Love In Song and In Mixed Metaphor?

November 20, 2017 § Leave a comment

In the history of music, there have been countless songs written about love and relationships. Falling in love, falling out of love, looking for love, giving up on love. You name it, when it comes to love, there are dozens if not hundreds (even thousands) of songs written about some aspect of love.

I’ve certainly been a part of this proclivity. Why? Because love and relationships are, unlike other things a songwriter might put pen (or pencil) to paper about, universal to the human condition or nearly so.

Just about everyone has fallen in love. Many have fallen out of love. Most of us have looked for love at some time in our lives, and no doubt many have at one point or another declared they were giving up on love.

Today’s entry adds to the pantheon of lyrics written on the subject of love. I wanted to try to use more imagery or at least more metaphorical language this time. So I likened love to a journey, in this case one in which the lovers get lost. I guess you could say the lyrics use sand and surf to paint the picture. How well they do so is not for me to say.

The Fall

We used to have big dreams and little plans
But time just slipped away like shifting sands
Winds changed direction, we were blown off-course
Got lost and didn’t see love slip right through our hands

We were not ready, gave it our all
But couldn’t brace ourselves for the fall

We thought we saw the way in front of us
But we got lost and couldn’t find the trust
We ran the gauntlet, but could not survive
Ran out of energy, our love ground into dust

We couldn’t move
We couldn’t see which way the wind was blowing
Uncharted waters caught us unawares

We found ourselves adrift on raging seas
Our hearts went down, no one to hear our pleas
Marooned, the tides of love meant rescue not in store
Left to save ourselves, our own worst enemies

We were not ready, gave it our all
But couldn’t brace ourselves for the fall

© 2018 Walt Huntsman.

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Shopping For Ideas

November 17, 2017 § 2 Comments

I don’t and won’t claim to be a great songwriter or lyricist. After all, no one has asked to record or even perform any of my music as yet. In fact, I joke with my guitar instructor that I am the most prolific songwriter no one has ever heard of.

What I will claim to be is very lucky in the sense that nearly anything can serve and in fact has served as inspiration for my songs. Today’s entry is a case in point.

The other day, as millions of people do every day, I went to the grocery store to pick up some things we were low on or out of. In addition to those items, I cam back with the germ of an idea for a song.

Today’s song was not inspired by anything I actually saw. Rather, it was inspired simply by being in the grocery store and letting my imagination go where it would. This is a first draft, but I’m pretty happy with the route my imagination took.

The Market

I saw her at the market
Just a few things in her basket
As she stood and waited in the checkout line
A loaf of bread, a can of tuna fish
Some mayonnaise, a plastic dish
This was Monday morn, ’bout half past nine

Her coat was old and wrinkled
With a handful of stains sprinkled here and there
Her shoes were old and battered
A ribbon that was tattered held her hair
And I tried not to stare

I could see that she was proud
Despite hard times, her back unbowed
A spirit far above her circumstance
The cashier said “Five eighty-nine”
And as the woman tried to find
The necessary change, she gave me a glance

And in that look I saw a fire
No heavenly or earthly choir could hope to meet
And though I know she must have cried
For all the times she failed but tried, in her defeat
There was no retreat

(Instrumental)

She took her bag and slowly walked away
As she left, she looked at me as if to say
“I’ll be alright, at least for today”

I saw her at the market
Just a few things in her basket
As she stood and waited in the checkout line

© 2018 Walt Huntsman.

Slip of the Tongue

November 13, 2017 § Leave a comment

Last night, the family and I had the joy and privilege of seeing Al Stewart perform his Year Of The Cat album live (along with a few of his other songs). Stewart was in great form, telling stories about the songs and about his approach to songwriting. (He can’t stand A to B songs, as he calls them.)

At one point, Al was talking about the initial difficulties he had getting any traction here in America. He talked about his agent at the time and what people do with “people you don’t have any use for” and said you have them tour as the opening act for someone else.

As soon as he said it, the audience started laughing, and it took a moment for all the gears to lock into place and for Stewart to realize what he’d said. Because standing on stage with him was his backing band – and opening act – The Empty Pockets (a truly talented foursome you should check out).

Al explained that he was referring to himself, but that slip of the tongue leads me to share this “slip of the tongue,” today’s lyrical entry.

