Location, location, location

From my real estate friends, I know how important that “L” word is. And I could argue it’s pretty damned important in songwriting too. Here are 3 ways I can make that contention.

First, let’s call it curb appeal: the title. When do you get your first chance to grab folks? Title. Make sure it does its job! Here are a few examples: Cop Car, Sympathy for the Devil, Cake by the Ocean, Bitch, She Don’t Use Jelly. Like a nice flowerbed framing a well manicured Japanese Maple offsetting an old refurbished barn door turned front door. I wanna know more! 

Second: floor plan. You’ve walked through that open house and gotten to that one bedroom that has a door leading into a random room that has yet another door that leads to the back yard. Confused? Yeah, and how ‘bout that song where verse 2 seems to lead nowhere and references nothing else in the song whatsoever? Write each line so that it leads back to the concept; the title; Feng Shui y’all. 

Last, and I’m gonna argue this is one of the most important. AND I am gonna assume you already know where the hook goes (I mean, you know exactly where to put the claw foot tub, right?). I say one of the truly underrated and most important locations in songwriting is that line or two before the hook. Take “In Color” by Jamey Johnson. Hell yes the lyric and hook “you should’ve seen it in color” is one of the coolest lines ever. But arguably “if it looks like we were a couple of kids just trying to save each other…” sets that line up in a downright immaculate way. 

So, definitely put that apartment building next to the future site of the soccer stadium. And, by all means, plant trees to break up the site line to the power plant. But man, make sure you put your song and all it’s parts in the all the right places. 

The Stapleton Effect

Let’s get the gratuitous Stapleton worship out of the way. I totally agree with you, he’s a different kind of great. One that you just want to hear, want to route for and then ultimately, tell your friends “I told you so” when he wins, cause you knew how badass he was a long time ago.

I wrote with him a while back and truly did get to hear, up close, how amazing he is. Just in the room with an acoustic guitar singing “blah, blah” makeshift, mumbly lyrics…it was killer. Magic.

But I’m not the rabid fan. I followed from afar. I got the latest album and dig it a lot and completely see why it’s created a little spark-turned-inferno. But I’m not that hard-core guy. Never saw the Steel Drivers (sacrilege in some parts of Tennessee). Don’t have his “old stuff”.

 FUN FACT: You know who is one of those “hard-cores”? Adele (the other “current coolest person in music”).  She covered a Steel Drivers/Stapleton penned song for the Euro release of her 21 album. Cool, huh?

 So, he is on top of the music world right now.  Dude has a night like the one he had a few nights ago. Where the stars line up. Performance with Justin Timberlake (that tore faces off from gritty to glitzy) followed up by a handful, no armful of awards. 

 Now what?

 Country music is fine. Okay more like on fire. So, it doesn't need a savior. But, what will that night and Chris’ success do to the genre?

 Probably, not much. There’s still gonna be the kind of stuff on the radio that some people write off as “not credible”. Still gonna be the staples: those artists who release albums and just get played. A newcomer will blow up that we’d never heard about 3 months ago, etc, etc. They’ll be a duo or two, a band here or there.

 But what about that special talent that doesn’t fit into a box? Like Stapleton. Will labels take a chance? Will radio?

Hell, will radio take a chance on Chris Stapleton?

Here’s hoping they do. That a chance is given to that chick or dude or band that doesn’t fit immediately and easily into the world that a lot of folks call country music. What if it throws back a little or pushes the limits. What if his hairs too long or he’s a little rough around the edges? What if she sings about things that might be a little extreme? Maybe they’ll get the shot they might not have a few months ago.

 Here’s the deal. There might not be a seismic shift in country music. The Stapleton effect might not be anything other than…Chris Stapleton.

 Oh, alright. We’ll take it. (And plus: now we got new Adele).

Not Just A Drummer

We went to see the Foo Fighters last week here in Nashville. And holy hell! This is truly the best live band we got going folks. Okay, I saw Muse last year and they were amazing. And, oh yeah, Cage the Elephant at the recent Pilgrimage Festival was next level live rock as well. Let’s just go with a three way tie.  

Having seen Grohl and company most recently, I’m going with them tops for the purposes of this little piece. Speaking of Grohl: as you probably know he broke his leg a few months ago and performed the over two hour set, on a throne. That’s what he called it, a throne, when he made mention of the incident, showing us the scribbled drawing he gave to his crew who went on to design it. The drawing came complete with Dave’s instructions to add “lasers and shit." Seated. With a boot still on. He rocked as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen Rage, Pearl Jam, U2, Sevendust…and tons more. Nothing like it.  Head banging, punishing his guitar and screaming. The screaming. I’m a singer. Fronting my rock band The Nixons, I screamed once, at the top of every show with usual opening song “Foma." A song that begins on the record with me screaming.

NOTE: When my now father-in-law asked my now sister-in-law to play some of my music. They popped in our first CD and with volume loud, he was introduced to the young fella dating his daughter (my now wife who I now scream alongside with as we raise teenage boys. My now wife who had hands in the air singing along to every song that night watching the FF. My wife who stood in line for over two hours with our son to get us tickets 8 months earlier).  

Top of the show: he screams from behind a big red curtain with the familiar FF logo, we heard guitar noise, drum booms and him.  “Are you f**king ready?!!” “How the f**k you doing?!?!” “C’mon!!!” “Let’s f**king go!!” (He said f**k a lot). He screamed throughout the show and never missed a note. Even in the non-screaming quieter moments, his voice sounded clear and powerful. He has something else though. Some sort of magical pull. Some mash-up of honesty, energy, coolness, humor, rockingness. Once he just sat there staring out, smiling with a look that said, “I am going to rip your f**king heads off ." 

He sucked all 10k plus in. Yelling at his light guy to show him the crowd. Cue house lights. He screamed at one fan who was singing along. He told the fan he was gonna lose his voice but that he could "do this sh*t all night."  I don’t know how to describe it other than to say: he’s f**king cool. Everything he does is cool. He chewed gum. He even chews gum cool. Dunno how it’s possible but it’s true. He also had a funny and endearing rapport with all his band mates, especially Taylor Hawkins (the second best drummer in the Foo Fighters).  Also, I forgot how many hits they've had. Interesting conversation with my boys about how they’ve now eclipsed the musical output of Grohl's former band Nirvana. Nirvana. Oh yeah, they were and still are one of the most important bands ever. The musical and historical mark Nirvana made cannot be overstated. But Grohl has created a new mythos for himself that I never would've seen when I saw them the first time. Flashback: My tour manager came on our bus back in nineteen-ninety something outside the club we were playing in San Francisco and, knowing I am a big Pearl Jam fan, informed me Eddie Vedder’s side project Hovercraft was playing. And the drummer for Nirvana has a new band and they're opening. I saw one of the first shows they played. It was great then. We only saw couple songs and then refocused on our own show. To see what he has built, from then to now…is absolutely unbelievably awesome.  

From “Everlong” to “The Pretender” from “Big Me” to “Best of You." Energy never waned. The band led by Mr. RAWK-n-ROLL, was one of the best live shows I have ever seen. There goes my hero. Indeed.