And Now, The End Is Near

March 31, 2019 § 2 Comments

We made it! Day 31 of my month-long songwriting challenge is here. Thank you to those of you who came along for the ride.

The challenge was to share my song lyrics every day for 31 straight days, and with today’s entry, that’s what I will have done. Although it was not a part of the challenge, it also turns out that, except for the first two entries, every set of lyrics shared in March was written in March, including today’s entry.

Now, on to the song itself. I promised more on the story hinted at yesterday. So here goes.

When I was young, my mother worked as a waitress, both in a regular cafe’ setting and in a cocktail lounge. She also played the occasional hand of poker to help supplement her meager income.

When I was five, my parents divorced. A little over a year later, my mother remarried. Her new husband promptly quit his job the day they married (or right around then), leaving my mother to support me, my sister, her author-wannabe husband, and his son – five of us in all.

Today’s entry draws on that memory and some others. We moved to the Mojave Desert shortly after they married, and I used to spend a lot of time in my room (then and even in later years) to get away from the yelling and fighting. All of that fed into this song.

I haven’t quite decided on a title, so your feedback on that is also welcome. (The current working title is sort of an allusion back to Adam and Eve.) There is also currently a bit of a time shift from the second pre-chorus through the rest of the song, and I haven’t decided whether to keep that or not.

As always, do let me know what you think.

Single Bitter Kiss (Wishing Well)

Baking in the desert
The folks are arguing again
We ain’t had a drop of rain
Or a quiet night at home
Since I don’t know when

It’s a hundred and ten in the shade
Looking up at the sun, I can tell
I must be heaven bound
‘Cause I’m already here in hell

REFRAIN
Why must it be the way?
How did we get like this?
Did it really all begin
With a single bitter kiss?
If I could turn back time
If I could break the spell
I’d drop a fortune
In the nearest wishing well

The day that they got married
Daddy quit the job he had
These days, he just sits at home
Drinking beer
And getting mad

I’d lay there in my bed every night
And I’d listen to my mama cry
Nothing that I could do
Except to ask myself why

REFRAIN

I’d lay there in my room
Out of sight and out of mind
I’d close my eyes and let my dreams
Take me somewhere else
Where I could leave this all behind

Even now, all the years in between
Can’t erase the scars that no one else can see
They burned their way in deep
And they’re forever part of me

REFRAIN

Baking in the desert
The folks are arguing again

© 2019 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

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The Penultimate Entry

March 30, 2019 § Leave a comment

Yes, it’s day 30 of my month-long songwriting challenge. Both today’s and tomorrow’s entries are inspired by my childhood, one directly and one more indirectly.

Today, I plan to share the more indirect entry. For years, my mother worked as a waitress, making not very much money while trying to support a family of five. (More on that in tomorrow’s post. How’s that for a tease?)

When we moved to Seattle (now a family of three), we spent several years on welfare. During that time, there was a stretch (ten days or so) when I remember only having ramen to eat.

I’m not talking about the fancy style ramen, either. I’m talking about the packages with the powdered flavoring that you find in the stores for roughly 25 to 30-cents these days.

To this day, I cannot eat or even stand to look at those cheap packages of ramen when they’ve been cooked up. The memory of eating it and nothing else has stayed with me.

That memory and probably a few others jumbled together in the recesses of my mind inspired today’s entry. I changed the subject matter a little bit, but the sentiment is the same. Do let me know what you think.

Hard Times

Nothing in the cupboards
Things have been a little tight
So the kids can eat
You’ll go without again tonight
Haven’t earned a paycheck in six months
Since the mine closed down

You’ve been talking about moving
Though the kids they like it here
You try your best to stay strong
And not let them see the fear
Not sure you can make it six more months
Staying in this town

REFRAIN
These are hard times
Just to get through one more day
The sun may be shining
You can only see the rain
These are hard times
And you feel you’ve lost your way
When the good times are all gone
Only the hard times will remain

BRIDGE
The kids are wearing last year’s shoes
Can’t afford another pair
You try not to feel it
When others look at you like you don’t care

Though you’re only forty
You’re feeling old as hell
Interviewing for a job
One look and you can tell
From the polite smile there on their face
That doesn’t hide the frown

REFRAIN

© 2019 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Up To The Challenge

March 29, 2019 § Leave a comment

Welcome to day 29 of my month-long songwriting challenge. We’re through the final turn and into the home stretch.

Today’s entry is the result of a challenge within the month-long challenge. I was recently having a conversation with my wife and was, I think, admitting one shortcoming or another.

