Thursday, August 11, 2011

Love Songs SUCK! possibly, possibly not

Hi and thanks for stopping by my ongoing blog about songwriting.
I've been working on writing songs for an upcoming recording I'll be doing with Tim O'Brien and Don Dixon at the end of this year or early in 2012 and this is another one that I'll send on to them for review.

More songwriting tips and tricks and songs can be found here


What's wrong with silly love songs?  McCartney says nothing.  I try to stay away from them as much as possible because they are so overdone, aren't they?

I was in a workshop once conducted by the great songwriter, Darrell Scott, and towards the end of it he said that he likes to read and watch art films as they inspire him into new tunes, and when someone asked him if there was anything else, Darrell said, "life".

So, when it is real and comes out quickly with a descent melody, I think love songs are lovely.  And I most certainly do not have enough that pay tribute to my wife Lisa.  She is amazing.  The backbone of our family.  The glue, the center, the sticky center.. wait, that's sounds weird, but anyway, she is simply the best mother and wife anyone could ever want, and deserves a box set or few of love songs.  My kids (Will 7 & Sophia 5) will probably both call me on the fact that the song says "Me and you" instead of "you and me".. ha., but, well, it doesn't work with the rhyme.

So, today I touched down and wrote a real one, tomorrow I'll probably take off again and build some more characters.  See what simple thing you can write down today as a tribute to a loved one.  Write on!  TB

This Tune of Me and You
(c)2011 Bunj Jam BMI

I don’t always know just what I need to

But I do know I truly do need you

I don’t always say just what I want to

But I know I truly do want you

My love is there when I need my love

Now I must thank you

I could get along on just a pray and a song

But then I would not have this tune of me and you

I’ve spent the better part of the last twenty years

With this music pouring through my heart

It comes from above

It comes from below

And I sing to you my favorite parts

My love is there when I need my love

Now I must thank you

I could get along on just a pray and a song

But then I would not have this tune of me and you

More songwriting tips and tricks and songs can be found here

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How To Write A Song With Bruce Springsteen. Lyric tricks and a new video from Todd

Hi Everyone!  Thanks for reading my ongoing blog about songwriting!

I'll get to Bruce Springsteen here in a minute...

This is a common deal for me when it comes to songwriting.  I look for "friction & resolve".
While I write, I sometimes stumble along by moaning and groaning and improvising nonsense words and phrases, and a lot of times this will lead me to an interesting line.  I'll admit, this is a tricky method when someone else is in the house.   Sometimes I'll stumble into a word or phrase that is interesting enough for me to build a verse around.  Today's phrase was.

You never looked so good.

I really liked the notion of how I could play around with the meaning of this one simple sentence.
It could be an endearing one.  Or, well, the opposite of that.  

On a side note, I don't worry much about grammar and syntax.  The main reason is, most of the time I'm attempting to write from a characters point of view, and, well, the most interesting characters in my head are not too concerned with grammar and syntax, actually, most of them probably wouldn't know what syntax means.  Ha.  Leaving this behind helps free up my mind..  if something is way off, I'll edit a bit. Most songs are a combination of many different characters and people I know or have known.  Sometimes nonsense makes sense depending on the context. (See lyrics in verse 2**)  This one is one of those, although, I didn't think a whole lot about that while writing.  It comes naturally after a while by doing it daily I'm certain.

Okay, so, I have my phrase and I started out by funneling the lyric through time a bit.   I mean, it starts out young, then middle aged, then old.  So, it has a linear that hopefully keeps the listener a bit interested.  I try to make this happen with all songs although I don't always achieve it.  I think every line should move the listener forward somehow.

And here is a trick that moves me through many of my verses.  I think about opposites.

Check out the lyrics to today's song, 

You Never Looked So Good - July 12 2011 t. Burge

When you’re young and in love
All down sides are up (opposite)
And the sweet mood it smoothes out the rough(opposite)
When you’re young and in love
Ya got it bad and that’s good (opposite)
You’re as happy as you should be
And you never looked so good

I automatically think about the opposite of a word as I'm writing lyrics and it can drive me through a lot of times.  It also creates a friction/irony in the tune that needs to be resolved or, well, leaves me wanting to give the whole thing a positive spin at the end.  See final verse*

But time has a way
To tick tock your tail (**)
Some lovers they leap and some fail
If you let your guard down
In come the troupes  
A few years and you’re pooped
A look in the mirror
May not reflect as it should
You’ll never look so good

*When you’re old and in love
You sit with your time
The stillness is moving to you (opposite)
When you’re old and in love
The years are all there
In your thinned out hair
In the lines of your brow
In the wisdom somehow
In the touch of two hands
In the smiles of grandchildren
And when you look at them
You look just as you should
You never looked so good
You never looked so good

Now, let's talk about working our songwriting muscle with the "Boss"
"Writing with Bruce Springsteen?"

This is an attempt at bringing on new lyric ideas. An attempt at kickstarting something new. A way to go to a place you might not have considered.

