A Review of our 2020 Challenge 

WE DID IT!!  We accomplished our goal of recording an original song, for each of the 52 weeks in 2020 :-)   “THANK YOU” to those who have encouraged, followed, advised, commented, cheered us on, shared our videos or just took time to check it out, THANK YOU!!!  <3 

There were times when some songs did not seem like they were ever going to come together, we got cranky with one another and EEISH…  But somehow we sweetened up and pressed on.  There was that bone in my foot I fractured and the boot I had to wear for 9 weeks, while it healed.  I won’t even go into details about the accidental, flying leap, I took off the bathroom counter, just after getting my boot off, as I mostly ended up in one piece.   But I will say, many things this past year gave me serious concern that we did not have as much control over our challenge as we first imagined.  I concerned that maybe we would not be able to complete it.  Never did we consider that there would be a pandemic.  However, I think the challenge was a good thing for us to focus on and perhaps provided us with something consistently familiar as we found ourselves in what I’ve heard some people refer to as “a new norm”.    

Early on in the pandemic, I considered live music as we once knew it, might be gone for a very long time.  I mourned it.  I recounted conversations I had previously had with musicians.  The ones, when they would speak of their glory days, name dropping famous musicians they knew or played along side of before saying something like "I can't believe I have to play this place now" or some other comment showing displeasure with their current day situation.  I wondered at the time, why they couldn’t see how fortunate they had been to have done what they did.  As I considered this, I took a moment to really touch base with how grateful I feel to have lived moments, where I was able to play live music and get a synergistic thing going with an audience, whether small or large.  I hope I always value those moments, while remembering not to take the current moments for granted because one day, maybe they will be part of my own glory days.     

For me, completing the 2020 original song a week challenge was a dream come true.  All my adult life I have been looking for ways, for Dan and I to own our time, so that we could experience the freedom, to passionately work with our talents, at a comfortable pace that allows us to bring out the best of ourselves, while hopefully impacting our environment and the people in it, in a positive way.   While it turns out an original song a week challenge is not quite the answer to such an involved goal, we got 52 original songs recorded and that really feels good!  Currently, we are kicking back just a bit and looking to tackle things we let go of, in order to complete our challenge.  We are trying to get these other things done and get reorganized, in hopes of making space for our next endeavor.   

One last thing.  I recommend taking a year to fulfill your own challenge.  It doesn’t have to start on January 1st and end on December 31st.  Just start.  When I have worried about COVID-19, the thought that I was working on our challenge helped me feel like I had more control over my life than I probably did because each day I was working on what seemed to be my own life’s fulfillment, I felt I was living my life to it’s fullest.  Let me know if you plan on taking on such a challenge so I can support you. 

Much love and best wishes!! 
:-) 

Week 52 -Enjoy The View 

“Enjoy the View” is the last song of our “2020 Original Song a Week Challenge”.   

Dan and I have had a habit of closing a lot of our performances with Michael Franti’s and Spearhead’s “Say Hey I Love You”.   We did it once and got so many comments from people, telling us they loved it, that I almost always put it on the list as our closer.  Up until our last live performance, we were still getting comments on it and what a great feel it left everyone with.  I love that people love it as much as I do and especially that they love our cover! 

2020 has been such a tough year for so many people, that I was thinking I wanted to have the last song of our challenge and closer to the year, be a little quieter and touching.  We have had some performances where it just felt right to leave the audience with a song that felt more like a soft kiss.  I thought, let’s end things like that.  Then, Dan kindly pointed out, that the past couple of songs were softer and maybe a more electric, joy filled song, would make for a better ender.  Something uplifting and hopeful.  He had been working on something that he thought would fit the bill.  Having it pointed out to me that way I agreed and wondered, what would Michael Franti and Spearhead write?  Cue the crickets because my mind was as empty as a field.  Then, I listened to the music Dan came up with and thought of the Rob Thomas song, “Street Corner Symphony” and wondered if I could get something close to that feel with the lyrics…  While I considered this and continued to listen to Dan play,  I had this brain flash moment.  It was this really strong thought that came out of nowhere, maybe it was more of a strong memory that the theme song to the original “Party of Five” was “Hold My Hand” by Hoodie and the BlowFish.   Accompanying this thought was goosebumps and this strong urge to put some positive Hoodie and the Blowfish vibes into a song that closes out what seems to me to be a “Party of Five” kind of year.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the Bodean’s song, “Closer to Free” is the song that stuck as the “Party of Five” theme song.  Also, a great, amazingly positive, hope springs eternal kind of song.  BUT I had Hoodie goosebumps so… 

