April Blog. An adequate title…
I’m very excited about the Ritual Cafe Open Mic April Songwriting assignment. Instead of using a random phrase, I used a picture from a small Indie magazine that I subscribe to called “The Sun”. I was making the bed one day last month and the magazine fell open to the picture (yes, we sleep with literature) and I thought, ‘Whoa! What a picture! That should be the songwriting assignment for this month’. I emailed Harry Wilson, the photographer and he replied in 5 minutes. He gave his blessing. Everyone at the Ritual Café Open Mic was up for it when I told them about it, so we went with it.
For years I’ve been giving random phrases and 4 chords for the monthly assignments, trying to light a fire under myself and the other local songwriters. We call this “Guerrilla Songwriting” and it came from Peter Himmelman’s Songwriting workshop out at Song School. I hate it. H.A.T.E. I.T. But, it’s how I got my song “Greed”. The assignment phrase that month was simply ‘Bankrupt’ and Joel Kinser called it out as he was reading from the local City View magazine. This method is also how I got my song “If I could breathe.” So, there you have it. I hate being put under a deadline to do anything, much less write a song, but it works, so I keep doing it. The same reason I exercise in the morning. I hate it while I’m doing it, but i dig the results. Songwriting = Exercise.
I posted the picture on Facebook when I got home because I have friends all over the country who like to play along. Two days later, I got an email from Chad Elliot. He had seen the post and his song was done. Done. I. H.A.T.E. H.I.M. His song came fast. He was sending a link. It was already recorded…multitrack. It’s a great song. Earthy and grounded with a solid groove. You can hear it here. It’s fun to hear what people come up with. 10 different takes on the one picture. It’s good stuff. Thank you Peter Himmelman. I guess.
That’s the reason I do this. I’m in love with songwriting. Even though it’s so hard to do and the songs never come the same way twice and I constantly fear I’m never going to write another song again because I just don’t know how to write a song, I keep doing it. My song is 75% completed and I have two weeks to finish it. I like it, it’s honest so far. A big Thank you to Ritual Cafe for giving us a venue where we can play these songs every month. We have a groovy, safe place to try out our stuff.
Exciting news for me is that I’m opening for Stephanie Nilles at the Des Moines Social Club on May 7. Read more about her below. She’s da bomb people. Come out for this show Des Moines. James Biehn of the Soapbox Prophets will be joining me. Bigger news is that I’m going to be playing the Des Moines Art Festival in June! Yeah baby! Details when they’re worked out.
Later, go write a song.
“Ella Fitzgerald on speed beating the shit out of Regina Spektor,” “Tom Waits on helium,” and “New Orleans second line, gypsy swing, and The Atlantic Monthly, crushed, mixed, and compacted into a viral so you can snort it,” out on the road in a hatchback with a Roland. She has performed at joints like Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, The Bitter End, The Cutting Room, WFMT’s “Live from Studio One,” NPR’s “From the Top,” and the Dame Myra Hess Series at the Chicago Cultural Center, and she has collaborated with artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Joel Newton, and Christian Howes, in styles ranging from free improv to burlesque accompaniment. You’ve been warned DeMo, don’t miss her.