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.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


It's almost Saturday night! I want to be all ho-hum, it's-just-a-gig about it, but this time there will be several firsts. First time with guitar, first time playing about 10 new songs. First time with the new girl group. First time at Vienna Coffeehouse, and first time for almost all of my E. TN friends to see me doing my singer/songwriter thing. I'm so happy with my new collaborators; Vicki, my new friend who can play anything and sing anything and is giving me much-needed guitar support. And Margaret, who I have sung with for 20 years. New friends and old. Plus several Maryville Songwriters' Association friends sitting in, and the great Jim Horenburg coming out to play too.

I'm trying out some new gear, too, and so far it works simply and if it doesn't work it's nonessential. Had to have a tech rehearsal today just to get it all up and running. I don't know how long it will be before I feel like an ordinary person who plays guitar in an ordinary way, instead of a beginner who is trying to fool everyone into thinking I can play. I can tell you right now that there will be some missed chords, and that's going to have to be okay.

I hope I have video, audio, pictures... They usually video at Vienna which presents a few sticky copyright problems but I'll hope to work them out.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Vienna Coffeehouse


I have long been a fan of our local coffeehouse. They used to inhabit a cute building on High Street with a lot of little cozy rooms but it wasn't set up very well for live performance. Now they have moved to a big, fabulous space with a nice stage and (heart be still!) a real piano. Parking lot. Drive-through. It's what the great urban coffee shops have, plus the convenience of East Tennessee life.

I went to see some music last week featuring my friends Eric Spurgeon and Charlie Katt at Vienna's First Friday music show, and boy are they doing it right. Great sound, nice people, beautiful singing and songwriting. Get out and support the artists at Vienna when you can.

Friday, September 27, 2013


I have help in the studio, which I really really need. Jim Horenburg, guitar wizard, is cutting some guitar and bass for me, and getting it done better in two hours than it would take me two months to get. I'm not good at asking for help but when I finally do it's such a relief.

Hopefully he will next advise me in how to get the vocals to sound better, once I get a good take (which this isn't).

Still... it's a fun song. "Leave Me"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Here Goes

New song, new guitar player.

"Halfway Married"


copyright 2013 Sarah Motes Ashley