During the course of our conversation, I think I admitted sometimes having trouble saying things correctly and remarking something to the effect of “that’s why I say it in a song.” She promptly responded that “say it in a song” sounded like it needed to be a song title. Now it is.

Of course, years ago Jim Croce wrote “I’ll Have To Say Love You In A Song.” Today’s entry is also a love song of sorts. It just seemed to be what was called for. Enjoy!

Say It In A Song

I’ve never been much good at poetry
Soliloquies have never been my style
Big gestures just aren’t in my nature
And I’m not one to say it with a smile

I’m not always sure just what to do or say
Chances are that I’ll get it all wrong
Not sure what to do
To prove that I love you
So I’ll just say it in a song

REFRAIN
You are the reason for my laughter
The reason for the air I breathe
You are my happy ever after
You give me reason to believe
If I had to name one place
Where I could belong
It would be with you
You’re here in all I do
And now, I’ve said it in a song

I’ve never been one to give presents
Flowers always seem to slip my mind
And I know when it comes to romance
I’ve always been one step behind

I’m not good at showing you affection
You might not think my feelings are that strong
Not sure how to show
My feelings so you’ll know
So I’ll just say it in a song

REFRAIN

If I had to name one place
Where I could belong
It would be with you
You’re here in all I do
And now, I’ve said it in a song

© 2019 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Just Chugging Along

March 28, 2019 § Leave a comment

Day 28 of my month-long writing challenge is here. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or is that an oncoming train?

A train would be appropriate as that is the subject of today’s entry. In yesterday’s post, I talked about being inspired while taking a walk with my family at Farewell Bend State Park in Eastern Oregon.

The park sits along the Snake River, which serves as the border between Idaho and Oregon. On the Idaho side of the river, there is a railroad track, which carries a steady stream of freight trains both east and west.

That steady stream of trains is what led to today’s entry. I’m not entirely sure what genre this song might fall into, so I suppose the catch-all category of Americana will have to suffice.

I envision this as a slightly uptempo tune, with a sort of chugging rhythm behind it. Sort of like a moving train. I hope you like it.

The Locomotive’s Song

Freight train rolling west
Think I might just catch a ride
Freight train rolls on through the night
Through small towns and prairies wide
Hear the whistle blowing
As the engine hums along
Riding through the night
To the locomotive’s song

Freight cars running empty
Lots of room to make my bed
Freight cars rolling home to catch a load
Or find a freight yard’s rest instead
Listen to the engine
Churning hard and running strong
Rolls on through the night
It’s the locomotive’s song

BRIDGE
Pistons driving, coal fires burning
Trains arriving, riders yearning
Ride the rails to forge new trails
My home’s out on the road

Freight train rolling west
Hope that there’s a space for me
Freight train rolls on through the darkness
Silhouettes are all I see
Hear the freight cars rumble
As the train keeps rolling on
Driving through the night
Hear the locomotive’s song

INSTRUMENTAL VERSE

BRIDGE

REPEAT FIRST VERSE

© 2019 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

In A More Traditional Mood

March 27, 2019 § Leave a comment

Welcome to day 27 of my month-long writing challenge. Today’s entry hearkens back to a genre I’ve found myself writing more in these days.

For some time now, I have found myself gravitating to and trying to write a more folk-like style of song. Granted, folk music can itself take on many different sounds and tempos, so there is still a world of music to discover and write in this single genre alone.

I personally think modern folk is at least a big piece of, if not the foundation for what is not classified as Americana, which is the genre I most typically identify my songs as. Today’s entry is, perhaps, a bit closer in style to the more traditional folk songs of the first half of the 20th century or perhaps earlier.

The lyrics were inspired by, of all things, a walk I recently took with my family while visiting Farewell Bend State Park in Eastern Oregon. We happened to be walking past what appeared to be a bunch of protected seedlings, planted presumably to be used in erosion prevention efforts, as the park borders the Snake River.

Looking at the seedlings (mere twigs sticking out of the ground, or so they seemed) surrounded by green mesh, we were taking guesses as to what they were – pine, spruce, etc. For some reason, I quickly veered into coming up with potential names for people whose last names were tree varietals. (Yes, my mind does really work like that.)

The first name I came up with was John Pine. From there, it was but a short stretch of the imagination to arrive at the first two lines of the lyrics below. Most of the song flowed pretty quickly from there.

Today’s entry could best be classified as a Civil War ballad. It is envisioned as a waltz, in three-four time. Because the inspiration grew out of looking at trees, I also tried to work some tree imagery into the first pre-chorus, with a veiled reference in the final verse. Do let me know what you think.