When it came time to chalk the wall I came up with this   This kind of hopeful, “Enjoy the View”, “Wish You Were Here”, “Missing You” but “Forever” stamped with “Hope” kind of message.  My favorite line from “Enjoy the View”, is “The life you live, is the life you give and it’s all just recycling.”  I hope we all give each other our best in the coming new year. 

Week 51 - Under Your Christmas Tree 

Have you ever found yourself crying while laying on your back, on the floor, staring up at the inside of a Christmas tree?  I’m going to guess probably not…  I have and “Under Your Christmas Tree” was conceived (I think it’s fair to say immaculately ;-) ) as I laid, with my back on the hard floor, head under the tree, looking up through it’s middle, having a gentle cry.  This was a one time thing.  It’s not like I make a habit of sticking my head under Christmas trees crying.  It’s just, I had a very tough year in 2017 and lost some people very dear to me, one was my mother.  I didn’t plan on crying when I laid down on the floor and popped my head under the Christmas tree.  Oh no, it was all fun and games, until that moment.  Let me rewind a little bit here and explain.   

Some years back, I had moved into a new neighborhood and I spent my early mornings at the bus stop with my elementary aged child and some other mother and their children.  We enjoyed exchanging stories and chatting about all things mother related.  On the the last school day before the winter break, my child was telling the other children that he found the Christmas pickle and he was asking me if we could get one to hide.  Just the day before that, I had been at a friend’s home, where they practiced the tradition of hiding the Christmas pickle.  I was telling the other mothers about this fun tradition.  “It’s a pickle ornament.  Whoever found it last year gets to hide it this year and whoever finds it this year will have good luck all next year.”  I explained how I had looked once before but been unable to find one.  A couple of the other mothers thought it was the funniest, strangest thing and come Christmas Eve, one of the mothers and her child, showed up at my door with a gift for me and my child.  A pickle.  She wanted one for her family after hearing about them and she was far more determined than I or fortunate because she was able to find, not one, but two.  My mother was at our house at the time and she also had never heard of such a thing but quickly became a seeker of the pickle, as my child got right to hiding it and asking each of us to look for it.   Every year after that, she was bound and determined to find it.   

So forward to 2017, with my children grown up, I  prepared for their Christmas visit.  I found myself alone, decorating the Christmas tree.   I came across the Christmas pickle and slide under the Christmas tree to strategically hide it, thought of my mother and found myself in tears.  As I lay there under the Christmas tree, with tears softly falling and blurring my eyes, I noticed how beautiful the view from inside the Christmas tree was and as I was hiding the pickle, this song idea came to mind. 

More recently, Dan has been playing this pretty guitar riff that I think fits the lyrics perfectly.  Take a listen and see what you think.  “Peace On Earth For Christmas”  is another Christmas song I’ve written and can be found at our old Youtube page. 

Warm wishes to you and yours!!  <3

Week 50 - Early Winter's Morning 

For weeks and weeks now, in every spare moment I could find, I have been listening to old cassette tapes hoping to hear a song I once wrote, called “Early Winter’s Morning”.  A sweet song about a young girl’s first kiss.   I went through every cassette I could find and I never came across the original version of me singing the song onto a tape.  To my recollection, I was 19 or 20 and it was the holiday season, when I found myself singing a piece, from the Opera, “Amal and the Night Visitors” by Gian-Carlo Menotti.   I think I was vacuuming or cleaning at the time.  Anyway, I heard this new song emerging from what I was singing and I followed it, just letting it go where it seemed to want to go. It kept going and going… There were so many stances.  At some point it hit me, I should be recording this before it decides not to play with me anymore and goes away.  I did.  But I did not ever find the tape.  Luckily, I remembered the tune and the gist of the story.  So, at the top of last week, I rewrote it.   

