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

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