we’re thrilled to have a new baby in the house as of 2 months ago, but that’s put a bit of a damper on extra-curriculars like music stuff. but there are a few things to report/remember from the last couple months.
at our Christmas Eve service in church, I was able to do my “Shepherd’s Song” with a bunch of the guys. it was a lot of fun to do and it felt really good to be a part of the service. Joe and Mark and the guys always make my stuff sound much, much better. I had a lot of really good feedback, including some surprisingly emotional responses and lots of encouragement. so I’m very thankful.
for Christmas presents I gave family members a copy of my new home made album (which you can currently find here). no body has said much about it that I can remember.
but I’m glad I got the album done, and I’m thinking of passing it around town to see if I can get some gigs…perhaps put a toe in the waters. so I might play at the new coffee shop here in the neighborhood, which should be fun.
before the baby was born I did some recordings of me doing octave mandolin stuff, because Michelle asked for it. I just improvised some mellow stuff and I think it turned out ok. some raw material to work on perhaps. I have a long-term goal of arranging my stuff with more instruments, but I think I’ll need a lot more time than I currently have.
just this month I was scheduled to play for church, and I usually get the usual suspects together to work on something. but this time I decided to do a octave mandolin solo of one of my “simple songs”. the last time I tried something like that it was pretty bad, but even tho I was quite nervous, it went ok. it’s a good thing I know that particular song well, or my nerves may have ruined it. but again people were very encouraging and thankful for it.
I havent written a complete song in a little while, but I do actively collect ideas to work on. I havent sat down to put ideas together, but I think that’ll come when it should.
now I’m getting excited about the potential to play at the local coffee shop. I dont know when it might be, or even what it’ll look like (will anyone be there? will I be just in the background?) but it’ll be good to have a milestone to look toward to.
for my 2nd home-made album, I’m doing my songs-with-words, and so far I’m calling it “Context”. I’ve pretty much decided on the track listing (at least 10 songs, maybe 12 if I can get them up to par), and I’ve recorded 5 of them so far. the album cover will probably be in the vein of the first one. I’ve even written some brief “liner notes”:
“Context” is a collection of songs about the things close to my heart: family, home and faith. This is a completely hand-made and home-made collection, done very simply in every way. I am not here to impress you with clever or obscure language, or fanciful guitar and mandolin work, but I do hope to simply sing a story in a pleasing way. So here you have songs about falling in love with my wife and kids, songs about Chattanooga (new and old, good and bad), and songs based on classic Bible stories. I have certainly enjoyed making these songs, and I hope you enjoy hearing them.
I’ve got extra motivation to finish it soon as there’s a potential show in town that wants a demo CD to see if they want me. so we’ll see how much I get done.
preparation for travels, travels, and post-travels definitely slowed down the music stuff for me this summer. and I miss it badly. I’m finally getting back into stuff. I even wrote a goofy song for a talent show here at work, which I’ll post soon. anyway, I really really want to get work on my next project, and hopefully I’ll find/make time to do it. meanwhile, a few things have been going on:
the trip to Ireland was great. having Cal exposed to modern worship music may be a good door opening for some incremental changes at church. we’ll see.
I really like playing with Joe Ridolfo. we did a song for church when I got back. it’s so easy to jam with him, and he paid me a very high complement, saying I have a lot of potential as a songwriter.
Caleb and I went to the “slow jam” of the local celtic session. he seemed to enjoy himself on his little bodhran, and I played along with the OM. I find myself not interested in learning melodies, but rather doing runs and counter-point (if that’s the right term here) that add texture.
Michelle helped out Stephen Nichols with a project a little while ago, and the result is here. she was one of the backup singers. very cool!
I’ve been reading “Sing a New Song” by David Montgomery. much of it is a call to contemporary songwriters to take up the challenge of writing new (good) hymns. I would love to, but so far I havent had much success. I think I just need to step out and try some stuff.
I’m not qute a fan (yet) of Ben Gibbard and DCFC, since I havent heard much yet. but I think I’ll like it once I get a chance to check his stuff out. he had a good quote about songwriting that brings out what I’ve felt about writing songs. it seems like there’s an unwritten rule that you shouldnt be able to understand a song for it to be good? like for some reason for something to poetic it needs to be obtuse? these days I prefer straightforward. so does Ben, it seems:
I decided a handful of years ago that I just want to write songs that you can understand as soon as you put the record on. There’s no need to veil what’s happening in the song the way I used to.
