a marketable, great songwriter.

I know that there are lots of things that have to happen to become successful financially, but I was inquiring more about the craft as opposed to the business end of it. Well, Alan was gracious enough to turn our 1/2 session into 1 1/2 hours, and it simply flew by. Although the answers were not simple and really difficult to communicate, I understood the just of it and had already started down the suggested path a few weeks earlier.

I think at each "level" of songwriter craft, the songwriter has to take some inventory of where they are, where they've come from and refocus direction. In my case, the next step is again to listen and break down current material that moves me and pick it apart. What exactly is it in that one spot of that one song that draws me in, that gives me goose bumps or really pulls at my emotions.

One of the tricky things is that writers all do it differently, so there is no formula. Duh, that's why art is art and not science, even though there's a lot of science to get to a point where you can be an artist. Oh, how damn simple.

So, now I go back again the drawing board and classroom and dive in head first. What a fun ride to be able to take, even when your an old crotchety guy like me. Onward.

I have no idea what this image has to do with this post, but somebody's groovin'.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Local Connections

As noted in a couple blogs ago, I am co-writing with a local writer. We have some bumps in timing, getting together, but I'm very excited about what's coming out of it. I took a draft to a SongU class and got some very positive feedback and an idea for some changes. Interesting that the change ideas were something that we had considered earlier in the writing process, but had not continued with.

I did a rewrite after the class which really changed this song into a female vocal song. I'm going to test this out with a female vocalist locally in my studio and see what happens. I'd love to find some local talent and be able to do more "in house" demos if I can get the needed quality. It would save on some bucks, but more importantly keep me better in the mix of an end product. However, I have no problem now with having a demo done elsewhere. I think this idea of finding local talent is a good one and a natural progression to an end product.

As with everything, there isn't any rush. No deadlines, just keep getting better in all aspects.

Another aspect is the pitching of songs once completed. This is a whole different animal from what I've been doing. I've certainly got some avenues, but I don't know yet if for me, it makes sense to do this more hands-on too. It has never been my thing to self promote, but we'll see where all this goes and I'll leave that door open.
By the way, never wrote in this blog about getting my first song documented with ASCAP. Well, I did and it is now duly noted.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Demo Under My Belt

Psyched and starting to pitch the first demo already. Well, that's got to tell you that I think it went well in the studio "from afar" over the past couple weeks. Gary Earl laid down some killer guitar tracks, a great groove and Adam (what the heck's your last name Adam?) did a great job on the vocals.

We went back and forth a bit getting the mix of backups, lead, etc. and ending up in a great place. I can't say enough about how Gary (not me, the other one) communicated and put his heart and soul into my little project. The words of encouragement at the end of it all was for me to get out there and pitch it, it's a great contemporary country track. So, I started immediately with a pitch to a music supervisor through Taxi and a couple pitches that were available on SongU.

I'm not planning on trying to knock down any doors unless I get no response in the next month or so, then who knows. That's the next challenge of course, to get an artist to show interest, likely put it on hold and then hopefully cut it. Oooooo, ahhhhh. Whatever happens, for now, I'm good with it. I'm just going to ride high on actually getting one in the can.

It should be available to hear at the top of this page in the ReverbNation widget. I hope you enjoy it. It's called Convince Myself.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Studio From a Distance

I thought I'd document my first "real" studio experience as a songwriter as it progresses. I spent a number of hours in the studio years and years and years ago (damn, I'm old), but this was with bands and as a performer - different stuff this time around.

I did some research and talked to some people and have opted, on this first adventure, to spend a little more than I had anticipated and go with someone who has a strong track record as not only a songwriter, but as a studio technician or producer. Great credentials for sure. Gary Earl has been Grammy nominated and has won a Kennedy Center Award.

