Too Many Chances 

Throughout my life, songwriting has been my most consistent form of therapy. One that I can partake in at any second during the day.

When I write, I like to have my lyrics accessible for multiple platforms. I like to be able to have my phone, my iPad and my computer all synced with my lyrics just in case the desire to write overtakes me any juncture. With modern technology, we are able to do this very easily. I can work on song lyrics while I’m waiting in traffic, the doctors office or more generally when my toddler is taking a nap during the day.

Lately, I’ve been dealing with the reiteration of past hurts. It’s strange how you can go for years without being pained by the hurts of the past and then something happens that dredges it up again. As an adult, I try to move on from emotional hurts in the quickest and most effective way I know how but that doesn’t change the fact that at some point, all the emotions will smack you in the face like a bandit is trying to take your purse.

Luckily, I have songwriting. Songwriting is like being able to say and express all the things that you wish you could have said in the moment but weren’t fully processing what was going on or thinking quickly enough. A song I’m working on is called “Too Many Chances”. I’m sure you can guess what the subject matter is, but I’ll lay it out anyway.

At some point in your life, you may come across someone who is a manipulator and/or user. If you have a psyche that is already somewhat fractured by past emotional abuse, you can be like the bait for this type of individual. If you’re lucky, you learn to be able to set boundaries and get out of bad situations. If you’re not lucky you end up sacrificing your emotional well-being and a large part of your “Self “by making way for another’s unending emotional needs.

As a child, I was always searching for my father’s affection and approval. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details, but being raised in an environment where I felt like I was privileged when I was able to have my father’s attention left me with a gaping hole that I tried desperately to fill with codependent type relationships all throughout my 20s.

These codependent relationships represented themselves in my friendships with girlfriends and also with romantic dalliances. By the time I reached my 30s I was finally strong enough to be able to extricate myself from the romantic relationships, but it took me another few years to realize that I had several deeply dysfunctional friendships as well. 

For some reason, it was much easier to get out of the romantic entanglements (although it wasn’t a barrel full of monkeys) than it was to get out of the dysfunctional friendships. There’s a certain protocol for axing a boyfriend out of one’s life, but the process for ending a friendship is much more nebulous and much more hard.

After several years of soul-searching, I realized that I was being lied to and manipulated. I finally pulled the figurative trigger and ended a long-lasting friendship of over a decade. Early on in the friendship, I was aware that the relationship was a codependent one, and not only that, I was alarmed by the amount of deceit, lies and dishonesty that represented themselves in the actions of my friend.

I am a firm believer that when you have indications and evidence that you are being used and lied to, it is the best decision to cut that perpetrator out of your life like severing an arm. It takes years to build trust and minutes to destroy it. And after you have given adequate chances to come forth with honesty and integrity, if the person in question continually meets you with dishonesty, you need to get them out of your life and never look back.

I don’t believe in chance after chance, I think that people are generally fundamentally honest or dishonest. I’m not talking white lies or little infractions that don’t add up to anything substantial. What I’m talking about is deeply rooted, insidious dishonesty. I used to give chance after chance until I realized that people are who they are and they don’t often change.

So that’s the jyst of the subject matter of the song I’m working on right now. Here’s the song:

TOO MANY CHANCES
B G#m

I would drop everything 

C#m E/F#

(When) you’d give me a call 

B G#m

(You’re) The gift that kept taking

C#m E/F#

You took it all
PRECHORUS 

D#m G#m

I can’t keep on giving

C#m F#

When you’re all that I’ve got

D#m G#m

I can’t keep on living

C#m. F#

When it’s clear that I’m not
CHORUS 

B B/D#

Too many chances

E A E/F# F#

Too many lies

B B/D#

Too much was broken

E A E/F# F#

Too much has died
B G#m

For years I believed

C#m E/F#

I was all wrong 

B G#m

I thought I was weak

C#m E/F#

(And) you were so strong
PRECHORUS

D#m G#m

I can’t keep on moving

C#m F#

(When) there’s nowhere to go 

D#m G#m

I think I’ll be leaving

C#m F#

(Cause) you don’t feel like home
CHORUS

 

PRECHORUS

D#m G#m

When you’re lonely and thinking

C#m F#

You wanna give me a call

D#m G#m

Know that I loved you

C#m F#

But I’m done with it all
CHORUS

Nashville Trippin’ 

I just completed my second exploratory trip to Nashville. My long term plan is to become a professional songwriter and Nashville is going to play into this.
Nashville, L.A. and New York are the three major music centers in the US. L.A. seems too artificial, NY seems to inaccessible, but Nashville seems just right, for me.

