The First Song
I have been a songwriter for almost as long as I can remember. The first song I ever wrote was about a girl named Jamie. Not the woman that would become my wife, a girl I met in a hockey tournament in a small Saskatchewan town. It was the winter of 1993. Blind Melon’s first single “No Rain” had been released the previous year, and had started to anchor itself into my consciousness. NIrvana had broke about two years earlier.
My focus as a musician had changed from guitar licks, to learning how to play and sing every Kurt Cobain song I could. At that time music videos were consumed on Much Music and MTV. Things were not available on demand. Watching the video of your favourite song meant you had to wait through a slough of bands to catch the ones you wanted to see. That winter Nirvana had just released Heart Shaped Box and Counting Crows “Mr Jones” was on heavy rotation. Sitting in the hotel after hockey with my friend Aaron, I vividly remember waiting for those videos to come on. I went home after that weekend and wrote my first song. I was a songwriter.
So Many Songs
That first tune was terrible. It was cheesy, the rhyme scheme was terrible and predictable, arrangement was bad, and from what I recall it was not memorable: no hook. Despite all this I was very proud of my accomplishment. From that day on my focus was writing songs when I picked up the guitar.
I’m not sure how many songs I’ve penned. I would guess between 350-450; some good, some bad and some really bad.
In my 25 years of songwriting I’ve officially released about 35 tracks. Songs get left behind. Some just aren’t very good. Some don’t fit in with the projects at the time. Recording is expensive, not just in the dollar sense, but also in time. Choices have to be made. As a songwriter this is like deciding which of your children you like better. It’s not possible.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Many things I’ve penned have been long forgotten and disappear completely. Yet oftentimes old lyrics or melodies surface in my mind. I have hundreds of 4 track cassettes, hundreds of mini discs, hundreds of computer files, zip discs, iphone memos, and even reels of tape all loaded with either finished or half written songs no one has ever heard. Beyond the 350-450 songs I would call done, I have hundreds of partial ideas waiting to be finished: some good, many not so good.
Amongst all the chaos of tapes, files, reels and discs of material, there is a long list of songs I haven’t been able to forget. Until I began gathering, finishing, and recording material for this project I did not see a common thread among these songs. As things have come together, I’ve realized these are some of the most personal things I’ve said about myself and my life. I became very anxious about sharing these songs. I also realized I have spent the last many years sabotaging myself, preventing these songs from seeing the light of day. These songs are for my family, friends, and the most important changes in my life: songs about me. They are some of the most personal and honest things I’ve written.
The thought of sharing this music with anyone is both terrifying and rewarding. In the past, material I’ve released has been cryptic when personal or about subject matter removed from me personally. Over the years I’ve grown increasingly self-conscious about making my songs available for people to hear. Does it sound as good as it could? What will certain people think about the lyrics, production, performance? Is the singing good enough? Is the arrangement the best it can be? As I write the anxiety is increasing. As time has gone on, these worries continue to grow and at times in my life, I’ve given up on the idea that people will hear my songs, or worry that no one will even care to listen.
On the other hand, these songs are unfinished business. Despite all the anxiety and insecurity, I need to let them go. Even if no one listens, putting them out into the world finally makes them feel like they’re done. Until then, they remain as an itch I can’t scratch burning the back of my mind, something I’ve put off for years and never deal with.
About a year ago I made the conscious decision to begin recording some of this unfinished business for release. And so I’ve created this blog to share the songs, stories and ideas my mind won’t let me forget.
I wish I could remember that first song to share, at least just for a laugh or to see how far I’ve come. But I cannot. However, amongst all the hundreds of cassettes I found a relic from the past: the second song I ever wrote. It is also about a girl. My first breakup song. When I was 13 or 14 I thought it was one of the best songs ever penned: it was not. Taken from a 25 year old cassette, here is a sound clip of the second song I ever wrote.
In the coming weeks and months I will be using this blog to share new versions of the songs and stories I’ve never been able to let go of. Hope you enjoy!