Thursday, July 4, 2013

To be American

In 2003, I recorded a song called To Be American.  In it, I ask "what does it mean when you say I'm an American"?  Rather than answering that question myself, I traveled to the Center for Inquiry - a magnet school in Indianapolis Public Schools - and posed this question to 4th grade students.  I took their responses and used them as lyrics for the song.  

Years later, I'm still proud of this song.  I love the fact that it's written from the genuine perspective of 9 and 10 year old children.  Those kids are adults now, and hopefully, they still feel the same about living in this country as they did 10 years ago. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

You never forget your first

Do you remember your first mp3 download?  Of course you don't because, well, because it was too easy.  It required little thought and little cost.  But your first album?  Or cassette?  Something you had to actually save money for and then bike/walk to Karma or Peaches or some other record store to purchase?  Oh, those were exciting days.

Here's a list of my musical firsts and I'd be so curious to know yours as well.  I can remember so clearly these moments in my musical history.  I can't remember when I learned to write my name in cursive or solve my first long division problem, but I can remember when the Little River Band became a part of my life. 

First album received: "The Nature of the Beast" by April Wine.  I won it at a school carnival.  I had never heard of this band but "Just Between You and Me" quickly became my favorite song.

First album purchased: "Thriller" by Michael Jackson.  I was more of a .45s kinda guy (cheaper than buying an entire album) but "Thriller" was a must have!

First 45: "Take it Easy on Me" by the Little River Band.  It took me hours to learn this song on the piano and I'm pretty sure I broke the needle on the record player, but I couldn't get enough of this song.

First Cassette: "Cargo" by Men at Work.  I was so excited to bike to the store and purchase this tape with my own cash.  I still have this cassette thought I don't break it out anymore - I downloaded the digital album years ago.  Colin Hay still makes me happy.

First CD: "Joshua Judges Ruth" by Lyle Lovett.  Not sure why I bought it but I was glad I did.  It was probably on sale.  $18.99 for one CD?  Girl, you crazy. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Favorite remake

I've never been a big fan of popular bands remaking songs.  I understand the importance of cover songs in a band's repertoire when starting out, but once a band/artist is established, are cover songs necessary? 

And usually, remakes are a disappointment because they can't live up to the original.  From time to time, however, bands/artists get it right.

In 8th grade, I loved the song "It's my Life" by Talk Talk.  Flash forward 20 years and No Doubt does a remake.  And you know what?  I liked it.  I felt No Doubt was true to the original yet made it their own.  Sure, I prefer originals to covers but if you are gonna do a cover, you better do it right. And No Doubt nailed it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chills every time

Rare is the song that gives you chills each time you hear it.  There’s something so special about the song – the words, the melody, the time/place you hear it – that it moves you emotionally and physically.

For me, there are two songs that move me each time I hear them.  The first is by Ben Folds.  I’ve always loved his music and his lyrics.  His songs are fun and beautifully constructed, and some of them are downright moving.  “The Luckiest” is the ultimate wedding song and for good reason.

And then there’s Rufus Wainwright.  I have NO idea what the lyrics are about but I love it anyway.  “I Don’t Know What It Is” moves me musically.   It holds your attention from start to finish.

What song does that for you?  The song you heard playing on the radio the night of your first kiss?  Or maybe the song you would play over and over in college that lifted your mood?  And don’t you want to listen to that song right now?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Instant mood lifter

I must admit, now that I'm (a bit) older, I don't listen to music as much as I once did.  In high school, the radio was on all the time and my TV was fixed to MTV.  Music surrounded me and, it's no coincidence, I was in a good mood most of the time.  Music has the power to lift your mood.

I was in my car last week and I was scanning stations on the FM, and I came across an old Kool and the Gang song called "Good Time Tonight".    Sure, I know "Celebration" and "Get Down on It" but "Good Time Tonight" was one I missed.  Now it's my go-to song when I need an instant mood lifter.  It's impossible to listen to this song and NOT feel good.

So what's one of your instant mood lifters?  If you're looking for one, look no further than "Good Time Tonight". 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Write what you know

Cliche advice but it's the truth.  As a songwriter, the most convincing lyrics come from experience.  Isn't that why there are so many songs about love because most of us have either been in love or suffered heartbreak?  When I write, many of my "love" songs are inspired by my kids.  I write about that feeling I get from being with them and watching them grow. 

I use to travel for work.  And I always became anxious at the end of the trip.  The plane taxiing to the gate was always longer and the highway traffic was always thicker.  But coming home late at night and seeing my kids sleeping, feeling their breath on my cheek - that is the stuff right there!  And that morning hug?  Nothing better.

When you write what you know, the song becomes more meaningful for you and also strikes a deeper chord with the listener.

Here's a link to "Returning to my Heart".  A song written for my boys and if you are a parent, hopefully it can have some meaning for you as well.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What ever happened to TV theme songs?

Quick! Think of a TV theme song.  What comes to mind?  Chances are, it's nothing from the last 10 years.  Sure, animated shows have theme songs but what about the live action shows?  There are plenty of good instrumentals out there (The Mindy Project being one of my current favs) but none with lyrics. 

Different Strokes.  Cheers.  The Love Boat.  Greatest American Hero.  All classics.  But in 2013, I can't think of one single prime-time show with an opening theme with which you can sing along.  Was Friends the last good theme song?  So my challenge to all the TV execs out there is to insist that all new shows added to the fall line up must have a theme song that makes watching the opening credits worth it.


So Hollywood, let's get back to producing killer theme songs.  I bet Joey Scarbury is available. If he's not, I'm willing to step up and give it a shot.