How do you know when a song is done?

August 3, 2013

When you run out of lead.

I never would have written I’m Yours or I Wont Give Up without a regular writing practice. Neither song came from me saying, I’m going to sit down and write me a song today. Instead, they emerged from a regular habit of playing guitar and channeling my thoughts, feelings and emotions through song. In other words, a habit of making stuff up. Or in a deeper sense, becoming an instrument that Spirit gets to play.

I could add that the process is mystical, healing, uplifting, etc. But those instances are rare, or are often only experienced when looking back at a completed section. The moment I were to say, this is magical, I would then be observing it, thus removing myself from actually being a part of it. Therefore in songwriting, whenever possible, it’s best not to think at all, and just hand yourself over to the play.

The actual writing process can be exhausting. I might have my chords and my melody, and can see and hear the path the song wants to take, but I may not have the words. To find them requires focus, looping the section over and over as the body and mind dances to fit different thoughts and ideas into the best possible cadence, while considering alliteration, internal rhyme and end rhyme, with the goal of it all sounding palatable. It takes a lot of effort to make it sound effortless.

Whenever I’m without words I turn to books, magazine or film. It’s pretty natural for me to come out of a movie feeling transformed and then go home and apply my new outlook to a song. The same happens after a yoga class. Should I truly hand myself over to the instruction of the teacher, my mind gets a moment to tune into something new, thus giving me a new outlook. Fresh from a yoga class you’d think I was stoned. Which interestingly is another option for expanding one’s view, but can also limit one’s ability to make sense.

When I read, I have to be careful not to let the book’s voice become my own. I credit Rumi, Hafiz, Neil Donald Walsh, Daniel Quinn, Alan Weisman, Alan Watts, Barbara Kingsolver, Dan Brown, David Sedaris, and Kelly Oxford for keeping my wit, world view, and pencil sharpened.

For every 12 songs that appear on an album, there are approximately 70 that get discarded. This is due to some songs being just plain boring, or predictable, or too weird. Some seem to lack truth or necessity. Others may not have quite as catchy a lyric or melody. And then there are some that almost make it to the finals, but are edged out by another song too close in style. An example of this can be heard in Don’t Change At All, which was recorded during Love Is A Four Letter Word, but in the end too closely resembled Who’s Thinking About You Now, and therefore got bumped to a bonus-track category, not in the top 13 that made the final playlist.

There’s always a few songs cut from an album that, to quote Boyz II Men, are so hard to say goodbye. At first they remain in consideration for future projects, but time and new experiences usher in new songs which eventually take precedence. On many occasions a song just needs time to mature and realize itself. I’m Yours, in fact was recorded with Steve Lillywhite during the making of Mr. A-Z, but didn’t make it onto the final album. It would take another 3 years of touring before the song found its footing.

Of the archive of songs that time left behind, I trust one day I’ll find a way to share them. As a songwriter, I’d be honored if another artist recorded my work, but I haven’t yet established a system to promote my unheard material, nor am I eager. In many ways, the unheard song is vital to the life of the popular song because without it, the popular song would never have been written. The lost song lives forever in the foundation. It’s more than just another page turned, but an integral part of the process I had to go through to get to the next level.

Occasionally songs get leaked and audiences hear my voice on something they’ve never heard and they assume it’s new or upcoming material. Recently, an demo of a song called, I Don’t Miss You, found it’s way onto the internet under the assumption of it being poised for release. It bums me out when that happens as I would prefer the listener know my work in real-time. But a song is a song and has it’s own life outside of the writer’s. I wrote I Don’t Miss You with Rick Nowels in 2010. It was one of many I wrote with Rick back then. Two of our efforts from that era did find their way onto Love Is A Four Letter Word; them being Living In the Moment, which we locked ourselves in the studio all night to complete & The World As I See It, a relatively quick and easy song inspired by Albert Einstein’s memoir of the same name.

