Feb 14

First off, some general housekeeping. I’m sorry for this Blog’s six month hiatus. It was due to nothing more than the usual writer’s block.

I’d like to thank you for your kind letters, donations and concerns that my fingers were broken but alas they were all in my head.

This post was percolating for quite a while as frankly I wanted to set a certain standard. I wanted these posts to awaken the Muse in all of you. Yes we all have the Muse, Ken Porcaro, whether you see her or not. It’s just that sometimes she’s helping us to create, other times she’s watching TV and eating Cheetos. ;-)

A few months ago, I jokingly suggested that Mike Wich run for public office. He responded with one of the best lines I’d heard in a while. He said:

There are too many skeletons in my closet and one of them is you.

Now that’s a song starter if I ever heard one. Unlike soup starter where you just add water, a good song needs to be fleshed out if it’s going to have the main course of a great line like that.

Today’s case in point is “Hung Up On You” by Fountains of Wayne, specifically Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger. The main line that pulls it all together is

“Ever since you hung up on me, I’m hung up on you.”

Now, for those who know me, I’m not particularly a big fan of country music, though as I’ve gotten older the Rock and Roll chip on my shoulder has gotten soft and moldy from too many people crying on it. This song to me seems more like an homage to certain types of country songs and I think it nails it on many levels. Time to coin a new word: HOMAGENIZED (I’m still wrestling with the best spelling on that one) ;-)

It reminds me of tunes I used to hear countless times in neighborhood bars in New York and New Jersey. The kind of places that offered no more enticement than a bar, a glass that’s seen better days, and a stranger to talk to. Oh yeah sometimes a seat, but almost always a jukebox that hasn’t had a new song installed since 1978.

Great, now I have “Help Me Make it Through The Night” stuck in my head. Sing it with me, “Take the ribbon from your hair….”

These places have a certain kind of warmth to them. Most often they are places most people wouldn’t set foot in, but when it’s cold and rainy outside, they’re a warm bowl of soup. (What is it with me and soup today?)

These types of songs tell stories and there are countless great ones out there. The trick is to have a story that ties in that great line of yours. I’ve seen and written too many that don’t support the main idea and that just waters it down. Without a re-write these tasty gems just sit on the page looking at you like a puppy in a crate.

Here’s how Fountains of Wayne supported their tag:

And I can’t dial the phone just now
Even though I know your number
Can’t bring my broken heart to be untrue
Like you did today
You’ll say goodbye the same old way
Ever since you hung up on me
I’m hung up on you

There’s just something about this song I can’t get out of my head. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of having been in a few of those roadside bars, maybe it’s the familiarity of that type of song. Whatever it is, it keeps my ears in the tune.

A painting teacher told me that during the time of the Dutch Masters and some of the Renaissance painters before them, they used to try to outdo each other by playing with the backgrounds and the overall painting’s composition. The idea was that a viewer’s eye would follow a given path around a painting from main subject to supporting objects in the painting and all over it like a map.

The game was to try and keep the viewer’s eye coming back to the main subject by not having any of the lines in the painting pointing out of the frame, but rather in a looping fashion back to the main subject. The idea was that the longer a person looked at your painting the better it was and the more likely they were to buy it. Talk about subtlety!!

Songs can be the same way in that during the rewriting process you can add a detail here and there that brings up multiple points of reference for the listener. It could be a phrase about a roadside bar in this example, or a slide guitar or familiar hook that is reminiscent of other songs in the genre or anything else you can come up with that keeps their ears in the tune.

Consider it like adding rosemary and thyme to the chicken to enhance the flavor (yeah you knew I’d have to end with a soup reference) ;-)

Mmm-mmm good!!


Here’s “Hackensack” by Fountains of Wayne:

Aug 27

Finally I’m blogging again.

Many people tell me that unless I blog on a regular basis it will negatively affect my Search Engine ranking. They’re probably right, but I don’t blog for Google. I blog for me and for my readers. Yes, both of you. ;-)

Much like the way I approach my songwriting, which hasn’t always been the best advice I’ve given myself, I write when I have something I need to say musically or lyrically. That’s pretty much it.

Of course, given a specific project like “Obsessions” that I’m working on with Mike Wich, there’s a job to do and so I write.

I’ve heard many people say that it’s good to write just anything to get it all down, get the juices flowing. It sparks the imagination and it improves your skills. While that may be true, sometimes it just doesn’t feel right. Sometimes your creative ship is sailing the Doldrums and there’s no wind in your sails.

