Month: January 2015

Fast Feet

School clothes shopping is a yearly tradition for many American children. Every August, exhausted parents hit the mall with about a quarter of their paychecks while kids choose apparel that won’t get them kicked, punched, spit at, or given wedgies. Optimal gear elicits pangs of envy from the kids who frequently do get kicked, punched, spit at, or given wedgies. The third grade is particularly rough, as I recall.

It was the year Grandma bought my gym shoes.

“I have a picture of the shoes I want,” I announced, flipping through the catalog to locate the same black Converse All-Stars worn by my cousin Debbie.

Fast_Feet

Debbie was three years older than me. She had a cassette tape collection. The summer before, she and my other cousin Jenny told me the meanings of all the bad words they knew. I told my sister one of them and got my mouth washed out with soap.

“Mmmhmm,” Grandma nodded, barely glancing in my direction. She crushed out her Winston and picked up a bright pink tube of lipstick.

Grandma lived in a house with powder-blue asbestos siding that featured its own special smoking room. It was in that room that I cornered her, insistent upon getting the shoes that would assist in my leap to third grade stardom and mega-popularity. I held up the catalog once again, pointing to the black Converse footwear with the Chuck Taylor signature that I had circled three times with a pen.

She scanned the page.

“Okay. Go play,” she said.

I grinned and ran off, encouraged by the fact that my request was approved quickly.

Two weeks later my shoes arrived.

I was just getting off the bus when I saw the enormous blue Ford parked in the driveway. It was all I could do not to turn around and sneer at Jason Carlson who had been poking me in the head with a permanent marker. I had black dots on my scalp. They would wash off but my cool teenager shoes would last forever.

“I hope they’re the right size,” said Grandma as she handed them over. “You kids’ feet grow so fast.”

The box looked funny.

I flipped open the top and peered inside.

The brightness of hot pink and teal canvas stung my eyes. “Fast Feet,” it said on the outside of each shoe. There was no white circle and no blue star.

Grandma poured herself a glass of brandy.

“They had them at Kmart,” she said. “Now you’re all set.”

I was all set – to die of embarrassment.

I was all set to run across the gym floor and not be able to stop because the soles of my shoes were hard white plastic. They also made terrible skidding, shrieking sounds. I don’t know how many times I ran into the wall doing relays. I was picked last for every game, and I can’t even talk about dodge ball.

I still have the scar. On my soul.

“Thank you,” I whispered, clutching the box to my chest, as if there was an animal inside trying to escape.

I slipped silently back to my bedroom and closed the door.

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Story Behind the Song – Love Shine

The original idea for the song Love Shine came about while I was in the midst of a home brewing project. For anyone who has attempted to brew beer at home, you understand what a long process it is. There is a lot of boiling, and timing, and waiting. The mind tends to wander.

I had just stirred in the first batch of hops (Cascade) and started singing about the steps involved.

The parallels between being drunk and being in the early stages of love abound. Feelings of warmth, excitement, and the awareness that you’re probably a bit out of your mind are all similar between the two. Since I was no stranger to either states of being, I had a lot of material.

I recorded lyrics and melody as a voice memo on my phone and promised myself that I would come back to it as soon as I had pitched the yeast and the beer was safely in the fermenter.

Get the free single – Love Shine

Love Shine Album Cover Single

Advice from a Hit Writer

After playing the first version of the song numerous times with my band, Delavan, I signed up for the Barbara Cloyd Songwriting Workshop at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. Barbara penned the 1993 hit “I Guess You Had to Be There,” by Lorrie Morgan and I asked her for some advice on how to improve the track.

The gist of her comments were that the current lyrics were too abstract, and it was hard to understand what was going on. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t worked out what was going on myself, other than loosely relating being drunk to being in love. Then there was the title, Love Shine (instead of Moonshine). I thought that was a fun twist on the whole “drunk on you” concept.

As a result of the initial feedback from Barbara, I worked harder on crafting a story and submitted the rewrite for publishers.

Some of the changes were as follows:

Original lyric –

I met you, we were growing wild

Playing breezy like a child

Come together and falling fast

Down in the pot with a boiling mash

Rewritten lyric –

I met you, we were going wild

Waking all the neighbors in a country mile

Lately all they hear is fighting

Time to bring out a jar of mama’s white lightning

Spit and Polish

As a writer, I spent a lot of time focusing on creative turns of phrase and apt titles. I didn’t try to have a cohesive, trackable story. Sometimes that works, and it can be fun to analyze abstract lyrics. I have an appreciation for that kind of music, but my goal is to challenge myself to write in a variety of genres so that I can choose the direction that’s right for the song – and for me.

The Delavan release of Love Shine was recorded at Real Phonic Studio in Minneapolis by Erik Koskinen. Vero played bass, and Mark Larson played drums. There were a few guitars. One’s me playing acoustic. James Gould plays throughout, and Erik laid another track or two on top.

David Feeny at the Tempermill in Detroit did the mastering. I always like to throw that out there because he played on Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose record with Jack White. That was a big record for me personally, and I’ve always been a fan of Lynn’s – and White’s for that matter. Being able to work with people whom you admire is a very satisfying personal and professional experience.

One of the publishers at the workshop likened the finished version of Love Shine to country artist Ashley Monroe. He also said that traditional country songs like this one are a tougher sell in the current commercial country market (Summer of ’14). Tastes change, and only time will tell if traditional country will make it back on the radio. I hope so, not just for my own work, but because I really enjoy it.

Oh, PS – The beer turned out good too.

Hear It Now

I’ll keep writing. In the meantime, you can get the free single for Love Shine.

Full Lyrics

I met you, we were going wild

Waking all the neighbors in a country mile

Lately all they hear is fighting

Time to bring out a jar of mama’s white lightning

<chorus>

Stir it up, baby just listen

Won’t be long ’til we get to kissin’

Little bit dizzy but I’m feeling fine

Pour me a cup of that love shine

<verse2>

I like it strong, ’bout a hundred proof

Feel the warm rush seeping through

Tell me baby what I got to do

So we get drunk off of me and you

<chorus2>

Stir it up, baby just listen

Won’t be long ’til we get to kissin’

Little bit dizzy but I’m feeling fine

Can’t get enough of your love shine

<bridge>

Lock the windows and steam the pane

Drive the fire like a union train

Getting tipsy when you hold me tight

It’s the kind of buzz that’s gonna last all night

<chorus>

Stir it up, baby just listen

Won’t be long ’til we get to kissin’

Little bit dizzy but I’m feeling fine

Can’t get enough of your love shine

<instrumental>

Stir it up, baby just listen

Won’t be long ’til we get to kissin’

Little bit dizzy but I’m feeling fine

Can’t get enough of your love shine

Need a little more of your love shine

You got to give me that love shine