The New Songs…

 Grateful Blog: Day 91: I spent the morning writing 2 new songs. They’re coming lately in bunches. I can’t say why but I think finally having my CD ‘Ash and Bone’ done has a lot to do with that. The weird thing about being a songwriter is I never know when they’re going to come. I can prime the pump for sure; try to get in the right ‘space’, in the ‘flow’ as it were but sometimes it just boils down to some finicky combination of available time, restless energy and the sheer discipline of just doing it and not letting yourself get distracted.

The truth is I have no idea how or why it works. I spent several hours on one song this morning while it was raining furiously, the song was predictably moody, poetic and full of the melancholy I was obviously channeling. At some point I ran out off steam but felt it was close. I then noticed the bright sunshine that I’d failed to see for who knows how long it’d taken to get from downpour to just gorgeous out. I went outside, it was warm and suddenly and just as predictably, moody, poetic and melancholic felt inappropriate. I sort of reflexively went for something 180 degrees different, a little boogie-woogie thing and 15 minutes later something upbeat, catchy and weirdly compelling popped out.

I don’t know which song (if either) will last the numerous inevitable revisions they’ll be put through to get to ‘keeper’ status but I can tell you this: I’m still not sure why songs come. I’m still not sure that after the last one that another one will ever, ever come again. It feels that tenuous, like one day I might wake up and say ‘nothing inspires me’. I know that may sound funny or over dramatic but half a dozen years ago I had just had several years’ without writing a song. So it’s happened before and it crosses my mind that it could very well happen again.

So the thing is, they’ve been coming in bunches lately. So rain or shine, any day of the week, when a song wants to arrive I’m ready to open the tap and see what happens. Any day is always a good day for writing a new song. I’m just Grateful when they come…

Swing and Country: ‘Good Old-Time Country Music’

Grateful Blog: Day 77: This morning was one of moments as a musician you always dream about. I got asked to play on one of my all-time favorite radio shows, ‘Swing and Country’ on 90.7FM in Portland,OR. You know, a half a dozen years ago when I started writing songs in earnest I never allowed myself the thought that I’d get to do that someday. But I’d listen to the show every week, getting up sleepy eyed at 6am and record it on my old cassette deck to be able to listen to it later when I got up. Then I’d make mix tapes of my favorite songs and compiled some 60 hours of classic shows from over a decade. I was always careful to keep some of the DJ’s on there too, to preserve the feel of the show. There was just something about hearing those familiar voices in the morning that felt like old friends. I’m no the first to feel that way about a DJ nor the last, but I memorized their voices and the songs they played.

So it was such a joy to go down to KBOO this morning and play on ‘Swing and Country’. A double treat that we had an enthusiastic live studio audience that sang along with my songs as well as country classic’s like Roger Miller’s ‘King of Road’, Hank Williams Sr.’s ‘Ramblin Man’ and Buck Owens ‘Act Naturally’. Everything about the show felt right. But maybe the best part for me was getting to meet the DJ’s. Most of the guys I listened to in the old days are gone now, but the guys and gals holding down the fort now, Wayne and Kathy Johnson, Henry Weeks and Moggy, Don McLaren and his son Mike are carrying the torch in fine fashion, blazing their own trails though the finest of what former DJ ‘Uncle Sam’ used to call ‘Good Old-Time Country Music.’

So I was Grateful today to have that experience. To soak up the ambiance of the station, to play in front of stacks upon stacks of records (Yeah, records!). But I was even more Grateful to be able in a small way to give a little something back in the way of music, to the show that’s given me so much joy. It was on ‘Swing and Country’ that another past DJ ‘Uncle B.’ pushed the bounds of ‘Country’ a bit and introduced me to both Tom Russell and Dave Carter. Hearing their songs on my cassette tape that morning (which I still have), inspired me as a songwriter in more ways than I can describe. And meeting them both, after shows and on trains changed my life. I can’t tell you exactly how, but the seeds of my life transforming in some ways were right there, on those cassette tapes. Believe it. It’s true.

So I’m so Grateful that Wayne and Kathy invited me to do the show, I’m Grateful I didn’t gush too much on the air (God knows I tried), and I’m Grateful for the folks that came and stopped afterwards to buy a CD, chat and tell me how much they liked one song or another. You know, that is the singular best part of being a songwriter, connecting with you audience in some meaningful, personal way. It beats everything else hands down, because that ‘Connection’ is why we do this. Or at least it’s why I play music. That connection is so important. And I was Grateful for just one Saturday morning, on ‘Swing and Country’, that I was able to tell the people I only knew as voices, how much’s that’s meant to me, all these years and 6am Saturday’s ago…

Or as the King of Country Music, Bob Wills would say ‘Awwww Haw!’ Indeed Bob, indeed…

P.S.: You can hear ‘Swing and Country’ every Saturday morning from 6am to 9am PST on 90.7FM in Portland (in Corvallis 100.7FM and HoodRiver 91.9FM) and streaming on www.KBOO.fm

P.P.S.: And if You’re not a ‘Member’ yet of this great local, community, non-profit station, give it some serious consideration like I did roughly 10 years ago. I think find that being a member is about a lot more than writing a check, it’s about being part of a community…