Sunday, September 27, 2009

Podcast with Sam Anderson

I had mentioned that I was hoping to expand the series of podcasts to include people other than myself. So here's the first: Portland popsmith Sam Anderson of Lighthead and the Sam Anderson Band talks about the genesis of his song. "Your Connection." Find out more about Sam and his band by visiting the Sam Anderson Page on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Audio Blog entry

Hey folks,

I have been rethinking this blog and started to feel like it really needed to be more of an audio blog than a text blog. So here's the first installment of the audio version. I am hoping also to expand this to include other songwriters as well as me. This post is about the song This Garden, which I blogged about a while ago. I've now put the full-length recording and the lyrics on my website if you are interested in checking that out.

Here's the audio blog entry or "podcast" if you prefer:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


The song "Thread" -- rough recording can be heard at my myspace page

This is one of those speculative story songs. Where something I've observed gets stuck in my brain and starts to accumulate possible storylines, kind of like coral. In this case it was one of the numerous run-down old houses in our New England mill town and the semi-shut-in man who lives there. I guess what struck me was the fact that he's more or less middle aged and not elderly, this incongruity was enough to start me pondering and once I start pondering usually a song follows at some point. Originally the character's name was Edgar not Edward, but I realized that was because I'd recently been listening to John Gorka's Edgar the Party Man. So I quickly changed it to avoid one of those embarrassing public rock star law suits --- like the one Joe Satriani and Cold Play are embroiled in ---I mean it's just so much work for our publicists!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back to it: This Garden

Sorry to have been away for so long, lots of life happening including a job loss unfortunately...there will be a song about that don't you worry! The posts also got a little sidetracked into coverage of festivals etc. and got away from the original purpose of telling what's behind some of my songwriting and hopefully helping to unlock the process for some of you...

Although I haven't recorded the song "This Garden" on CD yet, any of you who have seen me perform will have probably heard it. It starts out

I'm tillin' up this garden
back-breaking work
A little more than I bargained for
being a kid from the suburbs

My mother's father was a farmer,
carpenter, man of the sea.
These days I wish there was a
little more of him inside of me.

The song did originate as I was struggling with a rented rototiller trying desperately to create a patch of velvety furrowed earth from the conglomerate of granite, clay, glass, pot shards, old hardware and whatever else makes up the soil in the yard of my old Maine farmhouse!

While my parents were decidedly arty - mother a painter, father a theatrical agent, my mother did hale from hearty stock. My maternal grandparents had a small farm in Orange county NY, had built houses during the Depression (the first one not the current one!) , and I remember as a small child digging worms, scaling fish, and riding a tractor with my grandfather. Until I moved out of my parents house I could still find his old hand tools on our work bench. Unfortunately as is typical of kids I failed to appreciate my grandparent's simple but impressive skills, preferring the glow of television, the shiney, noisy and the new. By the time I was old enough for reason to take hold, my grandfather was gone. I honestly hadn't thought much about him in years, but as I stood there swearing at the rocks and roots, I did, and I wished I could have asked his advice.

Monday, July 30, 2007

New England Songwriting contest (the 3rd) report

Yesterday I played in the finals of the New England Songwriting contest, held as part of the Ossipee Valley Bluegrass Festival. There were 20 finalists selected from about 100 submissions. The finalists came from a pretty wide area including Maine, New Hampshire and a couple from Nantucket MA. The variety of genres represented was pretty wide from contemporary singer songwriter to pop to real old-time bluegrass. I can't imagine trying to select one winner from the variety and generally high quality of the submissions. That was left up to the panel of 3 Judges -- there were two outstanding bluegrass musicians and songwriters Audie Blaylock and Ted Demille who were performing at the festival, and then there was the legendary Bill Morrisey.

In the end the winner was Michael Troy and deservedly so. He played a great song and his performance was a picture of ease: flowing out of him as if he was talking and accompanied with buttery smooth guitar. Michael has already garnered a number of festival and songwriting accolades including the Boston Folk Festival and Kerrville. Another finalists who has been wracking up the awards lately was Jud Caswell who will be off to the Philadelphia Folk Festival next month after winning a spot there through the Plowshares Songwriting Contest.

In company like that it wasn't hard to feel good about just being a finalist. The atmosphere is great and the things you learn just by chatting with folks certainly makes it worthwhile. A bonus was that Ted Demille also gave me some great positive feedback on my song. So while the money would have been nice I still left having had a valuable experience. Maybe I'll try a couple more contests this year...

Monday, July 23, 2007

What do songs do for us?

I mean as people, not songwriters. What purpose to they serve? My friend Ken from NY was visiting. Before I moved to Maine, he and I played in a band called Dogs Gone Fishing.
So while he was up visiting we played a reunion gig at the Gorham Grind . He always played this great obscure cover tune called "Spider John" by Willis Alan Ramsey, the Texas songwriter who wrote Muskrat Love (a hit for The Captain and Tenile) believe it or not. Anyway we finished playing the song and Ken turns to me and says "Scott ______ " (I don't remember the last name). That was the name of the guy he learned that song from thirty years ago. Do you think he would have remembered that guy if it weren't for that great song. So memory is one thing songs do for us --I think you could find a lot of examples of this in the ways that aboriginal peoples retain their histories...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Indiana (a Blue Song for a Red State)

This song idea came from a short business trip I had to Indianapolis. I'm sure it's not a fair portrait but I found it to be a pretty ugly city, and was distressed that the main feature of downtown seemed to be a huge sports stadium and a comparably huge mall. On the weekends, crowds seemed to stream in from all the outlying towns to go to the mall. This made me think about how our agricultural farming heartland became the industrial heartland. As is often the case, it was the discovery of a quirky fact that helped shape the song. While looking at the local paper I realized that Indiana is the state farthest west in the Eastern time zone. I'm from the East coast so this fact was brought home to me when I was going to the airport in the dark at 7:30 in the morning and realizing that it would already be light at home by this time. This supplied the central metaphor of the state or region needing to wake up, and look at what was lost with the family farm that can't be replaced by malls and fast food joints. The interest in Ethanol as a fuel source gives me hope that some of the farming life in the area will regain its value.

During that ride to the airport we also rode past numerous factories with their smokestacks spewing fire - all of which helped to add to the imagery.

So that was the kernel -- the rest fell into place pretty readily...

You can hear the song on my website: