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September, 2008

"Red Shoes"

by Webmaster

I co-taught a 4-week songwriting class at Swallow Hill this summer with Christy Wessler. I was inspired by the students, and I hope I inspired them as well. I'm proud of the songs they wrote.

I decided to do the exercises along with the students, and wrote a new song, "Red Shoes." I think it's one of my better songs (maybe my best) and I'm excited about it. I've been emailing the lyrics to friends for feedback, and reciting the lyrics or singing the song to my family and bandmates. So far, all the feedback has been very good. Two of my cowriters asked if they could write the music for it.

Patrick Bone Patrick Bone: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets, one of my co-writers, and a published author, sent me an email that started with this:

"What a moving story. Funny how song writers can squeeze a novel into a few verses. I suppose that's why poets are the ones who make us feel what we can't say. You'll have to let me know where it goes from here. I'm pretty amazed you've kept true to your art. It keeps you young."

He went on to relate a story about his parents, then added, "I think your song brought that out. How 'bout that? Keep writing. You're good at it."

I love the praise. No question about that.

It also made me think about the reasons we write songs.

Christy and I made the point in the first songwriting class this summer that not every song is or should be a deeply-moving, significant, perfect song. Setting the bar that high can prevent an aspiring songwriter from ever writing a song. And, many popular songs, songs that have earned a lot of money, songs that have endured for years, and not deeply-moving, significant, perfect songs: "Clementine," "Take This Job and Shove It," "All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth."

  • I write songs because I have to. They come to me and I've learned to honor my muse. I don't finish every song I start. I don't perform every song I finish. Not every song is worthy. But, I write them.
  • Some people write songs because they think they can get rich that way. Some people actually get rich writing hit songs.
  • Some people write songs because they have a message they want to impart to others, and songwriting is a way to reach people who would otherwise be alienated by straightforward preaching. Some of these songs are effective. Think of the protest and anti-war songs of the '60's.
  • Some people write songs to vent or as part of their therapy process.
  • Some people write songs just for themselves. It expresses exactly what they feel and they don't want to or need to share it with others.

I say, write a song that is meaningful to you. If it doesn't touch you, then it probably won't touch others.

Hillary: "This is the summer that will feed my soul and define my creative endeavors. This is the summer that will inspire all my art!"
Sally: "This is the summer you all but wasted on video games and naps."
Hillary: "And I'll harness that regret into my future songwriting!" — Francesco Marciuliano, "Sally Forth," The Denver Post, August 3 2008

I didn't start out to write a song that would touch others. "Red Shoes" is a story. I looked for the meaning of the red shoes in personal stories and literature, then wrote a story about two people who were affected briefly by a pair of red shoes. I used details and actions that would demonstrate the meaning and let the listener draw his or her own conclusions.

I'm gratified that others are affected by the story. A friend and I went into the studio in early August, and recorded the guitar tracks. I'll put a keeper vocal on it in about a month. A band mate has already asked for a chord chart and wants to perform the song. After that, if you want to "know where it goes from here," you can keep track of the song on Colorado Sandstorm Music Publishing.

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