Thursday, August 12, 2010

Songwriting, Socializing and Sports in Seattle: Fri July 23, Sun July 25 and Mon July 26

I forgot to mention that Friday night, July 23rd, the Boston Red Sox rolled into Seattle for a weekend series with the Mariners. I got myself a ticket and went to the game, having not had a chance to see the Sox play in at least a couple of years. I had a great time and the Sox won, but I did have a bit of empathy for all the local Mariners fans. Looking out at the rest of the stands, there seemed to be almost as many Red Sox fans as Mariners fans, so there was a lot of cheering when the Sox got a hit or made a good play.

The Mariners have been struggling with internal issues and lousy records the last few years now, and as a Red Sox fan who struggled with them through the 80's and 90's, I could relate to how frustrated they were not only by their home squad's lackluster performance, but having to endure the cheers of so many fans of the visiting team. I think we Sox fans meant well, but when I cheered I almost felt like I was personally adding insult to the local folks' injury.

Hopefully their organization will turn their ship around and do something good next year - given how far out of first place the Mariners are at this point, I still saw an awful lot of loyal, dedicated fans that night who would of course enjoy their team being back in the running for the playoffs sometime soon.

Sunday July 25th I mainly took it easy at my hotel in Kent, Washington, south of the city. That night I drove up to Ballard to meet my new friend Stephanie at one of her favorite coffee shops. I was going to see what sounded like a cool local band The Lake at a club in Ballard afterwards, so I drove over and parked near the club, and proceeded to just walk around Ballard for a while. It was a really cool part of town, and there seemed to be several music clubs with fans gathered and chatting outside. I ended up not sticking around for the show, however, as I eventually found out The Lake would be playing much later than I had thought, and I was dog-tired. So I hopped back in the Civic and drove back to Kent for some shut-eye.

Monday July 26th I had been invited to the home of two other musicians, a woman named Simone and her mother Alecia (pronounced "Ah-lee-thee-ah"). They had both played after me at the Gypsy Trader show the prior week, and after the show I spoke to Alecia about the possibility getting together and the 3 of us writing some new music. Alecia is a yoga instructor, but in addition to being a great musician is also a talented painter. In addition to her own unique, musical talents, Simone is a professional ballet dancer employed by a troupe in Germany. She is home in Seattle for the summer and will return to Germany in the fall.

Alecia and Simone could not have been more gracious hosts to me. They had prepared a fantastic vegetarian dinner that was absolutely delicious. They showed me numerous paintings Alecia had done and I was blown away by them all. These two ladies are two of the sweetest, smartest, kindest, loveliest, most talented artists I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I felt completely welcomed and comfortable during my visit.

After dinner we headed into their house and set about making music. First we worked long and hard created vocal harmonies for a new song of Simone's...we eventually hammered out beautiful parts for Alecia and I do to in the chorus and on the song's ending. I had never worked so diligently before on additional vocals for a song, but it sounded really great when we were done.

Then Alecia suggested we write a song together from scratch. Truth be told, this had been my expectation prior to the visit, but sitting there with two people I was still just barely getting to know, I got a bit intimidated by the prospect. Despite my tiny bit of resistance, I agreed and we set about writing a new song. I came up with a guitar part, then Alecia expanded on it and made it into something new and intriguing. Then we began work on lyrics, and I must say this part ended up being one of the most gratifying collaborative experiences in all my time as a musician.

It became obvious that as we wrote the words, what needed to happen was us finding words that resonated for all 3 of us, not just with any one person. When I write lyrics there is definitely a bit of a mental editing process as part of what I do - I might write a line and then later come back to it and make changes, knowing the original line doesn't fit my vision of the song. But this process took that to another level - all 3 of us were challenged to find the group songwriting energy that was naturally flowing amongst us, tap into it, and find something in it. I've always had a fair amount of confidence in my songwriting, but this process took my mind, heart and soul to places for words I know I would not have arrived at on my own. It was pretty cool.

We worked long and hard into the night and got I would say about two-thirds of the song hashed out. There was still more to be done, but it was time for me to go home and for everyone to go to bed. So we recorded what we had so far on Simone's computer, and played it live for Simone's younger sister (also a dancer, as it turns out), and agreed to meet later down the road before I left Seattle to finish the song.

I left Alecia's and Simone's that night riding a strong, natural high. I marvelled at how this trip was leading me to so many wonderful, unexpected experiences that went far beyond just a tour to play music for people. With a big smile on my face, I drove back to my hotel.

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