Try using opposites as your writing lyrics and see where it takes you.  Try taking a favorite line from a song you love.  I just randomly took Born to Run  (LISTEN ) by Bruce Springteen and with each line of the first verse, blurted out a quick response while thinking loosely about opposites.  My loose responses in no way connect to one another, but this is giving me some lines that I would not have otherwise thought of.  It is a great way to kick start a song!

The boss is in BOLD ... of course

In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream 
At night it's dry in the fields of some stagnant and strange nightmare

At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines 
In the morning we walk through the ghettos of sorrow with the weight of our life long dreams

Sprung from cages out on highway 9, 
Trapped in a rage with my dirt track date (ha)

Chrome wheeled, fuel injected,and steppin' out over the line 
Rusty wheeled, broken down and slipping up behind the track

h-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back 
Damn it to hell, this city puts the meat on the muscle man

It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap 
It's life's release, this being "born to please"

We gotta get out while we're young 
We've got to get in before we're too old

Check out all of Todd's tricks for songwriters here.
He talks about using Bowie, George Carlin and many others for songwriting ideas!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Write What You Know? I Don't Know, You Decide. My Fire Works by Todd Burge

Some instructors of songwriting say, "write what you know", and I've done plenty of that, but as time moves on, I find it more of a challenge and so, I write about things that are strange to me and simply strange things.

This tune falls a bit into the "what I know" category.

It was written back in 2007 and I considered putting it on my CD entitled "My Lost and Found, but it didn't make the cut for various reasons.  Maybe I needed some distance, maybe it simply isn't that good.  I'm often not the one to ask when it comes to my own work.

My cousin passed away from an illness years ago.  His two year old baby passed some time before he did.  My memory is sketchy on the details and timeline.  He and his wife had a daughter who survived and this song comes from a Myspace blog of her's that I read back in '07.  In the blog post she was looking back on her early childhood.  Their family lived very close to the City Park where each year on or around the 4th of July, there was a monster fireworks display.  Well, there still is.  (If you have ever experienced a firework display from up close ... say, 30 yards, you know how awesome it can be. It is like the difference between actually seeing a Motorhead concert and listening to them on your iPod.  My family now lives near that same city park and our small children feel that fireworks display each year.)  Their house was about 25/30 yards away from where they would launch the fireworks.  In the young girl's blog, (in 07 she was about 14 or 15) she described how she used to watch the fireworks with her family and they would vibrate her feet... then, a few years later, after her dad had passed I'm assuming, she would stay inside and watch them or feel them from her room.

I tried to make this a happy or at least kind tune from the point of view of a 15 year old.  I hope it pays tribute to my cousin and his family.

Lyrics below the video.

My Fireworks – Todd Burge –
(C)2-15-2007 Bunj Jam BMI

In my 15 years I’ve sure seen a lot of hurt
And I wear it on my chest like a heavy metal shirt
We moved so far away from my West Virginia home
I need a buckeye boyfriend so I don’t feel so alone

My daddy left this world long ago and my baby brother too
And I became a big girl, that was all that I could do
Now I’ve tucked my thoughts away, keep my smiles in my room
If you were in my shoes I’ll bet you do the same thing too

Sometimes I’m broken and my life hurts, but my fireworks

It’s been too long since I’ve seen a really good display
But this one’s got my head up on this hang my head down day
When I was five I’d watch them barefoot, on my parent’s porch
I loved the way they made me giggle, they’d tickle and vibrate, my feet

Then I grew sentimental and watched ‘em from my bed instead
A thousand smiling faces, lit up blue and green and red
Colors sparkled on all those cars parked up and down our street
Colors bursting in me, made me happy, made me feel real
In this world of make believe

Sometimes I’m broken and my life hurts, but my fireworks

But just like a firework with one spark and a blast
Some things burn out quickly so I must let go of my past
Baby brother smiles while daddy says hi
Yeah, in my mind they’ll always shine like the fourth of July

Sometimes I’m broken and my life hurts, but my fire works

Todd Burge's tips and tricks for songwriters can be found here

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How To Find Songwriting Ideas From Graves, Insanity & Murder

Today's tune was inspired possibly by murder and most definitely insanity.  Maybe you read about this woman who buried her husband in the flower garden? Read about it here.  Once in a while I get inspired by a headline.  My trick is to NOT read the article completely.  Actually, in this case I simply read the headline and had what I thought was a strong idea for a chorus.  I skimmed over a couple more lines and the rest of the verses came.  I find this method, of not thoroughly digging into a story, helps me keep things fictional and possibly more original.  After I'm close to having a complete song, I'll read the complete piece and sometimes that will help finish it up.  Another fun trick is to completely immerse yourself into a character who is totally unlike, ... you.  Singing this from the female's point of view most certainly did that for me.  Try it.

