Inside Song: Inviting The Muse

Excellent songs can be made at lightning speed, with little intent, hardly any effort and no training, using a minimum of technical ability. It doesn’t matter how it was made. A good song is a good song, and sometimes all that’s needed are a couple chords, some very simple lyrics and a basic melody. But it’s not often the case that great songs come effortlessly, and even when they do, it’s usually because of something more than just blind luck or “natural” talent.

IMG_1104I started writing songs when I was a junior in high school. Actually, it’s more accurate to say, “I started writing song fragments” back then. I would write a riff (that was a direct rip-off of “Sunshine of Your Love” or “Black Dog”) or a chorus or pages of words that were neither good enough to pass as poetry or musical enough to cram into a verse.

This went on for a couple of years resulting in maybe a small handful of completed songs that time has generously erased. I studied Music Composition and focused on other musical practices before winding my way back to songs. When I did return, I wrote secretly for a few years, fortunately having enough insight to recognize that the songs were “not yet ready for prime time.” It took grinding my way through dozens and dozens of songs over more than a decade before I felt like I had something worth sharing publicly.  Read More →

Pandora Whiteboard Sessions: Perma perform “Little Light”

Perma is an indie alternative duo that combines the voices of Max Bemis from Say Anything and Sherri Dupree-Bemis from Eisley. A blend of pop, punk and acoustic elements, the band’s sound emerged as an interplay between two independent talents connected by a musical love story; Perma’s station features artists such as Lydia, Dresses and The Paper Kites. They stopped by Pandora and performed their song “Little Light”

Pandora Whiteboard Sessions: Eric Hutchinson performs “Tell The World”

Eric Hutchinson is an American pop singer-songwriter with roots in both NYC and LA. Distinguished by rhythmic guitar and piano melodies, Eric’s music is often matched to the works of Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, and John Mayer, all of whom can be heard on his station. His catchy acoustic energy can be discovered in the live rendition of “Tell the World” from the most recent album, Pure Fiction.

Pandora Whiteboard Sessions: The Dandy Warhols perform “Sleep”

The Dandy Warhols started making music in Portland back in 1994. Known for blending elements of garage rock and psych pop, the band can be heard on many Pandora stations including Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Kasabian. The Dandys came by the office for a warmhearted set featuring Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Peter Holmström and Brent DeBoer all on acoustic guitar and Zia McCabe on keys. The band takes on their classic “Sleep” from their seminal album Thirteen Tales of Urban Bohemia in this performance at Pandora HQ in Oakland.

Pandora Whiteboard Sessions: Marissa Nadler performs “1923″

Marissa Nadler is a Boston-based singer-songwriter known for her unique musical style of blending dream pop and ambient folk. Artists including Mariee Sioux, Iron & Wine and Meg Baird, with their luring acoustic ambiance, can also be heard on Marissa’s station. In a live performance of “1923″ from the album July, Marissa captured the audience with her mesmerizing voice.

 

Inside Song: The Origins of Lyrics

A few years ago, I saw the band The Court and Spark. It was the record release concert for their final album, Hearts, at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. They were an excellent live band, and it was a great show, but I have a much clearer memory of that show than I do of others I went to around the time because at one point during their set, I distinctly misheard a lyric and it sent my brain spinning down the path of writing a new song.

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 3.46.57 PMI heard something that sounded like, “One of her eyes is Dixie weed.” Though I knew that wasn’t what the singer was saying, it was such an evocative image in my mind – I could see perfectly the lush, yellow-green of the color “Dixie weed,” and I thought there were rich metaphoric implications of a character with two different-colored eyes – that it stuck. I borrowed a pen, found a napkin and jotted it down. The next day I sat with my guitar and chased the rest of the song with that misheard lyric launching the whole thing off: “One of her eyes is Dixie weed, the other New Mexico blue.” Musically, it didn’t sound anything like the Court and Spark song, but its origins were somehow tied up with the band and that moment at the concert as well as whatever personal thoughts and emotions were swirling around in my life at the time. Read More →