"I'm Letting My Mind Wander"
It's time for my column, and I don't know what to write. I have a little to say about a lot of things, so I guess I'll do it here this month.
Yesterday, Ernie Martinez and I got together for lunch and a songwriting session. Lunch took longer, because we were prepared for the songwriting. A couple of months ago, he played me a chord progression he'd written for a song: Western swing with what he called a "carousel turn-around." It was Western with both a serious side and a light-hearted side. I got an image that immediately inspired some lyrics, so I called my land-line voice mail from my cell phone and left messages for myself. Then when I got home, I downloaded the .wav files and listened to them.
It took a trip to the Western Music Association annual showcase and awards show in Albuquerque, the weekend before Thanksgiving, for me to decide which way the song should go and write the lyrics. It started with a drunk pounding on the door at 3 a.m. When I couldn't go back to sleep, I lay awake and the lyrics came to me. Once I started, the words flowed and the whole song came out complete. It's had some minor revisions. I polished it up some when I wrote it down the next day and worked on it a bit since then. I asked for feedback, and B. J. Suter gave me some great feedback on the opening lines, which promted me to rewrite them.
Ernie likes the way I recite poetry. Instead of putting the words to a melody, which could easily happen, he arranged the song for a recitation, with music in the background, including a melody either played on a Western instrument or sung with "ooh"s. We're excited about the song and immediately booked a recording session to get it digitized.
Ernie is encouraging me to get my Western music out at various Cowboy Gatherings. We're hoping to have the basic rhythm guitar and vocal tracks recorded for three new songs by the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Denver Jan 21.
My music has been well recieved by the Western music community, with my CD and song, "Already Gone" showing up on the Rope Burns Top 10 Charts and as Western Music Association 2010 finalists for Collaboration / Compilation Album and Best Original Song. I was honored to be a WMA finalist, selected by judges on the merits of my CD and song. I'm proud and humble to be in the same list as those long-time excellent performers who won. I don't perform my songs and very few people know who I am.
I went to the WMA awards show with Bob Turner . For health reasons, he was unable to perform the song as it sounds on my CD. But, it's his lead vocal on my CD that sells the song. I asked Steve Jones, of the Yampa Valley Boys , to perform the song at the awards show. The Boys have been performing "Already Gone" and "One Lonely Rider" (which I co-wrote with Ernie), so Steve was prepared. Bob and I sang harmony with him. Steve did a wonderful job with the song. We needed a lead instrument, and I met "Doc" Mehl during rehearsals. He plays cello wonderfully! Impulsively, I asked him to accompany us on stage. He added so much to the song! I'm grateful to Steve, Bob and Doc, and hope I didn't embarrass them.
Incidentally, the Yampa Valley Boys have recorded "Already Gone" and "One Lonely Rider" songs for inclusion on their next CD. I haven't heard their version of "One Lonely Rider" yet and I'm looking forward to it. Steve sings lead on "Already Gone", and made the song his own. He changed the arrangement (which Bob and I had to learn), adding some words of his own. I was delighted by the changes he made to the song. It's like the song now has a life of it's own. It's become so much more than the song I wrote. (I also get that feeling in the recording studio when I listen to the wonderful musicians who come in and add to the recordings.)
The five-day WMA gathering includes dinners, instruction sessions on various aspects of the Western music business, a silent auction of donated items, a market place for sales of all Western music and performance-related items, and music sessions, each featuring a number of performers. We drove down on Friday and got there in time for the Chuck Wagon dinner and Opry, looked around some on Saturday, caught some performances, met a lot of nice people, and rehearsed. Saturday night was the awards show. We were the second song to perform, then we watched the show from the back of the room. We skipped the music sessions on Sunday, the last day, and drove home.
I found the folks at WMA to be very open and friendly. Our name tags included a big red "#1" to tell people it was our first time. So many people went out of their way to help us, answer questions, welcome us to the gathering and otherwise make our experience there wonderful. I learned a lot and we left with a strong desire to go back again next year.
And although I didn't win an award, I was honored by the number of people, including the CD reviewer Rick Huff who said such nice things about my CD and a few Western music DJs, who made of point of introducing themselves to me and, when appropriate, asking for my CD for airplay.
I'm thankful to the various DJs on the FOLKDJ list who have played my songs. I haven't gotten more airplay from them, but more of my songs have been played on folk music shows than Western music shows, who play the same few songs over and over. But, because we met face-to-face and interacted, I felt so much more welcome and appreciated by the Western music community than the folk DJs who communicate via an email subscription list.
"Meanwhile, back at the ranch," I'm gradually working my way through many boxes of family photos and documents I brought home from my mom's house. At the request of my nephew, I've sorted out all the ways my father participated in historical events: World War II and the Space Race. While he was in the Army Infantry in WW II, my father wrote poems about his experiences in the army and about his love for his bride of three years and his baby daughter, who was less than two months old when he left for Europe. I scanned in typed copies of over 70 poems that were published in 1976, and still have a box full of many more hand-written poems and letters, including the V-mail versions. Letters were sent on thin, light-weight paper for air mail (versus transport by ship), and some were photographed and printed on 1/4 page of paper, again to reduce weight. I'll be a long-time sorting through all this, scanning it in, deciphering the handwriting, and eventually typing up copies of everything (in chronological order), to tell his story.
I wrote a song about my stormy relationship with my father. It's the title song of my CD, "I Wanted to Fly." I've been in contact with a pitch man in Nashville who requested changes to that song to make my father a more sympathetic character. I went through a lot of emotional changes last summer while doing the revisions to the song. And, the song and I are better for it. So, last week, when I came across one of his poems, written in a light-hearted vein, about his first (and last) horseback ride, I was open to it. I read it to Ernie who likes it! He said I should include it in my future Cowboy music and poetry show. I like the idea of including my Dad's poetry in my show. (At some point, I'd like to set some of his poems to music and make a folk opera CD of his WW II experiences.)
I've been in a large number of bands playing various types of music. I love music, love playing the bass, and have learned a lot from my band mates. Some of what I learned from them was what NOT to do. But, I never wanted to be the leader of the band or the front person. It's nice when I lead one song once in a while. It's tough to be ordered to do something by a band leader who is not good at leading. So, I leave bands and move on. I've been lucky to be in bands with people like Bob Turner and Steve Pierce . I learned a lot about entertaining, harmony singing, performing in bars and the music business from them. They are both great mentors. Christy Wessler has been a wonderful voice and performance coach. In addition, she helped me polish my songs and sang on my CD! I wouldn't be where I am musically without her invaluable assistance.
But, I am an entertainer, and I am an evolving human being. I've written in a previous column (I thnk) that it might be necessary for a person to reinvent him- or herself every seven years. It may be time for me to go out on my own, in a new set of venues, doing my music instead of someone else's. I have a lot of work to do to get ready. And, I'm scared. I could fall flat on my face and have no one to blame except myself. But, I'm proud of my songs and poems, and I'd like to get them out into the world, free to fly, to see what they become and where they go.
And, in the meantime, a couple of songwriters I respect have indicated that they'd like to get together with me after the holidays for some cowriting sessions. I am really looking forward to that.
I love the opportunities that come along. One of my web clients, Emily Miller Bond, a composor, recommended me to a friend of hers. As a result, I built two web pages for Nat Tilander to showcase his compositions and his book. He's doing a crafts fair about a mile from my house this weekend (40+ miles from his home), and invited me to sell my CD at the fair with him. I've only communicated with him via e-mail so I am looking forward to meeting him face-to-face.
I'd better get as much done as I can on Dad's poems in the lull this month, because it's looking like next years going to be quite busy. And, I have a lot to look forward to!
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