Grow Up (june 27 2011)
(c)2011 by Todd Burge Bunj Jam BMI
Taken from a write up about a woman who buried her husband in her flower garden.
The headline read

Raleigh woman's garden became her husband's grave

By RENEE ELDER Associated Press The Associated Press
Monday, June 27, 2011 8:05 AM EDT

For 35 years we were married me and he
But he never seemed to need to add to his family tree
We traveled all around like two wide eyed hippies
But I had to let go of always thinking so retro … and say

Grow up, sprout out of the ground
Let your colors shine like the springtime
As the sunshine dances on my weathered brow
All you’ve got to do for now
Is grow up

Is it wrong for a woman to want a better life?
With a man who’s kept at bay by his ways so childlike?
He could bring home the bacon ‘stead of actin’ like a swine
Put away the pop and have a little sip of wine

Grow up, sprout out of the ground
Let your colors shine like the springtime
As the sunshine dances on my weathered brow
All you’ve got to do for now
Is grow up

Now I’m handy with a shovel and I’m handy with a spade
And when he wasn’t lookin’ I was handy with a blade
Now he’s in my garden, pushin’ up my daisy
And some may think I’m crazy
But now my love must do what I say
As I say

Grow up, sprout out of the ground
Let your colors shine like the springtime
As the sunshine dances on my weathered brow
All you’ve got to do for now
Is grow up

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Song About Bologna?

Bruce Dalzell has this wonderful group of songwriters in Athens Ohio and the surrounding area.
They meet almost every week and talk about songwriting, share works in progress, work on tunes etc.
They have a weekly workshop called "Quick and Dirty" and one of the writers throws out an idea.
Recent song titles have been, "Foot", (see my tune "Foot in my Mouth" at this end of this blog)
"Fire Extinguisher", and this week's, "Bologna". The idea with "Quick and Dirty" is to bang out the tune without thinking or working too much. Oh, and keep it under an hour.

You can contact Brucie and get on his mailing list. I don't often make it to the weekly gathering, but I love to participate at home as often as time allows.
Bruce Dalzell

Bologna – (a Brucie “quick & dirty” song)

Between the Po and the Apennines
Between the Reno and Savena
I’ll bet every heart in that old city stopped
That day I met ya
In Bologna
In Bologna

I was as high as the towers
As we walked along the porticoes
Time stood still for a second
Then it breezed by as fast as the wind blows
In Bologna
In Bologna

Our new love stood out
In a city that’s blood lines
Flowed 1000 years before Christ lived
My God and now you’re gone
And this song lingers on
To remind me of how
I once held ya
In Bologna

Does it matter where she’s gone?
Maybe in the states someplace
Or down my street
With some Italian student
Enjoying her face
Maybe their love will outlast me
And this lively old city
Of Bologna

Foot in My Mouth
(c)2011 Todd Burge
Bunj Jam BMI
Foot in my mouth
Foot in my mouth
Head over heals, thoughts gone south
My little man says, let me out!
Got a foot in my foot in my foot in my

I’m telling you all that’s been told
All that my pea brain will ever hold
Apologies from the north to the south
I’ve got my sole in my pie hole and I can’t get it out


My mind is dusty, my mouth is dirty
I simply felt like being a bittle lit flirty
But my words got twisted, my charm’s been de-gifted
Now I’ve just got my my my my my my


More songwriter tips and tricks found here

Monday, June 20, 2011

Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan & Me Continued

Okay, I'm on a Bob Dylan kick... again, and that's not such a bad kick to be on.
I often tell friends that Bob Dylan's book, Chronicles I, is a great place to find interesting song titles. Dylan doesn't really get into his own writing process in this wonderful book, but his imagery is so superb, that, well, it is inspirational to me.

In the book Dylan talks about how (back in the late 50s I'm guessing?) he would visit Woody Guthrie in the hospital near NYC. Guthrie died from complications of Huntington's disease, a progressive genetic neurological disorder. During his later years, in spite of his illness, Guthrie served as a figurehead in the folk movement, providing inspiration to a generation of new folk musicians, including mentor relationships with Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan.

According to Dylan, Guthrie liked to listen to Dylan play,.... Woody Guthrie songs. Dylan knew many and Woody, unable to play them himself at this point, loved hearing them. So, Dylan would take Woody a pack of Raleigh smokes and play Do Re Me, Dust Bowl Blues, etc. Dylan said that the facility was more like an asylum than a hospital and that people were indifferent to the fact that Woody Guthrie was there. He said it wasn't the type place where you get better. "Patients would roll their eyes while their tongues sniffed the air".

In today's song I tried to imagine a patient down the hall from Woody, hearing these tunes sung by Dylan and being consoled by them. Dylan at this point was unknown as a performer, so, it wasn't like he walked in the place with celebrity status of any sort. He was simply a young man/boy playing Guthrie tunes.

At the end of the blog I talk about how I use different finger styles to pull some new melody and song ideas out of my head.

I'm going to flip through this book some more.

