Archive for song

Bluegrass Lock-on

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2011 by Weary Hobo

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, show me a multinational corporation you can trust” -Belle Star

Wednesday 3rd August from IndyMedia Ireland

Local residents and folks from the Rossport Solidarity Camp met at the gates of Shell’s Ballinaboy refinery to begin blocking tractor movements. Everything coming out of the refinery in the morning was delayed by the protesters and no arrests were made. By 8:30am two people had locked themselves into a concrete barrel blocking the road.

The lock-on was cleared at about 12:30pm, having blocked the road for almost 4 hours. Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway, one of the people locked on, commented:

“I’m here because of the obvious corruption involved in Shell and Statoil’s gas project and the management of our resources. The Gardaí are partners in crime with Shell and Statoil in attacking the community.”

Later on people gathered at the refinery to listen to some bluegrass country music by the band Belle Star all the way from Virginia, US. The band had played a fantastic gig in McGuire’s pub the night before and commented that the refinery gig was one of their ‘strangest but most appropriate’ yet.

People were in high spirits, dancing to the music in front of a Shell truck.  The police found it difficult to use their normal force against smiling dancing people.

The hilarity made people feel pretty unstoppable. Even when guards were pushing people along the road with the Shell truck inching along, the bluegrass band kept up with everyone, walking along the road as they played, upright bass and all!

The day finished off with a traditional Appalachian square dance in front of the gates of the refinery. Everyone felt like it was a wonderful way to reclaim that space that is usually occupied by much more sinister activities.

There you go! Congrats to the awesome Belle Star from Virginia, USA for supporting community action struggling to defend their land against massive international giants.

Listen to their version of ‘Trouble in Mind’

http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_9503411

And if you’re wondering, the first line of this blog could be recognised from Doc Watson’s ‘The Train Carried My Girl From Town’. Stay connected to The Lurkers to hear where we are playing next – a Coal Seam Gas protest next week in Sydney!

W. H.

Radical approaches to songwriting

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2011 by Weary Hobo

There are a myriad of ways to write songs. I was inspired this week listening to the chants of radicals in the London protests. ‘You say cutback. We say fight back’ and ‘Revolution, revolution’. Simple songwriting with a radical message.

Another approach is more formal. You can be a member of the ‘Australian Songwriters Association‘ or ‘Songwriting Society of Australia‘ or ‘Songwriters Across Australia‘ or ‘Australian Songwriters Official National Group‘ or ‘Songwriters, Composers and Lyricists Association’ (South Australia) or ‘Tamworth Songwriters Association‘ for a nominal fee. Up until last week you could have gone along to the ‘Australian Songwriters Conference‘ but 2011 has been cancelled because of not being able to get funding.

These associations and conferences out of my league. I joined APRA last year and was paid $5.40 after spending about twenty hours trying to get my songs recognised by their admin. What are your experiences with Songwriting Associations? Do you find them valuable? Today I’m writing about a radical approach to songwriting that makes sitting with friends and sharing personal songs the equivalent of singing in the shower.

Most people I know started writing songs by copying their favourite musician. I got it in my head that I could play along with a song called ‘Given to fly‘ by Pearl Jam. Then I tried writing like Jeff Buckley (after 4:30 the video is really good). After learning that Buckley as scared as I was of performing I went searching for songs.

Inspiration (hidden under mossy stones by the gentle stream that flows in your head and heart)

What inspires me for songs is whatever is real. If I’m at dinner with my family or talking with a friend. Maybe sitting on the steps of town hall waiting for a bus, it just has to move my head or my heart. I don’t have to work to write songs like this but I have to work to finish them. The song I am writing about was inspired by a close friend who has been in and out of hospital.

The inspiration came simply after having tea with her. She left and the song came pouring out.  A radical love song because it is on the boundary of what love is. In half an hour I had a bunch of lyrics and the guitar part. After two and a half hours I had knocked out a song that felt rounded. The next part of the process for me takes the courageous plunge.

Work (if you like steps to help you in songwriting check out this book by Naomi Wolf who also wrote The Beauty Myth)

First, I record it on my phone and then listen back to it critically, preferably after a sleep. I will listen and record over and over making slight variations. This is not always a rewarding process. It is very important because it cuts the excess from your song and leaves the shiny, bright core. Excess might be simply an extra ‘the’ or it might be that the chorus is actually the verse. Maybe you find that a word sticks out uncomfortably and this is connected to your emotional state at the moment.

At this stage in writing I might even try playing the song on a different instrument like a piano or guitar. Just singing it a lot while walking can help. Writing it down lets the words look up at you from the page in a new way.

Second, share with people. This could mean busking or write it out on paper and giving it to friends you run into. I used to upload it to a website and get feedback from around random passers. It was fun but I didn’t find this very valuable to hone my writing skills because they didn’t have a real concern for that. I like the songwriting collective better than other spaces because the feedback is more genuine. There is a music group at Jura Books on Parramatta Rd or you could set one up with your friends.

Normally, the third step is performance. Get it out to the world! Such a relief to feel free of this thing you’ve kept secret for so long. Try to avoid sharing your intimates at the noisy bar on the corner where the footy will be playing behind your head. Then the song is finished yes? Maybe.

The radical step I have found most important to finishing a song is performing it to people you love who you expect could be challenged by it. It could be playing a satirical religious song to the devout or funny environmentalist song to the convener of the australian student environment network (who vehemently hated it). With the song for my friend, i had to make her my audience. For months after writing the core of the song I was avoiding seeing her because part of me was afraid to give her the song and it to hurt her. With prodding from bandmates who knew the song wasn’t finished I made arrangements to meet with her at a cafe.

When she walked in I hastily gave her my song. If you do it too slowly there is always the strong risk of backing out if you’re as cowardly about songs as I am. The fear and reluctance comes from knowing that what you will say has the potential to hurt people you love. Never forget that art can bridge the spaces between people, especially where there is a lot of confusion. It is likely that the listener will appreciate that you’ve spent time and energy and want to share the creation with them. It can also be very divisive. Be gentle. Better that they hear it now than on the radio.

In the end my friend was moved. She told me how she felt and we talked about it briefly. She gave me a couple of tips on the song. A wave of relief washed over me. I rushed home and quickly finished it with more recording, listening, recording, listening. Next step is to record it at Pirate Studios next week and share it with the world by August, 2011.

Some like Naomi Wolfs Dad will say the process to perfect songs or art never ends it just continues to develop. Some like Clinical Psychologist Ellen Langer say that the art is in its mindful creation. I wonder about these things. Good luck with your songwriting – and fundamentally be free with it.

Your in curious exploration,

Weary H.