I finished the first recording of the song tentatively called "Rubbin' Off On Me" tonight. I will have it eval'ed tomorrow and start the rewrite process -- which may only involve some tweaking or could be more involved. I like the theme a lot and hope it gives people some "uh-huh!" moments. When I get the re-writes done, I will post a home studio work demo.
I posted a link to a Pomplamoose video on Facebook today with the comment "The simple joy of creativity." One reason I am keeping this journal is to allow anyone that's interested the opportunity to "get inside my head" in regard to my journey as a songwriter.
I recently put a new love song I have written out for demo production. This song represents a challenge for me relating to "simple joys". One thing I run into a lot when I a getting evals for songs I am writing is the need to "punch up" the lyrics and make them larger than life. I understand that from a commercial standpoint and I can't argue with the logic. In this particular love song, I am looking at a couple of very intimate vignettes in the life of the couple and in doing so, must relish the fact that life's joys can be very simple. Consequently, the song is probably weak commercially but enjoyable on a personal level.
I kinda treat each song the way a painter would treat a canvas. I try to do my best on it and paint a picture. I'm gonna hang them on the wall -- warts and all -- and they will be what they will be. I hope that the enjoyment will eventually by shared by others, but that is beyond my control.
Life's joys are simple. In love, it is the sharing of everyday joys that is most important. Not every day and every event can be larger than life. Enjoy them when you have them, but savor the simple things.
I started another song today... my fourth consecutive love song and the second one I am working on concurrently. It's loosely based on a love story that started in 1977 and ended in 2009. I'm kinda shy when it comes to gals, hard to believe, right? But because of that, my late wife Cindy and I got off to a rocky start. Over time she found that even though at first she didn't think I was the man she wanted, in the long run I was the man she needed. If you haven't read the story, you can read the long version here. There are three blog posts covering the whole story, starting with the post regarding how we met. It's a great story if you have the time.
Songwriters find sources for their songs everywhere. Someone asked me if my dad was the man behind "The Worn Pages" and I told him that, in fact, the story was pulled together from a variety of sources -- my own Bible, situations that people are facing today, and the desire to represent an ordinary man who finds real answers for life in the God of the Bible.
So, in this latest love song, I will go back a few decades and draw on a true story, put in in a more modern setting, but try to communicate the same thing... God gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want.
I'm working on a new love song tonight... actually had the idea a couple of days ago and decided to run the rough lyrics across Lucky 13 at NSAI yesterday. I got the eval back today and had some very good recommendations. Lucky 13 commented about the theme, "I think it's a very cool and romantic idea." So I am trying to flesh it out a little more and make it stronger and more cohesive story-wise. Even though it's just lyrics right now, I have an idea for the music and hope to have a complete rough draft this weekend.
Well, my first writers' night is behind me. I drove to Little Rock yesterday afternoon for the monthly Songwriter Night held by the Little Rock regional NSAI chapter at Kahlil's. I was in the second of 5 rounds and heard some very fine songs performed by some very fine writers.
Folks, I was really nervous. Like I posted on Facebook, I stand up in front of audiences to speak all the time with perfect composure and humor. I sing solos in church and sing in duets/trios/quartets routinely with perfect ease. I was a knee-knockin' newbie last night! I did not sing well. OK that is the negative.
For the positive, songwriter coach Marc-Allen Barnette is always banging the drum about getting out and performing your work. Basically, we all go through this. Though I will continue to rely on demo singers to put the best polish on my songs, I am resolved to be my songs' best cheerleader by performing them well, with excellence! So I will work harder at that. It is on list of songwriting goals for 2011.
I prayed on the way yesterday, that I would love, serve and give through my songs last night (and always). When I stand up in front of a little songwriter gathering, I want to take what God has given me, turn to the crowd and make it a gift to them. Pray for me to get that done with excellence.
