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A Co-writer In Norway?


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HARVEST FESTIVAL: Annual fund-raiser for the little Neskowin Valley School in southern Tillamook County. I’ve played there twice before, but not last year—I found out that was because the school clerk (a fan) no longer worked there. If I do get to perform at this, it’ll be the only piece of “traditional” Concert Season I do this year—and I’m only able to do it because it’s so close to home in Garibaldi. I did locate the person responsible for booking their entertainment, but she hasn’t contacted me back, so maybe she’s not interested. I don’t have the “street team” to contact the school on my behalf and badger them to hire me, so I’m at the mercy of whatever happens.

JOB & SCHOOL: Falls City apparently wants me to be their city manager; they’ve said they want me to start in two weeks, and I reminded them we haven’t agreed on a salary yet. (Yes, that is a little backwards.) If I’m employed, I’ll be a part-time college student instead of a full-time one—I’d been waiting to find that out. It also means I’ll be using my own money to pay for school—student loans are available only to full-timers. The old bank account is headed for zero yet another time.

COLLABORATIONS: For a couple of weeks, I haven’t written any new songs. (I also haven’t taken any long drives in the car. There is definitely a connection.) I have, however, had the chance to put music to other folks’ lyrics—one of the things I do to keep feeling creative when I’m not doing much stuff of my own. And I have had very good lyrics to work with.

My most recent “find” was a kid (he’s 35, actually) from Norway--I don’t even know his real name yet. I ran into one of his lyrics on Songstuff, the British writers’ site, critiqued it, suggested some changes, and asked if I could put it to music. He liked the changes, and agreed. (And he liked the music when it was done, too.) “Simple Questions” is a slightly atypical boy-can’t-get-up-the-courage-to-talk-to-a-girl song, with a brilliant chorus. To avoid the music sounding too close to something I’d done before, I changed the key, so I’d be forced to strum it differently. Gave it a sort of Buddy Holly feel, and I added more-electric-sounding-than-usual leads to reinforce it. With some percussion, this could easily be another Southern Pigfish cut. (Of course, then I’d have to build Pigfish their own Soundclick page, ‘cause I promised I’d do that once I’d given them three songs.)

I count 15 songs now where I’ve done music to somebody else’s lyrics. I only count the ones where both I and they were happy with the result; if one of us wasn’t, it’s not on the list. That’s enough for an album, but there’s no central theme—the songs are all too different. (Rev. Skip Johnson’s “Tune the Strings of My Soul” and Bill Osofsky’s “Sheep Are Real Good, Too” on the same record? I don’t think so.)

I would like to do something for those folks, though; these days, there’s no way for a lyricist-only to break into the music business, because there isn’t a mechanism any more for pairing lyricists up with composers. (Years ago, that was one of the things music publishers did.)

At least in these cases, I’ve provided myself as the “composer” part of the equation—but now something ought to be done with the songs. It accomplishes nothing to have something pretty just sitting on a shelf. I can at least get them professionally demoed. I got five of the 15 demoed at Pineyfest, two years ago, and should probably do the rest next year. That’ll at least give those lyricists something they can shop around—me, too, if I can figure out a way to do it.

An idea in that regard. What if one ignored Nashville (and New York, and L.A.) entirely—those folks don’t want anybody new let in, and have the muscle to enforce it—and tried to tap a market of guys and gals and bands that were regionally, rather than nationally, famous? People who are in the same position the Dodson Drifters were, 25 years ago, with records for sale, and being played on the radio, and performing regularly, and making pretty good money? Couldn’t those folks use some good new material? They might be smaller potatoes in the musical vegetable garden, but they’re likely to be a lot easier to (shall we say) harvest. They don’t have the big Nashville (&c.) machine generating material for them, either. Another job for Joe Publisher, maybe.

Joe

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