Listening to Woody Guthrie Tunes
©2011 Todd Burge – Bunj Jam – BMI

While sitting in my room
Constant thoughts of doom
Overwhelm me
Until I listen to
That young boy play
A Woody Guthrie tune

I have my dust bowl blues
Figured out without a drought
For now
As I listen to
That young boy play
A Woody Guthrie tune

White coats coming
Paranoia drumming
Bangin and a beatin’
On a single skin
Close your mouth
As I ain’t lettin’ a
Single word
In my head
I’m out of this world
A younger man with cares
Too few to mention
As I listen to
That young boy play
A Woody Guthrie tune

Patients roll their eyes
While their tongues sniff the air
An old man sees a spaceship
On the campus green out there
As I listen to
That young boy play
A Woody Guthrie tune

If I could get out now
What the hell would I do?
I’m here for your own good
And it’s good for me
So I look forward to
That young man who
Plays the Woody tunes

White coats coming
Paranoia drumming
Bangin and a beatin’
On a single skin
Close your mouth
As I ain’t lettin’ a
Single word
In my head
I’m out of this world
A younger man with cares
Too few to mention
As I listen to
That young boy play
A Woody Guthrie tune

Here's a video where I talk a bit about figure patterns on the right hand, and how they help me with melody.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The WV Blues Still In Me - "If You're Stealing From Me, It's Been Stolen Twice"

Ron Sowell (Music Director for NPR's Mountain Stage) once said something to me like, "if you're stealing from me, it's has being stolen twice!" Meaning, he has copped all of his songwriting ideas from others. I don't believe this, but there is something to be said about using your idols/friends/favorite writers to drive you in your own songwriting.

This tune I wrote today, may or may not become one that will last or become recorded. The fact is, most of my songs do not, but the writing process might interest you, so I'm posting it. I'm also going to suggest until the day I write my last tune, that "bulk is the answer". Writing daily or as often as possible will free you up to getting to something you dig. Dig?

A few times throughout my many years of songwriting, I refer to old folk songs when I i'm out of ideas for lyrics, or even melody. With today's tune, it is probably obvious that I turned to "Girl From the North County" by Bob Dylan. Of course, the lyric "Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine", is a line that is older than dirt. Nobody knows where it comes from, so anyone can use it. Paul Simon did in Scarborough Fair

And Neil Young (kind of) in Powder Finger (last verse)

It is a powerful image I think. Being stuck somewhere far away and pining away for your home.
Try thinking about that. Maybe this is already your situation. I know it is for a lot of West Virginians. We've been forced to leave the state to look for a "better life". Hazel Dickens had to move away at an early age and spent a lifetime writing powerful songs about her home place.

I spent most of my 20s wanting to get out of WV and every time I left, I spent all my time away, wanting to get back.

I don't know why I picked Johnson City in the song. I have been there and love it.

The past is a powerful source for future songwriting.

Try painting word pictures from your past in a song. Or, maybe better yet, try mixing those images with books/movies/songs that you love. Lift lines from famous songs and insert them into your verses, simply to kick start your muse. You'll of course have to remove them once they have done their job. I did this with this tune. I took (yes, Dylan again... damn, sorry, I do listen to other artists.. ha) Dylan's "Sweetheart Like You" and inserted the first line of his tune into this one. "The Pressure's down, the boss ain't here"
I like to take lines I like and "work against" them. Meaning, I think of what the opposite is.
"The pressure's high, the boss is still here", led me to a whole verse. I changed the first line to, "now the heat is on, the grass is green" and so on, and this lead me to the final verse. Dylan is dropped and what we have is an original verse.

I could write volumes on how I've used this technique to get lyrics.
Try it.

Okay, now for the song.
Let me know what you think. Thanks!

The WV Blues Still in Me
By Todd Burge
©2011 Bunj Jam Music BMI

Thought there was some prize
For not staying put
And taking my dreams across those mountains
But now I work each day
To get a little bit of pay
Just to have more of it taken away

Johnson City is pretty in places, I know
And there are a lot of things to do and go to
But if I’m staying broke
I’d rather be back home and have
Family and friends to cling to

Once I was driving away from the land that I love
And I would have moved a mountain to get here
But once I got to where I was going to
I just wanted to go back there
So remember me to my friends & family
If you ever get back home to see them
As I’m broke down in East Tennessee
With these West Virginia blues still in me

Now the heat is on and the grass is green
And the kids are out laughing and screaming
Sounds of joy surround this house
And it has me school dazed and dreaming

About how I was aimed to make a name for myself
And she was determined to change her’s
We crashed in the middle
Then in the end
Simply forgot our intended beginning

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Friday, June 10, 2011

One Star - The Song I Wrote With George Carlin

As I mentioned yesterday, My songwriting goal will now revolve around the fact that in December I'll go back into the studio with Tim O'Brien I'm really excited about this.

I plan on going over my notes and lyrics from the past year and fine tuning some songs. New songs will be coming too I'm hoping. I'll post tricks and methods here for those who are interested.

