Sunday, February 13, 2011

Which Direction?

Over the last two or three years my interest in music has slowly changed direction. Perhaps not changed so much as gone back to a fork in the road from long ago when I first got into playing in a band and found such joy in such simple tunes that seemed to speak volumes with just a few notes.

First it was a revisiting of my early band days and the acoustic folk/country/americana/rock sessions that my friends would fall into on a lazy afternoon at the beach or long after the cops had shut down the house party that night. They would pull out their "old standards" and play and sing a little of their own history while passing it along to the rest of us.

The tunes were easy, made it easy for the rest of us to follow along, and they stuck with us. This was obvious 30 years later at an acoustic get-together at my house last fall when we pulled them all out again and taught each other a couple of new keepers. Smiles for miles.

Next I took advice from an outsider, someone I'd just met, about writing my own tunes. I told him that I had always felt that I was better at just playing the bassline and singing a handful of other folks tunes that I liked and could actually hit the notes on. I had been listening to a lot of folk/alt-country/americana stuff from the Texas-Nashville-Mobile circuit and really liked the simplicity of the tunes and the stories they told.

This person told me that since he thought I was a good communicator, at least through email, that I should give it a shot. Not to force anything, but when inspiration hits, never to second guess it, just write it down. Never be afraid to re-write either, just don't let it make you crazy, just go with it.

Within a month I started to hear things differently. A phrase or comment on TV or out around town that would spark a picture in my head. Wrote 'em down. I thought more about being either in someone else's shoes, not doing as well as I am, or how things could have turned out differently for me. Wrote it down.

I listened to how a simple chord structure with just a minor difference in the fingerpicking or vocal melody could make 3 songs in E minor all sound completely different.

Something changed inside. Something happened. Wrote that down too. Wrote 32 tunes in six months. Some are crap, many are not though. I presented my stuff to my band partner and recording mentor for review and he said "Let's do 'em".

He wrote many of the melody lines for the guitars, he collaborated on a lot of the instruments we wanted to experiment with for that "old-timey" sound that we would make our own. His experiments with the percussion lines are a big part of the feel of these tunes.

My singing, (sigh)...It is what it is and I know that. Some of the tunes it works well with and others, well...let's just say that Brad Paisley would make the song great, my version is the "demo".

The direction I've taken on this, dragging a couple of friends, kickin' and screamin', along with me, has changed some of my personal views on life this last year. It has also let me say some things that needed to be said. It has taken me to places I would not have visited or seen as clearly five years ago.

Thanks to all of you that have come along for some of this ride, there is still more to come.

~ Roscoe (tonebender)