November…Whew, I still can’t believe it’s November. If time does indeed fly, I feel like it supersonically jetted from September to this moment…I’ve had a birthday, traveled to Nashville, and recorded my second single (and an EP of five songs which will be released in early 2012!). School has started for the kids and for me, and I’ve had some great gigs with some of my favorite people. My poor broken finger has had the pin taken out of it. I’ve tried to play the guitar for the first time in 8 months. And I’ve been songwriting. I think I’m always songwriting even when I’m not aware I’m doing it. I’m always looking for the next hook, or that one phrase that will start the songwriting ball rolling. Lately, inspiration has been lurking in my past, in the state of Arizona where I spent some pretty amazing summers, and where I fell in love…with a cowboy, with country music and with the breathtaking beauty of the Southwest.
It all began when I was asked to perform at a Willie Nelson Tribute concert. I first discovered the magic of Willie’s music during my summers in Arizona. I have great memories of sitting around the campfire, singing “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” and “Red Headed Stranger”. I fell in love with these songs, along with ‘Come A Little Bit Closer”, “Pancho and Lefty” and “Old Paint” (just to name a few) for their rich tradition of storytelling. These tales of outlaws and cowboys, of riding and roping, of fierce independence profoundly appealed to me as a lyricist.
As part of this tribute concert, we each get to perform three Willie covers and three songs of our own. To challenge myself, I decided to write a song in Willie style (which turned out to be harder than I thought it would be).
Just like “Red Headed Stranger”, I wanted my song to have a compelling lead character with a dark past. Most of these songs have a man as the focus, so I decided to make mine a woman. The music had to be simple. I sat down at the piano and wrote a melody with all my Berklee chords in it. Then, I removed most of them. Now, I was stuck with the story – where would I find the big idea? And I found it…in Mayer, Arizona. When I was on that Arizona ranch, Mayer was the nearest thing to civilization. We used to go there on our nights off, and we’d hang out and play pool at this local bar where the juke box only played country music. I googled the town and found this picture of a sign hanging from one of the historic buildings in downtown Mayer. It became the key to the story, and so my song, Queen of the Dancehall was born. I’m excited to sing it on Saturday. It’s my little tribute to Willie, to the loves in my past, and to the music that has shaped who I am today.
In addition to the Willie concert, I am also very excited to be playing in Alastair Mook’s Pasture of Plenty show at Club Passim, along with a number of great musicians. It’s November 19, the end of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and also the week-end before Thanksgiving, so this show will be our opportunity to give back to the community. All the proceeds are going to Pine Street Inn, a local organization dedicated to helping the homeless.
Have a great November everyone.