This summer I opted out of the fifty songs in 90 days 50/90 challenge to focus on practicing the heck out of my instruments using yousician.com, and to start pre-production on my long time coming, and still a long time to come next album, with my friend Nick Howell, who is just about to release a brilliant debut album.
While my own album remains mired in procrastinati… — I mean pre-production, I keep showing up on other people’s projects. My FAWM 2015 co-write with Daniel Jun Kim, Search For Spock, is on his Pop Mythology and Friends album.
Earlier this year, I had a co-write with Stephen Wordsmith on his delightfully eclectic album, Tinnitus.
It has been a summer filled with music. Earlier this summer, my family went to an annual favorite, The Canturbury Folk Festival in Ingersoll. Later my mind was blown by a screening of the Frank Zappa documentary, Eat that Question at the TIFF theater.
We have just returned from a 2 week east coast vacation. Amongst the great scenery, the seafood, and the good times, we took in some amazing music. Highlights included the Lunenberg Kitchen Party, where I played a couple tunes and Old Home Week in Charlottetown which featured a nightly showcase of PEI musicians organized by the amazing Eddy Quinn.
A personal musical highlight came half unexpectedly at the Hank Snow museum, in the old train station in Liverpool NS. As expected, the museum houses a retrospective of the life and career of Hank Snow, but also is home to the Nova Scotia Country Music Hall of Fame. I recorded 2 versions of Hank Snow’s Fool Such as I in liverpool, one in front of the hank snow museum, but the wind noise is overpowering. The other, on the shore turned out much better.
We capped the holiday off in Kingston with 25000 people for the telecast of the last Tragically Hip concert.
Tomorrow, I embark on my fourth February Album Writing Month. I cannot rave enough about how the participating in FAWM has energized my creative life and supercharged my songwriting output.
Here are my 2016 FAWM Resolutions.
Go Wherever the muse takes me.
If necessary, continue forward even if I can’t discern the muse.
Write a bunch of poppy songs on ukulele.
Live one-off acoustic demos are my comfort zone. I resolve to produce at least 3-5 multitrack demos.
I am wide open to collaboration both online and face to face. Let’s make music together.
This year I will try to release a 5 song (or more) EP of my FAWM2016 songs on Bandcamp by the end of March.
As the month progresses, you can follow my progress on the FAWM site. I’m known as ductapeguy over there.
Here is a handy jukebox of my FAWM 2016 songs.
Update: March 15: I had a great FAWM this year and achieved all my FAWM goals except for polishing up some songs for a Bancamp release. Stay tuned…
One of my highlights was the 8 collaborations. I find that working with another songwriter teaches me soo much.
I’ve known my dear friend, mentor and tormentor, paul court for over 20 years. He is the chief instigator for our local songwriting collective that is now in its 14th year. About five years ago, upon hearing there was such a thing as February Album writing Month, he wrote an album called Still Dusty— a song for song response to Fred Eaglesmith’s album Dusty. The following year I joined FAWM and I’ve been here since.
This year I’m trying to focus on face to face, in the same room, collaborations whenever possible. Paul has been focusing more on visual arts than music the past couple of years, so I was thrilled when he consented to write with me. Every collaboration is different and on this one Paul was the conceiver and did most of the heavy lifting. I was a contributor. What a privilege to be invited into the “inner writing place” of another musician.
Update: Paul Recorded a demo of the song at our monthly meeting of the Barrie and District Association for Singer Songwriters (BADAS/S). Here it is.
Every year I make a word cloud of all my FAWM lyrics. This year I tried a new wordcloud generator:wordclouds.com . It turned out fabulous.
I had a very fruitful FAWM 2015 with 21 new songs brought into the world. When summer rolled around, I was not considering doing The 50-90 Challenge, because our family was planning a cross country trip to Alberta to see my extended family. As July 4 neared, I found I was ready to open the creative floodgates once again and I started in earnest. I wrote 18 songs from July 4 to August 1, many of them on the road in response to our family Trans Canada Highway tour. I was also having a quite an inward journey, revisiting the people and the prairies of my childhood. Partway through our holiday, I got a wicked summer cold, and I was finding that the songwriting was incringing on the vacation, so I pressed pause. Returning home mid-August I wrote two more songs, but my cough was still with me and my heart wasn’t in it. Fast forward to the end of October, I still have the cough, and 20 new songs. Not a bad crop this year. FAWM: 21 + 5090:20. I have my own top 40 of songs for 2015 and still a couple months if I want to write a couple more.
I’m entitling this collection, TransCanada Troubadour, because the songs were directly influenced by my cross country journey.
The demos here were very lofi, and often very rough sketches of the melodies and performances. If my voice ever returns to strength after my summer cold, I may give a go at polishing up some of these demos.
Sean McGaughey, October 26, 2015
I have just completed my third February Album Writing Month with 19 new songs. What follows, is a record of my 14 new songs, alternate demos, comments from the FAWM site, and a bit of accompanying artwork I produced along the way.
This year I felt like a honky-tonk was following me around. I wrote several country hurting songs, as well as my usual February fare of folk songs, silly filk songs and winter tunes.
This year, I also focused on online collaborations. There are several FAWMers who post lyrics exclusively and welcome collaboration with musicians. This year Arthur Rossi in Austria wrote over 195 lyrics. I set two of them to music, I am Dracula and Z28. I also got the opportunity to co-write with some of my FAWM friends Jane Eggers, Joel Canfield, Canadian Folksinger Kim Beggs, and FAWM newcomer POPMythology.