The majority of the upcoming songs for the new album currently in production were written with LA-Based foursome, Raining Jane over three long-weekends between October 2012 & May 2013. Some of the material has been road-tested and more will be revealed as touring resumes in the coming months.

I have faith my current recording experiment will become an album for release. Although, we’re only giving ourselves a little more than 2 weeks to make it, which is kind of an old fashioned approach. It means we have to be well-rehearsed and no one gets too much time to over-think it. The result so far is sounding genuine, groovy and gorgeous. I trust many will appreciate it’s less-is-more approach. Otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board in the classroom of yoga.

In the meantime, live like an instrument, and stay tuned.

INSTAGRAM STREAM

Reigning Janes

July 28, 2013

Songwriting is about risk-taking. One simply needs a safe, open space to say or do anything in order to see/hear what wants to stick to the page. In a collaborative effort, all must be open to trial and experimentation. Without complete freedom of expression, a song will lack the necessary truth required to give it life. Without truth, a song is just a song. It may be clever, or sound pretty, but it may not fly as high. In order to create a great song, one must be willing to trade in clever for truth, especially when the truth doesn’t feel safe to share. It’s playing by these standards that songwriting becomes an adventure for the courageous.

 

 

Meet Raining Jane: a female-foursome of risk-taking road veterans who have toured extensively on their original music for more than a decade. They are also the co-founders of The Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls, Los Angeles, an intensive program that empowers young women to rock in all aspects of their lives.

 

I first met Raining Jane, in September of 2006 at the University of Redlands. We were on the same schoolyard festival bill. With thoughtful lyrics, brilliant harmonies, diverse instrumentation, a high energy percussionista, and good looks, they were a tough act to follow. I played alone, nervously hammering through my set while begging forgiveness. After the gig I bowed to them, suggesting we collaborate. A few months later, we gathered at my home studio for the first of what has now become a long tradition of annual writing retreats known as ladies’ weekend.

 

Within the first few writing sessions, Raining Jane and I unearthed a few songs that would transform all of our lives. Songs like Silent Love Song, which we donated to San Diego’s Fire Relief Project in 2007; Collapsible Plans which won best original song in the Hollywood Film Festival for the amazing documentary The Big Fix; And Beautiful Mess, which has gone on to become a concert classic.

 

It didn’t take long for The Janes and I to realize we shared the same core values and shared a passion for truthful, healing songwriting. Our shared vision is to use our creative gifts to improve the world, not belittle it. Whenever we make time to write together, it’s always magical, and as you can imagine, the songs have started piling up.

 

For the next two weeks, The Janes and I are exploring what it would sound like if we were to record an album together. Stay tuned for updates, leaks and previews as this surprising new story unfolds. In the meantime, enjoy this clip of The Janes and I performing together for Feeding The Soul back in 2010.

 

 

 

A Pep Talk

July 22, 2013

From the good souls at Soul Pancake. I love this.

The Solution Is In The Soil

July 18, 2013

Airports have become so familiar to me that I’m beginning to build friendships with airline staff and TSA employees. Even the customs officials welcome me home or see me off with congratulations on my gigs. Homeland Security officials grew to know me over the years, mispronouncing my name at first, to questioning the validity of my jobs overseas, to eventually asking for autographs and pictures. Their gradual awareness has become the meter on which I have measured my success. Thanks TSA. You’re my TMZ.

 

The Heathrow lounge teems with quiet excitement like a study hall. It’s here, on my way to Istanbul, that I get time to brush my teeth, lengthen my spine, and thanks to free wi-fi, share an awesome video with you.

 

As you may or may not know, I keep track of flights and offset the carbon emissions by planting trees and supporting organic farms and gardens. Below is the TED talk from Graeme Sait, who’s research linking soil health to human health will open your eyes and blow your mind as he connects the health of our food to the health of our whole system. As both an organic farmer and a man of the world, this TED talk speaks directly to me, proving that there IS hope for humankind. All we have to do is humbly bow to the Earth.

