Musing On The Past

October 28, 2016 § Leave a comment

I have reached a stage in life where more days have passed behind than I still have lying ahead. Such is a consequence of growing older.

On the other hand, the aging process has given me a growing number of experiences from which to draw when writing a song. Increasingly, I find myself mining those experiences for material.

Years back, when I still worked in broadcasting, I lost a radio job in Rapid City, South Dakota and moved, sight unseen, to Alexandria, Louisiana to take job at a television station there. The move cost me a house I was building and a relationship I had begun.

I have thought of those days from time to time but have never really looked at them as potential material for a song until recently. I took that experience, added a bit of poetic license, and ended up with this offering.

Seek And Hide

Packed up my car and I headed south
Left my familiar life behind
Headed for a place I’d never been before
Unsure what I was gonna find
When I left, you said you couldn’t come
Instead, you asked me why I had to run
I said, “Don’t take it personal. It’s just an itch inside.
I have to go and seek, then run and hide.”

Afraid of the night, afraid of the day
Afraid of the feelings that get in the way
Not sure what I’m after; not sure who I am
A lover, a fighter, a poet, a dreamer
Or just a simple man

Driving through an unfamiliar land
My rear-view mirror facing home
Thinking about a friendly voice
To give me comfort on the phone
Not sure I really thought it through
How life would be different without you
Not sure which of us was strong or which of was weak
But I had to run and hide, then go and seek

Looking for redemption, looking for release
Some quiet harbor where, finally, there is peace
Not sure what I’m looking for; not sure what I’ll find
An answer, more questions, a change in direction
Or just a place to ease my mind

Packed up my car and I headed south
Left my familiar life behind
Headed for a place I’d never been before
Unsure what I was gonna find
When I left, you said you couldn’t come
Instead, you asked me why I had to run
I said, “Don’t take it personal. It’s just an itch inside.
I have to go and seek, then run and hide.”

Facing my demons, afraid of what’s inside
I have to go and seek, then run and hide

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Under The Influences

October 13, 2016 § 1 Comment

I have always thought of songwriting, especially good songwriting, as a form of poetry. Today’s news that Bob Dylan is this year’s Nobel Prize recipient for literature indicates that I am not alone in this line of thought.

After reading through a few of the stories and samples of some of Dylan’s best-known and most poetic lyrics, I began to think of some of the songwriters/lyricists I’ve wished I could emulate. Dylan, himself, of course, although I doubt anyone will ever again tap into the public consciousness quite so well.

Leonard Cohen is a poet/songwriter I’ve only recently begun listening to in earnest, even though he has been around as long as Dylan, even longer if you note the fact that he published poems several years before Dylan released his first album. Like Dylan, though Cohen’s way with a phrase is out of reach for most mere mortals, including me.

Perhaps my favorite songwriter and lyricist is Elvis Costello, a prolific writer who has delved in several different genres, each with equal artistry. Sandwiched somewhere between Dylan and Cohen in terms of commercial success, Costello is the songwriter I have most wished I could approach in terms of style, though I know his lyrical mastery is well out of my reach.

Lately, I have added another songwriter, or in this case songwriting duo, to the short list of those I try to draw inspiration from. They are Glenn Tillbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze. I have the thrill of seeing the band in concert last week. Like Costello, they are able to marry turns of phrase and wit and melody into catchy three or four-minute melodic short stories. Unlike Costello, though, the lyrics of Difford and Tillbrook often mask the ascerbic wit and acidity. They might knock you over with a feather, whereas Costello might well hit you upside the head with a sledgehammer.

After the concert, I again wished I could write a catchy and clever tune in the manner of Squeeze. What I offer below fails to match that level of aspiration, but I am pretty happy with it all the same.

Lost

She sits at the bar, and she dreams of salvation
A face or a hand to support her
Back in the day, she was thought quite a catch
Now no one comes ’round to court her
Most Friday nights, she just sits on her own
Thinking of romance but drinking alone
Knowing that no one will come ’round to see her
Or call her up on the phone

Lost to the world, lost to herself
Seeking her own private grace
All that is left of the person she was
There in the lines on her face
But her memory sustains her, sometimes entertains her
When the days and nights start to turn cold
She says to herself, “Girl, you’ve had quite a life,
Ah, but it’s hell to grow old.”