I no longer worry about that. I know it’s just my brain incubating my next idea. I’ve always had a problem though, and many of you may feel the same way, but ever since I was a kid I noticed there are people that know good music, and those that wouldn’t know it if it crawled up their pant leg.

There’s also lots of “in-betweenies”. Probably more of them than all others combined. Those are the folks that know good music and who think poorly written songs are good too.

It’s not entirely their fault. It’s what they’re exposed to. Year in, year out, whatever is fashionable or is on the radio people generally accept as being a good song. I’m guessing that they feel that since record companies listen to thousands of songs to find the right tunes that will be a “hit”, these tunes have gotten filtered through and therefore must be good.

It’s not science though, it’s the music business. Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you saw a movie that had “rave reviews”, “two thumbs up”, “a triumph!” that turned out to be a complete piece of crap.

I used to write songs that sounded good at the time, but then after a few weeks of playing and listening I realized it din’t really work as a song. To some extent I’ve felt embarrassed that I wrote them. I actually wrote a song years ago called “Sally No One Saves it Anymore”. (I sincerely apologise to the world.)

These are the types of songs I’ve written that I used to call “bullshit songs”. Not that they were all so terrible, but let’s just say they weren’t my best work. I remember getting lambasted for saying that, but I’ve recently felt vindicated after reading an interview with Billy Joel in Performing Songwriter Magazine.

Basically he was saying that there were songs on his albums he didn’t think should have been there. People still liked them though and after a while he stopped wondering why. People will like what they like or what they are told they are supposed to like by radio stations and peer pressure.

I was watching a show about dog breeding and they showed how successive offspring from dogs that were great sniffers could eventually be bred into the world’s greatest bomb sniffing dogs the world has ever seen. What was also amazing is that we are able to create new breeds very quickly. Sort of like grabbing the evolutionary remote control and hitting Fast Forward.

I think that sometimes people listen to crap because they were conditioned to think that crap was good. Radio stations get paid to play music they are told to play. Record producers are told to produce watered down “filtered for purity” songs that appeal to a wide audience. The audiences are eventually bred to buy music they are told is good. Obviously not all audiences, but you get the idea. It’s all getting “dumbed down”.

As brutal as I may sound, that’s how I see it.  I can’t really blame them for buying that stuff though. There are some parts of this country that a strong variety of music is sorely lacking as compared to other areas. There’s no much else to listen to.

It goes back to the commercial songwrtiters. They end up having to write formatted tunes (not that I’ve never done that myself) that cater to certain audiences. “Singer-songwriter” tunes as they are currently being labelled are the only songs that end up having the true purity of the songwriting art in my opinion. Many of those songs typically don’t get any airplay.

Thank God for the Digital Age. Where MySpace and FaceBook and YouTube rule. Where men are men, women are women, songs are songs and crap doesn’t have to be King.

Come on kiddies, sing along “digital killed the radio star….” ;-)


Oh on a side note (totally unrelated) but worthy of blogging, I’ve come up with the perfect newspeak for those types of songs that are just stream-of-consciousness writing. One idea goes to the next and the next having no continuity at all.

The term is “songranting”. Let’s try not to do that too much unless it’s a “bullshit song” ;-)


Jul 20

Gas prices soaring and recent job changes,

My birthday party with shopping in stages,

This that and other things losing my muses,

These area few of my fav’rite excuses.

Distractions. Job changes. Preparing for and having my 50th birthday party. Having family stay with us for an extended period of time.

Wanting to blog but my head’s spinning and I can’t get out a single coherent thought, or at least one worth blogging about.

Feeling like I’m not alone in my own head (no, I’m not hearing voices, but more about that later). All of these things wrapped up with string, da da da, da da da, da da da dum.

Yeah it’s a broken record. For you kids that never had vinyl, it’s like when your CD has a scratch and it repeats…..oh never mind ask your Dad what I mean. (sigh)

There are million reasons to not write a song. Or call it excuses, whatever you prefer. Personally, I’ve always said:

A reason is an excuse to someone that just doesn’t want to hear it.

Frankly there are only two reasons that I can think of to actually write a song. You either have to, or you want to.

Over the past several weeks with planning my party and getting the house ready I felt I couldn’t write. It was either because I didn’t have time or I didn’t have ideas. That frustrated me to the point that I blamed my surroundings for causing it.
I realize now that I was still creating, but in a different medium.

As all that stuff was going on, I was finishing up the arrangement and final touches on the second song Mike Wich and I are doing for the Obsessions project.This one is a “boy being in love with girl, but she doesn’t know he exists” type of back story, but that’s just where it starts. The subject in this case is obsessed by the ultimate goal: to be united with his love no matter what.

