My cover of Krista Muir‘s song “On the Cities Lips” recently appeared on a podcast by Holy Crap Records, alongside Krista’s original. I’d actually started work on it 2018 but finished it up for a covers contest (of indie performers, by indie performers). (I’d embed the podcast but it doesn’t seem to work!)
The two versions of the song are quite different, but it is interesting to do a different take on a song that hopefully still is true to the essence of it. Of course, I have some experience doing covers of songs by better known artists, and it’s the same process, really. Here’s somebody else’s song, how do I do something interesting with it? With better known songs, the advantage and disadvantage is that it’s likely already familiar to the listener. By contrast, hopefully, most of the people who hear my cover of “Cities Lips” won’t have heard it before or be all that familiar with Krista’s songs. And these are songs that ought to be better known. So have a listen…
Let’s suppose that once upon a time, there was a citizen of humanity. This human tree was rooted in a Canadian city called Montreal, but from there, his roots and branches went here and there around this spinning globe, all along the often unexpected paths that love, curiosity and striving lead a life down. Anyway, let’s suppose this bloke got it into his head to create, sing, play, and record some songs. Let’s suppose he did all that, and that here they are for your listening pleasure. Well, then…
Thanks to… well, so many people really, including those involved with the Burlington Writers Songwriters group, the Outside the Blocks group, and other fellow songwriters, friends, and family members who have supported the process of creating these and other songs in a difficult and isolating time.
My latest release is actually a submission for a songwriting contest held by Holy Crap Records, because why not? When I heard about the contest, and that the song had to be in C minor, I started playing around with a musical idea, and it went from there. Having studied philosophy in university I was aware of Thomas Hobbes and his treatise of that name, but I also did an online search and found some other things, like a psalm from the Torah (Old Testament of the Bible) and a science fiction writer. They all went into the stew. Enjoy!
Nothing like interesting times to inspire songwriting. True, this past year I’ve had trouble writing emails, letters and essays and have had trouble reading novels as well. But I’ve had no difficulty writing songs. The eight songs on this album are mostly more optimistic than my other recent work- could this be a trend? Stay tuned…
The albums keep coming, because I keep writing songs. 2020 Vision is a ‘concept’ album about living in the year 2020. I made a somewhat silly video for “Keep on Running”, the opening track, because I thought, “If I make a video, it can’t be serious. Me, make a video? Come off it!” So, here it is:
In #Canada they are trying to ram through a gas pipeline over the objections of #Wet‘suwt’en chiefs, despite the fact that legally (by treaty, which has been at least theoretically recognized by the courts as legally binding on the Canadian state) they are custodians of the land to be traversed. After the RCMP moved in to force the pipeline through, Mohawk in eastern Canada blockaded a major rail line, and other #solidarity actions are taking place as well. Meanwhile, politicians claim to still be all for #reconciliation with #Firstnations– but apparently this cannot extend to anything that might impede natural resource extraction.
Like any form of songwriting, political songwriting is actually pretty easy to do but much harder to get quite right. The jury’s still out on this particular song, but remember, a song is not a treatise or an argument. It may capture a set of thoughts and feelings around an issue. Or it might tell a story that brings the issue to life in some way. If anyone wants to know more about this issue there are many good sources out there (as well as some very bad ones), but one book that very much informed the lyrics here was The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King.
Songwriters tend to shy away from songs that directly take a political position for a number of reasons. One is that such songs tend to be divisive, and so songwriters who are trying to reach a broad audience can end up shooting themselves in the foot if they alienate too much of their audience. Also, as I mentioned, songs don’t lend themselves to in-depth examination of the issues. So the songs can end up becoming little more than slogans in service of a cause. Which is fine- that’s serving a purpose- but as art it can be very limiting. On the other hand, be too subtle and poetic and you’re not necessarily taking a clear or direct stand anymore.
So why write political songs? Because we write about what matters to ourselves and to others. After all, people still write religious songs even though that’s very much a niche market as well. If you feel something inside and you’re an artist, your art will probably end up communicating that in some way.