I have to hand it to Dan.  He and I really struggled with it and it was difficult for him to play.  We did multiple, little practices of it because it hurt his hands to play it over and over again.  In the end, he voiced it through guitar perfectly to what I was hearing in my head.  When the song originally emerged, my imagination ran wild and I could hear an orchestra playing it and visually, I imagined it with ballet or ice ballet performers and also imagined it could be adapted for school children’s winter performances, as a non-denominational seasonal thing to bring people together for the holidays.  I imagined the whole arts wing finding it, an opportunity to perform together.  I likened it in ways to “Peter and the Wolf”.  

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.  I would like to point out we had help with the art on the wall.  It was created by aj_furey who can be found on Instagram.   

Other music, I think I may have been inspired by:  Suzanne Vega’s "Night Vision", Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, Moody Blues “Knights in White Satin” and “Walt Disney’s Presents A Children's Garden of Verses” album.  (<— at least these were the thoughts that came to mind while working on it with Dan last week.) 

These, were just things that came to mind while we worked on the song that you may appreciate:  Edward Scissorhands the movie and the ballet by Mathew Bourne.  Also “Rusty the Skate Maker” by Rasputina.

Week 49 - Coming Back For More 

The only preparation we had put into our “2020 Original Song Challenge” before jumping in last January, was that I had begun to listen to old songs I'd come up and pieces of songs, I had on various recording devices.  We also knew we had a handful of songs we’ve played live and worked on, that are not on our CD.  So, before we started, we put together a list of about 20 songs, we knew we wanted to work.  It was to be used like an emergency savings account.  We did not want to burn through them, right away.  Instead, we wanted to use the songs from the list to buy ourselves time, in those moments, when we would inevitably find ourselves struggling.   

We knew January was going to be our learning curve and the list of songs would come in handy.  We knew we had some drummer friends coming to visit towards the end of March and had hoped, they would be our first guest musicians in the year.  It was my hope we would record “Coming Back For More” at that time… but along came COVID-19…    and the song was put off and put off, in hopes we would be able to have a drummer join us.  Dan and I discussed the possibility of recording our part and then having a guest drummer play along with it but most of the year we were scrambling for time and couldn't work out the details.  The few times we were able to get ahead, we considered working out those details but instead, chose to spend our time getting help, to make our videos more entertaining as we noticed they were beginning to all look the same.  Again, the year has been nothing like the one we imagined and planned for.  We had higher hopes for it.  Our hopes included guest musicians (plural) and an opportunity to connect with others, instead of isolate.  I really held out hope, for this song to have a drummer, for as long as possible.  There are more verses to the song but we cut them, so it wouldn’t feel too long and too much the same.  I wish the year had allowed us better opportunities for our songs.  I look to 2021 and hope as we face the end of it, we can say, “Better than the last year-Better than before-Better than the last year…” Here’s to hope!! <3 

(only 3 songs to go…) 

 

Week 48 - Words 

"WORDS" - “There’s just no words to say” but somehow I’ve been managing to write the words to this song since the late 80’s.  The latest words came much later, more recently, when I wrote the intro’s “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, unless those words land in your ears and lead you to desert me.”  I was never a fan of the old “Sticks and stones” phrase.  Seems to me many words are crafted to hurt others, disable them and people are even killed on words from others.  Miscommunications have certainly done a lot of harm themselves.  Rumors, lies and propaganda can be more hurtful than sticks and stones as they can take out many in one full blow.   

The first part of this song I came up with was the first verse and it came to me in one quick second.  I originally heard the ending in my head dissolving into whispers of repeated “surreptitious talk”.  I saw in my head a vision of people whispering rumors to others, like a dis-ease spreading.   

About 8 years ago, Dan was playing around and I could hear this song merging in my head with what he was playing.  I recorded it but sadly, lost the recording.  Since then my ears have heard him playing what sounded like the same thing on a few occasions but I’ve never been able to get it recorded before he moved on and forgot what he was doing.  So, I tried to figure the song out myself, just before presenting him with it as a song possibility but he sat down to fiddle with his guitar, just before our writing session and low and behold he played that tune I recognized as the one I thought would be a good match for “Words”.    Have a listen.  What do you think?   

