Tie it up with a Bow

Wow – what a wrap up!  What a great challenge!
This has been quite an amazing experience to be part of this challenge this year.  It’s been nice to be put hard at work and really be the one benefitting from the outcome!  I’ve learned a lot and will carry it forth with me as I continue this journey as a songwriter.
The last week/challenge didn’t quite pan out the way I had hoped but I’m realizing that this is part of the journey too.  I had a drummer, a backup drummer and a vocalist all lined up and someone available to assist with some of the production elements.   Lastly, I had/have a song I’ve been working and reworking for months, taking it to many song circles for feedback.
Things first began to fall like dominos when one collaborator in this project had to decline due to significant family crisis.  Then the next one from feeling overwhelmed by his/her workload.  I decided to carry forward and work with what I could get and so the pieces continually were shifting.
I was finally able to get some great drums for the song but out -of- the- blue, the drummer’s recording equipment went kaput and so we had to record the drum track my primitive phone for the time being.  However, this recording could not even be taken to another drummer as my son dropped my last salvaged piece of the project into a cup of water right before I was able to download it onto my computer.  Bye bye phone.  Bye bye drum track.  Bye bye collaborators.  I seriously started to question my luck and if something was trying to tell me it wasn’t meant to be.
But I’m a bit stubborn and more than a little driven, so I’ve clumped together the pieces I have done myself to present.  Not my best foot forward and I’ve questioned the judgement of this move, but after getting some other professionals’ advice, decided to stick my neck out anyway.  Nobody ever got noticed staying “at home.”
The other part of this whole thing is that I just kinda like my song.  And I would like to share it.  It has gone through a lot of work from it’s original form and has truly taught me the art and the value of re-writing.  Funny enough, I began writing this song long before this challenge and it was partially inspired by “Pumped up Kicks” – one of the songs that Matt Dusk referenced.  I’ve had many people interpret “Ghosts” in different ways and it’s been so interesting to hear their stories as they have told me how it impacts them.  To have created something that could be a conversation piece is a great feeling.
So here I am – sticking my neck out and just being thankful to have learned a few pointers along the way.  Thank you to our coaches.  Thank you to the folks presenting the challenges.  Thank you to all the other wonderful songwriters taking part.
And now, back to the writing.  There’s so much to do and get out I think I may need a few lifetimes for it.  Maybe this is the recipe to living to 100 years old?!
The song versions for the Matt Dusk challenge:

Gone Country

This week marks my first completed co-write within the SAC challenge and I lucked out getting to work with west-coasters Dean Sawastky and  Lucy Leblanc.  There was an atmosphere of openness, complimentary strengths, flexibility and getting-down-to-business – perfect breeding grounds for a successful co-write.

The wonderful thing about working within a group  is the speed at which ideas can be brought up and worked through.  Having three minds certainly helps move through little ruts or mind blocks to keep the momentum going.  Generally speaking, I really love co-writing and this experience reminded me ever further of its value.

As for the challenge, going country was definitely different for me but didn’t feel to far from my prairie roots.  I’ve always found the country music I like to bring out holding true to good values in life – like staying grounded, simplicity and family.  Not only did we come up with a song that reflects such, but holding true to my value of family time also resulted in limited time to work on the song and blog this week!

So to be short, sweet and to-the-point  – here is the song we wrote:



No Bananaphone Here



The Research

This week began with self-led onslaught of Raffi, Putamayo Playgrounds for kids and playful adult songs.  The result of which was a never-ending recording of  “Bananaphone” taking up more of my mental time than I care to admit.  But, you know, ya gotta do your research.  I figured if Matthew McConaughey can lose 47lbs for a movie role, maybe my little broken mental record wasn’t so bad.

The Logistics

Despite all the work going on in my head, it’s been a very difficult week to get stuff done.   With a revolving door of tradesmen in to deal with a broken-down furnace/new piping and family members coming and going, it is now the 11th hour of Sunday night.   I have two versions of a song written for this week’s challenge and very good intentions to get it all down in a recording before tomorrow’s 11th hour.  Not my finest in terms of deadline management.  But still managing none-the-less.

I will chalk this up to a good learning experience in teaching me what many writers experience often – lots to do and not enough time/space to do it.  Story of many peoples’ lives I’m sure.

Mind Games

As far as the music, this week’s challenge has been a fun one.  At least, after scrapping the first song I worked on over the first couple days.  After admitting to myself that the first song just wasn’t keeping me enthused, I decided if I wasn’t enthused about it, no one else would be either.  So on to song two – a song which seems to me almost like a trick I don’t trust.  Though I like to play it, it seems almost TOO simple and I have to resist temptation to go back in and muck it up a bit, complicate it a little.  Kids are simple though – shouldn’t the song be?  I guess popular opinion and sharing with others is the only way to find out I suppose.