As much as I love New Orleans (and I do LOVE NOLA), there is a pretty rigid ceiling, for music business, in the city. If one is interested in making a great living performing music, being part of a great cadre of musicians, New Orleans is your city.

I think the music of New Orleans has just as much depth of any of the major music cities, aforementioned. The only problem is, the music business platform is lacking. To get your songs placed in film, tv and with other artists is nigh to impossible. There are a few who’ve done it, and I salute them, but there are even more languishing in obscurity and will never get discovered.

There are legions of jaw dropping talented folks who have to work twice as hard as someone in Nashville, LA or New York to be noticed on a national level.

Why? Is it because they are less talented? Hellz no. The infrastructure is not there, that’s why.

I recently went to a songwriting clinic with local songwriter Jim McCormick, amongst others. He said something really brilliant, if you want to climb mountains you must go to the mountains. To truly put your name in the cowboy hat, you gotta get where the cowboys are.

Please do not misunderstand what I’m saying as I don’t want any of my wonderful local musician friends to be hurt. Staying in New Orleans, for life, can put a boundary on the heights that one’s career might reach, however, many would argue that one’s quality of life is awesome compared to other places.

This is true and not true. Life is a fucking struggle in New Orleans, peppered with moments of great fun, excitement and culture deeper than the Mariana Trench. But it is a struggle, and I even have it way easy!

I have a great job, doing what I love with people that I love, in a city that I love. But there is still something missing.

I wanna be a full time songwriter.

Notice I said songwriter and not singer-songwriter. I have little desire to push myself as hard as I would need to to be a successful artist, but I have a very strong desire to write songs for other people. To me, that’s where the fascination lies.

As an artist, with a very notable exceptions, you are tied to your genre, image and track record. As a songwriter you get to wear different hats. I think of it as an actor in different roles.

This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while and I’m pretty sure I’m going to take the plunge within 1 to 2 years. Until then, I plan to go on songwriting missions every quarter to Nashville.

One never knows what the future holds, but this is my current plan. I hope you will all support me in this adventure! I love you all!

Two Sides to Every Story 

This week I’ve been working on two very different songs about a woman’s struggle in relationships. They couldn’t be more of a 180 from each other, but what they have in common, is that they are both stories that a lot of women can relate to.

The first song is a sticky sweet teen pop song. It’s about that time in your life when you’re first dating; not knowing the rules, awkwardness abounding.

It’s a song that’s about going out on a first date, feeling butterflies, and getting your hopes up. When you’re a young woman, it’s easy to get your hopes up in a hurry.

You go out on a date, you find that you have a lot in common with him and butterflies are flying all around your psyche. He’s into you, and you’re into him.

Then the wait. All the books tell you that if it’s longer than 3 days, forget it. Haha! All the books will tell you it’s dead if he doesn’t call. He’s just not that into you.

This excruciating wait can be just that. Excruciating. You rack your brain. Should I call, should I wait for him to call, what about sending a text?

You stalk him relentlessly on Facebook hoping that he will post something about you. Some kind of hint or indication that he’s as into you as you are into him.

Weeks pass, nothing. You know that it’s over. You know that it’ unrequited. You swallow your pride and you give up all hope for this will be anything more then just a date.

Then the inevitable chance meeting. You’re out at the mall looking schlubby, grabbing a giant cookie in the food court, and then you see him.

What’s this? Oh my god he’s with a girl. Oh my god she has an engagement ring on her finger.

You skulk away to the dark corners as quickly and as unobtrusively as you can. He has a fiance. Not only that, he had one when we went out on our date!

Then you get pissed. You mean to tell me that this mother fucker asked me out while he was with somebody else? Not just anyone else, a fiance!

Then you know it’s your mission: to wipe his memory from yours. This scumbag does not even get the honor of taking up memory space in your brain cells.

It’s easier said than done, but you know it’s the only way to get even. Too bad feller, cause this Bitch is fucking awesome.

The second song that I’m working on is about a young mother who has 3 kids and an abusive husband. I threw in the fact that he is an oil rig worker as a nod to Louisiana.

The protagonist in our story is a mother, a single mother more often than not. Her husband spends weeks on an oil platform and she’s left to take care of their three young children.

There’s been years of hardship in her young life. But she keeps charging forward because she knows that three little ones depend on her.

