It is a book by musician Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco called, “How to Write One Song.” I am devouring it, slowly. Reading and re-reading lines and paragraphs. Leaving Post-It notes every few pages where I’ve found another nugget of truth. Can you tell I love this book? Here’s what the description says on Amazon Prime:
“There are few creative acts more mysterious and magical than writing a song. But what if the goal wasn't so mysterious and was actually achievable for anyone who wants to experience more magic and creativity in their life? That's something that anyone will be inspired to do after reading Jeff Tweedy's How to Write One Song.”
I could not describe the book any better. It is filled with tips and techniques used in his songwriting, most very simple and surprisingly obvious. But it also goes into a very personal retrospective of how Jeff navigates his daily songwriting routine, the importance of subverting ego and expectations, freeing your mind to be creative. He is dead certain that ALL OF US can write songs and makes his case in a very strong and clear manner. He is part cheerleader, part apologist and starkly honest about his own struggles. But I am probably making this small, delightful book sound to “heavy.” It is anything but that! Even if you’ve never even considered writing songs I cannot urge you enough: buy this book! Read it slowly. Stop every few pages and digest what Jeff’s just said. Then, perhaps do what I’m going to do. When I finish it (soon) I will go back and start it again, this time taking notes. And then I think I’ll be ready to find the lyrics I know are lurking somewhere in my brain for those melodies I’ve recently written. Can’t wait to begin!!
In a couple weeks Kathy and I will be heading for Florida and staying in Sarasota and then Key West for a total of two months. I cannot wait to escape the New England winter, which this year is becoming more normal than the last few, i.e., dark, gray, snowy, icy, generally depressing. One of my decisions that I’ve been kind of agonizing over is which guitar to take along. Now, this is a good problem to have but that doesn’t make it any easier. This will be our fourth drive to Florida but staying as long as we are, and considering all the fun things to do that we will partake in, packing my small Subaru Crosstrek will be an exercise in mathematical precision. It’s looking that way, anyway! The quest is to bring along everything we need (and nothing we don’t) and still be able to see out of the back of the car.
So – guitars. My choices are: my Martin D-35 Seth Avett, my Martin M-36, or my Eastman 422ce. All have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of size, sound and play-ablity, although none of those disadvantages are even remotely serious. Any of those guitars would keep me happy. So it really comes down to space and I think in the end the M-36 will win; it is a thinner-bodied model and will be in a padded gig bag so it should fit (standing up) just fine behind the driver’s seat. But I also intend to bring along one of my small but terrific sounding Bose S1 Pro amps and a briefcase with connecting cords, spare strings, capos, tuner, etc. and also a folding mic stand. Why the extra stuff? Because maybe – just maybe – I will be able to sit in with one of my musician friends in Key West or elsewhere and I want to be prepared. Plus, I am hoping to do a couple of my live sessions on my Cape Cod Acoustics Facebook page while I’m down there. So the great 3-D jigsaw puzzle of packing the car will commence soon. If you do Facebook, please “like” my CCA page and you will receive notices of when my live sessions will take place.
But getting back to today and recent days and weeks since I suspended lessons and what I’ve accomplished. As much as I love teaching it has been kind of liberating to not have to worry about weekly lesson planning, learning new songs expressly for the purpose of teaching them and worrying about my students on both a musical and personal level. Again: I love teaching, I really do! And I will certainly resume lessons as soon as we return from Florida. But as with anything, sometimes an extended respite can be a very good thing. For the last couple of years for example I stopped lessons two or three weeks before we left and devoted a good amount of that time to searching out and learning new songs for my students for when I returned. This proved to be a good strategy. I found some great songs and the pressure was off to a certain degree regarding lesson planning. I’m thinking that I will have time to do that while I’m in Florida and if I’m lucky, I will hear some songs at the bars and restaurants we visit that are worth adding to my bag of tricks.
Perhaps the best part about my extended vacation from teaching is that I’ve had time to polish up some of my songs. What I mean is, there are more than a few tunes I play and have been playing for a long time that inevitably include some little annoyances that I keep reminding myself need to be fixed….but I never seem to get around to it so inevitably they happen again the next time I play that song. So I’ve been locating those things and making a conscious effort to fix them. In many cases, I’ve been pleased with the results. Now the trick will be to remember those adjustments when it counts, when I’m back playing in front of people. But I know there’s a simple solution to that: practice, practice and more practice.
I may or may not check in here before we leave but if I don’t you can be sure I’ll post more when I get to Florida. I’ll try not to gloat, promise!
Stay safe, be well, take care, and stay sane.
Peace & good music,