Sunday, August 14, 2016

Songwriting on the brain...

Looking back through the (online) notebook and found this - from August 14 in 2011...

8/14 Been reading Paul Zollo’s “Songwriters on Songwriting” - he interviewed a whole bunch of writers for the book, each chapter is an interview. Trying to be good, not jump around, read from front to back. Right now, Frank Zappa. He had a pretty pessimistic attitude about the state of songwriting in the middle of American culture. All commercial, all about getting sold and/or made into a video. All about consumption, like fast food.
All of the writers interviewed so far have had interesting things to say - different approaches with a lot of common threads.

But here I am, with this Sunday morning off - seems like there’s so much to do and not enough time to do it. Songs that I’ve been working on that need more lyrics - need to write a good bridge for one - and here I am, learning as I go along. Happy to be doing this, but a little frustrated that I’m not further along - frustrated that I don’t have as much time to devote to it as I’d like.
The next chapter after Zappa is Leonard Cohen. He says something about how even many people with jobs are unemployed - I take this to mean the sort of thing that I’ve come to find in my life - what I’ve been telling people lately - the carpentry work that I do every day, that I’ve been doing for about 35 years now, doesn’t really require more than 10 to 20% of my brain. So the brain starts off on it’s own little game - it’s own quest to amuse itself - and I start putting words together. 

Cohen meant that there are people who remain unfulfilled and underutilized, I think, but the part that resonated with me is how I’m dealing with that (my) underutilization as the day goes along.
Is it because we’re terrified of the truly random nature of the universe that we keep creating these little structures?
Doesn’t matter if you have the radar on, the rain could still walk around you at the last minute.
The eggs, the toast, the Holy Ghost. Which one gets you through the day? There’s no right answer, the life you’re living is your own. There are bugs on bugs and gods on gods.

...and then there's the other part of songwriting, of course - the music part. 
Here's a melody with no words from May 11, 2014...

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Who shot the blog?

I guess it was Facebook. For a lot of us the blog was just a way to get some thoughts and pictures shared. Then Facebook came along and made it easier. Not better, necessarily, but made it into a more commonplace thing. You used to have to work a little harder - maybe even understand a little bit of HTML.
I haven't posted anything to this blog in more than two years - almost three, actually. That in itself is maybe due to how things seem to speed up as we get older. Summer seems to last maybe a month-and-a-half - that kind of thing. But the ease of posting/sharing/revealing in the Facebook era has also been a factor, I believe. In order to include any hypertext or links I'll have to go back to some old posts where I can view the codes used. Do we necessarily have to regret the changing of our tools and methods? I certainly cuss with impatience when I've got to use a manual screwdriver these days (usually when I'm too lazy to go out to the truck to get the powered version). Easier is better?

Cape May Songwriting Workshop - Sept. 13-16 2016

First of its kind - Cape May Songwriting Workshop
The Carroll Villa Hotel and Mad Batter Restaurant will host the first Cape May Songwriting Workshop - September 13 - 16, 2016.  The featured workshop leader will be Freebo, a California based singer-songwriter and a veteran touring and recording musician. 

The first of its kind in Cape May - a three day songwriting workshop at the Carroll Villa Hotel / Mad Batter Restaurant in the heart of historic Cape May. 
The workshop begins on Tuesday Sept 13 with a welcoming ceremony, dinner and a concert by Freebo. Wednesday and Thursday are workshop days (lunch provided) and the event wraps up on Friday with a presentation and closing ceremony.

Freebo is a genuine folk, rock and blues icon who, after over 40 years of recording and touring with many of the great artists of our time (Bonnie Raitt 10 years, Crosby Stills & Nash, Maria Muldaur, John Mayall, Ringo Starr, Dr. John, Neil Young, & many more) is regarded as one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of today. A multi award winner and finalist in numerous songwriting contests, Freebo was also recognized as the 'Best Folk Artist 2007' by the Los Angeles Music Awards. In addition, he has appeared on Saturday Night Live, The Muppet Show, The Midnight Special, and in concert with the legendary Spinal Tap. “...the opportunity to have Freebo in Cape May is a major coup for the Singer-Songwriter community” said Michael Murphy, the program’s organizer.

Cape May has earned a much deserved reputation as a music town thanks to our long running jazz festivals, classical music festivals and the annual Singer-Songwriter conference, as well as our wonderful array of home grown talent nightly gracing gorgeous historic venues. This September marks the first workshop for songwriters and aspiring songwriters who want to immerse themselves in music and instruction just steps from award winning beaches and restaurants amid spectacular architecture at what is largely considered the very best time of year here.

Cost of the workshop, reception dinner and lunches is $450 for the three day event. You can register and pay by Visa and MasterCard by calling The Carroll Villa Hotel at 609-884-5970. Information is available on the CMSW Facebook page:
Those interested should contact the host, MQ Murphy by email at

Friday, February 01, 2013

(MQM Photo)

7/15 Grocery list love song 

Chicken thighs, broken hearts 
artichoke hearts, living apart 
dozen eggs, way too much 
been there 
why are these beets sold in a bunch, one or two would probably 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

(MQM photo)

Arrggh! Good ol' Google has changed the layout/interface since the last time I was here - I will adjust (I'm from New Jersey).