Slip Of The Tongue

He says what’s on his mind
Most times, he doesn’t even think about it
Might have a change of heart
Wishing he had held his peace, but I doubt it

No filter and no holds barred
He can’t hold back ’cause it’s too damned hard
Says the same stupid things he did when he was young
Then says it’s just another slip of the tongue

He thinks his every word
Is the kind of thing that comes down from on high
He’s not the kind to notice
When the conversation changes or runs dry

No boundaries or self-control
He’ll cut it loose and he’ll let it roll
Still singing the same old song he’s always sung
Chalk it up as just another slip of the tongue

He’s never been one to hold his peace
Like a squeaky wheel that never gets the grease
He’ll wear you down a little more with every word
Then he’ll check to make sure everything he’s said you’ve heard

He’s sure everyone’s waiting
Just to find out the next thing he’s gonna say
Don’t think he has a clue
Common sense only seems to get in the way

No worries and no restraint
If he has a heart, then it’s beat is faint
Put him in his place, he’d never know that he was stung
And think it was just another slip of the tongue

© 2018 Walt Huntsman

Hook, Line, and Sinker

November 6, 2017 § 2 Comments

Over the weekend, I had the chance to see an amazing band out of Colorado – Edison – featuring a former member of The Lumineers. It was a great show with great music in a small and intimate setting.

Earlier in the day, the band held a songwriting workshop in which they talked about their process and answered questions from attendees. One of their pieces of advice was not to give up on an idea if it doesn’t come fully formed right away.

As an addendum to that, they said when in doubt, go back to the hook. They then talked about a song from their latest CD that has become their most popular song on internet radio. The ending is basically a repetition of the hook lyric line over and over, an idea that came to them at the eleventh hour as they were preparing to record the song.

I am also in the process of reading 101 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them: How to Craft and Sell Your Songs by Pat and Pete Luboff. This book also talks about the importance of the hook in a song.

The hook is not usually something I pay a lot of attention to, allowing the Muse to take the lyric where she will. But in today’s entry, I did think about the hook and also about trying to be a little more economical with words. (My wife says I like to use a lot of words in my lyrics, which is probably true. I was, after all, and English major.)

This song, as I envision it, allows repetition of the hook line as many times as the singer feels it, meaning the song could be anywhere from a little over three minutes to who knows how long? Please share your feedback with me.

You’ve Got To Let It Go (Bottled Up)

Something’s on your mind
I see it in that cloud above your head
Go ahead, get it off your chest
The worst things are those we’ve left unsaid

“I think it’s time,” you say
“Oh never mind
It doesn’t matter anyway”
Then you push it down
As you slowly walk away

Another thought, another feeling
That you’ve bottled up
One day, it’s gonna blow
You’ve got to let it go
Got to let it go
Got to let it go
Let it go

Something in your eyes
I know I’ve seen that look in you before
Go on, say what you’re thinking
Silence isn’t working anymore

You say, “I’ve been thinking”
Then you stop (break)
And you don’t say another word
The message, loud and clear
Even though it isn’t heard

Another thought, another feeling
That you’ve bottled up
One day, it’s gonna blow
You’ve got to let it go
Got to let it go
Got to let it go
Let it go

You’ve got to let it go
Got to let it go
Got to let it go
Let it go
(repeat to fade)

© 2018 Walt Huntsman

Feeling Folksy

November 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

I’ve been a little under the weather for the past few days, so I haven’t been up to posting. Today, the weather has worsened, and I am feeling better. So I suppose I am now above the weather. Hence, a new post.

I thought about digging through the notebooks to find something I’ve written recently but not yet posted. While letting that idea roll around in my head, I opened up and read my December copy of Acoustic Guitar magazine. While I was reading with part of my mind (and both eyes), I was also thinking about what some of the artists featured had to say about folk music and their attempts to build on what is already there.

Although I don’t have a great deal of folk music in my collection, and I don’t always listen to much folk music, I have always aspired to write folk songs. Not exclusively, but as a large part of my original repertoire.

Some of my favorite artists are folk or folk-influenced musicians: Mary Black, Luka Bloom, John Gorka, James Taylor, Jim Croce, John Prine. These artists show that there is no one way to write or perform a folk song.

To me, folk music is one of America’s original forms of roots music, along with the blues. Modern folk music, rather than simply an echo of the original folk tunes, many of them brought over from Ireland, is an evolution and an interpretation of what has come before. Unlike modern country which, to me, sounds more like overproduced pop.

After reading an article in Acoustic Guitar featuring six twenty and thirty-something musicians (including Chris Thile of Nickel Creek Fame) talking about folk music, I put my mind to work trying to think of a topic fitting for a folk song (not my normal approach to writing), and I then put pen to paper.

What follows is probably still a bit rough and is likely nowhere near its final form, but it is based on true events. I’d love for you to share your thoughts and reactions.