It begins as a love song but as time goes on his obsession grows and he devolves into a maniac. He starts hearing voices and no longer cares about the safety of object of his love. Yeah, it gets kinda dark. ;-)

Here’s a link to the song page: Living in the Shadows


During my party my friend Laurie Riccobono and I were talking about possibly doing a Christmas album together. I guess in the back of my mind I was working on something because yesterday morning I was having my coffee, sitting at my computer with my guitar plugged into my Toneport and I wrote a little instrumental that could work as a pretty little Christmas tune.

To be honest I didn’t set out to write anything, it just came out of me trying to get familiar with all the new sound patches I just got for the Toneport. I picked up the Gold Bundle which has all the available model packs. I’ve got more sounds than I know what to do with at the moment.

I think that just because I was able to get different sounds out of my equipment, it may have been the Magic Lamp I needed!

Here’s a tip to try when you think you’re out of ideas: write a mini song. Take a riff or a phrase and make one change to it, repeat it a couple of times if you prefer, then stop. Don’t forget to record it though, no matter how roughly, as it’s going to be just a sketch. It’ll at least capture the mood of the moment, and you might be able to trap the Genie. ;-)

Here’s a link to an article from Steve Lawson in the Creative Choices blog where he talks about getting unstuck: Kickstarting Your Creativity.

Here’s another from the Soul of Songwriting blog:
Debunking the Myth of Inspiration

I’ll leave you with a FREE download for a great tool that lets you convert Mp3 to Wav files and Wav to Mp3 files. I’ve been using this for over a year and I just love it and did I forget to tell you it was FREE? :-) FREE Mp3 Converter

It can convert all your Mp3, Wma, Ogg, Aac, M4a, Ac3, Ape, Flac, Wav files to any other of those file types. You can also convert you iTunes music library (m4a format) to any of those file types. You can also rip CD’s with it, I’m told.

Until next time, thanks for being patient.

Jun 22

I need to start this post with a brief diversion. Call it social housekeeping.

Can we all agree to stop using the terms “world wide web” and the gut-wrenching “information superhighway”when we talk about the Internet?

We get it.

You can let those go along with saying “1-800″ when giving out a phone number. We all know by now you need to dial a 1 in most places in the US to get another area code.

I imagine it takes a while to drop phrases like that from the lexicon. Much like during the early 1900′s folks said “Nineteen Hundred and Ten” for 1910. Looking ahead we’ll be saying Twenty Ten and leaving Two Thousand and … for the aught years.


We’re a culture of overachievers. Or so we would like folks to believe.

Though the Web has been around for over 20 years, most of us are only ten years into it as far as personal computing goes.

Prior to 1995 I don’t recall having heard the term “multitasking” in my work or home life. I mean we did more than one thing at a time like cooking and being on the telephone, but we didn’t have a name for it. Nor did we care if there was one.

I read a great blog article today from The New Atlantis written by Christine Rosen called The Myth of Multitasking.

She discussed the term in detail from concept to colloquialism citing references in literature and research studies. It’s a great read and so as not to paraphrase her, I suggest that you click on the link and read it for yourself.

There was a section in the article that sticks with me. She wrote about a 1999 study where Jordan Grafman, Chief of Cognitive Neuroscience at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, used a type of MRI scan to determine that when people engage in “task-switching” there is increased blood flow to the frontal cortex of the brain.

To be clear, task-switching isn’t multitasking, but the behavior associated with it: The act of switching between one task and another.

Other scientists have found evidence of a bottleneck in the brain from having to sort out which task to perform and when.

Now there is hope that we will eventually develop this as a natural ability, but so far we are all dealing with this bottleneck and becoming increasingly less effective and more importantly: STRESSED.

Ok, I’ll take off my lab coat for the moment as I’m not a Doctor (but I do play one in this blog). What I am is a songwriter in today’s world.

When I write, there are some times when I just pick up the guitar and play someting new, jotting down what I’ve just played. Similarly, there are times when I can just sit down and type out lyrics into Notepad. I rarely write with a pen these days as my office is as close to a paperless office as one I’ve ever heard of. The fact is, I’m writing lyrics only at that point.

For those of you that read this blog religiously (yes, both of you) you know that I recently bought my Line 6 Toneport UX2.

It’s a USB interface that I plug my guitar into that allows me to record into recording software. The Toneport uses a sister software component called Gearbox which is what I use to set what I want my guitar to sound like, or keep my guitar in tune. It also allows me to use a metronome that functions as a tiny drum machine module.

