Musical Slice of Life: Tuned Into Open

(The Slice of Life Challenge in March is hosted by Two Writing Teachers as way to encourage teachers-as-writers. You can join in, if you want. There is also a monthly call for Slices on Tuesdays. You can write then, too)

I will often have stretches where I am writing lots of songs and the ideas are everywhere. Then there are the fallow times, when nothing seems to be flowing in any certain direction. I’ve learned to be patient — that the songs will still come. But I have also developed some strategies — pick up another instrument, try a new loop pack, or tune my guitar into another key.

That’s what I was doing yesterday — exploring open tuning on my guitar and this little sequence of riffs began to play out. I like open tuning now and then because of the space it creates on the fretboard.

This piece is short but long enough to remind me that music is all around, even if sometimes you need to approach it, slant (as Emily D might say). The title is merely a hopeful gesture of wording  …

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin

Music: We Won’t Be Missing You

I wrote and recorded this song – We Won’t Be Missing You — over the summer, as part of a larger Pandemic song collection called Notes from a Quiet Corner (listen over at Bandcamp, if you want).

I wrote it after watching Trump tell lies after lies about Covid when he was still trying to lead the daily briefings, rambling on about the spread of the virus, about the impact on people’s lives, and how he would then pivot the conversation to its impact on himself and his own businesses.

It wasn’t pretty. It still isn’t.

Now that the foot has nearly kicked him out the door, I figured I would share this song again.

Here are the lyrics, if curious:

We Won’t Be Missing You

I hear a whole of talking but I don’t see a change out here
You might be on the screen but we don’t have to hear
I see your mouth still moving and reality disappears
If you listen to the whispers – the whispers are everywhere

We don’t surely know
where this is gonna go
When you’re gone
We ain’t gonna shed a tear

I know you got a lot of money and you think that makes you cool
then you turn your back and you act so frickin’ cruel
If I had to find a reason – I might resort to fool
But all those people listen so what are we gonna do?

We don’t surely know
where this is gonna go
when you’re gone
we won’t be missing you

I got my own news station playing inside my head
it’s got static and its tragic, to hear what it is you said
the world’s gone crazy and all you wanna know instead
is if the hotel’s standing and the money flowing again

We don’t comprehend
how this is gonna end
when you’re gone
we won’t be missing you
(bandcamp link)

Peace (shouting it),
Kevin

Music Monday: Whispers in the Flames

The last few days, I’ve been working on finishing up a song that has a little more rhythmic kick than the last few songs I have worked on. I wanted a bit of rock and roll in the mix. This one rocks more in headphones, I think, as there are some instrumental nuances to the sound.

The lyrics are reworked from a song draft I had done previously, and the music was a mix of live instruments and Garageband loops. I think the Hammond organ parts really give the song some personality.

Peace (in whispers),
Kevin

MusicMaking: SnowWalking (In Seven Movements)

I came back home the other day, after walking our dog in the woods after a snow storm, and noticed the different kinds of walking I had done — short choppy steps, long strides, happy walking, long breaths, etc. And then I decided to try to capture those rhythms of stepping into an instrumental beat song. This is it.

It’s best heard with earphones, I suggest, as the layers of sound are mixed in and experienced best with it close to your head. The tin cans of computer speakers won’t do it justice (in my opinion).

You can also listen here as a regular music file

Peace (listening in),
Kevin

My Holiday Song: ‘A Gift of Peace’ to you

A few years ago, my good friend, John, and I went into a local recording studio to put down tracks for a song we had written (years before that) as a holiday gift of song. Each year, I try to share it out and hope our Gift of Peace brightens your day. The video was shot and produced by my eldest son.

While it was written as a Christmas song, I hope its message of passing the peace to one another might resonate whatever your beliefs might be, religious or not.

The song is on all streaming sites, and I got a kick the other day of hearing it again on Pandora. If you search A Gift of Peace (for Christmas) by the Lullabyes, you should be able to find it.

Gift of Peace on Pandora

Peace (in the world),
Kevin

Book Review: How To Write One Song

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy is always an interesting read, or listen. In his new book – How To Write One Song — Tweedy turns teacher and cheerleader, urging people to find ways to be creative. Or, as the title suggests, to try to write a song.

Tweedy is certainly a talented songwriter, as far as I am concerned, and I liked the folksy voice he inhabits here, in this book, as he tries to explain the magic of being creative — of losing yourself in the moment of making art out of ideas and inspiration — and then moves into his own routines and practices around writing songs.

I’ve read enough books about writing in general (and the teaching of writing, which is what I do with sixth graders) to know there is nothing revolutionary here in terms of his advice and suggestions, but I appreciated the way he pulls it together, and his explanations of how to stitch ideas to music (even if you only know an elementary level of any instrument) to recording demos (he advocates finding a simple record/play app) was helpful.

For me, a songwriter myself, the best parts of the book were when Tweedy tries to find a way to explain what happens when he loses himself in the making of a song, and how three hours or so can go by, and he comes up for air, invigorated and inspired by a few verses set to simple strumming of his guitar.

Tweedy reminds us that creating art is something unexplainable at times. But when it comes together, it can be something beautiful, in both its outward expression (how it looks, how it sounds, etc.) and the inwards satisfaction of the one who has created it.

I kept nodding my head at these parts, appreciative of his way of grappling with artistic expression in ways that just cannot be fully explained in words or writing. In that, is the magic, and why I (and maybe you) keep coming back to the guitar or piano or whatever to make music.

Nothing energizes me or enlightens me or gives me comfort like when I am writing a new song that has some kernel of truth and possible beauty to it (even if that beauty is only in the eyes and ears of the beholder).

Tweedy also put out a new album  – Love is King — that he references in the book and Rolling Stone Magazine has a good interview with Tweedy.

Peace (strumming it),
Kevin

Local Music: All We Ever Have (Jim Armenti)

I caught a listen to this song from a local musician – Jim Armenti — that was supported by our local arts organization. I love how Jim captures our small city’s collective efforts in the Pandemic to stay safe and support each other. I hope yours, does, too.

And then a local arts/dance group made this, too, in the park down the street as a way to help get out the vote.

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

Song Exploder Now on Netflix

I’ve long loved listening to the Song Exploder Podcast, and now the program — which breaks apart songs, piece by piece, deconstructing how a song was written and produced — is on Netflix, too, and I’m enjoying that experience, too. An episode on REM was fascinating as was the one on Ty Dolla $ign (which my teenage son, a music producer, sat down to watch with me).

There are only four episodes right now on the Netflix channel, but the two that I watched were excellent, and the other two — about Lin Manuel Miranda and Alicia Keys look like they could be fascinating, too. Host  Hrishikesh Hirway does a great job of celebrating the music but also probing the creative spirits that helped forge a specific song.

Peace (sounding good),
Kevin