Showing posts from 2015

CDs go on sale Monday December 14th


Get Back, again

Country music is like a mean girl in your class at school. You try so hard to get her to like you. Well, you probably don't, but I do. And every time I try to do what might make me cool in her eyes, she hastens to tell me that whatever it is I'm doing is so last year. The country genre, from the songwriter's perspective, is ruled by oligarchs who are mostly men hogging the top 50 with songs about, well, you know. Those sex-in-a-pickup-truck songs we hate. Although I couldn't help noticing a great lyric in a Florida Georgia Line song about Friday night at the swimmin' hole / creek / bonfire / cornfield / dirt road / place where country boys get country girls to undress, which is "Victoria's secret ain't a secret no more." Well done.

The genre is also ruled by gatekeepers who want an unforgettably hooky, fresh-yet-comfortable, witty-yet-conversational, relatable-yet-not-cliche thing about something we can all understand that has never been written a…

Apparently it's all about Karns

I know that internet radio isn't exactly the big time, but still, it's fun. My song "Feel This Way," featuring Sydni Stinnett, will be played starting at 5 today here.

She's a 14-year-old from Karns.

And then there's the girl who sang this song of mine, Emily Roberts. She's on "The Voice" tonight. Somebody let me know how she does because I have rehearsal. She's also from Karns. I don't know what's going on up there but I like it.

Singing Friends

When my son was about four, he brought me some sheet music I had just printed and said "Mama, here's your singing paper." Early on, he learned to distinguish between my "lady friends" - usually there is cackling, food and wine - and "singing friends" - there is singing, cackling, and usually not wine. Because wine.

I love singing friends, and I need them. I have some in the Knoxville Choral Society (alto section = much cackling), and some at my church singing gig, and some who go way back and are precious to me. I have my producer, Steve Rutledge, who is like the brother I never wanted, and the random characters who come in to play.

Some of my favorite singing friends are the singers who come in to sing my demos. I look for great, unforgettable voices, and I look hard. It's not always easy; this past week I dragged myself to the Tennessee Valley Fair after slaving over a hot microphone all morning, to go sit in the Pepsi Tent and hear a lot of 9-y…

Open for business

I finally took the digital distribution plunge. I'm not dying to sell my songs on Itunes but it's kind of a thrill to see it there.

Sometimes you're the pearl.... #1

... sometimes you're the swine.

I rely heavily on song critiques. I get them from my industry organizations and from independent song coaches and from peers sometimes. The "industry pro" versions are often anonymous, and they evaluate my song on characteristics like lyric, melody, commercial potential, structure, arrangement. I think getting critiques is crucial for anyone who wants to get his or her song on the radio. I often hear people saying that those who give critiques aren't qualified, "how many cuts do they have?" etc. The answer is often lots of cuts. And then a lot of people don't agree with what the critiques say. I think critiques are valuable for the advice they offer (sometimes), but also they require that I step outside myself and look hard at my song, and most of the time, they require that I make edits.

I generally try to saw my brain in half for critiques. It only hurts for a second. Half of my brain wants to talk about whether the son…

"Waiting" Recording: "Broken"


I didn't get to tell you about Awesome August, but part of it was 12 house guests who came to my house to stay while we recorded 10 songs in 2 days. Members of the "Waiting" cast trekked to E. Tennessee to record songs from the show. It was a risk - hosting 12 houseguests with a 40-gallon water heater and three air conditioning units that are old enough to vote, throwing them into a studio environment requiring three separate vocal areas, 12 sets of headphones, a way to record tap dance without ruining the floor, and a lot of singing. I don't know how many Michelin stars I got for my breakfast casserole and lack of bathrooms, but the recording went amazingly well. Everyone was prepared, nobody was a diva, nobody got sick or got red light syndrome or anything. The young woman above sang this and other tracks with a shimmering beauty that I crave to hear on just about any song I have ever written, and her friends did as well with spirit and that wond…

I won

I want a cute way to tell you that my song "Feel This Way" won the Grand Prize in the Smoky Mountains Songwriters' Festival Competition on Saturday, like just putting up a picture of the certificate. But I don't have my Grand Prize certificate. Because, actually, someone stole it from the SMSWF when it was still blank. I know right? That's weird. There will be pictures of me holding my... well, not holding my Grand Prize certificate, but looking kind of rumpled and joyful; standing for pictures with the festival director and my singer. That's coming later.

This festival, this contest, mean a lot to me because it's my community, and because this is where I started. I love the workshops and meeting people and sharing songs. Deciding which song is best is subjective and dicey and all that, but I am also deeply concerned and interested in what makes a song successful, what makes it well-crafted, and what reaches people. Not all the same thing, at all.

I heard…

Year 3

It was exactly two years ago, give or take, that I started the commercial songwriting thing for real. I went to the Smoky Mountain Songwriters Festival, learned a bunch of stuff, participated in the song competition, got lost on the way home, ended up in Greene County an extra hour away from home, muttered "ain't got time to see Rock City" under my breath as I tried to find my way back to Maryville without GPS, ended up writing a song about that, and that was the beginning. 
So today, the day after the Smoky Mountains Songwriter Festival, has become the end of my songwriting fiscal year. Accounting-wise I do January 1 like everybody else, but in terms of new ideas, new beginnings, taking stock, whatever: this is day 1 of my third year writing for (in spite of?) Nashville. Year Two, August 22 2014 until August 22 2015, was big. It started with me, sitting in the lobby at the Edgewater Hotel at last year's song competition. I was in the lobby because I had not made t…

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 touchin…

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 yo…