 

In the age of information, ignorance is a choice. Thanks for spreading the message and doing your part. xo

 

You Got Life. You Gotta Live It.

July 15, 2013

When I lose someone, the hardest part is that I am no longer able to tell them I love them.

 

The music community celebrates Felipe Canete, who sang, danced and played guitar as an integral member of Luc & The Lovingtons. His Chilean heritage brought an authentic latin flavor to the heart-centered band, fusing music of many rhythms and styles to help create their unique sound.

On May 17th, Filipe (pictured left,) passed away as a result of a heart condition he’d managed all throughout his young life. He is survived by his wife Katy and their two year old son, Rio. Donations to help alleviate immediate financial stress can be made at http://www.youcaring.com/memorial-fundraiser/felipe-s-family-fund/60864.

 

This weekend I had the pleasure of performing again with the new generation of The Lovingtons’ musical family, who are currently on the road fulfilling the tour that Filipe booked. (You may remember The Lovingtons from previous years’ tours, or by their hit THE FREEDOM SONG, which I recorded for my album last year.)

 

In a small private setting yesterday, musicians and friends who knew Filipe gathered to sing and share stories, shake his percussion instruments, and honor the mystical, magical spirit of a friend who will now live on inside all of our hearts. His passing reminds me to celebrate life.

 

In addition to being a father and a good friend, Felipe was also a teacher, blending language lessons with music to help his students connect more intimately and joyfully with the classroom curriculum. Joy was his modus operandi. Joy and Filipe were never not seen apart.

 

Despite having a diagnosed condition, Filipe only always lead with this heart; suggesting to me that having compassion for your weaknesses only makes you stronger. I will miss his smile, his accent, his dance moves, and immeasurable excitement to improve the attitude of the world, but he will live forever in the music and through the many hearts of those his touched.

 

The Los Angeles community will honor Filipe & The Lovingtons this Tuesday, July 16th at the Roxy’s intimate upstairs room in West Hollywood. Send your love!

 

 

 

Never Never Never Give Up

June 21, 2013

Last weekend I ran in the Hey Day 5k alongside pal, Jesse Billauer, to raise money for Life Rolls On, an organization he founded to fund spinal cord injury research and to help those with spinal cord injuries continue to live extraordinary lives. Jesse was injured & paralyzed in a surfing accident 17 years ago when he was just 17. After spending now half of his life in a wheelchair, Jesse mustered up the strength and courage to use what limited ability he has remaining in his arms to roll his first official 5k. We came in together just under 30 minutes.

On the run were many other athletes, some there to run, some there to roll, some to raise money, but all having fun. Thanks to those who donated and/or came out to strengthen our numbers and muscles.

At the starting line just before the race, I met Misty Diaz, runner on a mission, and walking canes! Born with Spina bifida, one of the most common birth defects with a worldwide incidence of about 1 in every 1000 births, Diaz has undergone 28 surgeries to stay on her feet. Most people with spina bifida never walk, but Misty is on zero medication and runs 5ks, 15ks, and half marathons to inspire others; showing us that one’s dreams can still be reached, no matter how long a road may seem, no matter the circumstances we are given, just so long as we never never never give up. Misty’s finish time was an impressive 45 minutes.

 

After learning about Misty’s mission to share Never Never Never Give Up with others living with spina bifida, I sent her a copy of I Won’t Give Up (9 Theory Remix) to add to her race-day playlist hoping it would support her mantra and keep her looking up. You can hear I Won’t Give Up (9 Theory Remix) by clicking on the icon below or visiting my soundcloud page.

 

For more info on LifeRollsOn, visit LifeRollsOn.Org and join us September 2nd at the Santa Barbara Bowl for our concert to raise money and awareness for LRO, Jesse Billauer, & The Jason Mraz Foundation.

 

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