She once was a dancer with Agnes DeMille
Even the lead for a time
She would brisé with the greatest of ease
Something to see in her prime
Around her, reminders of life on the stage
Dated and faded now she’s turned the page
No papparazzi or autograph seekers
Now she’s no longer the rage

Lost to the world, lost to herself
Seeking her own private grace
All that is left of the person she was
There in the lines on her face
But her memory sustains her, sometimes entertains her
When the days and nights start to turn cold
She says to herself, “Girl, you’ve had quite a life,
Ah, but it’s hell to grow old.”

Once graced the covers of glossy magazines
Fuel for the tabloids and young boys’ dreams
Now she’s forgotten, no longer in such high esteem

She waits for the ending and knows it will come
Not with a bang but a whimper
There’ll be no encore but knows down inside
There is a fire that still simmers
And so, Friday night, she’ll head down to the bar
Drink to the days back when she was a star
Sits and replays the soundtrack of her life
To an imagined guitar

Lost to the world, lost to herself
Seeking her own private grace
All that is left of the person she was
There in the lines on her face
But her memory sustains her, sometimes entertains her
When the days and nights start to turn cold
She says to herself, “Girl, you’ve had quite a life,
Ah, but it’s hell to grow old.”

She says to herself, “Girl, you’ve had quite a life,
Ah, but it’s hell to grow old.”

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Revisions, Revisions

October 11, 2016 § 2 Comments

I have written lyrics/songs for two-thirds of my life. For perhaps 95-percent of that time, I wrote one draft and called it done.

I suspect I have always had a limited attention span. That, or a lack of discipline, which is the reason I have never been able to make myself sit down and write a novel, even though I have long expressed a desire to do so. (There are other reasons, such as lacking a true sense of place and, therefore, not really having a strong setting in which to ground my story, but that is not germane to this post.)

Recently, I participated in (sat in might be a better term) a songwriter workshop in which the songwriter/workshop leader mentioned a songwriter who said it takes her 70 to 80 hours to write a song, with most of that time spent in revision. Hearing him state that, it was hard for me to fathom.

I have dashed off song lyrics in 15 minutes. And, usually, if a song does not completely reveal itself to me in a single day, it does not ever get finished. Slowly, that is starting to change.

As is my feeling about revision. Case in point: Earlier this year, while waiting to start a voice lesson, I began writing a song inspired by the brick walls surrounding me and the memory of a girl I went to grade school with. The initial version of the song took me a few weeks to finish, and I was pretty happy with the result, pre-songwriter workshop.

Looking at the song again the other day with an eye toward finally working up an arrangement with my wife, I still thought it was pretty good but didn’t really convey the emotion I was trying to express as strongly as I wanted. So, I began going through the lyrics and making changes.

I ended up changing roughly half of the first verse (the weakest part of the song as I saw it) and made a few other changes here and there. Is it a better song? I think so, but you can decide for yourself. The original lines are struck through so that you can compare them for yourself.

Rosalie

Within these walls, I’m forced to think about you can’t help but think about you
And all the things we’re never meant to share that we could never share
We weren’t prepared when temptation called us
And so our love could not go anywhere And in the end, we simply didn’t dare
I look back now and think of what we could have had about when things got rough
Sometimes, I feel like I could cry — instead, I wonder why
And try to figure out where things went bad You and I weren’t strong enough

We came from different worlds, never meant to be
But God sure knows we tried — Rosalie

All the nights we looked up at the stars
Wishing we were somewhere else, but that was never in the cards
The deck was stacked against us, our fate decided in advance already set
Tell me why, tell me why must love be so hard?

Here in these walls, echoes of your memory
And everything I though that we had found
I feel your shadow through every open doorway
Reminding me that you are not around
I see your picture, and staring at your smiling face
Wish that you were here with me — it wasn’t meant to be
Now there’s an emptiness I can’t erase

We came from different worlds, never meant to be
But God sure knows we tried — Rosalie

There’d be No happy ending meant in the stars for you and me
But God sure knows we tried — Rosalie

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

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