This tune came to me after listening to a great George Carlin interview on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Groce.
As far as I'm concerned, Carlin was brilliant in a universal way. I pay tribute to him a bit by being a bit blunt in this tune and taking one of his comments, and, well, running with it.

Groce, knowing that Carlin wasn't a religious man, asked where he thought he "fit in" in the grand scheme of things. Carlin said, "Some time ago I figured out, with the help probably of some reading that I can't recall now...that, if it's true that we are all from the center of a star - every atom in each of us from the center of a star- then, we're all the same thing. Even a coke machine or a cigarette butt in the street in Buffalo, they've all been recycled thousands of times, as have you and I. So, if that is true, then I am everywhere in the universe, uh, in an extended sense and therefore, it's only me out there, so, what is there to be afraid of? Nothing"

There was plenty more and you can listen to the whole interview HERE, but that was the source of the song. I incorporate this universe according to Carlin into my thoughts of war and peace. If everyone believed this, how could war exist? As far as George and I are concerned, we are killing ourselves. And if Carlin is right, then, George Carlin and I wrote this song, with you and a cigarette butt in the street in Buffalo NY.

One Star

Dig out dig out
Move the dirt
It’s a bitch of a ditch
Full of the gone too soon
And the stench of regret
And yet

One star one star
From this is where we all are
But we’ve gone deaf and dumb
From our gaze upon our own stardom

Starlight star bright
I wish upon us all tonight

Are we strung out and all sung out
As these hard times hit
We’ve got lost love and a soft arm
While looking down on something stiff

Build it, let’s build it
Of love and rock and cemented sand
Til this river of spilled blood
Gets plugged up by our
“we give a dam” AND


Well I’ll be, I believe
All the hippies had it right
So let’s tune up and drop down
On our knees and dream of peace

And one day, hope our heads
All meet at one collective feast
And with prejudice so extreme
Devour this Goddamn beast


More songwriter stuff by Todd Burge can be found here
Listen to his radio show and podcast
Songwriter Night with Todd Burge


Thursday, June 09, 2011

First Day of Spring - Sometimes the Songs Just Appear (The Shaved Sessions)

So, I missed last week as I was busy organizing the benefit for the Food Allergy Network. Our work is ongoing and you can learn more here.

Sometimes songs just come. There isn't a trick.. they simply arrive and I'm thankful. This is a matter of sitting down everyday and doing it. If you work on it daily and stop thinking that every note and word is so precious, you could find that a song will just come out of you without trying. A song that pleases you that is. A song you would like to possibly play out.

As you can see, my beard is gone. (Read more about the "bearded songs" in older posts) About a week ago I realized that I had more than 10 ten new songs that I would like to play out in front of an audience and/or record.

My songwriting goal will now revolve around the fact that in December I'll go back into the studio with Tim O'Brien I'm really excited about this.
I plan on going over my notes and lyrics from the past year and fine tuning some songs. I'll post tricks and methods here for those who are interested.

Today's song.. It was a long winter wasn't it? My buddy boy Lou did pass away around the beginning of spring too. RIP Lou

First Day of Spring
by Todd Burge© 2011 Bunj Jam BMI

It’s the first day of spring
The first day of spring
So why is it so damned cold?
I need to sneeze
Need to release
The last of a winter
That has made me
Feel two whole years older

Maybe this year
When and if this snow clears
I’ll start going to church
God knows it’s been years
But it’s all his fault
Cause no sane man
Would drive to congregate
In this frozen screwed up mess


Our good dog is gone
He was old and could not pass
Through one more season
Like that last one
But the cold still sticks around
Kickin’ me in my happy
I suppose I’m just
Sad about
This man’s best friend’s end

On this first day of spring
First day of spring
Why is it so damned cold?
Maybe we all need
To be brought to our knees
To be thankful for
What this new spring
Will eventually

Friday, June 03, 2011

Songwriter Night with Todd Burge Podcast for June 2011

A note to our affiliates. This show is 59mins with station ID breaks place around
18:40 and 40:30

Many of you know about my radio show
"Songwriter Night with Todd Burge"
You can listen to older live podcast with Steve Forbert and Bill Kirchen here

Our mission is to expose you to the great performing singer/songwriters playing in our region and hopefully, motivate you to support what they do!

JUNE PODCAST (Intro music by Bruce Dalzell)

We are sponsored by The Adelphia Music Hall in beautifully historic Marietta Ohio.
Bringing you fine food and fine live music
Many of the artist in this podcast will be performing there in 2011.
Check it out here


Play List
Amy LaVere
Killing Him
The Beat

Marti Jones and Don Dixon
Feels Like
That Scorching Song

Youn James Dean

Zoe Muth
You Only Believe Me When I'm Lying
Little Star

Bruce Dalzell
Where I Come From

Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots
Bag of Bones

RJ Cowdery
I Believe

Tim O'Brien
You Ate The Apple
Hose Race

Alice Gerrard & Hazel Dickens
Won't You Come and Sing For Me

Eileen Jewell
Sea of Tears

Follow the ongoing saga of Todd Burge's Songwriting here

Visit often

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Bit Too Late (Harold Camping's Letter to the Non Believers) the Bearded Songs Continued

Well, here is what I imagine to be Harold Camping's response to the "non-believers"
As you probably know, Harold predicted that the world would end on May 21st. It did not as you know and so, he said his math was off, and that May 21 was actually the judgement day and God is finished with that and world ending will actually commence on Oct 21st 2011.

