Monthly Archives: August 2013

Lyrics for Nevertheless

Nevertheless

© 2011 Stephen K. Roberts

Tell me what’s wrong,
Why are you cryin’?
Tell me it’s fine,
I know that you’re lyin’.
Can I ask a question?
Is there anything that I can do?
Do you know the reason?
Nevertheless, the whole world sees you’re blue.

Distant and cold,
Words ringing hollow,
Pulling away,
To where I can’t follow.
Why is this all happening?
Where were you last night (just let me in)?
Who were you this morning?
Nevertheless I’m right here by your side.

We danced in a rain shower (soaked our clothes),
We dried by the fire (in its glow),
Nevertheless you turn and walk away.

Into your past,
Far from our present,
Are you feeling the need,
For something to lament?
Who am I to ask that?
How dare I presume to know your thoughts?
What good is an answer?
Nevertheless, the question still gets asked.

Remember in Paris (what we found),
Turned losing each other upside down,
Nevertheless you turn and walk away.

BRIDGE:
Wait in the wings,
The starlet passing on the spotlight for a ring,
To wear in place of glory.
Cast it aside,
History writes this as the day you lived or died,
It’s time to change the story.

You’re no longer here,
Where are you going?
What becomes of me?
I’ve no way of knowing.
What time are you leaving?
Why can’t you just cash that ticket in?
I’m not done believin’
Nevertheless I’ll help you pack your things.

I’m not gonna shed a single tear,
You go find your future without fear,
Nevertheless you might come back some day.

We danced in a rain shower (soaked our clothes),
We dried by the fire (in its glow),
Nevertheless you turned and walked away.
Nevertheless you turned and walked away.
Nevertheless you turned and walked away.

Nevertheless

Here’s another track. Hope you enjoy. Lyrics and discussion to follow.

Songwriting process behind For My Guitar (Singin’ Wood)

Where do songs come from?

Where do your songs come from? Where does your inspiration come from? What’s the story behind that song?

These can be both fascinating and frustrating questions for songwriters. I think writers who find these types of questions fascinating (most) are into self-reflection and often learn as much about themselves as the questioners do. I think about these question a lot and ask them of myself, but I’m a college instructor by trade, kind of analytical by nature, and I’ve been thinking about blogging about songwriting for years.

I think those that get frustrated by such questions have either been asked them too much (now there’s a problem I’d like to have), want their songs to stand on their own merit, or have just been taken off guard.

The answers to these questions are often very personal, maybe even painful, but not always. Sometimes it’s hard to answer them, because we just can’t pinpoint where the moment of inspiration came from, or because it really seemed to come from somewhere outside ourselves. Obviously this is a topic that we can revisit and expand upon in the future. If you are interested on how songs come to be and like The Guess Who, BTO or Randy’s solo career, I highly recommend Randy Bachman’s Every Song Tells A Story.

I’m going to try my best not to hold back in this blog, but it won’t always be easy, and I won’t always succeed. Not to worry for this first song though.

(Here’s a link to the original song post for those who missed it : For My Guitar (Singin’ Wood))

The origins of For My Guitar (Singin’ Wood)

I bought a new guitar this spring, an acoustic guitar, a little beauty with a spruce top and rosewood sides and back. I didn’t go out to buy this particular model. I went out to buy an acoustic/electric and did find one that I was very satisfied with, but sometimes you just fall in love, Inexplicably, almost by chance.

So that happened.

But, so did this. I started watching Guitar Picks, with Kim Mitchell on AuxTV (also on HiFi). There is often a segment featuring a manufacturer or luthier making guitars, and there is almost always a discussion on selecting the woods. One episode even visited Canadian manufacturer Godin, maker of my new Simon & Patrick guitar.

Those two ingredients likely began the unconscious rumination process. I loved playing this new guitar and couldn’t bear to leave it behind when we went for a visit to Toronto for the weekend. I even played a couple of my other tunes for my mother-in-law on my new guitar— groundbreaking for someone who rarely has the nerve to play in front of anyone.

Low and behold, I wake up Sunday morning in Toronto with most of a chorus rattling round in my head and I have to get it down. Usually I’ve got my trusty moleskin with me for writing lyrics down and I quite likely had it with me that time, but it’s rare that the melody and lyrics come at the same time for me and not as easy to capture melody in the moleskin. So I got up quickly and rushed down to the half-bath off the foyer and recorded a voice memo to my iPod.

As rough as that is, It’s pretty amazing that it was born all together (note the improvised lines at the end). That doesn’t usually happen, but there it was. It’s important that you remain open to this sort of inspiration, learn to recognize it, and grab that idea while it’s fresh, by any means at your disposal—napkin, business card, calling your own voicemail—whatever you can do to recall it later.

