Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Waiting no more

I wrote a play a long time ago, and now it's being produced again. Except it's completely different, I rewrote the whole damn thing and it's much better. I'd love to post the songs but the demos are too rough. On big numbers I am singing every single part because I recorded it all myself in my dungeon studio. Do you know what it sounds like when I sing 12 different parts? It kinda sounds like Satan after a while. So, no. No songs for you. When the show goes up I'll get a cast recording,

Playwriting is insane. And wonderful. I have to give up a lot of control and sometimes it's a huge thrill to see them do something different, but better, with the words I chose. Sometimes I want to run away and change my name because what I thought was so funny is just a bore, and it's my fault. Usually it's somewhere in between those two.

It's made me write songs on a deadline. It's made me write: a typical theatre song, a poppy theatre song, a couple of touching ballads, an anthem of redemption that makes me cry, a hip-hop song with rap (I know right?), a spoken word song with percussion and movement, a slinky jazz song, a splashy tap dance number, and more theatre songs. It's been fun and exhausting and rehearsal started today.

Friday, March 13, 2015

My girls

Last year I found a wonderful country singer and then in the fall I found a wonderful pop singer. Her name is Sydni and you would never, ever guess that she was 13 years old when she sang these songs for me. Obviously she has a bright future and I find myself writing with her voice in my head.

Here are three of her songs that I have so far. I am finishing a fourth one tomorrow, and can't wait to hear her on it too.

Don't Miss Out

Feel This Way

Not This Time Again

When I was a cabaret singer in Chicago, I sang with a cool, elegant singer/actress named McKinley Carter who has a golden voice and a wicked sense of humor. When we needed songs for our group the Blondes, McKinley always liked the "swanky" ones; sophisticated, in control, silky songs you could curl up in. Sydni's songs are like that - I'm leaning into the swank factor for her. The Stevie Wonder groove, the ukelele love song, even the middle-of-the-night heartbreak song - when Syd sings them she takes you to another place. Syd song #4, Valentine, will have even more of that mink coat and diamonds thing, I think.

I love writing for these wonderful singers. They're so young, and so talented. They have no idea that I am as excited to hear them in my songs as they are to sing them. I always hope that they will decide to perform the songs, and I can have more collaboration with them, but that's up to them.

I have a new country pop song that I can't wait to record with Emily, and next week I get to work with Isabelle, who is 11 years old. I ended up writing a song for her, and I think she's going to kill it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Get back

You can just tell how much fun we had making this recording. The singer is Emily Roberts, who is barely sixteen years old and knocks it out of the park every time.

Get Back On

Thursday, October 30, 2014

That backyard of mine

The funny thing is, "This Backyard's Rockin'" was written after a completely tame, somewhat lame yet spontaneous get-together in my neighbor's backyard. The song is a total fabrication. But it just won again, this time the Dallas Songwriters' Association Lyric Contest, so that's plenty of reason to drink more wine. In the back yard.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

It might be done

Another "teenager song." My favorite songs to write. I should be saying "age-appropriate pop" or "age-appropriate country / pop" but whatever.

What's Her Name

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Smoky Mountain Songwriters' Festival

Day 1 was about this:

This was a songwriter round that I sang with Don Gilbert and Mary Hartman. A round is many things: an informal songwriter performance where we each take a turn, play a song, maybe talk about it a little bit. Often it is also a songwriter blind date; I had never met either these two before. What does one call them? Roundies? Corounders?

I love this picture more than I can say. For some funny reasons. 1) the stage, at Sugarlands Distilling Company in Gatlinburg, was in a beautiful roofed back porch. The "Be Authentic" is such a great thing to have on the wall behind my head. 2) The round was my first, and it was kind of a wild ride. My guitar playing slipped considerably because I was nervous, but I learned from it. 3) This picture is taken from the WLVT news story that I ended up in, because there was also this

This is hilarious for so many reasons. For no good reason the news crew was at the round where I was playing, and when they are talking about famous songwriters who wrote all the big hits, I'm in the background. I am so nonfamous and I just end up in this clip from sheer blind luck, it makes me giggle. Then while one of the Famous Guys is being interviewed, I'm singing in the background, and the song I'm singing is this:

This was my finalist entry in the competition and it won. I'd love to go into great detail about how they called my name and I wasn't expecting it but let's just skip all that and say I WON and I'M THRILLED.