The first email contacts were amazing to me. Very quick feedback and very in-depth. We discussed where I could see placing the song, what instrumentation and why based on those decisions. I'm going for a contemporary country crossover-type song that could be picked up by a film/TV producer as well as an artist. To do this, I figured let's do a full master and this way, the sound should stand above most of the material a prospective interested party would hear. There is certainly additional cost involved, but I thought I should dive in head first and then see if the pool's full of water or not. Hell, not even sure I can swim, but no time like the present to find out.

I have just decided on a vocalist from a list of possibles - Gary's wife and business partner is the vocal expert. Robin sent me samples from three different male vocalists that they use and feel good about. After listening to some samples, I asked for a few more and made my choice. Never did that before, so off we go into Wonderland, Alice. Next is going to be a little bit of a waiting game, but probably not long. Gary should start the track process in a few days, then it'll be off to the races. We should be in close contact through all the steps with some approvals, etc. as we go, but I absolutely trust his judgement - better than my own. Rock on.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Songwriting Critique Balance

This post really feeds off of a number of earlier ones, but I thought it would be appropriate to jot down my thoughts on receiving critiques and criticisms. I'd been working on about 5 songs at the same time (new and a bit overwhelming for me), but one emerged for me as having some strong potential. So what I did after an initial write was to submit it to a song critique for some feedback through SongU.

Allan Roy Scott did the review and gave me some direction to pull it out of what he thought was an 80's feel in the chorus (and I agreed with that eval). The rewrite took a lot of repetitiveness out of the chorus, changed some lyrics and melody line in spots. I then took it to a songwriting workshop in Eugene. The feedback there was that it wasn't repetitive enough in the chorus (and, of course, I agreed with that too). I found some middle ground that I really liked - best version so far, I felt.

My next step was to take the new "improved" version to a feedback class at SongU with Helen Darling. Her feedback was mostly very positive, but she said the lyrics confused her a bit. I struggled with that one. I spent some time trying to figure out why she felt that way as she had a hard time pinpointing the issue. I discovered what I felt the reason was and opted to not make any changes, especially since that was the only time I got that feedback (and this time I didn't agree).

One last run through, with no changes, I took it to another feedback class, this time with Allan again, but in class this time instead of a written critique. He loved the changes and basically told me he thought it was ready to demo and then pitch. I had no choice but to agree - good news is sometimes hard to come by. Now, some others in the class had change ideas, but I'm confident in the current version.

Here's the rub on this process. I think you have to listen to all the feedback. It doesn't mean that you make changes unless it makes sense to you as the writer to do so. I've heard back from industry experts as well as want-to-be professionals (I'm in that category) and have gotten way different opinions and observations. Some worked for me and some didn't. I think that no matter who the person listening is, they view a work from their current perspective. They can hear something one day and have a different opinion on a different day depending on what's going on in their lives. As a songwriter/artist, you have to be able to filter, but understand what the opinions are in the process. Other than craft being askew, there really is not wrong or right, but there is works and doesn't.

By the way, I really felt good about all the reviews and that in itself is a tremendous move forward for me. I'm going to shop a few studios and get this puppy done by some professional studio musicians and see what develops from there. It has been an eye opening positive journey on this one. The title is "Convince Myself" and I'll have it available to listen to once I get a demo completed - soon I hope. On to round 56B . . .

Monday, March 7, 2011

Co-Writing - Part Deux

Just felt the need to show off my ability to count to two - by two's - in French. Wow, great stuff.
What I really wanted to do is do a quick update on my current co-writing adventures. I am in the midst of deux of them. One, as I wrote about in the previous blog, and another with a local writer that I connected up with a month ago.

I sometimes attend a Eugene based songwriters' workshop. I went this past month with the specific idea to see if someone might be interested in working together on something. Interestingly enough, this writer named Luke asked me if I wanted to try a co-write together. We had a bit of direction that seemed to be following similar paths. I hesitated for a second, then thought to myself, "why would you possibly even consider saying 'no' when the stars have aligned for some reason?" So, I said "no." Okay, not true. I accepted, and this past weekend we sat down, laid out a plan and agreement and started out.

