Covering Friends' Songs
2021: First I made my own album, enlisting a wee bit of help with drums, and drawing on the expertise of my friend and mentor Matt Forger, who really knows mixing and mastering, having worked with Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. It was COVID-time, and I welcomed the chance to be alone, and to play as many instruments as I could, to release an album with many characters and stories, and then to give their faces to Facebook to start some conversation, and maybe even to draw some people to my music.
THE LAST OF THE CARTOON VAGABONDS was well received and reviewed, and I found myself invited to play at Bob Stane's Backstage Gallery with a collection of wildly talented musicians who call themselves "The Roadhouse." It was an honor. Though I have gigged all of my adult life, I found myself trembling and nervous in this pin-drop listening room. But it was more than ok. And it was good to be in person again with people I had only known from streaming videos and Facebook chats.
I sat with myself, and my completed album and thought, what next? November was approaching. I had covered some folk songs in October (which became Folktober), but wondered how I could manifest the gratitude I had been feeling for the love shown to me from complete strangers, most of whom happened to be musicians. Well, so who are these people? I wondered.
The thought came to me, early morning: "You will known them by their songs, their music."
And so I had this idea. Why not just ask my Facebook friends about their music? I had to form a question. "What would be your signature song?" I didn't know what to expect.
Five hundred individuals reached out. Nearly 300 of them responded on FB, with inserted Youtubes and Soundclouds and Reverbnation links to songs I could listen to.
And I was blown away. There were soundtrack songs. Ragingly wild and honest punk rock, with intelligent lyrics. Sexy slow ballads. Funny songs. Songs with brass, big band. Very personal confessionalist pieces. Vocals ranged from powerful, belting, to whispering to wailing, from the mellifluous to the growl to the sweet, the cute. I didn't find one song I didn't like.
My next task was to choose songs I felt I could cover. I might butcher them, I might not deliver. I might not represent the song as well as the original artist. But why not try? How better to show appreciation and respect?
Of course, I couldn't cover everyone, nor would I want to. it is hard to say what it is about a song that can inspire the courage to say to the writer, "I want to cover your song." But there is a feeling there. Something I can relate to, beyond intellect. Something in the heart space, a place where I can dream and move and make.
And that is when I realised that a lot of us, for all of our talk, bluster and banter, communicate our truth in this way. This melody. These lyrics. This arrangement. The choices of these instruments. This is where we come alive with who we are, and this is something to celebrate.
Along the road, so many musicians have been burned or not acknowledged, thrown into the competitive race of the business. It can be exhilarating, but also hurtful.
This month, God knows what I will accomplish. I will wear my heart on my sleeve, put my head down, and go forth. I will do my best. And with no other intention than to make a connection. To really listen. To hear. And to express.
I may fail. But I am certain, that in learning new sonic languages, something will stick, a spark may click, and magic may happen.
This is the communion of saints and sonar gods.
Pulling up a chair, a microphone, a guitar.
Thank you to all who make music. I am listening.