Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On the radio

So my dear friends Barbara and Graham Dean invited me to come on their radio show, Common Sense Songs on WBCR ( from 8 to 9 PM this evening. For a week I practiced an hour every night, singing every song on my CD so I'd be comfortable with any of them.

I got there with my rough mixdown of songs, the master not having been completed yet. And I wound up not playing a single song live! I guess you could say I chickened out. Every time I practiced, and no matter how many times I played each song, it seemed I could barely get through one without making some mistake -- a wrong chord, forgetting a verse, saying a word wrong, hitting a wrong note. The CD is imperfect, but at least I know every mistake on it, and they're small. I didn't want to chance blanking out on the words or playing a bad chord or messing up a riff. So I brought my guitar and songs for nothing.

But I think we had a really good conversation, I got most of the points in that I wanted to, the songs were played at the right times and with the right introductions and smooth segues. Graham and Barbara were wonderful hosts and kept the conversation flowing and relevant. Maybe some of you reading this heard about it on that radio show. It was the first time I made public the fact that I'm blogging. This is more like a diary for me...until now.

I was on the phone and email about the CD cover right up until it was time to make the one and a half hour drive to Great Barrington, MA for the radio show. There seems to be a problem with the way the writing is on the spine. But my son-in-law says he can fix it. And I couldn't download the proofs that Oasis sent me so they're going to put it in the mail. How quaint.

The day after tomorrow is Summersongs! That's why I wanted the CD to be ready by now. But my friends will just have to wait. Meantime they can read this blog. When the CD is really, truly, out in the world I'm going to post all the lyrics and back stories of all the songs on the album.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Patience Is Required

I got back from a lovely 10-day vacation, thinking that the music part of the CD would be all wrapped up. My daughter and son-in-law were working on the artwork. I somewhat frantically called them before I left, afraid that the music would be done but not the art, and the CD wouldn't be ready by my target of the last weekend in August, when Summersongs would meet.

My daughter called me when I was shopping at the Farmers Market in Seattle, and again when I was boarding the plane to go home. They were working hard on getting the cover art completed, and consulting with me when they had a question. Meantime, the music wasn't getting done. So when I got home I found that the art was done in time, but the CD wasn't mastered. It wouldn't be ready in time for Summersongs after all.

But the master master, Mark Dann, wanted a little more time to make the album even better than it already was, thanks to Vito Petroccitto's expert mixing as well as his musical contributions, and those of many others. So I said yes -- what the heck, if it wasn't going to be ready for Summersongs, it might as well be as good as possible. This may be the only solo CD I ever make, it should reflect my (and Vito's and Mark's) best work.

My dream had been to have the CC done before my vacation, so I could hand out copies to my friends who put me up, fed me and showed me around their respective cities and towns. Then I had dreamed of being one of several aspiring singer-songwriters to show up at Summersongs with a new album. But it was not to be. In the long run, it won't matter. I ordered 1,000 copies; this CD will be adorning my basement for another 30 years so a month or two one way or the other won't make a difference. I swallowed my disappointment and moved on...I guess...

Now I'm trying to figure out a date for the mandatory "CD Release Party." Oy -- I don't want to think about that now!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

David Wilcox on songwriting

Hi again. I don't know David Wilcox, and I'm not familiar with his work. But I read an interview with him in The Poughkeepsie Journal (Friday, July 31, 2009) and a lot of things he said resonated with me. Here are some quotes:

I guess my first goal with music is not simply starting with an idea. I love symbol rather than sign. I love music that draws me out into the next stage of what I'm going to become. The writing process has always been a wonderful adventure. I feel something in a piece of music or a phrase and follow that emotion and graduallly craft the song that way. I can write a song that's not about me but about who I might become...

Years ago, the music was the little window I got right in my life. The rest was trying to find that level of purpose and focus and sort of meaning. So through that microcosm of music, I learned the lessons of how to do everything else. It used to be very difficult. It was sort of like someone on a trampoline trying to look over a large hedge. Most of my life was nowhere near approaching the joy or presence I found in my music...

[I first picked up a guitar] when I was 18. At the time, it felt like, here is a joy that is unfamiliar. I just wanted to be around that feeling. Little by little, I started to feel like it wasn't escapist. It was the first clue in a long treasure hunt to find the joy in my life...

[Music matters because] I can get back in touch with my heart and get a glimpse of where someone finds their hope. They take me there. For me, it's a powerful glimpse into someone else's heart, especially when the song is written with that respect for the listener. I'm very grateful there is music. It saved my life.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Singing for free

Today I went to the peace vigil at the corner of Routes 9 and 9D in Wappingers Falls. It's been held every Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. since before we invaded Iraq (the second time). Pete Seeger often comes here. There was an article about this vigil in the New York Times a few years ago, after which attendance increased dramatically. It also appeared for a few seconds toward the end of the movie about Pete, "The Power of Song." Since Obama was elected attendance has fallen off. Often the counter demonstrators across the road have more people than we do.

When I arrived today there were about three people; a couple more showed up after I did. It was very hot and sunny, but it was hard to complain after the cold, rainy June and July we had. Much of the talk was about Pete because PBS had aired excerpts of the Madison Square Garden concert last May 3, marking his 90th birthday.

At 2:00 it's our custom to sing a few peace songs before going our separate ways. We started, as we usually do, with "Study War No More." Then one of the protesters, Enoch, played a great version of "Woodstock." Then we cleaned up all our signs and flags and departed.

For me, that's what singing is for -- to bring people together, to give energy and beauty to what might otherwise be a dull task: protesting. Not to show off, and certainly not for the money.

From there I went to a picnic held by my CSA (community supported agriculture) farm, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. My folk trio, The Raggedy Crew ( performed -- again, for free. Did I mention that it was very hot today? It didn't seem like anyone was listening. I find it distracting to be singing and playing when no one is paying attention, and I made a lot of mistakes. But I told myself, I have to practice playing under all kinds of conditions. Plus, some people were listening. Later, someone I hadn't even known was there told me she enjoyed the music; she was way in the back where I couldn't see her. I have to learn to concentrate better and not let negative thoughts ("nobody's listening; why am I even bothering; oops, I made another mistake but I bet nobody noticed anyway") get the better of me.

Thank you for listening.