My goals for the songs I write are simple: well-crafted, enjoyable and meaningful. I have to believe that if I meet those three goals, the songs will find a way into people's lives. Trying to stand out is a sea of faces is very tough. Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame. I read a couple of things this week that make the point well.
South Arkansas native Odie Blackmon is a hit songwriter who is well established in the business. This week, he posted on Facebook that one of his co-writes (with Bill Deasy) called "This Is My Day" has been picked as theme music for a new Melissa Peterman comedy on CMT called "Working Class".
Someone commented about how hot Odie was now and Odie's reply shows the reality of the business even for someone with his credential. He replied, "I'm about as hot as tap water! :) The music biz ain't what it used to be. I wrote this song about seven years ago and it is a miracle that it made it through all the gate keepers. I really had nothing to do with it."
Another side of the "getting my 15 minutes" is something that Nashville calls "gherming" -- taking advantage of people to "move up in line". Songwriter and producer Rand Bishop commented about how the advent of social media like Facebook has created a morph call "e-gherming". He wrote an enlightening blog post about it here.
So how does a no-name like me move up in the ranks? How do I get my 15 minutes? One of the most famous songwriters in history was King David. Songwriting was not his day job, ever. But one of my most favorite comments about him comes from Psalm 78 verses 70 and following (written by Asaph -- David was not promoting himself!) It goes like this:
He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheep pens;
from tending the sheep he brought him
to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
of Israel his inheritance.
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them.
The story line in this scene occurs when David was a very young man and his job in the family was to go out and tend the flocks. The prophet Samuel was sent by God to David's daddy's house to anoint Israel's replacement king. Samuel looked at each boy in the home and thought, "this must be him, he is strong" or "this must be him, he is handsome" and God kept saying, "Nope, not the one." He finally ran out of boys and asked if there was anyone else. David's daddy said "well, there is one out in the pasture." Samuel said, "Go get him." and the rest is, as they say, history.
What does this have to do with my topic? This: the reason David was chosen was because of the excellence of his integrity and the excellence of his work. If I will just focus on those things in my life, songwriting included, God will take care of the rest. So, I will write songs that are well-crafted, enjoyable and meaningful. With God's blessing, they will find their place in history.
Can that be true? TGIM? Well, yes... This has been a very hectic time in my day job with lots of administrative chores to get done in the midst of crises and other "boots-on-the-ground" things to get done.
If all goes well, I will leave work Monday afternoon and drive to Little Rock for my first-time participation in the Writer's Night that Charlie Crow and the Little Rock NSAI folks do at Kahlil's once a month. I will be singing to tracks of three of my songs (not ready to play and sing just yet).
It is one of my goals as a writer this year to do writers' nights at least six times. So, hopefully the first will be Monday!
As expected, the Little Rock regional NSAI meeting was very enjoyable. There were about twenty writers there and perhaps six were new faces (four first timers and a couple of writers who hadn't been there in a while).
A young family friend, Jonathan Traylor went with me. I knew he was interested in songwriting, but was totally taken by surprise when he played me the CD of country songs he has written. His songs are very entertaining and the one that he had critiqued at LR was well-received and amused everyone (his songs tend to have some very tongue-in-cheek humor). I'm glad he went.
Today I enjoyed looking up the credits of the session players that made up the band for "The Worn Pages" -- allmusic.com lists the credits of various musicians. I love pedal steel and, for instance, found that Scotty Sanders has played on some of my favorite recordings for a number of great artists.
I realize that says nothing special about me, I just hired a demo done. But -- it brings out one of the things I love about Nashville. These musicians are phenomenal. They can walk in, run through a new song a couple of times in a tracking session and knock it down like nothin'! They are that good. I admire their talent and hard work (it takes both).
I'm looking foward to the Little Rock regional NSAI meeting tomorrow starting a new year. I will get some feedback on "Forever My Man" and enjoy being with other writers.
I'm John Rowland, a country songwriter, working man and father from East Texas.