I spent two weeks nearly every summer of my childhood on the Canadian Shield at my uncle’s cottage. I’ve lived on the prairie in Brandon, Manitoba. I’ve driven through and camped in the Canadian Rockies. I’ve been to Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island, though I haven’t been to the east coast since age four or so (this needs to be rectified). It isn’t too hard to imagine that my brain, probably while I was sleeping, exaggerated this little trip to Toronto with my brand new guitar onto a much more grandiose canvas. We will return to this idea of exaggeration/extrapolation as a songwriting technique when discussing other songs in future posts. I often use it consciously in my songwriting.

So I returned to Kitchener with what essentially became the chorus.

I take my guitar and play the prairie,
I take my guitar and play the shield,
I take my guitar and play the mountain,
I take my guitar and play each wave against each shore,
That’s what this singin’ wood is for.

I think it is important that the performer is playing the prairie, the shield, the mountain, rather than playing on them. It helps reinforce that these places have intrinsic stories to be told and it creates a connection with the story of the tree that is developed through the verses.

The idea of the guitar being born of wood came from all those episodes of Guitar Picks for sure. The three verses are just three acts from a tree’s life on its way to becoming a guitar, with the bridge providing the dramatic turning point towards its death or sacrifice.

  1. A tree grows strong
  2. A tree stands tall
  3. A tree’s brought down

I liked the idea of the tree collecting stories that it can’t tell until it gets its voice—listening through the wind to one and all.

One concern I have is that I don’t want anyone to think that I’m glorifying tree harvesting, especially with some very real concerns of late about where some guitar wood has come from in the past.

But a song is not a research article or a balanced news story. It has to be focused on one idea. For My Guitar (Singin’ Wood) is me contemplating and idealizing the life that a tree (or trees) gave up for my guitar and the care that a luthier (or several) took in crafting it.

So that is where we’ll leave the first songwriting process post and the story of For My Guitar (Singin’ Wood),  but I am happy to answer any questions you might have through the comments.

(For an excellent song with a completely different theme, check out Bob Bossin’s Sulphur Passage, which became an anthem in opposition of clear-cutting old growth forests on the west coast.)

 

Lyrics: For My Guitar (Singin’ Wood)

For My Guitar (Singin’ Wood)

©2013 Stephen K. Roberts

A tree grows strong,
By taking what’s below and,
Moving it along,
Up into the light,
Where it can see the dawn,
Bridging ground and sky as it is formed.

CHORUS:
I take my guitar and play the prairie,
I take my guitar and play the shield,
I take my guitar and play the mountain,
I take my guitar and play each wave against each shore,
That’s what this singin’ wood is for.

A tree stands tall,
Listening through the wind,
To one and all,
Stories find their way,
From every port of call,
Every tavern, every legion hall.

REPEAT CHORUS

BRIDGE
Twig snap,
Birds take to the sky,
Red blaze,
Marks those about to die.

A tree’s brought down,
Chopped and cut, the pieces,
Passed all around,
A practiced hand takes care,
To shape some for its sound,
Given strings its voice is finally found,
Given strings its voice is finally found.

REPEAT CHORUS

(Note: In the next post I’ll be discussing the songwriting process for this song)

First song post: For My Guitar (Singin’ Wood)

So this is the first song post and for those of you that have heard some of my material before, I thought it would be best to start off with a brand new one.

The way I see this working, for now, is that when I post a song, I will do so without commentary (this first time being the exception), so that there is no distraction. The next post will be the lyrics, in case any of them weren’t clear, and then another post with some commentary about how the song came into being.

Right here at the start I would like to mention, that I am fully aware of my limitations as a vocalist and instrumentalist, so I’m more interested in commentary about the song. I am looking toward working with others, or even possibly a professional demo in the future, but for now, it is what is is.

Hope you enjoy!

 

Getting started: Setting perfection aside to achieve a blogging presence

Hi all. It’s been a long time coming, but finally it’s here. The Stephen Songtime blog is live after much procrastination (fear) disguised as perfectionism.

Whenever I got close it always seemed more important to rework pre-existing songs, write some news songs, build and polish a body of work that was ready to present in its best light.

I spent a lot of time looking through hundreds of WordPress themes for the perfect base to build on and then learning as much as I could about how to tweak it, and administer it. Had to make a logo, had to discard a logo and try another, had to build a banner, had to read up on the best way to integrate every new social platform (as they continued to multiply) along with my already existing and sadly neglected web presence.

Read a lot of Seth Godin and Bob Lefsetz, downloaded free eBooks, listened to podcasts, enrolled in courses at Coursera and Lynda.com. And even while each source urged me to just begin, I’d find one more thing I wanted to tackle first.

It took time to wrestle with my insecurities and accept that my quest for perfectionism and my fear of not being good enough ran counter to the purpose of this blog. I want to share what I’m doing, hope the process might help others express themselves and, mostly, release my work out into the world so that I can continue to move forward.

So here it is.

I wish I could impart some advice that could help those of you with similar ambitions to just begin, but none of that worked for me. It starts now, because I chose to start it now. It was delayed because I chose to delay it.

In this blog I’ll be sharing my songwriting journey, releasing some of my creations into the universe and exposing a part of me that I’ve kept hidden for most of my life. It has begun.