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My Spotify "Starred" List - Ep. 3 

With time on the road, I got on a Joni Mitchell kick. Started from album 1 and went from there. (Not all on the same day!)

"Black Crow": I was struck by the lyric on this one, the crow as a metaphor for her life on the road. Interesting chord choices to "land" her melody on . 

One wonders, "Was she really looking at the her "haggard face" in the mirror and then suddenly saw a black crow, "that ragged soul", outside the bathroom window and boom, said "I'm gonna write a song"?

Story Behind The Song - PHOENIX HOTEL 

The blog series that highlights a selected song from my latest album, "III"  

Episode 3 : PHOENIX HOTEL

I believe this tune of mine is the oldest on the album, as far as the writing part is concerned. It's from my personal experience of staying at an actual hotel in San Francisco called the Phoenix Hotel. Hotel California was in town for a corporate show and they put us up in this "boutique" establishment. 

I’m singing real life here: hearing happy couples, sipping free coffee in one of those always-too-small throwaway cups; slippers from home; cozy wall heater, lonely heart…. I think caffeine refills were at the breakfast bar outside under an overhang overlooking the pool. 

Oh, and this is song 1 of 2 set in picturesque San Francisco. 

[“Let’s Take The Stairs” from my album “Window Seat” is also a "San Francisco song" thanks to the “City by the Bay”. Which brings a thought that I haven’t done song stories about the previous album.] Hmmm...

Add Steve's Music to Your Spooky List! 

Did you know I have two Halloween-related songs floating around on the internet? It's true!

Please add them if you'd like to your special "Hollerday" playlist! I've included links below. Click on your choice of sites. If you use other sites, they're probably there to if you search for them. Thanks!

"CHILLER" (Michael Jackson "Thriller" sound-alike) is on:

SPOTIFY
AMAZON
GOOGLE PLAY

 

"MANSION OF HAUNTS" (Parts of Disney's Haunted Mansion Theme backwards!) is on:

SPOTIFY
AMAZON
GOOGLE PLAY

(If I haven't mentioned a streaming site you use, they are probably there too if you search for them)

My Spotify "Starred" List - Ep. 2 

Is there anyone out there like me that has an obsession (A healthy one, I hope-lol) with New York City? This is the first of quite a few tracks I've saved about that very place. "Empire State Of Mind (Part II) Broken Down" by Alicia Keys

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Starting in 2012, I began collecting songs in a custom Spotify playlist I simply called "Starred". Currently there are 404 tunes, and I continue to add to it. When I don't know what I want to listen to, I just put on the Starred list. 

Story Behind The Song - MY HAPPY PLACE 

The blog series that highlights a selected song from my latest album, "III" 

Episode 2 : MY HAPPY PLACE

The seed of this tune came firstly not from artistic inspiration - "Oh, I must capture this song immediately while the muse flows freely through my ever-sensitive creative soul!!" - Oh no, my friends.

There's a song that I really like by Christ Stapleton called, "Whisky and Me". I decided one day to take the form of the song, rhyme scheme, etc and just write something in the same pattern. As an exercise and a way to "jump start" the writing process. First thing I did was search for a title with the same syllables as "whisky and me" from list of title ideas I'm constantly adding to. I decided on "My Happy Place". I then flipped the sentiment - the former song was sad, mine would be happy.

Click play:

I just started my usual "just writing anything until something sticks" (if anything even would that day). I remember sitting on the floor, "reaching" for the possible song that might be floating around "in the room". Stuff started appearing on my yellow pad:

"Fridge is humming" ?- We have an older fridge thta keeps chuggin along!
 "Browning onions smell like heaven in a pan"? True story. Love it.
"Pillow laying on the floor" - There it was to my left, the couch throw pillow
"That Christmas present that never made it out the door"? There it was, over to my right. 
"Puppy paws" - 2 dogs, 8 paws in the household!

The "tie comes off" bit is a bit of a fabrication. I don't wear a tie and come home from the office every day. (Although I've been know to wear one onstage)

In many songs, the "hook" comes right at the beginning of the chorus. I let "My Happy Place" close out every verse.

The stuff about Disney and New York City in the bridge? That's me. My happy places. But the bridge closes out with very best kind of "happy place"

And of course, the ultimate "happy place" in Verse 3.

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It was suggested in a songwriting critique session to rewrite the bridge. But I left it as is to move to another song. Someone else may not want to recorded it, but it has a whole not of "me" in it, so I figured I'd keep it for myself.

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There you have it! A song that might never have been born that day if I hadn't practiced a little pro-writer discipline and shown up to the solo "writing session"! 

Check out the photo below. I was surprised to be reminded in my scribblings that "My Happy Place" started at the beach but ended up in the living room! 

I love songwriting! How about you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's the song pattern inspiration for "My Happy Place":

What Are You Doing...? 

Going back to my previous post about my morning routine when I'm home. Sort of my public declaration of professional and artistic progress, I guess. Ha ha.

I opened up a song early this morning that I'm currently writing with a new friend and co-writer. There was a line that I thought could just be stronger; like it was there just to rhyme.

