Tuesday, July 6, 2010

To Do or Not To Do

IJ at 17, playing in the backyard
When I was about 11 years old my best friend Kelly got a guitar and started taking lessons.  On one occasion I was at her house and she let me hold the guitar after she showed me something she had learned.  I immediately started playing what she showed me by ear...and that was the beginning of my love affair with the guitar.

I really wanted to play piano, but my parents told me that they couldn't afford to buy a piano, so eventually they bought me my own guitar.  I think it came from Sears (it was called Simpson Sears back then!) and was probably purchased for about $15-20.  But I loved it.  I didn't get any lessons, so I had to figure it out on my own.  Somebody showed me a quick way to play a couple of chords with one or two fingers, and I was on my way.

Of course, I couldn't play any of the songs I heard on the radio...most of them had more than the two or three chords in my musical vocabulary, so I just started making up my own songs.

As I found out over time, that story isn't all too unique;  a lot of songwriters seem to begin to write in the preteen and teen years.  I guess a combination of circumstances and all of those changes happening in our young bodies at that age bring out the creative stuff.  When I was 14 and trying to come to grips with my mother's death, songwriting was a way to cope.  I didn't write about her, I wrote about everything else...it was like an escape for me, and a way to channel all kinds of emotions that I had no idea how to deal with.  At first the songs were about things like my dog or my home (remember, I was just a kid!), but over time, a lot of songs predictably dealt with my teenage crushes and other exploits.  My songs followed my life. 

When I got married and started having children, the songs often reflected the day-to-day of being a mother and my view of the world at that point in time.  I got myself an 8-track recorder and began to record some of them.  My setup was pretty cheesy...I had my guitar and a little drum machine and a mini sampling keyboard to make some other sounds.  The girls were little then, so I would alternately run between my motherly duties, my work and my recording.  Over two years I worked at it, and finally had a cassette of my songs. 

I made four recordings in total, one cassette and three CDs, not a lot really, but at least I had 'em!  I did a lot of performing over the years at all kinds of events, coffee houses, festivals, whatever I could find.  Three or four years ago, I began the task of preparing a bunch of new songs to record when my writing abruptly stopped.  I didn't think much of it, every writer has their dry spells.  But this one was different because I didn't even have the gumption to sit down and write a thing.  Usually I would at least come up with a few lines of a melody, even if they didn't turn into anything.  But there was nothing.  Now that I look back, I think some of it had to do with the affects of peri-menopause...I couldn't keep my attention on anything for long and was FAR more frustrated with any attempts than I had ever been.  I was too pissed off, too muddled, impatient and far too hot to write!

Last summer I decided to at least start recording the songs that were pretty much ready.  But due to an enormously large "to do" list, I didn't get them finished.  I didn't get a lot done at all.  I don't think "to do" lists help you get much done in the long run.  But this summer, I have decided for myself that I need to get them finished, even if just to clear my plate and start anew.  I still have not written a thing, but my intention is to get these songs recorded and compiled and then I'll put them out there to the universe where they belong.  Kind of like releasing salmon fry.  They do or die.

My daughter and I came up with a name, and we're going to do the artwork together.  I'm not going to spend a gazzillion dollars on all of the things I did before;  I won't get it mass produced or hire a graphic artist.  I still have hundreds of the old CDs gathering dust in my basement!  No, this time, I'll do it simply and the only thing I'll put any extra money towards is releasing it on iTunes.

And then it will be done.
I'll let you know :-)

IJ

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