When I first arrived in Vero, my mom would get up early to walk her dogs, so my dog Margot and I got in the habit of joining her and subsequently upon moving to Sebastian, Margot demanded that I continue that pattern. We got in the habit of long walks in Sacramento and enjoy them here too. I use walking to connect with nature, think, be grateful and work on song ideas. During the summer, the earlier the better! It’s fun to walk the neighborhoods, watching folks getting out the door early to start work and come Friday morning, the boats start heading out and you can feel some anticipation for the weekend in the air. It was the starting point for this song which is a collection of a few sights I’ve seen, and some fun I’ve had along the way. Todd Jones and I will be back at the Kilted Mermaid November 7th from 6:30 to 9:30 pm, and we hope you can join us for an evening of entertainment!
Mom said,”can I borrow your pink sneakers?” I looked at her and thought about it, “for the detail? That’s kind of gross.” “I think it’s perfect!” she said and after all, it was the ’80’s. I let her take them. They were this color pink. She bought them for me so I didn’t feel right saying no, “Yeah, sure” I said “try not to get them too dirty.” She was using them for an undercover prostitution sting operation that was happening in the turnpike rest areas in Florida, near Orlando.
When you’re the child of two cops the dinner table conversation is a bit different. We discussed all sorts of criminal behavior, how economy affects crime rates, recidivism, whether evil really exists or is the result of environmental causes and desperation. We chatted about every type of traffic infraction and car crash. It becomes household lingo. You get used to cleaning guns as part of the weekend chores and schooled on the “realities” of life and the misery that some folks face. So mom comes back with some interesting stories. One in particular was of this trucker/john she arrested. During the training, undercover agents are taught how to avoid “entrapment.” One way is get the john to say what he wants and how much he’s willing to pay. This guy offered her 5 bucks for a blow job. “Can you believe he only offered me 5 Dollars!?!” she said. I was really surprised, “only 5 dollars?, wow, that’s cheap!” I said. This was probably around the time when the movie Pretty Woman was out, so I was thinking we’re talking some real money here, certainly not 5 bucks. Well that was it for Joe. He got carted off to the hoosegow.
Her book is out. It’s called, “Behind Her Miami Badge.” and you can get it on Amazon: It’s a great read and it’s real life. I remember the stories so well. For some reason I see Reese Witherspoon playing her in this as a movie or series…
I was out one evening playing a show with my buddy and fellow songwriter, Jenn Rogar and I told her that story and she said, “that sounds like a song.” I thought about it and couldn’t quite wrap my brain around what that could sound like.
Creativity is like gardening. You plant a seed and give it some water and before you know it you’ve got a flower or a story about a truck driver named Joe. This refrain popped up and the story fell together on a Saturday morning. It’s a little punk, a little rock and roll and as my sound engineer buddy put it, “the first time I’ve ever heard anyone use the Miranda Rights in a song. You can buy it here on Amazon or Itunes
You can hear it here on Youtube as well.
“It’s late in the evening, the sun has gone down. The neighborhood is quiet but I hear the sounds.” I spent the weekend working on It’s a Lonely Christmas Without You. I somehow managed to delete my project files and had to recreate it, which was a good opportunity to make some changes and I’m pleased with the outcome. I hope your loved ones are near to you this Christmas. If not, wherever they are I pray they’re safe and sound.
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.
If you haven’t caught David Houston and String Theory, make it a point to get to one of their gigs. I’ve nicknamed David, Professor Houston because his talent deserves that level of respect. As a songwriter I have a particular affinity for wordsmiths and this man is a genius. The way he turns a phrase will catch you off guard and open your heart before you’ve realized what’s happened and then here comes String Theory with a sweeping line to lift you out of the mechanics of the lyrics and into the job that music is meant to do – move you to another level, another hemisphere, another view. Several times during their performance I marveled that this combination is so powerful and effective. It’s vibrational open heart surgery, hits you in the nostalgic area of your gut, but the strings and arrangement saves you. They hold you up, help you feel and keep you from falling too far down. That’s the feeling of an open heart.
It doesn’t get any tastier than this delightful pairing of aural pleasure. Solid song structure, expert musicianship and powerful lyricism that at one point brought up a few tears. Now that caught me off guard, I can’t recall when a performance delivered that kind of punch, hence this post. Kudos Prof Houston & String Theory, I look forward to your next gig! Stay informed: http://www.davidhouston.com
I love this review. This guy gets me. Part of me had to do this project just to see if I could and what I would learn along the way. I’ve never believed in being a “starving” artist, or that you have to “suffer” for your craft. My parents were both cops. They worked incredibly long hours often picking up additional off duty jobs to help pay for the extra’s. They weren’t particularly musical either. I’m pretty sure they saw that my head was in the clouds early on and perhaps that worried them.
When I was sixteen I asked them if I could run rickshaws in Coconut Grove (I thought it would be a great way to make money and lose weight). After a resounding NO from the parental units I opted for a summer job at JC Penney’s. After coming back from the military I started going to school at Miami Dade Community College on the Homestead Campus and ended up getting a job as a dispatcher for the Florida Highway Patrol.
At the time I was studying classical music and it was not uncommon for me to be humming or singing softly in the dispatch room in between calls, especially when I worked midnights and the shift was slow.
Slow and steady, with the full intent of improving along the way is how I approach my craft.
I’m terribly impatient. I want to hold back until the whole CD is finished, but I can’t wait to share when I think I’m onto something. I guess the great thing about being an indie musician/producer is that you don’t have someone telling you not to do something. So here it is. I typically close out my shows with Two Days Gone as it’s a natural fit. I love to sing and play this song live. And I admit to being somewhat twisted. When I wrote this song, it was with the intent of writing the “complete” country-blues song. It had to have certain elements (I think I even collected a list of these words before finally writing the lyrics), trains, a gun shot, lightning and a shack, red clay roads, Alabama and Memphis, family drama, someone in jail, someone in heaven, a bar, a hotel and a twenty.
The photo is by Pat Henson and can be found here: www.flickr.com/photos/80297647@N00/2275352946
Two Days Gone by Kally O’Mally
I got crippled back in Memphis when Bessie
shot me in the knee.
Lightnin hit our run down shack and I was
begging God to please, take me now I’ve had enough
I can’t take another day. So I packed it on up and took
the south bound train.
Whoa Momma’s gone to heaven.
Bessie’s all locked up in jail.
Papa ain’t been seen nor heard from for the
past fifteen years.
I’m sleeping here in this cheap hotel.
Girls in short skirts hanging out in the stairwell.
Down on my luck ain’t got nothing,
nothing to sell.
I’m two days gone, so all alone, no
dial tone on the telephone,
holes in the wall, no one to call, no one at all.
So I made my way to a bar named Sam’s
Deep down in southern Alabama.
Where the land is red and there’s fools a plenty
bought me some beer, spent the last of my twenty.
Gonna find me the reaper he’ll have plenty to sow.
Gonna pack it all up, it’s the end.
Gonna pack it all up, it’s the end, end of the road.