Ha, ha, at some points in the video, it looks like I’m brushing my hair, I was expecting the other camera to be used in the shot.  It was supposed to be sound waves, words, spoken into my ear.  It was late Saturday night when Dan completed the video editing.  I didn’t have the heart to ask him to switch the camera views.  Especially,  after all the extra time and effort we had invested in the “Scrabble” word video’s, we spent extra time preparing, recording and learning about and editing into this weeks video.  Kudos to Dan as most of the real work landed on his shoulders.   All and all,  It was a very busy day and we were coming off of a very busy week.  We barely met our Saturday night deadline for being done with the video.  We are aware, a week is too short to ever accomplish all we set out too.  We are tired and looking forward to having our “2020 Original Song A Week Challenge” completed.  These past weeks, we have not been able to perform the tasks as quickly as we once did.  We are so glad we created the challenge for ourselves though and thankful we have been able to work on it each week and see the progress that is only there, for our commitment to it.  Hope you have gotten some enjoyment out it as well.   Just 4 more to go!! :-)

Week 47 - Hungry 

“Hungry” is a salute to parties I attended in my 20’s and a cheers to their hosts! 

In our 20’s, we had some clever friends that could whip up a party at a moment’s notice and it would  be one we’d all be talking about for years and years and yes, I’m still talking about them.  A party theme in particular was the  “I survived the holiday”.  The first I ever attended was by phone invitation, the day after Thanksgiving and it went something like this:  “We survived Thanksgiving and we’re throwing a party tomorrow to celebrate.  Everyone is being asked to bring an appetizer and a story from their holiday experience.  Whoever has survived the biggest Thanksgiving fiasco or has the most pitiful tale is going to win a surprise gift.”  Ah, what a light perspective we had on things the “Grown ups” took so seriously. 

I’m feeling very “Grown Up” these days but doing my best to try and keep my sense of humor.  2020  has been a serious year.  If you’re like us, you are heeding Doctor’s warnings and keeping your in person, holiday gatherings, to members of your own household and/or pod.  It seems very unfair that Covid-19 could throw a wrench into our lives the way it has so far this year and now to put the kibosh on our holiday plans…  I find myself looking at the debacles of Thanksgiving’s past and thinking we had no idea how fortunate we were to gather with family, endure their idiosyncrasies and live to elaborate and craft our stories of holiday survival later, as we entertained our friends and created moments that we would spend the rest of our lives looking back upon with such fond longing. 

Week 46 - Houses Of Stone 

Week 46 and losing steam but not running out of songs or ideas, just wish we had more time to cater to them.   

I wrote most of the lyrics to “Houses of Stone” in 1988 or 1989.  It was just after receiving a gift from Dan.  My very first CD!  I didn’t even have a player but luckily my parents did and I lived with them at the time.  He had heard this singer/songwriter, Edie Brickell and said he knew right away I would like her.  I remember playing the CD for the first time and loving her for putting it out there.  I loved Rickie Lee Jones and Edie Brickell seemed to have a similar appeal to me.  “Houses of Stone” was an attempt on my part at the time to write a song, I imagined, was something like they might.  imagined... ;-)

I wished Dan and I had more time with the song.  I ended up using the time I normally would have spent on my vocals, building the wall.  (isn't that always the case? building walls have their costs.)  The idea for the wall came to me as I was considering how to show and not just tell the song. Es Devlin came to mind and a video I had watched of her making creations with boxes and paper.  Just as I am no Edie, or Rickie Lee, I am also no Es.   My humble, crude version of a wall would have to do, I told myself as I constructed the wall.  I also listened to Ronald Reagan’s, famous wall speech from June 12, 1987.  I paid particular attention to the way Reagan compared the wall to a scar and then quoted George Marshall (Secretary of State 1947-1949) “Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty desperation and chaos.”  It occurred to me right then and there our wall needed some graffiti.  Well, then one graffiti led to another and so on, etc…        I don’t know if you can actually read the writing on the wall.    

Something that occurred to me when we were done and I had the task of tearing the boxes down was how many times I had wished I had access to scenery to help show and not tell the song’s stories.  Here was the answer, these boxes could be used in so many ways and yet I never gave it thought.  In all those 45 songs we did this year, how did it not occur to me?  Thank you Es for putting that video out there!  Definitely look Es Devlin up if you are unfamiliar with her.  She’s amazing at creating and arranging spaces of interest!!  Perhaps she’ll inspire you.  :-)

PS:  just this evening before posting this I heard that we may find ourselves in a box and cardboard shortage this holiday season.  So many people now shopping by mail and delivery services may create this shortage.  PLEASE,  look into donating your boxes to local vendors instead of recycling them and DOUBLE PLEASE, do not throw your recyclable cardboard away!!  Many small companies that are already hurting from the pandemic are now shipping products to customers.  Boxes may be a welcome donation to them.  <3

YES, Of course I WAS all the time thinking of Pink Floyd!!