She makes their breakfast, darns holes in their socks. Brushes their hair, tries to remember to tell them to brush their teeth.

Maybe our gal used to be a real looker. But the sheer weight of her responsibility has done a number on her face hair and eyes. Her eyes are tired.

One day when her husband is on leave from the oil platform, he tells her that he needs to run an errand. She is suspicious because every time he comes home from the platform he needs to run an errand at a particular day and time. It’s always very vague when she asks what errand he needs to run.

This particular week, she’s had enough. The littlest one broke her arm, her oldest one is going through puberty and the middle one seems to become a disembodied ghost anytime she tries to talk to him.

While the kids are watching their afternoon cartoons, our gal decides to do some detective work.

She’s always wondered about the neighbor that lives a couple streets down. She sees the way the neighbor woman looks at her husband, when they are all eating dinner at the neighbor’s place of employ, the local diner.

Our gal decides to run an errand of her own. She knows that her husband would be too smart to park out in front of the neighbor woman’s home so she walks up the alleyway and sure enough, she sees his late model Ford.

Of course he always leaves the keys in the ignition so she fires the truck up and drives it home.

Our wife and mother has had enough. She’s cracked. But the thing about our gal is she’s never been the strong, resilient type.

Her entire life has been a series of one disregarding moment to the next. Daddy didn’t care, mommy didn’t care.

She dresses her kids up and throws them in the pickup truck. She then drives to her cousin’s house and drops them off telling her cousin that she’ll be back in a few days

We all know what’s coming, but we don’t want to believe it. She stops by her old house and grabs a bottle of pills from an old appendix operation.

She stops by the convenience store and buys a six pack of Bartles and Jaymes. The only drink she likes.

She drives to the edge of town downs the 6 sweet beverages, and then downs the bottle of pills.

Two very different songs this week one of our protagonists overcomes and one our protagonists falls. Sometimes in life you win and sometimes you fail. Sometimes when you fail you can’t recover. And sometimes when you win it’s a bittersweet win, because you know you had to go through a difficult heartache to get to the other side.

Dance, Dance, Dance 

After concentrating on writing songs that had deep, provocative and meaningful subject matter for years, I recently came to the conclusion that I needed to start writing songs that people might actually want to listen to. Ha!

I know when I plug in my iPod to drive to work, I am forever skipping ahead to the songs that make me groove, feel good, and forget about my worries. This is a type of song that I want to write.

I want to write the song that you put on your stereo when you’re getting ready for a hot Saturday night date. I want to write the song that you pop on the stereo during a dinner party after the tequila shots have gone around. I want to write a song that people use to get them pumped up for a workout.

Lately, as many of you know I’ve been trying to gear myself up to be prepared for the volume of writing that needs to occur before one can call themselves a full-time professional songwriter. To that end, I’ve been co-writing with a lot of different people. I’m just trying to figure out who I work best with and understand the methods that work best for me when song writing.

Last week, on one of my days off, I went to my very good friend Joel’s house. Joel lives in one of the artsy areas of New Orleans in a beautiful Victorian shotgun house.

Joel and his husband Ed, are both musical encyclopedias. Joel, being a professional musician, obviously has all the harmonic knowledge that his husband Ed doesn’t, but Ed is no slouch. They are both able to identify rare melodies, wax about vintage pop music, and have a record collection to die for. Ed is also a phonograph collector and has different record players ranging from the earliest to the newest models.

Joel and I sat down at the piano and I had told Joel that I wanted to write a song about feeling positive about your body. I want to right a song that women, or really anyone, can relate to regarding the discrepancy of what you see in the mirror versus what you feel like inside.

I also had the idea of wanting to write a song that was based on suspended harmony. This is a concept of a harmony being comprised of non root based chords.

In other words, dallying round the four and the five chords, or any of the chords that aren’t the root, and then finally having the tonic “pay off” in the chorus.

So many hit pop songs have used this formula ranging from the Stevie Nicks era, to the modern day Katy Perry pop song.

We sat down and played around with some harmonies along this suspended harmony idea, and pretty soon had a good structure for a verse. We then wrote a pre chorus which had the same harmonic idea, and then topped off with a strong chorus.

When we were finished we realized that we had completed a song in just about 2 hours. Not too bad! Especially for co-writing for the very first time together. Of course, Joel and I have worked together for many years at Pat O’Briens piano bar, but we’ve never done anything on this level of creativity together.