My goal as a songwriter now is to simply write some memorable turns of phrase. The reaction I’d like from every song I write is, “Wow, I listen to this song, and it’s about such-and-such, and there’s this lyric in there that’s just awesome.” At the end of the day, that’s what I want.
later in the article there’s this bit, which I’ll consider a cautionary word. I guess he’s OK with it like this, but I find it quite sad although I feel drawn to this at times. I pray I’ll never put music or anything else this high on the pedestal:
…music is the most important thing in my life. It’s more important than anyone else could ever be. I don’t want to be overly dramatic and say it’s the only thing that gets me up and keeps me going. But people in your life come and go. As you go through your life, you make friendships, you break friendships, you have relationships. Music is the one thing I’ve always been able to rely on. So why wouldn’t it be the most important thing in my life?
well, not really, but it was kinda fun. last night was a girls-night-in, so I left the house with my guitar and songbook and headed toward the walking bridge to work on my songs. as I was playing the Tale of Ed Johnson a handful of young kids departed from their family cluster with dollars in hand. I wasnt hoping or expecting anything, so I wasnt really prepared. my guitar case doesnt even stay open. so they laid their funds on top of the case. as it was a windy night, the money started to get away, so I put my hat on the ground and put my earnings there. I was actually planning on turning anything down, but I didnt want to take away the experience from the kids, and I was in the middle of the song, so I let it go.
it was otherwise and uneventful evening on the bridge. a cluster of college-looking kids hung around for a while, and various other people came and went on their way. I enjoy playing out there and it was nice to work on my tunes a little. I think most of my songs sound too much the same, but I suppose that’s an issue for most folks.
after the bridge I went to check out open mic night at a bar across the river. it’s a relatively nice little bar, so I worked up the nerve to go see if I could do a song or 2. when I got there there was a guy singing country kinda songs, so I figured I’d fit in. I soon discovered that the line to take a turn at the mic was quite long, and each singer was doing 4 or 5 songs. I didnt feel like staying that long, so I spent my earnings on a good beer, checked out a couple more singers and headed home. maybe next time I’ll show up earlier so I can take a turn before bed time.
oh and one more thing. I was sitting there thinking about putting my name on the list and then I thought: “there’s no way anyone is going to pronounce my name right, or remember it right”. I love my name, but it’s a tricky one. so I thought of a stage name: Bob Robertson. we’ll see if I ever use it or not.
I will however begin working on my next home-brewed album very soon
so I’ve been cranking out a lot of songs lately, and as my usual disclaimer goes, I’m not sure if they’re much good, but I’m having a good time with it. there’s a few that I actually like a lot, but who knows if in the grand scheme they’ll hold up. I try not to worry too much about that.
anyway, all these songs have started me thinking about playing them out sometime. I think it would be fun to do a little house concert sometime soon and maybe see if that leads somewhere. I’m also wanting to take my favorite original songs and make a better album with them. it would still be home-made just like my Simple Songs was, but I’d like to get better than rough drafts. then maybe I could use that as a demo CD to see if that can get me playing somewhere.
I’m sure I’m a ways from such things, but I think it would be cool to play something like Rhythm and Noon or the Chattanooga Market (if it comes back). perhaps not, but I’d think that my little collection of Chattanooga-themed songs would be appropriate for such things. it’s fun to dream but I’m not sure I’ve got it in me to play around town a whole lot, since my time these days is pretty limited. of course all this assumes my stuff would resonate with an audience, and who knows if it will? so who knows. but I’m enjoying the process and trust that God will lead this little journey. maybe it’ll just look like me playing on the bridge and such now and then, and I’m pretty sure that would be cool with me.
as I’ve been thinking about some of this stuff, I realize there’s a lot to be desired in my guitar skills especially. and my vocals too for that matter. I guess that leaves the biggest strength as the songs themselves, which may or may not be received well. I think things have come together quickly recently with my guitar playing, but there’s a lot more there obviously.
so I’m getting a Norman Blake instructional DVD, and I’m rather excited about it. I love his songwriting and playing style these days. always interesting, comfortable, staying with the melody and just plain solid. so hopefully I can glean some stuff from that and make some strides to become more than a mandolin player who also plays guitar. as for vocals, I would like to get a little voice training some day but that’s probably not happening particularly soon. oh and not to mention learning how to read music with the mandolin, but that’s probably for next year.
anyway, I’m still cranking out songs. I’m assuming this will slow down eventually, but I’m still enjoying it.
next week I’ll be in training for work, far from home. I’m honestly not looking forward to it, but I figure that the evenings will be a good time to work on music stuff. so I’m bringing my octave and I’m hoping to record my next “Simple Song” (I’ve got it mostly figured out, just need to get it down) and work on and record the next one too. actually it’d be great to crank out a whole bunch of them, but you never know how things go. I’m also bringing my mandolin method books to learn to read music, and I want to work on some new songs-with-words too.
I’ll probably work on some lyrics during the day as I’m anticipating that the training wont be too rigorous, but we’ll see. I really like the vibe of the songs from the movie Once, so I’ve been wanting to take a shot at something like that. watching U2 3D last night made me realize there’s a lot of power in a song. that and the Edge has a ton of guitars, but that’s another matter.
so we’ll see how it goes. hopefully I’ll make good progress and post stuff here to share.