We decided to start with choosing either a title or topic and work from there. We found a topic from a story that happened to me about 6 months ago. We laid out a potential format, discussed what each verse, chorus and bridge would discuss and, I think, came up with some great ideas. It was a very rewarding start to a project.

So, my apprehensions are starting to fade away. I have 2 projects that I will eventually report back on in this blog. The online project will take another month, but is progressing well and I'm enjoying the interactions and thought exchanges with both. Very fun and creatively stirring.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I've heard a lot of talk about co-writing and I've done some in the distant past. It's an intriguing idea on a number of different levels. If you're able to find someone who is of a similar wavelength and has some good skillsets, then what the heck. Of course, what you really want is to buddy up with someone who is further along in the songwriting process than you are and for some strange reason wants to work with a lowly writer as yourself. If that fails (or at least hasn't materialized yet), I think simply finding someone with good ideas and some drive could be a cool way to go. If you come up with something that's worth people listening to, now you have twice the push power to show it off, twice the muscle, twice the drive, twice the dollars. Just have to make sure you have an agreement from the start as how to proceed, etc.

Through SongU, I've done some "blind dating" and it has been at least positive from the standpoint of learning how to communicate and bleed out some creativity all while not being in the same room. I have not yet tried Skype, but think that will be the next step. Until then, simply emailing back and forth ideas and some phone tag is a second best approach. I've just started a "blind date" writing session with a lady in Alabama who has some journalistic background and can't wait to see what develops from the efforts.

We started by getting to know each other a bit, then threw some titles against the wall to see if anything would stick. We agreed on one that brought some images to mind and she's going to be working the lyrics for a first run. Then I'll see what comes of it musically and the plan is to banter back and forth for a while.

Once of the most exciting parts of it all is that this could be monstrously huge or it could simply be another experiment in creativity. Either way, you just can't lose. It's all good. I'll share when there's an end product. Till then . . .

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Brain Breakthrough

It's been months since I've posted, but I've been working hard. One of the toughest things for me personally is to go through a review or critique of a song and not take it in the right way. I seem to take it as a personal affront when I'm given suggestions. It usually seems to take me a couple days to recoup from the ceiling falling in. Hell no, this shouldn't be easy, it apparently shouldn't be hard either (my psyche talking).

For the first time since beginning my writing process over again, I have had back to back critiques that I really felt a bit outside of myself and my music while listening to suggestions. It didn't feel personal, as a matter of fact, during a SongU critique class with Helen Darling ("Bring on the Rain" recorded by Jo Dee Messina & Tim McGraw), just before she began the process with my song, I actually said to myself, "Wow, this section is boring, I need to rewrite it." It was like I was hearing it for the first time detached. I was harsher than the review, but when she started making suggestions, I already knew it was correct. A rewrite was in order and I found something that took on a different life. In this case, not sure it's where I want it to end up yet, but the new direction had much better focus.

Logic says that the songs you write aren't you, simply an expression - done well, done poorly, whatever. It really is a process and all the music I've written up to this point and going forward is practice, experimentation with feeling driving it, but not taking me with it, just riding along, hovering over the top of it.

Now, extending that to the here and now sure hasn't been that simple for me. I'm very excited about this "breakthrough" (by the way, only a breakthrough if it continues), and I plan on pushing myself and remembering how that detachment felt and how kickin' it really is to revamp an initial idea - explore new directions and try, experiment and explore.

There really isn't right and wrong with this stuff, but there sure is works and doesn't. Just have to make sure to realize what is opinion and let it inspire you to move in directions you may not have thought about without that outside opinion. What was starting to feel a little like work is now absolute enjoyment again. Fun again for sure.

A side affect of all this is that I feel ideas just rushing in again. I struggle to get them all captured one way or another to be able to go back on them later and develop them. Wow, its a great "problem" to have. We'll see if I'm this cheery next post, but damn it feels good now.