I was wondering what he must think about the non-believers. He claims that it is simply too late for them to be saved.

You can hear my song initial song called "The Never Ending End" (My Letter to Harold Camping) here.

Let's continue talking songwriting tricks here. As I mentioned from our last blog, sometimes I like to try and sing and play a song that I don't really know, but have heard many times. This time around, it was Bob Dylan's "Every Grain Of Sand". A beautifully touching spiritual number. I know it has biblical implications, but, even if you strip those notions away, I mean, if you're not into that sort of thing, it is still a touching song. Couldn't find the Dylan version anywhere online, but here is Emmylou Harris doing it.


Anyway, I took the memory of that tune, and moaned through it without listening to it or searching for lyrics or chords, and it became the base for this new tune posted today. I like the irony of taking a lovely spiritual number like Dylan's and creating a dark and judgmental song such as this new one.

For those who care, my guitar is still dropped down.. It is tuned in standard fashion, but the low E has been dropped down to D and every other string is tuned down in relation to that, so the strings have lose vibe to them. And again, nobody would accuse me of ripping off the Dylan tune. Try this yourself.

A Bit Too Late (Harold Camping's Letter to the Non Believers)
May 26-2011

I simply missed the day
When my Jesus came
I didn’t hear him call my name
But it was that day, last may
And I know I claimed
It would all end right then
But that was bad math
As that was just the final
Judgment day

This fall will fall on you
Before you know it
And if you finally believe me
It’s a bit too late
For you to show it

When God made me
He made an imperfect man
Smart enough to figure
Flawed enough to miss
A number or two I guess
And if you are lost
I’ve closed the book on you
It’s too late for me to
Figure out the way to
Your salvation


So I’ll enjoy my final summer
Quietly in reflection
On some sandy beach
Just out of your reach
Someplace on my God’s creation
And wait for the change
Of our final autumn’s leaves
And hold my breath as I
Wait for these revelations to unfold

Write on... until Oct 1st anyways

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Never Ending End (My Letter to Harold Camping) How I Trick Myself Into Lyrics. The Bearded Songs Cont.

Here's a common trick for coming up with lyrics for new songs.
First I decide to write "in character".
I'll take a current event, and without much study, jot down some lines around it.

I've been mesmerized by Harold Camping lately as many of us have and wanted to write something about his prediction that the end of the world was coming on May 21th. Ends up, his math was off, and he has adjusted this to Oct 21.

I couldn't help but wonder what some of his followers are thinking now, especially the ones who gave all their possessions away, spent their money, or gave it to Harold and company.

I wrote this song from the point of view of one of these followers. I started out by jotting down lines from various tidbits that I knew, then I dug in and studied it online. Just glanced at an article really, then wrote a couple verses "stream of consciousness" style, then read a bit more and back. I mean, I didn't dig in or study too deeply as I know from experience that this will clog me up. Don't need to get too wrapped up in the truth here don't cha know... I mean, hell, I'm making up stuff. Too much information sometimes isn't a good thing when you're writing a 4 minute song.

I feel the song should be aggressive, but who knows how it'll end up. This was my first full run.

Lyrics (note: the guitar is in a dropped down tuning.. It is like playing in standard E, but I've dropped it down to D)
The Never Ending End (My Letter To Harold Camping

I thought it was over
I thought we were done
I thought I would walk with my God
On golden streets in the sun
Where the Summers are endless
And the Sorrows have ended
But I'm still with you sinners
Is this end never ending?

I spent my last year
Thinking is really was my last
I spent my last penny
Burned my last tank of gas
Prayed a whole lot
Had a little tiny bit of fun
While waiting for May 2011, day 21


I've spent a lifetime
Thinking about my ending
Spending most my days
Focused on the final day of my living
Putting up with the Adams & Eves
That apple was eaten
They're rotten to the core
And now I know I've gotta be with Them
For a few months or more?


Dear Harold Camping,
I hope this finds you well. I'm writing because, until October, we've got more living to do. With four kids and a wife. More living to do. I've spent my last dime on you and I've got more living to do. A non-believer now has my job and well, yes, unfortunately, I have no fortune like you, but still we both have more living to do. So, I'm sure you won't mind if we all move in with you.

I thought it was over
I thought we were done
I thought I would walk with my God
On golden streets in the sun
Where the Summers are endless
And the Sorrows have ended
But I'm still with you sinners
Is this end never ending?
Will this take forever?
Is this end never ending?

