Hanging On A Phrase

June 21, 2018 § Leave a comment

If you take part in or listen to enough discussions about songwriting, sooner or later you will hear someone talk about “the hook.” Successful songs have to have a hook.

More often than not, this “hook” will take the shape of a chorus or refrain that repeats after ever verse. There are, of course, variations to this formula. I often will have a couple of verses before I get to the first time through the refrain, for instance.

Lately, I’ve written a number of songs that do not really have a chorus or refrain. Some of them have a chorus/refrain melody, but the words do not repeat. Other songs hang on a phrase or variation of a phrase that repeats throughout the song.

Today’s entry falls into the category of the repeating phrase, but it does so as if it is on steroids. I was driving and happened to pass some people on the street who looked like they could be homeless.

The phrase “old, ragged man” quickly popped into my head. Before I had gone more than a few blocks, I had most of the first verse. the rest of the song came quickly once I got home.

An Old, Ragged Man

Just an old, ragged man
In an old, ragged suit
With an old, ragged story to tell
About an old, ragged life
In this old, ragged world
Now he’s in an old, ragged hell

Started out with smooth sailing
But then, the winds of change began to blow
Found himself in an old, ragged boat
Adrift with nowhere to go

Had an old, ragged dream
About an old, ragged girl
In some old, ragged place far away
Saved each old, ragged dollar
In his old, ragged pants
And swore he’d find her one day

Then the bottle seduced him
And it’s been so long since he’s seen the sun
Now he hides in his old, ragged shadows
Ashamed of what he’s become

Looking at the choices he’s made
Isn’t sure which one to blame
Wonders if he’d done things differently
Would he have ended up the same?

Just an old, ragged man
With an old, ragged face
Each line tells his old, ragged tale
For the price of a drink
He’ll tell his old, ragged story
It’s all he’s got left for sale

About a life full of promise
Made and broken many years before
Leaving him an old, ragged shell
With nothing left anymore

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

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Painting Word Pictures

June 18, 2018 § Leave a comment

Even after as long as I’ve been writing lyrics, using imagery and metaphor tend to be weaknesses. Most of my lyrics tend to be somewhat straightforward. Metaphorical imagery in the vein of Squeeze or Elvis Costello (two of my favorite artists) tends to be beyond me.

That doesn’t mean I don’t try. I have on occasion tried to be more cryptic in my lyrics, but that is not a strength of mine.

In this song, I decided to try again, at least to paint some word pictures in the lyrics. Instead of trying to create or write unusual metaphors, I opted to incorporate a few clichés in the lyrics.

Songwriters are often warned to stay away from clichés, but clichés become such because they are repeated and also because there is a grain of truth in them. People don’t usually speak in metaphors, but clichés often find their way into everyday speech.

In the end, I suppose writing lyrics that come across somewhat as everyday speech is what I’m striving for. Here’s my latest effort. Please let me know what you think.

Instead

I wake up to the song a serenade of birds and garbage trucks
Just before the sound of the alarm
I smell the coffee brewing in the other room
It pulls me out of bed, where it’s still warm

Another day, another dollar
That’s what my father always said
But if it’s true that money is the root of evil
Maybe I’ll stay with you instead

I battle with the other cars to get make my way to work
An unseen Piper calling us on
Not even nine o’clock and I’m already thinking
This day needs to end and I need to be gone

No shooting star on my horizon
A hungry heart that’s never fed
Thinking about the choices that I made this morning
I should have stayed with you instead

If I’d stayed with you, we could go dancing in the rain
Or maybe chase a dream and bring it home
I’m counting down the hours till I can be with you again
For now, I play the 9 to 5 ’cause when in Rome

I drag myself home like a bird in wintertime
Flying back to where I belong
Finding redemption by going to the source
Here within your love, I’m never wrong

Another night, another memory
That we’ll make right here in this bed
No matter where I go, no matter what I do
I’ll always be with you instead

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

EDIT: I don’t often do many revisions, but I had revised the first line of the lyric so as not to have the word “sound” appear in successive lines. However, I was not that happy replacing “sound” with “song” in line one. I finally hit upon serenade, which I think is a bit more descriptive in terms of what I’m trying to convey.