There is so much more that happened. I had a consult with an Industry Person who gave me a lot of good advice, feedback, encouragement, and some "get out of your own way," and I know some stuff that I didn't know. About licensing my songs to those who want to record them, and about how to make my songs "better" according to Nashville Rules for Commercial Success, so that this year's Honorable Mentions turn into next year's winners.

Winners ! Win! Competition! Yes, as you can tell right now I'm very pro-contest since it's a thrill. I keep telling myself that song competitions are a cheap high and can be a debilitating low, and are song contests really keeping my eye on the ball? But then I think, which ball? Because there are quite a few and they are bouncing all over the place.

The best area of the weekend was the people. The Industry Person was someone I am pleased to know better, not because she can help me, but because she is an interesting and likeable human who is honest about her baggage and her joys. My dear friend and singing friend Margaret was my rock, my chauffeur, the other half of my harmonies, and a big chunk of my singing history. And I have solidified my friendship and soon-to-be working relationship with a young, beautiful, abundantly gifted singer and her family. More about that later.

Oh and the guitar thing. I keep having guitar debuts and then deciding that they were so tragic they didn't count. Friday morning, under the "Be Authentic" sign, boy was I. Nervous, skipping chords, fumbling, playing too fast. While performing I concocted the narrative of the awful guitar player who made everyone uncomfortable, and humiliated herself, but with Margaret's help I decided it wasn't quite that bad.

But then Saturday I played with Margaret and my young friend Emily, and it was gorgeous with the mountains and an actual cool breeze and I actually kept my head and my tempos, and my playing was as good as it can be right now. Not very impressive but mostly solid. I am really glad about that.

I am the luckiest and most blessed woman, and I don't deserve most of the good things that happened to me this weekend.

Monday, July 28, 2014


I've written about 12 songs since I last posted. My approach is all about volume - write it, get it at least sort of done, get it evaluated, play it out, revise it, throw it away or revise it some more or put it in a mental drawer until I decide to take it out again. Unfortunately I bob like a sad little balloon on the opinions of others, and if the evaluators hate a song I get all Stockholm syndrome and hate it too for a while. Bad song! Bad! 

I had a minor crisis in April, when I had a chance to play a few songs out and realized I didn't have a single song I felt like singing. That was partly because my guitar playing was both sucky and unsatisfying. What's the difference, you ask? I don't know, except I guess it's like when you can finally ride a two-wheeler and you might be wobbly but you are moving forward and not falling over. My playing is less wobbly and I can grab most every chord I know, pretty much sorta when I need it, so I can have fun playing. Is there still suckitude, yes, why yes there is, but I'm having more fun and caring less about what people will say.

Anyway, I realized I needed to write some things for me, and tell myself they aren't commercial. So I have those, but I entered them into a contest and they didn't do well. This is not fair to the songs. I am not a good mother to my songs. I need to stand by the ones that speak from my heart and not subject them to contests.

Contests are stupid. Contests are great when my songs get recognized. "Get recognized" is my way of saying "come in less than absolutely grand prize first." I've been fortunate with the recognition, which is some actual placements and a blizzard of honorable mentions. I am most honorably mentioned, and that's not so bad. Contests are a bad habit, a vice that I need to give up. Except I love certificates. I'm like those characters who went to see the Wizard of Oz. He didn't really give them anything but a bunch of things that represented the things that they wanted. That he could not give.

I really, really want to find co-writers. I have had some co-writing experiences where I steamrollered the other writer, mostly because I could not live with what they wanted to do lyrically. I have been turned down, or blown off, a couple of times by local people I know. It's so much like dating except I have to do the asking. Men, you have my sympathy. Anyway, I wish I could find a co-writer who writes lyrics the way I do, so that I don't hate everything they write. I need more practice so I can learn to go with what someone else writes, even if it seems weak. It's probably like dating in that I need to become the right person along with trying to find the other right person. 

Oh and I'm writing a play. That's a thing. It's a relief, since everyone says my songs sound like they're show tunes anyway. Might as well just write some show tunes. I have tried hard not to have eighth-note chords on 2s and 9s and mighty waves of dotted quarter notes and quarter note triplets, my go-to showtuney musical things. But it's nice to be in a genre where it would be okay if I broke down and used those. It's fun writing a play and also really scary. I can't believe I sat down and wrote plays when I was 19 years old and never stopped to think about whether I knew what I was doing. At least it brings balance to my life - I have songs that no one in Nashville wants to hear, and I have other songs that people in Virginia are very impatient to hear. 

Other than that there isn't much going on.