For a while now, I’ve been putting together some new songs for my third record. To me, writing songs is serious business as they each have a piece of me within their notes and lyrics. I was just talking with Sally Browder, the producer of my second record, Trip To Horizon a few days ago and we were having a blast coming up with ideas for the direction this record will take. I am so inspired right now by the White Stripes and Jack White’s new solo record, Blunderbuss. There is a simple, honest, raw feel, with a touch of punk to the writing and how these records are produced. It really allows you to understand where he is coming from as a writer. I just love the vocal feel and the inspired guitar sounds in all their music.
After spending some time with Sally discussing the approach for this record, she suggested doing a more acoustic, singer-songwriter type of project so that the songs can be really stripped down and simple, but still have an edge and unpredictability that will keep them driving. That really fits with some of my current writing influences like Jack White and Lucinda Williams. By focusing on the simplicity of the songs, we will be able to let the songs breathe and still let ‘em rock. It’s gonna be fun to see what happens.
The one thing that can be said about Americana Songs is that they are brilliant at telling a story. When
you think about Americana art, with all its vibrancy and many different textures that invite you in, it
seems to me to be very similar to a true Americana song. Much more than just the lyrics, these songs
are built on music that comes to life and sets the stage for the narrative to be told in a way that helps
to enhance the lyrics. The result is that you feel like you are right there with the story and you wouldn’t
want to be anywhere else at that moment.
Americana Songs are timeless and effortless journey’s that have a truth and simplicity to them that
is absent in much of the music that is being produced today. To write a great Americana song, you
must be able to be totally honest and open, to the point of challenging yourself in ways you never have
before. You may be writing about an idea, even a brilliant idea, but if it is not a true experience for you,
the song will not be authentic. It is this search for truth and simplicity that gives Americana Songs the
ability to be so universal in their effect on the listener.
Like the Shakespeare quote says, the play’s the thing. Well the same is true about writing music. The song’s the thing. It’s not about instruments yet, or vocals, or anything else. It’s all about the songs. When it came time to decide what Americana Songs were best for my second record, Trip to Horizon, it was a tough call. I had made the decision earlier that Sally Browder would be the perfect producer. She had produced some very edgy artists like X, The Plimsouls and Young Dubliners. Since my first record was more folk oriented, I knew she would be perfect to take my music into a more Americana/Roots Rock feel.
I had about 30 rough tunes to choose the best Americana Songs I could for the record and just a few weeks before the start of tracking. After getting feedback from Sally and some trusted friends and fans, it was clear that about 6 songs were on everybody’s list. That meant picking four more from the rest. Not an easy task, believe me. As we went to track the record, we had whittled it down to 14, but couldn’t decide which of the last four to cut. After a while, we made a compromise and cut two. I pushed hard that day and convinced Sally that All Around Me and There’s A Girl both had special meaning to me and had to be on the record. So, the twelve Americana Songs were chosen and the exciting journey began to the “Trip to Horizon”.
I recently had someone ask me what my top three favorite Americana Songs are. That’s a tough one though, to break it down to just three. When I thought about it, one of the first that jumped right to mind was “Second Hand News”, by Lindsey Buckingham off of one of the great rock records of the 1970′s. Many people think of Fleetwood Mac as pop/rock, but Lindsey is as Americana as it gets. This song made me want to be a singer-songwriter and artist. As the opening song, it set the tone for the rest of the record. I knew one day I wanted to write a lot of Americana Songs and Second Hand News made me want to achieve that.
As my second choice, I would say it’s a tie for every song Buddy Holly ever wrote. This guy was a songwriting freak who wrote all classic Americana Songs, but I guess if I had to choose it would be “True Love Ways” or “Oh Boy”. I did a version of Oh Boy and had so much fun with it. When I work on a Buddy Holly song, it always inspires me to write and try to do my best.
Lastly, I would have to say “Ring of Fire”, performed by Johnny Cash and written by June Carter-Cash. June Carter tapped into the total essence of Americana Songs when she wrote that. When she writes, ‘I fell for you like a child, oh but the fire went wild’, I am completely swept away by this song.