My origin story as a singer/songwriter

If I had to pick a record that changed my life I’d say Melon Collie And The Infinite Sadness by Smashing Pumpkins. I saved up to buy it in my early teens because of songs like Zero and Bullet With Butterfly Wings. I’d skip the slow songs because that’s what kids do, I liked the heavy songs, fast songs, but I did appreciate lyrical content. And because kids are also lazy I stopped skipping songs just to realize that some slow songs are much “heavier” than the clearly aggressive tracks. When Billy Corgan called himself a bastard son of a bastard son it clicked with me in a private way. I realized anyone, and everyone, can be angry – that’s easy and obvious to identifiy with but complex feelings like wanting to reject one’s genetic legacy were just between Billy and I. Still I didn’t think of writing acoustic songs, I just wanted to write good, emotionally important songs.

I actually hated solo acoustic acts for most of my life. I’d always written songs intending to flesh them out into full band rock songs when I was able to keep a band going steady. When I joined Caught Off Guard I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t playing acoustic or writing those kinds of songs. I remember seeing an acoustic duo open for us one night in (I think) Toronto and they played the standard, gutless, awful covers that a lot of acoustic acts do I thinking how glad I was to be away from that sort of thing in my fun kick ass punk band. But I had brought my acoustic along on tour for busking and playing in the van and stuff though which turned out to be a good thing. We were in London at a bar called Norma Jeans and a girl named Kim Wexler was opening as a solo acoustic act. For comedy’s sake I’ll mention the first thing I said when I saw her was “Some people should not be allowed to dress themselves.”  She got up and sang her songs though and something struck me. The simple, honest, straightforward emotion of it. I felt like playing acoustic guitar, I felt like I missed playing acoustic guitar which hadn’t really happened before.

The next day the band was in Windsor and I went busking, relearned my own songs that I hadn’t played since I joined the band. Coincidentally that night we were the only band on the bill so we had as much as three hours to fill. There was a Boston game on and Raf had no intention of starting before it was over so the idea of me playing an acoustic set was brought up. It was fun, it went great, I got drinks bought for me because I played Johny Cash. I thought of my acoustic side as a hobby at that point.

Then the final nail in the coffin; Disney Ninjas. If you don’t know youtube it. Anyway I forget who cancelled but it was supposed to be someone then Deluge then Disney Ninjas. Well if an acoustic set worked as last minute filler in Windsor then it could work now. When it was done Tony and Dave were so pleasantly surprised and supportive. Dave asked me if I had an album and it just clicked in me that I could have one. Should have one. One minute I didn’t feel like a real solo artist and the next minute I did. Right then and there.

Now I’m writing songs so prodigiously I’ve held up the release of my second record – 9 Chains To The Moon – to add three songs that I feel I just couldn’t sit on until the conditions are right to do a third album. So I’m in studio March 29 and the CD release is April 25. I still feel like I’m on the bottom rung of the singer/songwriter ladder but I am on the ladder.


Singer/songwriter, jerk.

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Posted in Songwriting
One comment on “My origin story as a singer/songwriter
  1. Go, Al! Love and pride from Aunt Leah

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