Song 45 - Can't Get To Heaven (From Here) 

I imagine our first week in 2021, Dan and I are going to be so psyched to get some things done around our house that we have been putting off.  We are so thankful to have been able to make it to song 45 and are so close to the completion of our challenge.  While that excites us we are definitely feeling tired of the write, learn, practice record schedule we have been on, week in and week out.   "Can't Get To Heaven" felt a bit like a cheat and a bit like a necessary choice.  You may recognize it as one we have performed out and one, while not on a CD, one we have previously recorded.  Here's the backstory on the song:    I had a brother that was two years older than me and when I was young, I looked up to him and wanted to be like him.  He was gregarious, funny and a joy to be around and then one day he fell out of grace with some key people in his life.  This happened for many reasons.  Had you asked me to explain this at the time, I would have said it was like watching the pieces of a “Mouse Trap” game in motion.    My father was a strict disciplinarian.  My mother left us, “To find herself”.   There was division in our family.  He was 13 and vulnerable.  He was trying to not feel vulnerable.   He was trying to hold onto his “Top Dog” social status, he had among his peers.  Someone in his peer group gave him something and it relaxed my brother.  He felt less vulnerable.  It seemed to be a solution and so it became the tool for that problem.  He needed money to purchase it, so he got a job selling it.  Working for someone else as their salesman, they had other products to push.  A good salesman knows his products, so he did what any good salesman would do and got to know his products.  By the time my parents figured their stuff out, the game of “Mouse Trap” was in full swing.  By the time I wrote “Can’t Get To Heaven” my brother had already been in jail.

In my early twenties, I worked with a salesman who seemed to have a line for everything.  One of those lines I heard time and time again.  Whenever anyone came into our place of work, looking for directions to some other place, my office mate would say, “You can’t get there from here”.  One day at work after hearing him say this,  I found myself feverishly scribbling on the scraps of paper we used to write down notes and take phone messages and when I was done, this song had been written.  It maybe took as many as five minutes to write.  

My brother was just trying to find himself or fix himself or something.  I wanted to help him.  I wanted him to be okay, so my family had a chance of being okay.  We should all love and support each other.  Our lives are connected.  Perhaps, more than any other time in our lives, the year 2020 has proven this.  Life can be so messy.  It can be so unfair but we don’t have to be.  “Let’s Bring Heaven Down Here”.  “What If God Were One Of Us”? What if we were all God?  If I were, I would try to be “The Scientist,” I’d say “Your Mess Is Mine” and then I’d say, “Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong”.  I believe we can get anywhere from here if we work together.  

Song 44 - Sweet Song Of Love 

“Sweet Song Of Love” came to me one day as I was driving down the highway.  Immediately, I imagined the opening to sound similar to the one in “The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men” by Rickie Lee Jones.  The opening to her song had set such a mood and made such an impact on me the first time I heard it.  It reminded me of my Great Grandmother and her special ability to help tell stories.  She had played piano for the silent movies, when she was young.  She would watch the films and know just what to play to elicit the emotions of the audience and connect them to the characters on the screen.  When I would visit her as a child, she always played the piano and took requests.  One song I loved to hear her play was “Simple Melody”.    

I considered putting a list of songs up on the wall behind me for the video, songs that had inspired me.  Songs I had tried to rewrite in my own words because the songs had impacted me.  I considered putting a list of songs I had listened to over and over again like an addict chasing that feeling…  I decided instead to go with a heart of three artists, their songs that had inspired me and the songs I in turn wrote, all in the shape of a recycled heart with the chorus to “Sweet Song Of Love” inside the heart.  I included Edie Brickell, “The Wheel” which inspired “Ferris Wheel”, Melanie Safka, “Steppin’” which inspired “Back To The Beginning” and Lenka’s “Like A Song” which inspired “Sweet Song Of Love”