When we were done with our song, I had the thought that this song would be a great song for the gay community. I know that the gay community is very loyal and once they become your fans, very supportive for life.

I hope once we’re finished, we can maybe approach local gay dance clubs about playing our track on the weekends. I hope this comes true!

More info explaining suspended harmonies.

SpitFire Coffee 

There’s a little coffee shop in the French Quarter. It’s called Spitfire coffee. It’s in between the cathedral and Royal Street.

It is the best coffee to be had in the French Quarter. Their latte is so velvety and robust. The only bad thing is they only serve it in one size, a modest, medium sized cup.

Everytime I go there I wish that I had a vat of their coffee that I could just sit and sip at my leisure.

If you’re ever in the French Quarter check it out. The decor is very minimalist / industrial. The walls are a grey stucco with lots of reclaimed wood shelves cabinets and countertops.

The coffee shop doesn’t serve anything but coffee. No pastries, no muffins, no cupcakes. Just plain, good old coffee.

In Defense of Robin Thicke 

I’m a huge admirer of Robin Thicke’s talent. All controversy aside, he’s really good.

He taught himself how to play piano at the age of 11 and was discovered by Brian McKnight at age 14.

He released a debut album that didn’t go anywhere. I’m sure lots of people didn’t know what to do with a white R&B singer who looked like a hippie in the early 2000s.

After that bomb, he wrote songs for Christina Aguilera, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Mary J. Blige and Pharrell Williams.
It wasn’t until his album, “The Evolution of Robin Thicke”, that he spawned a hit. Granted, it wasn’t a mainstream pop hit, but an R&B hit. “Lost Without U” is a beautiful song and one that first made me say, “Ooh, who’s that?”

When I first heard “Blurred Lines“, I loved it! I thought, “Man, that is a sexy, awesome song.”

When I first saw the video, it rubbed me the wrong way, a little bit. Not overly so, just a little bit. I think it’s hard to understand, unless you’re a woman, how it feels to have a Terry Richardson-esque video with naked women dancing around fully dressed men singing about how much “you know you want it.” It feels kinda dirty and not in the fun way. I didn’t really hold it against him though. I know what the publicity machine needs to do.

Then the whole Miley twerking fiasco happened. I was honestly more insulted by the horrible, latex, nude booty shorts and flapping butt cheeks of one Miley Cyrus than the grinding of Robin Thicke.

Then there was the Marvin Gaye controversy. Pharell openly admits that he and Thicke took a big page out of the Gaye hit “Got to Give It Up”, a song that I also love.
People got up in arms. How dare he borrow from something so sacred. I couldn’t care less. I don’t think the song is a direct copy. Inspired, yes, copy no. We all know you can’t copyright chord changes or arrangements.

Honestly, I think that people just need something to bitch about. I’m looking at you Nicolas Payton. Ha!

I would imagine that, as a wife though, it might feel a little different. Hence the Thicke-Patton divorce.

Yes, I saw the picture of Robin grabbing some groupie’s butt in a mirror reflection. Gross. Unless, they had an open relationship, I’m sure that this, coupled with all the controversy, drove their marriage over the edge.

How many marriages, founded in obscurity, survive a catapult to fame, controversy and infamy? How many marriages survive, period?

His latest album is a 15 song ode to getting his wife, Paula Patton back. Do I think that will work? Hmmm, I don’t know. It depends on the real motivation for his work. Is it to just prolong the controversy or is it a true call for his wife to return?

The album is being panned and has been a sales loser. But maybe this is were Robin actually shines. Outside of the penetrating lime light.

The Confidence Gap 

I was just reading this article this morning. I’m continually amazed by the the low levels of confidence that women have in themselves. Where does this low level of confidence stem from?

I don’t have very many good answers to my own question. I don’t know exactly why women are less confident than men.

On the outside, we have everything to work with regarding confidence. Generally, women multi task in multiple arenas with great grace and competence. Just look at working mothers for instance.

My mom was an elementary teacher , our housekeeper, our gardener, our tailor, our therapist, our accountant and for all intents and purposes, the captain of our family ship. While I always believe that my mom wanted our father to be the head of the household, he really was only that in name. Definitely not in practice.

I can cite numerous examples of this phenomenon. Yet, even though women have a large role in family and work relations, there is still a huge discrepancy when it comes to the baseline of confidence between women and men. I know that this is changing, I’m sure that by the time my sons generation has reached adulthood, this so-called confidence gap will be extinct.

At least I hope so.