Went up to Vineland last night to hear Shawn Colvin at the Landis Theatre
El and I and Deb and JM.
You take it for granted sometimes, but it’s a real honor, a gift - when a writer will share their gifts with you. Came home so inspired to get serious about my writing.

This morning (Yay, Sunday mornings/afternoons) I’m looking through my notebooks - finally think I have an idea about how to ‘work’ on my songs.
I'm going to pick a few - half dozen of the bunches of possibles from the books, maybe some of the ones that've been nagging me for attention for a long time.
I'm actually kind of glad to find things scribbled down in the books that surprise me - stuff I'd forgotten about. Feel a little like a cook who might finally feel like there are enough raw materials in the pantry to make something that might taste good and be interesting.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


(MQ Murphy image)

So - I guess I was wondering whether performing songs would help me with songwriting. I think it has. There is a component to the good song - singability. I was just listening to a few songs on the International Songwriting Competition website. There was at least one that I started humming along with about halfway through. The songs were on a page of past winners in the various categories - I was listening to the 'folk' and 'singer-songwriter' categories, of course, though I also listened to a jazz vocal composition from a woman in Ireland.

I've been 'playing out' a lot this year - usually two to three nights a week at the Pilot House and I've also been hosting an Open Mic at The Mad Batter on Sunday nights. Playing more often has improved my guitar playing and given me opportunities to try different approaches to phrasing with my songs.

One thing that I'm not sure I know how to do yet is 'work' on songs. I keep my notebooks with me almost all the time and write things down in them just about every day. It seems that I'm usually waiting for some idea to reach a critical mass where it sort of finishes itself - the results are . . . mixed.

I've got a few tunes that I guess I consider finished, but they feel to me as though I was forcing them to conclusions just to have something finished. That's accurate, because I pushed some of them along in the time between being accepted to perform at Singer-Songwriter Cape May and the date of the actual performances. Just a side note here - I'm remembering that my friend George Mesterhazy was there at the real 'first' performance at the Pilot House - it put me much more at ease to have him sitting at a front table. His comments afterward were so encouraging.

I should also say that I've got a few that I consider finished and pretty good. I get good reactions to 'Driver Has No Money' and 'Country Song'. I've been asked who did the 'original version' of Driver and several people have asked me if it was available on CD. A guy who was an editor at Time Magazine and currently writes a blog for Huffington Post complimented a performance of 'Country Song' and offered to forward it to a producer friend in Nashville. At this point I want just one quiet morning or evening to record basic versions of the better songs for official copyright submission.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Essential equipment.

Six weeks ago today I got careless while using the table saw for a project. For reasons not clear to me right now I ended up putting my left index finger into the saw blade.
The first thought in my mind was 'oh, no - guitar fingers!' . . .

Carbide-tipped saw blades can deal with much harder materials than flesh and bone - the blade didn't hesitate for a second to alter what I offered it. My injury could have been much worse - looking at the blade path tells me that another 3/8" would have meant that I was carrying the fingertip with me to the ER. As it was, the Doctor put about 12 stitches from the front, over the tip and down the other side to pull it back together. Well numbed, I didn't feel it when he put the stitches right through the fingernail. Funny to look at it now and see those little holes in the nail.

The stitches were taken out 12 days later - the healing process is going well. Somehow my body is pretty good about healing, especially my hands. I had done something similar - worse, actually - about 26 years before when working on another table saw. That accident shredded the tips of the middle and ring fingers on the left hand and they ended up about 1/4" shorter than they had been.
(I started a song a while back about the abuse suffered by the left hand of a right-handed carpenter)
Back then I was more actively pursuing the side career of pottery - it was my major in college and I had made various attempts to make a living by it. I think that working clay with the fingers as they healed had a positive effect on the whole process. It seemed to me that connecting the mind with the fingers in order to create something made the healing a more organic process - a less passive process. Actually, I've never tried to put it into words and so I'm finding it a bit awkward to describe what I thought I was doing . . .

I thought of that today as I went out to an old plastic tub behind the barn and dug out a small fistful of stoneware clay. It is a tub of scrap clay that has been sitting there with the lid blown off, just weathering for twenty years or more. The kind of clay you'd kill for if you were making some pots - it'll be really plastic from sitting so long. I've been thinking for the last few weeks that I should make clay-working part of the healing process for this injury, too. Shape and flesh-wise, the finger looks like it will be fine for guitar playing. The sensation in it is a mess right now - a weird combination of numbness and over-sensitivity. I know I've got six months until the fingernail is back to normal, but just watching the body go through the healing process is pretty amazing.

I was thinking recently, they say Eskimos have a hundred different words for snow - I should have two hundred words for luck.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Worthless Man

3/02/12 Early, like 1:37 AM

Been working on Worthless Man - trying to make it not suck. It is a ponderous downer of a song, so it seems the latest thing that I’m trying with it is to do it way uptempo. I’m liking this so far, but I’ve been liking what I did to it until I didn’t like it anymore. The chord changes are falling together in a way that I’m happier with. Two verses, a bridge, an instrumental verse (c’mon, Tom Naglee!) and two last verses. Liking the shape of it for now, hoping to do it tomorrow at PHOMN.