Sunday, May 03, 2020

To focus.

And then there’s this...
now that you’re a grown-up you know about all the things that get in the way - the things that take you away
away from the home and the faces
but when you were a pup, you knew nothing of that
your Dad was there or he wasn’t - and when he was there
he was smiling or he wasn’t - you were a pup; you didn’t know
but when he smiled and tickled you and called you by the nickname he had for you
that was all you needed

Steady, my hand - hold the lens still.
All this way to come - to be here and focus.
Hold the lens still.

There’s this pile of wood, there’s all these parts
these things you’ve picked up along the way
all of it here with you now
yours to make something out of
to show that you’ve paid attention
(to show?) that you know if an edge should be soft or sharp
if a word should be warm or cold

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Notebooks

I went out and bought two or three of these notebooks - probably just before my 59th birthday.
I used to write in “journals” off and on for years - somewhere out there in the barn/workshop there’s a box full of those hard-bound-book type things. I guess they appealed to a part of me that thought writing stuff down needed to look serious. Most of them aren’t even 1/4 full.

Around eight years ago I fell in with a group of local musicians - some were songwriters, some singers and players. I have always loved music - there was a grand piano in our living room when I was a kid. My two older sisters got piano lessons that they did not like - I did not get the lessons but my mother used to say that I made musical-sounding things on that piano.
I bought my first guitar at 13 - I was enthralled with the 60’s Folk scene.

Anyway - the notebooks. I have been earning a living doing carpentry for about forty years now. At this point I don’t have to think real hard to get the work done. I also work alone often and the internal dialogue just runs on and on. When I got a computer I naturally started keeping little online notebooks. Falling back into music via the friends that I had found, I began to channel my internal dialogues into paper notes during the day. Scribblings that I was hoping were song-like ideas. I began to amass pockets full of scrap paper. I wrote on the backs of receipts, my appointment books - that kind of thing. So that day came when I went to Office Depot in Rio Grande and bought a couple of black & white composition books - and one orange one on a whim. I intended to proceed in an orderly fashion and work in one until it was filled up before starting in the next one. That probably didn’t last very long. I think I also liked the idea that buying those notebooks seemed to indicate the serious intent that I had bent myself to. So I bought more before any were filled up. Being lazy by nature I would eventually just grab whichever one was nearby and so at this point the chronology of the scribblings is totally out of whack.

I page back through them from time to time - I see the same ideas presented and re-presented. It has led me to think that there are a half-dozen or so issues that concern most of us. I’m often surprised to see how long ago an idea that I think of as recent was initially written down.
There might be five or six currently working - I think there are two that are filled. The orange one is faded to a pale ochre.

I managed to lose track of one a couple of years ago. Actually, I didn’t lose track of it - I lost it.

I dropped it in the driveway of The Mad Batter Bar & Restaurant during one of the SS Cape May conferences. I didn’t even miss it. One night last year I was at The Batter to hear Dan Barry play. His bass player Dominic Mancini came up to me and handed me the notebook that he’d found back then. I didn’t recognize it at first when he handed me that notebook - then I saw the black “3” on the cover. Apparently I had numbered them once before the scheme got out of whack. As I said, I see the same themes coming up over and over, but sometimes in between all the negligible scrawls there are a few keepers.

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.