I think I like this one, but it is timely, meaning, by the time I put a CD out, it will either be old news and of no interest to anyone, or, we'll all be dead.

Okay, keep writing.
More soon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ripping Off Petty and Bowie - "The Bearded Songs" Continued

Today's song attempt came from the dream I mentioned yesterday that I had the night before last. I dreamed that I was being put to sleep. I like the irony in this.

When I sat down to write this morning, I didn't really have an idea as to what I would do beyond that one line. No musical ideas either. This is an old trick that I've used over the years. I play a song that I don't know from memory. Meaning, I hack through a song from someone else the best I can, without looking the song up or reading the lyrics online or what have you.

A few years back I did this with Tom Petty's "Break Down". I started playing the song the best I could, without knowing what the hell I was doing and eventually, I came up with my tune, "Hip About Time". Listen here. It sounds nothing like Petty's tune.

This morning I did the same, but today I tried it with David Bowie's "Five Years"
I've never played the song, and barely knew any of the words, but it brought me to today's song. I'm not certain that it has legs, but I felt like I accomplished something this morning.

You might be able to see how I got there musically if you compare the two, but I'm certain that no one could accuse me of ripping them off.

This is a wonderful way to kick start ideas, musically anyway. Next week I'll discuss how to trick yourself into writing lyrics.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

THE BEARDED SONGS - I'll Shave After 10

May 19 2011
My Masterpiece of Crap

(this blog goes in reverse chronological order)

This AM I set out to write a bad song. Some days, when I'm without obvious inspiration, I simply go through the motions. It may sound silly, because it is a bit, but it keeps my muscles working and possibly tooled up for when the real deal comes around.

So, I joked to myself... and wrote

I sat down to write my masterpiece.... of crap.. (ha)

I just wrote this one out with a simple melody w/o guitar (see second verse)

I don't see this song getting performed... not in the state that it currently resides, but it was fun and I enjoyed the wordplay.

At the end of my allotted writing time this AM, I remembered that I had a strange dark dream last night...
Last night I dreamed that I was being put to sleep.
I like that line... put to sleep like a dog that is.. very dark.. and ironic.

I also read a short story written and sent to me by Frank Larnerd called The Night Doctor.

Frank said, "The Night Doctor is set in Putnam county in 1885 and follows two slave children as they follow the Kanawha River to freedom. In 2010, the story won the Giardinia Prize at WVSU.

Your music has always inspired me, hope I can repay the favor."

Frank, thanks for this. I loved the story and highly recommend it. I believe it has been stored for future inspiration.

Thanks for hanging with me.

May 18 2011
My Face Has Faced It

(this blog goes in reverse chronological order)

This morning I got up like most mornings, waking up and opening one eye, then the other...and not having any idea as to what I wanted to write about. Normally, when I start with an idea I think is good, It ends up.. a clunker. I messed around some with JD Hutchison's song, "Money to Burn". JD is a great writer from Athens County WV. JD is legendary in and around WV and Southeast Ohio etc. Tim O'Brien once played in this band, The Hutchison Brothers. Before Tim was in Hot Rize. Here's a version of the song, Money to Burn, by Hot Rize. Couldn't find JD's version online.

So, I've always loved that tune, but never have played it. I started messing with it some thinking I might learn it or possibly write a song like it. This is a method I use to trick myself into writing an original tune. Most of the time I get so far removed from the song I'm thinking of, it simply sounds,,.. well, original. I even went as far as to work on the line, "if i had time to spare". ha.. That didn't pan out. But, somewhere along the line, I came up with the line.. "To some distant place where grace is vacant...and my face has faced it". I liked this and the words and melody came quickly. Grace possibly? Possibly... This song might get me closer to shaving (see below), but it is way too soon to tell. More later.

MAY 17 2011

Those of you who know me, know I write a lot. Almost daily. That being said, most of the songs I write, never vibrate into another's ear. Every once in a while, when I'm feeling like I'm having a dry spell, I decide to not shave until I've written a tune that I'm happy enough with to share. This superstitious behavior has served me well in the past. I decided the other day that I would shave after I've written 10 songs I'm happy with. That way, my new CD will be in place. Maybe I'll shave at my CD release party in 2018? har.

I'm thinking I might be up to about three songs or so. Maybe you've heard me sing them live. The titles being, "Looking for my Nuts", "Enough About Me", "Blue Monday", "Opening Act, Pain in the Yea" (Here I am playing it live during a show with Tim O'Brien & Bryan Sutton)

Then there is the song I wrote from the perspective of Joseph, as in THE Joseph. I was thinking what it must've been like to have been Joseph. Had I been, I would have been wildly insecure about the whole situation. Listen to my demo of "Joseph's Prayer to his Baby Son"

So, maybe I'm forgetting a tune or few, but those are the ones I am playing so far. I will soon be playing a few others. Working titles: "Bend Me Out of This Shape That I'm In", "The Spark Was There (Because of all the Friction)" and today I worked on an idea called, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction Either".. ha Bill Kirchen gave that one to me.

