Some of you may know that I am also a teacher. Personally, I don't think of this as being entirely separate from playing music, as they are both rooted in the same fundamental desire to spread knowledge, wisdom and empathy to as many people as possible. These are simply different modes for doing so, with different ideas that I seek to convey.
I mention all of this because the songs that I am sharing with you today started as assignments that I gave myself, where I played the role of both teacher and student.
The first song, Black Ribbon Day, comes from my recent album, Embers (2021). The assignment that I was working from was that I wanted to write a song about a specific historical event, something along the lines of Gordon Lightfoot's Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. However, instead of writing about a cargo ship that sank in Lake Superior, I wrote a song about the day that the citizens of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia declared their independence from the Soviet Union by holding hands between their capital cities. I thought it was a beautiful story that more people should know about, and who doesn't like a little bit of self-taught banjo in their accompaniment tracks?
The second selection that I would like to share is called The Fool, from my 2017 album Good Night, Fahrenheit. The idea here was to write a song where only the voicing changes at the chorus, but the underlying notes remain the same. Basically, I wanted to see if I could write a four chord song and make it interesting. As it started coming together, it sounded more and more like a bitter breakup song, so that's what it became. I would describe it as something that lands in the vast, mostly vacant field between punk, country and space rock, if that makes any sense. Even when I'm working within the parameters of a self-imposed assignment, more often than not, I try to let the song tell me what it's about.
As was the case with Black Ribbon Day, this next song was also an exception to that particular rule. There are several other tracks I have written over the years that also began as assignments by and for myself, but the last one that I am going to share with you today is called Extra>Ordinary. It comes from my 2019 album, Better Days. With this one, the goal was to write a song that fits into the "small town girl moves away to the big city" subgenre of rock music, but I wanted mine to be a story where things actually work out well for her. Otherwise, that never seems to happen in these songs. To be perfectly honest, I'm not thrilled with the vocals on this one, but I do what I can with what I've got. It's all part of being a DIY musician.
Enjoy. Share. Go outside. Be thankful for something. That's an assignment. Now get to it.
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