Today’s dilemma is deciding which version to unleash – one about innocent young love or one about being best friends.  Tomorrow’s dilemma will be how to scrounge up enough children in one room to give me a children’s chorus.  Seeing as how most of my son’s friends a pre-verbal, this may prove to be a bit difficult.  This may have to be put on a wish list for a later date come to think of it.

By this time tomorrow, there will be a song link right below here in this pretty little spot to show the results of my little mini dilemmas….

And Finally, the Music…


Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be.. Top 40 Pop Writers?


It was annoying and funny to me that during this week’s pop challenge I kept thinking about the influences on teens today, music being a huge one.   Then my train of thought wandered to – is Max Martin is single-handedly leading our youth?  Kidding… sort of.  Anyhow, without my permission some sort of internal process of motherly censorship began as I started this song, competing with a desire to be the cool kid at school who says/does something a little “riskeh.”  I think the cook kid desire may have strong-armed “mom” in the final show down …

I already had the title “Instant Gratification” in my handy little book of jot-downs and thought it could be a nice fit for this week’s challenge.  Getting out what I am hearing inside is proving to be the challenging part.   It seems be shaping into one of those songs that requires a huge set of pipes and production know-how.  And a lot of chocolate to draw not only inspiration (instant gratification at it’s best), but energy.  I have put a whole lotta time into this one – in a short period of time!  And I know it’s going to get even more time in future because I like the idea and I’m not ready to throw that out.

Then there’s the lyrical debate – universal, but perhaps not enough descriptors to draw people in? On the whole, the process is bringing up a lot of back-and-forth within myself.  But one thing that has not changed is the syncopated melodic hook paired with the title that’s been running around in my head since I wrote down the title.  So everything else has worked around this.

If there’s one thing this challenge has done for me is put fire under my (expletive) to find people who can take up the slack in areas that aren’t my forte.  You would think being in such a large group this would be easy, but because it’s so large it’s actually been a little tricky.  First off, to pick someone to ask among such talent is tough, but also because I’m such a face-to-face person and that’s how I’ve met all the people with whom I’ve worked/co-written.  Interestingly, I picked up the phone this week and connected with a producer I’ve been researching for my upcoming EP for quite some time.  And…made a few more cyber contacts with others in our group – so something is working

Speaking of working… there’s more to do.  Back to the music…

To take a listen to the latest version of “Instant Gratification” please see:

Music to my ears

When I heard about the S.A.C. Challenge 2015 it was music to my ears.  A chance to 1) meet other writers, 2) build community, 3) learn industry-related info and 4) practice the craft 5) put a little fire into progressing quickly – seemed to me like it should all add up to a good time!  Despite never being too saavy with numbers, I think I did my math right – so far it’s held up to my expectations.  And true to it’s title, it has also been a challenge.

Lucky for me I’m too excited about the music and opportunities ahead to over-focus on the challenges – at least for now.  Did I mention what a cool group of folks this is?  I’ve been making efforts to reach out to local folks in the challenge but also dropping lines to people across the country who have what I enviously want!  So far, one fella and I agreed to keep each other on our radar for an upcoming co-write.  Another has been so kind as to share his production knowledge with me via messaging and a phone call.  I suppose there’s something to “Ask and you shall receive” – and if you don’t, ask again or maybe just ask someone else..?

And now for the challenges and my ever-evolving plan for handling them

Challenge 1: I’ve got that feeling you get in the bottom of your stomach when you gotta get your S…..tuff together quickly.  Remedy – tell myself its good anticipation, beautiful flip side of anxiety.  Manage my expectations – whatever comes of this, it will be good.

Challenge 2:  My inbox has never been so full – which is beautiful cause it’s full of voices of like-minded people – but crazy to keep up with!  Remedy – don’t try to keep up with it.  Take it in as I can and when I can, refrain from become addicted to checking my inbox – time is precious right now.

Challenge 3:  Getting up to speed with tech and yet not getting eaten alive by its massivity (is that a word? – is now)  Remedy – connect with people in the know and save mastering blogging and website widgets, tagging, clipits or whateverits for a time when that is my focus – for now there is music to make.

Challenge 4:  Needing more hours in a day than the sun and moon allow.  Remedy – get up earlier, stay up later and set boundaries around my music making time.  Proving to be very difficult as my 2yr old has yet to learn ANY boundaries so why on earth would he care about mine 🙂 ?

Challenge 5:  Creating a better-than-fabulous song.  I think I’ve got the general groove I want and general topic/title and a skeleton template.  Difficulty is that sometimes I get this far and then wake up the next morning to hating it all the next day.  Luckily I love the music that Matt Dusk loves – but it is tricky to balance the direction the song wants/needs to go and the direction it may need to go to suit Matt.

Phew – enough said.  I think I just gave myself an express lane, caffeine-laden therapy session.  Time for a breather.