So, I'm sharing this with you as I go, because today's technology allows it and, well, because it challenges me. I always seem to do better with a bit of pressure on me. Suppose I work harder to get out from under it and all. I'll be posting ideas along the way and welcome comments and song ideas it you have them and want to share. Maybe we'll co-write one! I'd like that. Hopefully my beard won't get too long.

Thanks for reading.
Hope to see you at a show soon!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

On The Road (2011)

MAY 14 2011
Okay, this is one of my all time favorite festivals. If you've ever been, you know why. Where can you hear The Flaming Lips, George Jones, Michael Hurley, Julian Lennon, Southeast Engine, Bruce Dalzell and gobs of others in one spot?

I played in the "no-fi" cabin early saturday. The crowd was packed, in my face, intense and just wonderful! Billy Matheny stopped by in a three pc corduroy suit and played banjo on one tune, then disappeared into the misty dew with his Nixon mask in tow.

The kids (Will 7 and Soph 4) both got up with me and sang "The Bugs Are Coming".
Will's tune. Crowd pleasers those two.

Larry Groce, John Lilly & Todd Burge

I was honored to be asked by Kelly Elkins @ Tamarack to perform this Songwriter In the Round concert with Groce and Lilly.
Both are really great songwriters. Over the years I've gotten to know them both really well. Larry as you probably know, is host of NPR's Mountain Stage and had a top ten Billboard hit with Junk Food Junkie back in the 70s. What most probably don't know is, he still performs and writes on occasion. I love his acid wit and his performance style. Highlight for me would have to be "Wilderness" and his new tune. "See Alice" ? Title?
John Lilly writes tunes that sound like they've been with your family forever. I dig his new songs and he has a bunch of them nowadays it seems. His "A Little Yodel Goes A Long Way" is one of my favorites.

The Purple Fiddle - Thursday April 28

One of my favorite places on the planet to perform would have to be the Purple Fiddle in Thomas WV. Near Davis WV (Canaan Valley)in what I like to call the "weather vortex" or our state. The food and drink is great and being in those WV mountains somehow touches me every time I make the climb on 219 from Parsons to Thomas.

The topic of conversation when I arrived on this sunny Thursday evening was the hissing sound my VW TDI was making as I was making my way up the mountain. Purple Fiddle owner John Bright jumped in the VW for a listen as did sound man Ben.
Ben diagnosed it as a turbo leak and sent referred me to one Brian Jones in Parsons.

I felt I had a great show as the fiddle and met some new friends. I love the sound of that room. Makes me want to play.
The next morning bright and early I was off to see Brian Jones.

Brian was busy, but stopped what he was doing, jumped in the VW, listened, lifted the car, fixed a loose clamp and charged me $15! Unbelievable. Thanks Brian/Ben and John.


Stage view of the capacity crowd. Carla Ulbrich performs

I was off to Fredericksburg VA to play Bob Gramann's songwriter series.
The Fredericksburg Songwriter Showcase.
Bob and Lou Gramann have been putting this on for years (I played it once before back in the 90s) in a fine venue behind a great music store called "Picker's Supply". Fredericksburg is full of history. Deep South history don't cha know...

I walked into a Chinese restaurant after sound check and this was my fortune.

Bob and Lou could teach a crash course on how to put on a successful concert series.
I met and performed with three great writers Rupert Wates, Carla Ulbrich and Joe Giacoio. Each one a master on guitar. Carla and Joe are married and both very funny. Rupert had a tribute song to the late George Carlin that just knocked me out!
We had a sold out crowd and sold a ton of CDs. A wonderful evening of music!

After the show we went back to Bob and Lou's house for an after show party. Bob gave us the tour of the house and we guitarists were especially interested in his workshop.
Gramann is truly a master luthier. The Gramanns were kind enough to lend me their guest room. That night I dreamed about the Gramann guitar I had played earlier. Possibly because I was surrounded by them? This was the view from my bed that night.

I'm also thinking I may have found my guitar "soul mate". I believe that'll haunt me until I, well, buy it.

Bob Gramann with some of his work behind him.

This is an unsolicited advertisement. Check out this man's work. I've never played a finer instrument!


I ended the week at the Blue Moose in Morgantown WV

I've been playing the moose for years and love returning to the town of my Alma Mater and seeing old and new friends. Thanks to Aaron Hawley for "saving folk music"!
We had a problem with the PA and Aaron came through.
Good to see some old friends drive in from Clarksburg and Fairmont. Jim Rebrook and Eric Lewis and all.
Musical highlight: Someone requested Pickin a Lock.. and I felt a little rusty and insecure about playing it. Of course I attempted it anyway. I very possibly could have been my favorite performance of that tune.
Don't have a recording of it, but here's a version from about a decade ago

Hey Blue Moosers... What fun! Will see you again soon with a new song.

Thanks for helping me do what I do.

Oh, This week, Tamarack with Larry Groce and John Lilly!