I took a few days off from my day job and am wrapping this project my sister from another mother suggested, a song for the Bluegrass Grill. I heard my mother talk about the Bluegrass Grill and how it was a popular meeting place when she was young. I did some investigating and found a menu online and wrote the lyrics over a few days. The tune came easily. The challenge was in writing the parts and figuring out how to convey the idea that cruising to the Bluegrass was a rite of passage for generations of teens. Thanks to Audrey for the suggestion! You can listen to it here and look for it on my next CD which I’m working on now…
This is my first go at producing for another songwriter. I met Carey Seward at the Fox and Goose in Sacramento. Carey’s from Alaska and I was immediately struck with the quality of her songwriting and the uniqueness of her material. She was only here for a short while so we chose to record two songs, Civil Twilight and So You’ve Been Told.
Civil Twilight was a term I’d never heard before. It’s “is the brightest phase of twilight, when the sun is less than 6° below the horizon.” It’s legal to drive without your headlights on in civil twilight.
Winter sure was long and dark I felt the freeze in every part
fire burned down to the weakest little ember.
You can see right through me caving in and I wonder
what happened to all my friends
I’ve been down that hole since last November.
But I can hear the river ice a breaking
smash me up and carry me away
Icy water naked freezing shaking
with empty hands and debts I just can’t pay
Well the sun has turned it up to civil twilight
the dark ain’t gone, just waiting in the hall
so let summer burn it off, no I really don’t want to talk.
we can leave the lights off til the fall.
Biking to the riverside the sun so bright nowhere to hide
we both are plump and pale and scared of other
supposed to have something to say but my mind is blank I’m not okay
I need meat and fire and beer and all my brothers.
For the orchestration I wanted to create a simple warm sound which I obtained with two alternating cello lines, one plucked and lower and the other a more legato line on top. I wanted crisp clean cymbal sounds, a water dropping type of effect and a simple vocal harmony to reflect the awakening of spring and the fragility and tenderness of this piece. I kept the bass sweet and simple as well.
Producing for another artist was a wonderful experience and gives me some options for what to do with myself further down the road.
I’ve hatched a new one. This is fresh from the mental factory and there are three main components driving this song. At Monday night’s Fox and Goose open mic in Sacramento, I heard a performer effectively use the “repeat the same line 4 times technique” and I realized that I typically avoid that technique in my writing. I like to go somewhere with the story and resist singing the same line. He challenged me to write a song this week using that approach… so I did!
Carey Seward played Ani Difranco’s, “Both Hands” that night and that’s one of my favorite songs of Ani’s so I wanted to capture just a touch of that element as well. And finally, another local songwriter, Allison Hallenbeck recently wrote a song with lyrics that impressed me so much I practically fell out of my chair. So I thought of Allison and her lyric effectiveness as I pulled this together.
Carey is a songwriter from Alaska who has recently joined the music community here in Sacramento and she’s got oodles of talent. Allison is a ukulele goddess with a sweet soprano voice. Both frequent several open mic’s around the Sacramento region.
The second verse came first and then came the chorus and then the last two verses and ironically the first verse was the most difficult to write, but it’s so true that it sticks with me like butter.
2 Week Update: I’ve changed the chorus. It was too annoying. It’s become:
This ain’t working anymore.
This ain’t working like before.
The time has come to close the door
cause this ain’t working anymore.