Here’s one last track from our practice sessions: Los Caballeros. It’s a song about the horsemen who run their horses down in the dry bed of the San Gabriel River, east of Los Angeles. It’s also about a changing Los Angeles that often has little connection to its past.
I’m doing some prep for the show on Saturday, getting together some details about the summer of 1966 – the summer when “You Can’t Hurry Love” was released by The Supremes and became an international hit. My parents always told me that the mid to late 60s were a hard time, both personally and for the country as a whole, and you can get a sense of that looking at what was going on: Vietnam escalation was in full-swing, race riots in Lansing, Dr. King getting beaten. Major cultural shifts were going on everywhere that forced people to reconsider long-held traditions and beliefs. But then again… England did win the World Cup.
Rebecca and I have been practicing for weeks, now, getting ready to play Honolulu Harry’s on Saturday night (June 5), and during practice I keep turning on the recorder on my phone to give us an idea of how we’re sounding. This is one of those recordings – “Walk on By” – and it shines a light on the creative process as Rebecca and I play with different vocal lines and harmonies.
Have I mentioned that we’ve got our first real gig coming up on June 5th down at Honolulu Harry’s in Chino? Come hear our friend Steven Wesley Guiles at 7:30pm and stay for Rebecca and I at 8:30pm. It’s going to be a blast. No cover, but please come hungry and thirsty – we want to support places that support live, independent music.
In preparation for the gig, Rebecca and I knocked together the vocals for Second Street Blues – our first single! I’m working on getting some discs made to hand out at the event, so if you want to get your first taste of the full-band experience, make sure to come by and pick up a CD. I’ll include a couple of bonus tracks on the CD as well, so I know you’ll want get your hands on it.
For Memorial Day, here’s a practice recording Rebecca and I did of “Shine Out Bright for You,” a song about the very personal wars going on in the hearts and homes of the families of servicemen and women throughout the country.
The FAWM Over Party was over a month ago (April 17th) and I’m finally getting this great video from JD up here for everyone to check out. I’m accompanying Rebecca Best on “A Little Wine,” a new song from our upcoming album.
Want to see us perform live? We’re playing a 30 minute set to support Steven Wesley Guiles at Acoustic Highball, an acoustic show at Honolulu Harry’s in Chino. Come check out even more of our new songs and couple of old favorites:
It looks like the venue where the Songwriter Showcase happens has shut down… for good. Unless I hear something different, it looks like there will be no showcase tonight. If something does come together, I’ll post here.
Last weekend I holed myself up for two days (about 20 hours) and recorded 11 of 13 tracks for the new album, finishing out the instrumental work. Over the next few weeks I’ll be adding vocals, which should be fun, and mixing, which should be grueling. It’s amazing listening to everything come together, with the sound of album becoming clearer as I add little embellishments here and there. Probably the most fun has been recording my mom on violin. She’s on two tracks and her playing really makes the songs come to life.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out the rough tracks for the album on my February Album Writing Month site, you should. And while I’m working on finishing up everything, here’s a little something to give you an idea of how the album is coming…
"The children, our sweet children..." from "Keep Me Wanting More."
Wow! This has been a month. While I’ve written literally hundreds of songs throughout my life, I’ve never taken the time to write a complete, coherent album on my own. Not only that, I’ve never written this much music in a single month. So far I’ve got 12 songs written (about 45 minutes of music), two fairly complete ideas to use still, and three studio tests which I’m really proud of. I’ve begun working out the final album structure, moving songs around and listening to how all of it fits together. It’s really interesting to see how these songs are beginning to relate to one-another as I look for ways to connect the dots.
One interesting theme that keeps popping up is peace and reconciliation. One reason why I started writing a Motown-ish album was that I had learned Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven Help Us All” to play for the Songwriter Showcase and I was so impressed at the feel and message that I wanted to keep working in that same vein. While I’ve stuck to many of the pop themes that classic Motown songs used (love, heartbreak, city living) I also keep coming back to the struggles people live with today: a military wife waiting for her husband to come home, a kid growing up in East L.A. with gang life all around him, the tragedy of Haiti, and the poverty and apathy in our own neighborhoods. I didn’t want to write a political album, but as I dove into the library of Motown music from the mid 60s and early 70s, I couldn’t help but pick up the undertone of discontent in regards to civil rights, the war in Vietnam, and the breakdown of urban communities. The stories I’m telling aren’t the stories of black America from that time – they’re my own and they’re relevant to here and now – but they’re also timeless in the sense that the situations we’re living with right now are so similar.
Amy and I are working out some way for me to record the album in the next few weeks. I think we’ve come to a deal that will get the album finished with the possibility of an album release party soon. Stay tuned for more!
Due to double booking at Homebrew Coffee, the Showcase was moved to steve Guiles’ (the organizer) home studio where a room full of musicians and songwriters packed in for a night of both originals and covers. I spent a good chunk of the evening sitting on the floor. Others were on fold-out chairs, footstools, drum thrones, and futons. It felt very punk rock.
There were a couple of new musicians that really surprised in both their talent and age diversity. I think that’s one of my favorite things about the showcase – it’s truly an intergenerational sort of thing.
There was less of a FAWM orientation than I expected. I think Steve and I were the only people playing songs from our FAWM work, but that makes sense. I mean, if you’re writing an album in a month, you probably want to make the most of every weekend you’ve got.
I ended up performing “Little Bird” with Rebecca Best on lead vocals (holy moly, that woman has pipes!) and then “Caballeros” with various percussion playing in the room. Amy had suggested I play “Caballeros” and while I wasn’t sure at first it was the best song to play, I’m convinced now that it’s not just one of the best songs from FAWM so far, but it’s also one of the best for live performance.
Here are the video and photos from the performance. It was pretty dark, so some of the video is hard to see, but the music came through well.