Just spending a short time on it and coming up with something usable, or at least a new direction we can take the lyric, sets up the rest of the day. Even if it's filled with some non-musical tasks. I wrote today! I made progress today! Hallelujah! 

Can't wait to share it.

My Spotify "Starred" Song List 

Starting in 2012, I began collecting songs in a custom Spotify playlist I simply called "Starred". Currently there are 392 tunes, and I continue to add to it. When I don't know what I want to listen to, I just put on the Starred list. 

The qualifications for making this list of all genres - enough to make your head spin - are many.

1. Something I have on an old album in my vinyl collection collecting dust that were favorites.
2. Some sort of "new release" that has a production quality or lyric or melody or all of the above that I wanted to hear again more than once. 
3. If a song makes me laugh or go "What?!" - ie: some of the Rolling Stones stuff. (Not necessarily a fan, I can appreciate the spontaneity and humor) 
4. Numerous songs from the same artist that stem from my exploration of artist like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, etc. I'll start from the beginning of their catalog, give each album a listen, and find some cool stuff I've never heard before.

Here we go!

#1 (In order of addition to list): Helen Austin is an independent songwriter/artist from Canada who has seen lots of success with her songs being licensed on TV shows. I just loved the simplicity of her recordings as something I wanted to take note of for some of my own projects. Her voice is very unique. 

Book Quotes - Alexander Hamilton 

Hamilton.

I saw the play in LA. Loved it. How very interesting, I thought as a creative person, how Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow inspired a whole show for Broadway. I must read it. 

Read it, I did!
Some of the many quotes I saved in my trusty Kindle:


"In all probability, Alexander Hamilton is the foremost political figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a much deeper and more lasting impact than many who did."


“Believe me love is doubly sweet / In wedlock’s holy bands.” ~ A. Hamilton poetry at 17


"See thy wretched helpless state and learn to know thyself. . . . Despise thyself and adore thy God. . . . O ye who revel in affluence see the afflictions of humanity and bestow your superfluity to ease them. . . . Succour the miserable and lay up a treasure in heaven." ~ A. Hamilton


"His chum at King’s [College], Robert Troup, was convinced that Hamilton’s religious practice was driven by more than duty. He 'was attentive to public worship and in the habit of praying on his knees night and morning. . . . I have often been powerfully affected by the fervor and eloquence of his prayers. He had read many of the polemical writers on religious subjects and he was a zealous believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.'"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


To be continued!

Story Behind The Song - I LOVE YOU MORE 

The blog series that highlights a selected song from my latest album, "III"

Episode 1 : I LOVE YOU MORE

At the time I wrote this fun little song, ukuleles were still prevalent in popular music. So I purchased a nice-sounding, small, Hawaiian ukulele and started getting busy on a "uke" song of my own. I wrote two actually, but this one made it to the finish first. It's one of my personal favorites on this album. All vocals and instruments performed and recorded by yours truly. 

Click on the Play button.

Get the album "III" HERE

What Are You Doing...? 

I’ve changed home my morning routine a bit (at least at home) that has been a little more fruitful in the songwriting department. It’s real easy to sit back, sipping coffee, relax, and read whatever in the early hours, then get to the real work. 

After opening my Bible app to the living words therein for a spiritual realignment, instead of letting emails and social media fill my head with all kinds of stuff (not all bad but still “stuff”) during my second cup of coffee, I get out my yellow legal pad and just start writing – anything. Without an expectation of how good it’s going to be. 

(I use the Masterwriter app as well for writing. But by using a yellow legal pad first, I feel sort of like a painter on a canvas. Good old pencil and paper!) 

I’ve got a assorted lists on paper and on just about every electronic device I own full of song titles, one line descriptions of “life scenes”, paragraphs, newspaper articles, the list goes on. I just pick one idea and start writing something underneath it, even if it’s bad. And most times I get something I can build upon in the coming mornings or whenever it’s lyric writing time. 
(In the photo on the right, Duff has no idea how brilliant I am!)

After my morning idea brainstorming, I continue on to a physical workout of some sort.

I guess you could describe my "workout" routine as follows:
1. Spiritual
2. Mental
3. Physical

A recent example that got me all excited and I felt like a songwriter again. It started with something I wrote down, at least a year ago if not more, “Came home to the Santa Anas, whipping up a tune”. True story. (Around where I live, we can get some strong winds - the Santa Anas.)

That’s it! 

As an embryo of a lyric formed, when I got to scribblings for the second part of the verse – What rhymes with Santa Anas? Well…Pollyanna. Okay, this is getting interesting I think to myself. 

What ends up happening, a place, a story, etc appears, and then it seems I have a lyric slowly being wrapped inside a melody. 

Then the second part of the verse with the word “Pollyanna” in it develops a life all it’s own and seems better now as the chorus; the hook of the song. And there’s my song title: “Pollyanna”. And off I go to Wikipedia for "Pollyanna" references.

The thing about these songwriting exercises as I’ve described above is, for me, building the discipline to sit down and just write without expectations opens up my eyes, my ears, and my heart to life around me as I go about my day. I feel I could write a song of just about anything or at the very least, write down one line to use later. 

It almost becomes a welcome “sickness”. I’m a words hoarder! 

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