So, where I used to sit down with a pen paper and guitar, I now sit with my guitar, computer, Notepad, Toneport, Gearbox, metronome and tuner.

All this technology is fantastic, to be truthful, and I love how I sound now. The fact is from a writer’s standpoint, it takes me a lot longer to write a tune.

By the time I’ve got everything set right, it’s either time for the next meal, a shower, or bedtime.

There’s a lot of time spent on “getting ready to get ready”.

Often I find myself less productive as far as writing goes, but I sure do have fun with all the virtual knobs and switches. ;-)

To actually do two things at once is not always possible. I find that I do part of one, then part of another, then back to the rest of the one until eventually it all gets done with only partial attantion paid to detail. Invariably, I’ll forget something. To me that’s not being productive. It’s not me doing my best.

I guess the key is to compartmentalize. Do my set up one day, and write down what I set up. Then unplug and come back later to actually write, paying no attention to how things are set up. Just focusing on the writing.


There’s a concept. Nothing like coming up with a new phrase to define what we’ve been doing for thousands of years that previously needed no definition.

I guess we just need to figure out when to Multitask and when to Singletask. I can cook and talk, but I still can’t sneeze and keep my eyes open. 8-)




Jun 15

We’ve all heard music that strikes us as special. Something slightly out of the ordinary or in fact, way out of the ordinary has made most songwriters including myself say “I want to write a song like that”.

Maybe you’re saying, “Dude, I NEVER do that. I’m all about being original.” Well as hard as you try to make me believe that, you’re either naive or you’re full of crap.

To be honest, though. Nothing is that cut and dry. Granted, no one wants to be thought of as a plagiarist. To learn about music whether through studying an instrument, or merely for enjoyment, you’ve got to have heard a few songs.

OK, I hear your collective “Duh, thanks Dr. Obvious.”, but stay with me here.

Some will say that in this age of information, we’re barraged by so much input that the output is sure to be tainted. Actually “flavored” may be a better term.

Let’s take a look at a definition (which could change at some point in the future as technologies advance).


The practice of claiming or implying original authorship of (or incorporating material from) someone else’s written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one’s own without adequate acknowledgement – the issue of false attribution.

Musical influence on the other hand is as inevitable as farming. Once the seeds are planted…well you get the idea.

If not for Leopold Mozart, we’d have no Wolfgang Mozart, if not for Haydn, we’d have no Beethoven all the way to Boogie Woogie giving us Swing and Blues which begat Gospel, R & B, Rock and Roll, Heavy Metal and Hip Hop.

Don’t forget, if not for Little Richard and Elvis, we’d have no Beatles.

I’m pretty sure that somewhere along the way, Swing had a threesome with the Recording Industry and Don “No-Soul” Simmons and Disco was born. ;-)

So obviously it’s all about learning and reinventing and pardon the American Idol reference, “Making it your own”.

Where does one draw the line? Well, it’s hard to say. Sort of like little white lies I guess. We all know its wrong to do, but sometimes it’s forgivable. We just have to listen to what moves us, and see how much of us we can put into it.

For me, when I started writing I was about 15 years old. I knew if I was going to write songs, I needed to really get familiar with how a song was put together. I would take a song I liked, re-write the lyrics, then put it away for long enough for me to have forgotten what the song was that I wrote it against.

I’d also take chord progressions right out of an artist’s songbook, see how I might trim off a chord or add one, or flip a sequence around, add in another sequence from another artist and do the same. Then I’d see how I might play it with different tempos, rhythm changes, trying to make it fit the lyrics until I got something I liked.

There always was the fear that someone would say “You stole that from so and so”, but no one was going to buy those tunes so I didn’t really care much back then.

Today, I write in a similar vein. I listen to as many varied styles as I can. Now, instead of stealing chord changes, I go for the feel of the song or a similar build up rather than copying specific phrases.

What I listen for now is for suggestions in style more than anything else. A surf music sound, or a 70′s Rod Stewart style rocker, or a late 70′s New Wave type of tune. Maybe a jazz infused ballad with a hard rock bridge.

No matter what I do though, I’m always going back to listening to stuff I like, so that I can write stuff I like. Rarely do things just happen naturally for me unless, well John Lennon referred to it as “Diarrhea of Rock”.

I’d rather call it a flow of prolificacy.

That’s the word for the day. Use it three times and there’s a penny in it for ya ;-)

Meanwhile, until next time, I’ll leave you with with this cool vid I found on You Tube. Check out Theresa Andersson


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