The process for each of the collaborations was different for each of them. Arthur posts lyrics and then welcomes people to adapt them as they see fit. One of them I set to music verbatim, the other I tinkered with lyrically. Joel and I have wanted to collaborate for some time. This time he sent me a set of lyrics, which I set to music unchanged. Jane and I bounced ideas back and forth for about a week and collaborated on the lyrics and story of the song which I set to music. Kim Beggs asked me for a set of lyrics, which she reworked into a hauntingly beautiful song. And pm February 28, Pop Mythology posted a great set of lyrics in honor of the passing of Leonard Nimoy which I could not pass up. I also had a collaboration which did not see the light of day because the lyricist did not like the direction I took the music, so I wrote new lyrics for the music I had set for it.
I experimented a fair bit with drum loops, but none ended up in my FAWM songs. I did stretch myself a bit recording a few multitrack songs where I played guitar, bass, and shakers.
All in all it was a great FAWM. I learned tons and got a good crop of new songs.
It’s Canadian National Day of Podcasting so I did a bit of a ramblecast/rant about my current thoughts on podcasting and on my creative life in general. I also plug my new podcast audiobook, Time for the Fair. Please check it out. I close out with a recording of This Ain’t My Hat, a song I wrote inspired by a children’s book This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
Happy CNDOP. Maybe next year it will be a statutory holiday.
This afternoon we went to Promenade Days in Barrie. One of the vendors on Dunlop was none other than Big John of the decades closed Big Johns Records. When I moved to Barrie in the late 80s, my sisters introduced me to Big John and his record store. His store was around the corner from Sam the Record Man at the 5 points. His tastes were eclectic in the extreme and he had only one rule– “Is it Good?” If you could find the kind of top 40 pablum they sold at Sam’s around the corner, it was likely kept inside a (thankfully dry) toilet at the back of the store with a hand lettered sign reading “Pop Shit” or in a basket on the counter under a flystrip with a sign that said “Top 40 tapes– Free if you take a fly.”
Big John introduced my sisters to Sonic Youth, Henry Rollins and Sioxie and the Banshees before they broke into the mainstream. He turned me on to Little Feat, Dave Brubek and the Greatful Dead.
Today he sold us 3 CDs. My daughter got a Johnny Cash compilation that got the Big John seal of approval. She also a Miley Cyrus CD which I remarked should have been free with a dead fly . Mine was a special Big John Recommendation.
There are more than a few musicians and bands that have profoundly influenced my musical tastes and my songwriting BUT I have never actually owned one of their albums. I have become intimately familiar with their music through the covers of my friends, on the radio and TV, or just through pop culture overexposure.
Today I bought one such album from Big John. It is from a long disbanded group who produced about a dozen albums in the sixties. Their music has shaped my consciousness for my whole life, but I have never owned one of their albums till today. I had considered getting a greatest hits compilation, but I think as a musician I really needed to hear these songs afresh in the original order as an album. I narrowed it down to two CDs. The one I chose was a recording entitled: “Rubber Soul”.
We listened to it in the car on the way home. My mind has been melted.
As I said, I am intimately familiar almost all of the 14 songs on the album but to hear it as a whole. So many impressions– Wow That Bass Player is astounding… And that drummer. Some of those rhythm guitar parts are stripped down in the extreme– just a downstroke on 2 and 4– jangly and slightly out of tune. The mix is wonderfully organic and inconsistent. Sometimes the guitars are a little too loud, sometimes drowned out by the drums and bass. The harmonies are sublime and not one of them autotuned. The songs demonstrate a hodgepodge of influences from rockabilly, to Rand B, to bluegrass, to British dance hall, to Indian Ragas. The style, mood and lead singer changes with almost every song. There is a moment in Girl during a 2 beat pause in the music where John takes a noisy audible breath. For all of the above reasons, this album shouldn’t work– but it is a masterpiece. It is perfect even in its imperfections.
Yesterday I got an itunes gift card as a gift. I believe I will use it to buy another record from this band called Revolver. Has anyone else heard of it? Is there anything else by these guys that I should have?
As a lifelong science fiction fan and a folk musician, I have been aware of the existence of Filk music for decades but I had never really investigated it. I was quite comfortable in my place as a slightly geeky singing schoolteacher and songwriter who told stories about family, faith, childhood, duct tape, and some geeky stuff.
Over the past year, I have come to know a number of Ontario Filkers through February Album Writing Month and Nanowrimo. Our family even went to Toronto to our first House Filk this fall and we were very warmly welcomed. Through these online communities and our one house filk, I feel that I have come to know several people in the Filk community, and I am excited to get to know them better.
But this weekend will still be Ductape Family’s first encounter with the FilkOntario conference. My daughter is armed with a couple killer acapella songs from the Doubleclicks and Jane Eggers. I have been polishing a few of my most geeky– jam friendly, chorus laden songs from 15 years of writing. My wife is eager to meet new people and listen to some great music. I have been reading about the event from other attendees, particularly Debs & Errol’s post on What is Filk?
As a virtual introduction to my music, here I am singing my Ballad of Chris Hadfield.
We cannot arrive until Saturday evening, so I’m hoping that someone will email me the topic for the penguin songwriting challenge on Friday or Saturday, because I would love to participate in it. What other advice do you have for relative newbie first- timers to a Filk Conference?