Songs I wrote that changed the way I wrote songs

Million Dollar Houses

I’ve written about MDH before but there’s always more to say about art, right? The way it changed my writing is that it made me see the power of optimism. It was originally supposed to be a sad song about the, as I saw it, idiotic optimism of my friends. We’re all poor, undeducated, go-nowhere losers but whenever I’d talk to them great things were just around the corner. People with no plans, no job, no nothing talking about what they’re gonna do with their millions in a few years. Just any day now we’re gonna buckle down, sober up, and everything’s gonna be great, no worries, and I’m a jerk for acting like it’s not totally obvious. That’s the song I was working on when I went to see the Kieth Morrison Band at Vern’s one night. And Kieth’s songs were big, simple, strong. So I reworked the music and allowed myself to finally write a catchy chorus. Now the song had happy music but still those judgmental lyrics and when I sang it the lyrics never changed but the feel and meaning shifted. Rather than criticizing the poor-but-happy cliches it became a celebration. When I sang it to an audience and my friends sang along I saw that I was making them happy, reaffirming their hopes without lying or being patronizing and it felt good.

Pride Of My Hometown

I was working on Pride when I wrote MDH, for months before and for months after. I just couldn’t get it to click, it had no heart for a long time. The origin of the song is so benign I find it funny; I asked Jon Hunter to give me songwriting topics for our celtic punk project Hellcat Maggie and he “…Boxing?” I came up with the intro lyrics on the way home that night. Ta Da. I had the vision of a crime story song about Davey turning out exactly like his dad despite trying to avoid it. He was going to be dead or in jail at the end of the song. Fitzy even helped me out a bit with a verse about Davey’s girlfriend getting pregnant and Davey turning to crime. As I worked on the song though it just slowly flowed away from that and when I hit on lyrics about Davey’s dad talking to him from jail then it finally clicked. Again, the lesson is about optimism but also the emotional journey of the song. I love story songwriters like Johnny Cash and some Dylan but I never thought I could pull it off, writing with the frame that I was writing for HellCat and not for myself freed me up to try it. And clearly it worked. So remember: Write Free, don’t get attached to an outcome – let the song write itself.

Knock’em Dead, Kid

If you’re reading this you’ve heard the song, I’ve been playing it since recording Nine Chains To The Moon, but there’s no recording yet. It’s sits in a group with 12:10am and Grace Lutheran as songs I wrote for my next album that became Greystone Gardens songs now. Anyway it’s a boldly optimistic song, it’s actually fully arrogant. And when I was working on it I knew if I didn’t finish it right away and play it for people I’d chicken out of singing it. I love when singers are bombastically happy and it makes them cocky but I’m still so scared to do it. I learned to allow myself to write for fun, to sing for fun. Not every song has to raw and cathartic to be good or to have personal meaning.

Live What You Love

Go listen to it right now, it’s on Reverbnation. The reason I’m so madly stoked on it is that it’s written with the knowledge that I have a band and I can make riff rock. Everything I’ve written up til now has had to work acoustically for me to work on it but I can finally hear a full band when I’m writing, it’s liberating and exciting.

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Singer/songwriter, jerk.

Posted in Songwriting, Uncategorized

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