Thursday, May 31, 2007

Reading Cookbooks

In an effort to avoid writing--which, as a writer by trade, hobby and temperament, is my prerogative a good part of the time--I have been reading cookbooks lately. I'm also waiting on the set up of my little home studio and have had to do something to keep myself busy while I obsess over having to wait so long to work on recording my songs.

You can't imagine the meal I made last night: sweet chili-crusted pork tenderloin with homemade mango salsa. Come on. It was delicious.

If you're killing time or maybe just putting off doing what you're meant to do, take a look at Pam Anderson's (um, yes, unfortunate name for a cookbook author who's trying hard not to be imagind by readers in a bikini) How to Cook Without a Book and CookSmart. I'm telling you, they've been absolutely wonderful. They read like novels and take away the mystery of adding flame to meat (something I've always been stumped by.)

I'll let you know when we're back to frozen pizzas and more new songs.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I'm Not Finished Being Inspired

I'm not finished chewing on what I read last week in this NYT article about Jonathon Coulton. And then today I found this--Coulton's own play-by-play of his accidental (well, not really accidental--just not exactly perfectly planned out) rise to success. He figured out a way to dump his software job (always a good idea) and dive full on into songwriting. And playing. And troubadouring. (A very good life choice in my opinion.)

And I love his honesty that he didn’t have some Dr. Evilish Master Plan that deployed him right over to where he is now.

Here’s the part I’m still thinking about: he makes a terrific case for releasing music for free. And the reason that I'm still chewing on this and thinking about actually doing something about it is because I've been bothered by the idea of selling my own music for a long time. WAIT! I know what you're going to say. Yes, an artist has a right to sell what they make. It's real. It's worth something. And yes we assign dollar amounts to things in our culture to deem them legit. And (not at all a small detail)—how else am I going to fund my next project unless I sell some of these CDs I’ve got? I financed my first project with money from my dear mother-in-law. That money’s not around now for the next one, so I’ve got to make it back with sales if I want to do the next project—and I really want to do the next project. This is all legit. Selling the music, I mean, is legit.

Here's the rub, though: I couldn't have afforded to buy what I'm selling back when it would have been really nice to buy it.

And I don't know if it's more true that I wouldn't have afforded it than that I couldn't have afforded it, but either way, I wouldn't have forked over the 14 or 15 bucks to myself for my CD. Not because I wouldn't have wanted it--I really would have, if you must know--but because I didn't have any extra cash in those days—all that diaper-ish money was just flying out the door and I was working hard to make sure we had enough for groceries. (In fact, there were days I was standing hopefully at the Coinstar maching during the last week of the month.) Don't start playing violins or anything--my husband and I made a choice to one-income it for a while so I could be home with our guys. And it was a good choice for a while (though I was, at that time, the proud recipient of two facial ticks and a surly demeanor). And it meant that things were tight. Really tight. (I didn't make that thing up about the Coinstar.)

And so during those years, musically speaking, I was square in the spot to have only the kids music that other people gave to me--hence the onslaught of bad kid choirs and electric synthesizers that drove me to my own guitar to try to get myself and my children out of the music-less pickle that we were in.

And this might make me different from the general Alterndad-ish community of my Gen X-ish generation. Maybe everybody else has plenty of cash for music. Maybe our generation thinks of music as a “staple” category and not an “extra”—maybe nobody else hesitates to drop 10 bucks or 30 on music every month. But I notice that even now when the belt’s been loosened a bit, I’m still not Mrs. Got Cash or anything, and I still don’t have a lot of music money. And maybe, I’m thinking, I’m not alone in this way.

So what I'm saying here is that I'm thinking about sharing my new stuff this summer. I've got all my songs written for the next CD and these really terrific plans to record them in a shiny studio--but only God's Uncle Bob knows when I'll be able to pull off the right convergence of cash and back up bands and chutspah to really do it.

So I’m going to post the tracks that I make on my own souped-up Garage Band set up. Because wouldn't I have liked to be able to download songs that I could sing with my kids in the car--for free?

Yeah, I would have really liked that.

Come back and check soon for free songs. They’ll be really terrific homegrown versions of the stuff I’ll record in the Big Kid Studio some one of these days. And I’ll sell those when they’re ready—I really will—for the next project and maybe for fancy t-shirts or something.

For now, though, let’s sing in the car together this summer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Song Help

I'm an only child, so it doesn't cross my mind much to ask for help from friends, but I just read this article about Jonathon Coulton and his ten bazillion web friends, and it made me think about those of you who hang out with me here. We're having a nice time, aren't we? Yes.

I'm working on a song right now called "Out of Town Grandma"--I've got some stuff I really like, but would love some more quirky routines that any of you have going in your families (don't worry, I've already covered she-buys-them-a-ton-of-candy). Anybody want to give me some really good tiny little strange details about the routines of life with an out of town grandma? I'm open. Hit me.

Let's write a song.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Generation Stoic

Okay, I don't really actually know what they call this particular generation of whipper snappers, but I teach college--as in:

And I'm telling you they all walk around with ipods in their heads. This, of course, does not bother me a bit. I've started doing it myself. Here's the weird part: they have COMPLETELY straight faces: all of them. Not one of them is AIR BANDING. I mean--no Karaoke-light; no smidge-of-lips-saying-the-lyrics; no occasional power chord on the book bag. Nothing. Total serious faces.

Personally, I can barely keep myself together when I walk from the parking lot to my class, listening to Toto (yes, Toto). There I am in the Campus Market buying over-priced, over-cooked coffee straining like crazy to keep from busting out "99--woo-oooo" and all around me are people managing to pull that off quite nicely.

I am amazed (and a little creeped out). What will all this self-possession do to their generation? I think they're all going to grow up and have mental lapses at 60 just from the sheer pressure of all that self-control.

Maybe they're all listening to NPR. Do they not listen to Journey? Does no one know of Chaka Khan? Prince? Yes?

Tragedy. Pure generation-wide tragedy.

I think I may seriously consider re-aligning our culture's current perspective on airbanding in public. I'll get back to you on this. In the meantime, I'm feeling very thankful for my solid, 80's power-chord-loud-trap-set-with-the-occasional-sentimental-synthesizer roots.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Big Carny Money

Does anybody know of any Alfalfa-look-alike contests? I'm seriously thinking that maybe we can travel around with my son and make money at carnivals or something and eat funnel cake all the time. Then we could make friends with carnies. And we could meet somebody named Tough Harvey or something and he could tell us stories of growing up setting up carnival tents. And we could get good tips. And eat more funnel cake.

C'mon. Tell me you know somebody who looks more like Alfalfa than my son Will.

Didn't think so.

It's always good to have several dreams available for the family in case one of them doesn't work out.

I'm thinking this might be a solid PLAN B for us.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I'm still thinking about song writing

I've been posting lately about what makes a good kid song--really because I'm working on the songs for my next project, and I'm (honestly) trying to figure it out.

I've hit some how-to-make-em-interesting points so far (hand-clapping, guitar strum, back-up singers . . .)

But now I'm asking the BIG question: WHAT MAKES A GOOD LYRIC? Click on over to The Lovely Mrs. Davis Tell You What to Think to check out my guest blog about this. . .