My Grandmother

My grandmother lost her husband young
With four young children left to feed
But all around her, times were hard
Nowhere to turn in her time of need

My grandmother did the best she could
But knew it wasn’t good enough
She had to do what no mother should
Gave her children up when times got rough

Tried to find a way to make a better life
Now a widow where once she was a wife
Hard to make a start with four young kids in tow
She couldn’t do it by herself
And so, she had to let them go

(Instrumental)

My grandmother finally found somebody who
Didn’t mind a built-in family
She got her children back in time
And she and he added another three

She finally found a way to make a better life
Once a widow, now again, she was a wife
With four young kids, she found a way to start again
She found someone who gave her heart
A chance to heal and time to mend

My grandmother lost her husband young
With four young children left to feed

© 2018 Walt Huntsman.

Swimming Against The Tide

October 30, 2017 § Leave a comment

In response to today’s news that two former Trump campaign aides have been indicted on a variety of charges, including conspiracy against America, and the additional news that a former Trump campaign adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his dealings with Russia, I considered sharing the lyrics of a political song I recently wrote. Then I reconsidered. Hence, the title of today’s entry.

No doubt the various cable, broadcast and print news outlets (with the possible exception of Fox News) will have plenty of in-depth analysis and discussion of today’s events. I’ll save my song for another day.

Instead, I’ll share a lyric I recently wrote under circumstances similar to those in which I wrote the lyrics I shared in my previous post. I was sitting outside with a glass of wine, looking at the blue sky and the big tree in our yard, enjoying a beautiful autumn afternoon, when the first line came to me. The Muse was feeling especially kind, and she promptly supplied me with the remaining verses and refrain. Hope you like it.

I Knew You When

Your eyes were brown; the sky was blue
Our love made that old house feel like it was new
That oak tree that we planted has grown up big and strong
So where did we go wrong

That beat up truck you used to drive
Every corner we took made us feel alive
Now it sits out in the barn, ain’t been run in years
Not in a million tears

I knew you when love was fresh and bold
But we both changed; what burned hot soon turned cold
The fire died, the tears soon dried
We went our separate ways
I knew you when soon faded into yesterdays

A broken bench by that oak tree
A relic of the days when you sat there with me
This house is all that’s left of the love we used to know
Before we let it go

I knew you when love was fresh and bold
But we both changed; what burned hot soon turned cold
The fire died, the tears soon dried
We went our separate ways
I knew you when soon faded into yesterdays

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

When Inspiration Factors Collide

October 28, 2017 § Leave a comment

On a number of occasions, I’ve written about how I get inspired, where my lyrical ideas come from: things I see, things I hear, things I’m feeling. Sometimes, though, it’s a little more and a little less than that.

For instance, my wife and I recently put in a little sitting area in front of our house. I was sitting there with a glass of wine and, of course, my trusty notebook (in case inspiration should strike) when two things “happened” which combined to provide the initial inspiration for this lyric entry.

I happened to look up at the sky and see that it was a brilliant blue without a single cloud in my field of vision. At about the same time, I took notice of the cool autumn breeze that was blowing. Those two things combined to spur my pen into action.

Based on the sunny blue sky and the pleasant autumn breeze, I quickly had my first two lines and thought on was on my way to writing an upbeat and light tune. I have learned, however, never to mess with the Muse or to assume you know where she is taking you. That lesson was reinforced for me as soon as I had the next two lines in my lyric.

The rhyme scheme is one I like to use from time to time. It is, in a sense, two rhyme schemes. The second and fourth lines rhyme with each other and also with the last line of the verse, while two internal lines rhyme with one another. Please do let me know what you think.

Cool Breeze

There’s a cool breeze blowing
The sun is bright today
If I didn’t know better
I’d swear you haven’t gone away
I guess that life goes on, the earth still turns
But the pain inside still burns
And I don’t think time
Is gonna make it go away

There’s a cool breeze blowing
Leaves dancing all around
Though you’ve packed and gone now
I swear I see your shadow on the ground
I know that time will pass, the pain will fade
But the judgment is just delayed
And the silence is just the still
Before the hammer’s sound

That cool breeze, whispering to me
Saying that my heart will never be free
Carrying hopes and dreams
That are no longer mine
With the future I no longer see

There’s a cool breeze blowing
And I can feel the chill
Of your memory blowing through
You are with me still
Though the sun is shining, the skies have turned
With the icy cold of lessons learned
Doesn’t feel like it’s gonna change
Don’t know if it ever will

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.