Now available on Bandcamp:
NOTE: The June 2019 challenge did include additional, optional musical prompts. More on that in an upcoming post.
Sometimes ideas for songs just come to me. Mostly that’s what happens. But sometimes it’s good to seek them out.
I’ve done that every now and then- last year one time I went through the free local newspaper in a cafe, jotting down choice phrases. Out of some of those
came a song called “Shooting Stars”, which is on my new album “Points of View”.
In March I participated in Songfancy’s 5 in 5 Songwriting challenge (https://www.facebook.com/groups/5in5songchallenge/) based on
lyrical prompts provided. Doing that, I wrote four songs (and one co-write) that I otherwise wouldn’t have written, so it was a worthwhile
exercise for that reason alone.
During the week of the challenge, our internet provider at home went AWOL. This made it hard to get the prompts and impossible to post anything in a timely manner. So no, I didn’t write five songs in five days, nor did I even write them in the order in which the prompts appeared.
The first song I wrote was based on a list of words including “graceful”, “glass”, “coast”, and “refract”. It became “Some Kind of Escape Plan.” ( I will re-post this song a bit later.)
Another word list, including “delicate”, “linen”, “misty”, “leaf” and “leaning” resulted in the words for “Leaves in Waves”. Setting these
words to music took a couple of tries each and some finessing- I’m nowhere near as melodically gifted as Elton John, who’s reputed to set all the lyrics
given to him to music in 15 minutes or less. But the recordings came out nice, at least.
The prompt “how did we not get caught?” led to one of my very few story songs, about an old man who had an affair many years ago, whose wife has since passed on
and who now sometimes meets his old mistress for tea. It’s called, of course, ‘How Did We Never Get Caught?”
I was already playing around with words for a song about not giving up in the face of harsh difficulties when I got the prompt “staying in”, so I
came up with “Stay in the Game”. I’m still working on that one.
But another participant in the challenge came up with lyrics on the theme of ‘staying in’ called “Love is Staying in (Me)”, which I set to music.
It’s one of those pretty, sad, wistful songs.
None of these songs would have emerged in the form in they did without the Challenge. And it was good to actually collaborate on a song with someone.
If I have a criticism to make of 5 in 5, it’s that all the prompts were lyrical. Sarah Spencer, the songwriter behind the challenge, added optional musical cues for the June Challenge, of which more later…
This is now available on Bandcamp.
It’s an acoustic album featuring me on guitar and ukulele. I also play melodica and some percussion here and there. Most of all, I sing the songs. One track, “Words”, is a capella. That’s the oldest song of the bunch; one of my very first songs, in fact. The newer songs tend to be the ones where I play the uke. Here’s the track listing:
- Open Mind
- Let’s Be Friends
- The Reason Why
- Revealed or Unraveled
- Keep on Keepin’ On
- To Lose a Friend
- That Song
- Impressions of Impressions
- Got to Be Joking
- Waiting Song
- Stop Thinking About You
- But a Dream
- It’s Time
Here’s a rough mix of the opening track, “Open Mind”
And here’s a performance of “But a Dream”
The EP includes two new tracks. The really new song is “Man of Mystery”, a sort of spy movie spoof, while the EP ends with a new version of “A Song (Summer Heat)” with revised lyrics. The lyrical revisions are my only reason for re-recording it, really, but the arrangement also came out differently which makes for a neat contrast. And then there are tracks from recent albums Imaginary World Tour 2017, Interesting Times and Now the Robots are Dancing… in Summer Heat.
About a year ago, my guitar broke. I decided to put off repairing it and instead focus on playing a ukulele I’d obtained the year before. Before long I was writing songs on it, including this one, a song from the 2017 album Imaginary World Tour 2017.
Now available on Bandcamp:
More details about the album here.
The last couple of albums I’ve made have been mostly acoustic home-made affairs: mostly me recording at home with a guitar and ukulele, some melodica, and vocals. This album has come about from me from me experimenting with writing songs on the ukulele and in unconventional tunings on the guitar.
I wrote the words for “Autumn Leaves” a few years ago and about a year later found they fitted the mood of a song I wrote in Open G tuning. I don’t write many love songs because I don’t think I’m much good at it but my singing on this is pretty good at conveying the emotions of the song. Another open-tuning based composition is “The Days Draw In…” which was originally recorded last year but was finished up about a month ago.
My first song written on the ukulele, “To Get Away From it All”, came out on the last album, “Interesting Times”. In the same vein as that dreamy instrumental, and
also featuring melodicas and voices, is “You’re Never Alone With the Stars At Night”. “Walk A Long Time” is a more sprightly uke-based number, while “When We Were Two” is a sad, contemplative song.
“Paper Airplanes Soaring in the Sunshine” features singing but no discernible lyrics, since I sang mostly gibberish to begin with and then reversed many parts of the vocal track as an experiment. It has a sort of haunting melody but who knows what it’s about?
“Talk About the Weather” dates back nine years, and this recording’s been in development for a few years. Some things take a while to finish. So did “Shimmer On”. Based on a bass riff I came up with at a friend’s house, it took a while to develop into a track and then into a song. This also features some bass and electric-guitar playing by my friend and frequent collaborator Shane Watt.