THE NEW YORKERS AND THE COWBOY
The first group was Sal, Dave and Pat. They are a trio from upstate New York who have known and played music with each other for over 20 years. Dave and Pat have been coming to Nashville for about 15 years, to perform, work with publishers, and soak in the Nashville experience. They came to me last year because they had reached a point where they weren't getting as much information as they needed. They would get told their songs didn't work here but couldn't put their fingers on why things weren't working.
Much of it was because their songs were a little same old same old. They were superficial, writing about subjects that sounded like most things out there. Yet they were missing those essential details that are so important to have. Last year we had written three songs, one of which, "KISS ME I'M IRISH" told the story of Sal and his wife, who met on a St. Patrick's day. That age old saying provided a back drop for them to sing. We wrote a very singable up tempo story about them meeting and getting married. Truth always works.
They took it and two others we wrote in a day, and worked it up for their live gigs. They started playing the songs and started getting requests for their own material. Soon the songs, particularly "IRISH" was their most requested songs. Their hometown crowds loved it and it would go to be part of their current record. Like many things I write, they are not always meant to be the next Nashville pitch, but to demonstrate how to find things in your own everyday life that will be relatable to other people. With their infectious harmonies, intersting instrumentation and high energy, the songs really worked well. Having not heard them in a year, I was impressed with what they had done. They did them on some writers nights here and worked their way into writing with artist and friend, Allen "Superman" Shervelle. So all of it comes together very well.
But it was time for this year. After hearing their progress and reviewing other songs, they started throwing out some ideas. The first was from Sid, who is the high harmony and lead singer and bass player. Sal is quite the rocker and likes the old days of Journey and my old stomping grounds of 80's rock. So that gave a basis instrumentally and groove wise of where we might go. If you fast forward from the days of Journey in the 80's, factor in groups of today who might have been influenced by Journey, you come up with people like Rascal Flatts and Lady Antibellum. So that gave me a musical framework to start with.
Sal actually had a melody and a general outline he wanted to work on. The title would be JUST GOT TO LET HER KNOW. It would be up tempo, and have a pretty solid singable chorus.
Knowing the hook line, it was my job to find where the story would go. We made it into a guy who goes into Starbucks everyday because he has a thing for the girl behind the counter. To a point where he is buying so many cakes, donuts, coffee that he is worried the girl might think he has sugar diabetes because he is just there all the time. But he can't tell her how he feels.
The first lines started coming and I started writing as fast as I could on my computer. It was to describe the scene, putting reality in it. Sal already had some general ideas so I put them into order:
JUST GOT TO LET HER KNOW
Gotta say this is nothing like me,
Tongue tied up, can't say a damn thing
but happens every time I run into her
There's something about those dimples
Or the cute way her nose wrinkles
When she smiles it's the brightest light on earth
Been at Starbucks here three times this week
Don't know if the buzz is from her or all this caffeine
We are rhyming the first and second lines, and the third and sixth lines. This gives a way to "hook" the sylables together. I try to show the scene, with him having an inner dialogue with himself. Sometimes you make the singer the narrator. If he was saying this to her, it might make him seem like a freak. So this is more "inner monologue" telling the listener what is going on inside his mind.
NOW I'VE JUST GOTTA LET HER KNOWIT'S BEEN A LONG TIME, SINCE I FELT THIS WAY
AND IT FEELS GREAT,
NOW THERE'S JUST ONE MORE STEP TO GO
IT'S A LONG TIME, NOW THERE'S ONE MORE THING
IT'S A LITTLE THING
I'VE JUST GOTTA LET HER KNOW
See, easy. All he has to do is tell her. Or possibly jump off a bridge, which ever is easier. We've all been there. Trying to tell someone we like them without being a total nerge! That first date. first time. Man., that can SUCK! Fear of rejection, fear of the unknown. And the music, which is very much an 8th note driving rock groove, reinforces that feeling of urgency.
So now, second verse HELL!
What do you do? WEll, since we have set up what the scene is and what it is about, how about inserting some things that he physically did to grab her attention. For here, I used a combination of things that I actually had happen to me, and television and movies I have seen. Got to start thinking Three stooges or Jim Carey in Dumb and Dumber here:
I wonder if she got suspicious,
When I knocked over two stacks of dishes
Tripped over that rack of New York Times (yes, I actually did this)
And when I brought three dozen donuts
Just to get some extra moments
To look at her from the check out line (guilty)
Can't get a read on what she thinks of me
Probably believes I've got a case of Sugar Diabetes'
Okay, that probably won't stay in. But I go for really funny sometimes and that made me laugh. And yes, I know Starbucks doesn't sell donuts, but it was a line Dave wanted to use and hey, never let the facts get in the way of a good story. This is all subject to re-write and may change but I am laying out how we did it that day.
Now we get to the all feared BRIDGE section. I like to use these as the "TWIST ON THE TALE" or the "MORAL OF THE STORY." Sometimes I like to deliver the "Oh God! I didn't see that coming. It is the really fun part for me when it comes together cooley. I was trying to find a way to get them together. I like happy endings:
As I'm headed to my car, feeling my defeat
I see she wrote her number, on the back of my reciept.
There. The guy is essentially a goof, and thinks he is doing everything wrong. But he is swept up by this girl. He trips over himself, does dumb things, and yet, still gets the girl. If only life worked that way. Well, every once in a while, it does. Just look at my life. Kind of proof in the pudding.
So this was the first song. Took about an hour and we found the type of song they didn't have any of. We took a break and then on to the next song. Next post.