Once I replaced “song” with “serenade,” I decided to take a look at line one of the second full verse to see what change I could make to keep the rhythm similar to verse one. Replacing “get” with “make my way” accomplished that and also, I think, does a better job of conveying the idea of the struggle to get to work. Let me know whether you agree.

Feel The Love

June 16, 2018 § Leave a comment

It seems that most of my songs are about relationships that did not work out. Writing upbeat or uptempo songs is not my strong suit.

Despite that, I thought I would try my hand at writing a love song. This is it. Hope you like it. And to all the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day.

She Walks In Sunshine

She’s a free spirit
Got a mind of her own
Doesn’t let no one else think for her
Doesn’t mind being alone
Why she chose to be with me
Not even she can say
But I count myself lucky
Every day

She walks in sunshine
And I dance in her light
Keeps my head in the clouds
And my feet on the ground
Lets me know everything’s alright
When I found her
That’s when I saw the stars align
She brought me out of the dark
Into the light

Got a small birthmark
There on her face
She doesn’t really like it much
But it adds a touch of grace
She is perfectly imperfect
And I cherish every flaw
If she was ever sad
Her tears could leave you raw

I don’t know what I’d do
If she ever came to her senses
And went to find somebody new
She’s torn down all my defenses

She’s got a good heart
Always thinking of me
Don’t know what I did to deserve her
But I know she holds the key
Never doubted that she loves me
Never stopped to wonder why
Hope I never hear her
Say the word goodbye

She walks in sunshine
And I dance in her light
Keeps my head in the clouds
And my feet on the ground
Lets me know everything’s alright
When I found her
That’s when I saw the stars align
She brought me out of the dark
Into the light

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Something Familiar, Yet Different

June 14, 2018 § Leave a comment

I had a new song I planned to share with you today, then I wrote an even newer song that I decided to share instead. I’ll the other song in a later post so as not to leave you hanging.

Today’s effort is a love song of sorts. It isn’t based on anyone I know or on any relationship I’ve ever had. Yet it feels real to me somehow

One of the things I like about this effort (I like the entire song, actually) is that I changed up my song structure a bit. In this song, it feels to me like there is a verse, a pre-chorus of sorts, and a chorus. The process then repeats.

The rhyme scheme, while perhaps a little different, is one I’ve used before. In the verses, the first two lines rhyme with each other and also with the last line of the verse. The chorus varies this pattern by having the second and fifth lines rhyme. The third, sixth, and eighth lines also rhyme with one another.

There are a couple of other subtle differences in the structure. The verses and pre-chorus sections do not have the same number of lines. In addition, though the chorus is a standard eight lines, it does not break into what might be a four line pattern where the chorus goes four lines and then repeats the pattern melodically and rhythmically.

Instead, the chorus uses a three-line pattern that repeats once before picking up the final two lines. One other thing: I didn’t have a title for this song until I decided to change the last line of the chorus, the last change I made to the song. I hope you like it.

Feel The Earth Turn

I can still see her standing there
In the simple peasant blouse she used to wear
Old and faded jeans
That hadn’t seen the other side of new
She didn’t care

Knew that beauty
Was much more than just skin deep
Had an inner beauty
She would always keep
I still can see her now —
Every night in my sleep

In my dreams, she’s like a Venus
Reaching out her arms to me
But I’m able to reach out in return
And no matter how I try
There are some things that I can’t see
I only hope that one day I might learn
To see behind the shadows
And feel the earth turn

It seems hard now to reconcile
But she and I shared the same dream for a while
Though I never knew for sure
I could always see the promise
In her smile

Though it seems forever
Was not meant to be
Still it seems that she’ll
Forever be with me
She holds me even now —
My heart cannot get free

In my dreams, she’s like a Venus
Reaching out her arms to me
But I’m able to reach out in return
And no matter how I try
There are some things that I can’t see
I only hope that one day I might learn
To see behind the shadows
And feel the earth turn

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Marching To My Own Beat

June 11, 2018 § Leave a comment

For whatever reason, a number of my songs tend to reflect on the sadder side of life: broken relationships, growing old, even death. Today’s entry is an exception.

Even though my life is relatively happy these days, I still tend to find myself drawn to darker themes. Writing upbeat and/or happy songs tends to be more of a challenge.