The Ballad of John Pine (Winds of War)

Fourth of November, 1863
John Pine, he ran off to war
His mama cried for John was but sixteen
She worried she’d see him no more

Strong as an oak tree but not fully grown
John wasn’t scared of dying alone
Lured by the trappings of battle
The cannon’s roar

REFRAIN
The winds of war, ever-changing
Families and lives, rearranging
Sometimes you don’t hear the bullet
That’s meant to find you

All through that winter, they battled the cold
John and his brothers in arms
Ragged and weary, they lived off the land
And scraps from war-ravaged farms

Hardened and older now beyond his years
Each night, John heard the whispers and fears
Knew that the warnings would come too late
To sound the alarm

REFRAIN

BRIDGE
Nobody knows when the end it will come
Asleep in your bed, at the point of a gun
One way or another, the bullet will find you
No matter where you might hide
Or where you might run

Tenth of September, 1864
A sniper’s gun cut John down
Another anonymous victim of war
Buried beneath blood-soaked ground

John left his mother to mourn him alone
No grave to visit, not even a stone
His last words died on the wind
Nobody around

REFRAIN

And even if you should hear it
Nothing you can do

© 2019 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Scared Witless?

March 26, 2019 § 2 Comments

Tonight, I’m planning to do something I’ve never done before, and that is play guitar in front of an audience. The only other time I’ve played guitar in front of anyone other than my wife or my guitar teacher was for a handful of people at a songwriting workshop, and I shook like a leaf throughout.

Tonight’s audience will be the local songwriters association’s monthly songwriters forum. Judging from recent crowd, it should be a packed crowd of both songwriters and non-songwriters. The one redeeming fact is that my wife will be on stage to help me out.

I was thinking about that moment of getting up on stage, guitar in hand, hoping I could remember what I planned to say, the chords, I planned to play, and the words to the song I planned to sing when I got the idea for today’s entry. The hero of our story is a fictionalized and rationalized, I suppose, though there are some differences.

As always, please do comment and let me know what you think. By the way, today’s entry also marks day 26 of my month-long writing challenge, which ends Sunday. I just might make it.

Tuesday Night Open Mic

His first time beneath the lights
And he’s shaking in his shoes
Everything to gain
Everything to lose

Trying to remember
The songs he planned to play
A little voice from deep inside
Tells him to run away

But this has been his dream
Since he was fifteen
Now he’s close to making it reality
Got his fingers crossed
That he will get it right
Playing at the open mic on Tuesday night

His hands and fingers shaking
As he tunes up his guitar
His beat up case contains the dream
That’s gotten him this far

Hopes his feet don’t fail him
As he steps up on the stage
The sweat in his eyes
Blurs the words there on the page

He looks out as the crowd
Waits for him to start
He can feel the pounding deep within his heart
Tries to find his voice
As he stands beneath the lights
Playing at the open mic on Tuesday night

BRIDGE
He opens up his mouth to sing
His voice is soft and low
The guitar chords a bit unsure
His strum a little slow
The sound, a little shaky
As he slowly picks up steam
Realizing he is finally
Living out his dream

As he finishes his song
He lets out a nervous sigh
Waits for reaction
Will his dream live or die

He hears polite applause
As he walks back to his seat
A friendly face smiles
As he tries to find his feet

Plays back his performance
Sitting in his chair
In his mind, he rates himself as only fair
Knows that he’ll be back
To try to get it right
Playing at the open mic on Tuesday night

© 2019 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

In The Home Stretch

March 25, 2019 § Leave a comment

Today marks the start of the final week of my self-imposed month-long songwriting challenge. I’ve been out of town for a few days, but I had posts scheduled to appear whilst I was away, and it appears they did in fact post.

Now I’m back at my desk for day 25. Today’s entry is inspired by the arguments that many couples have from time to time.

I admit to being clueless at times. Often, I don’t know there’s a problem until it boils over. I also tend to be a little dense in recognizing the problem or the reason for it, even after it has been explained to me.

That last sentence provides the rationale for the beginnings of each verse. As always, do let me know what you think.

Shadows Closing In

How can I defend
When I don’t know
What it is I must have done
It’s like being the hunted
Not the hunter
And always on the run

You’ve got me in your sights
And I have no defense
It seems I have no future
Here in the present tense

REFRAIN
Shadows closing in
And I can’t begin to find a reason
Looking for a spot
A solitary thought I can believe in

How can I explain
When I don’t know
Exactly why I’m to blame
It’s like being the doubted
Not the doubter
Not knowing the game

You’ve got me on the hook
And I have no way out
I can’t get beyond
A reasonable doubt

REFRAIN
REPEAT REFRAIN

© 2019 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

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