But it is a challenge I decided to take up with today’s entry. I’ve always been a person who at least thought of himself as following his own path and trying not to go along with others think or say simply because that is the popular thing to do.

So this song is basically about marching to the beat of your own drum and carving out, then following your own path. Hope you like it.

My Drum

Living a life of leisure
Living a life of ease
Living a life of pleasure
Doing whatever I please
Going wherever the wind blows
Whatever it is I can find
Leave no stone unturned
Or left behind

Chasing another horizon
Chasing another dream
Chasing another moment
Going in search of the cream
Taking things just as I find them
However it is they might be
Opening my eyes
What will I see?

Will I find wonder in the setting sun
Or romance in the moon?
Will I be ready when it comes
Or will it come too soon?
Running fast to beat the clock
I’ll run till that second hand stops
Always moving to the beat of my drum

Finding a new adventure
Finding a new romance
Finding a new direction
In search of another chance
Riding the wave where it takes me
No matter where I might land
Knowing that I’ve always done
The best that I can

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Going Historical

June 8, 2018 § Leave a comment

Of late, I have found myself interested in trying write songs I would consider more folk-like in nature. I’ve also found myself interested in writing about things from the past or inspired by the past.

In today’s entry, the two interests intersect. I was sitting at my desk one day, trying to see where inspiration might find me, when suddenly, the flu epidemic of 1918 popped into my head. The resulting pandemic killed anywhere between 20 million and 100 million people worldwide (no one is sure of the actual number).

Of course, 1918 is also the year when the armistice ending World War I (then known as The Great War) was signed. So, I decided to try to juxtapose those two events in song. Let know what you think.

1918

The war was finally over in the fall
Some did not live to see it end
Even though they never got the call
Their own lives they could not defend

The battlefront at home was deadlier
Than facing down the barrel of a gun
An enemy that they couldn’t see
The battle lost before it could be won

Johnny, he came marching home
To a different kind of fight
An enemy invader
Who struck in the dead of night
Luck of the draw —
A fatal flaw —
Or a twist of fate seen in another light

The pandemic struck fear in the mortal soul
Laid low the strongest and the young alike
Those who lived never again were whole
Lives leaked away like water from a dike

The doctors didn’t know just what to do
And so, they simply let things run their course
A deadly foe that no one could slow
Led to battle by an unseen force

Even now, nobody knows
How many people died
Untold millions swept away
How many mothers cried?
It took aim at the strong
Gained a foothold with the poor
Who lost the means and will to fight
When they stood at death’s door

Johnny, he came marching home
To a different kind of fight
An enemy invader
Who struck in the dead of night
Luck of the draw —
A fatal flaw —
Or a twist of fate seen in another light

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Getting A Touch Political

June 3, 2018 § Leave a comment

I don’t tend to write political or protest songs. For one thing, there are others who have done it better and far longer than I (Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, for example). For another, I’ve had friends tell me political/protest songs are the kiss of death when trying to build or maintain a following. (Although not a direct correlation, I suppose the Dixie Chicks would be an example of this.)

Still, I have to go where the Muse takes me, and she recently took me down the path of today’s entry. I think she helped navigate the left-wing, right-wing divide relatively unscathed, although you will have to be the judge of that.

In these lyrics, I name no names or political entities. The lyrics are simply an observation of where it seems to me we are today. And perhaps it is as it has always been. But perhaps it need not always be thus. Please let me know what you think.

Time To Change

There’s a strong wing a blowing
Signaling a changing tide
I can feel the storm is building
Gaining strength from deep inside
For too long, I’ve been silent
About the things I see
It’s time to change

There are people going hungry
Others seem to have too much
Meanwhile, in the middle
It seems we’re losing touch
For too long, we’ve accepted
Things the way they are
It’s time to change

It’s time to change our way of thinking
And open up our eyes
Look within for answers
And not up to the skies
God won’t lift a finger
If we don’t lift a hand
Some with all and some with none
Can’t be what He had planned

There’s a time for reflection
And there’s a time to act
The time for doing nothing’s passed
That surely is a fact
Even the least of us
Has something we can give
It’s time to change

It’s time to change our way of thinking
And open up our eyes
Look within for answers
And not up to the skies
God won’t lift a finger
If we don’t lift a hand
Some with all and some with none
Can’t be what He had planned

It’s time to change

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.