On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 4, 2011, a group of us were gathered to celebrate and play music in a friend's backyard here in Marfa, Texas. One of my friends played a song called No Soy De Aqui, by Facundo Cabral, and it moved me so much I asked her to play it again. When I got home I looked up his song and music on the internet and found he was a beloved folk singer from Argentina and an icon in all of Latin America, much like Bob Dylan. He was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1996, the same award given to Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama.
I was immediately inspired and I began hearing the music to a song and picked out the melody and chords within two days, but the words would not form within me. That following Thursday Facundo Cabral was mistakenly and brutally murdered in a drive by shooting in Guatemala on his way to the airport. I felt like I had lost a newly found friend.
That night I struggled with the words and music. I sat outside beneath a black, star-filled sky at about 3:00 a.m. The words began to form within me. I said aloud to the night, "this song will be called For Facundo Cabral, and the first words are the dance goes on, the song goes on". Immediately after I spoke the words a shooting star sailed across the sky above me, from north to south almost to the horizon, leaving a green trail of light. The next instant, another shooting star split the night from over my right shoulder, traveling east to west leaving a golden trail and almost seemed to skip out of the atmosphere. I laughed aloud. I felt like Facundo Cabral was telling me, thanks, see ya.
The words formed easily after that and the song was finished the next day. It is a tribute to him and his vision of a beautiful world that sings to us, if we only take the time to hear it.
Ever book a show at a place you never heard of just because you're excited you finally got a gig? And then once you get there, you see a teenager unloading an instrument out of a car with a dad in the driver's seat saying, "good luck at your first show, son!" Well, that didn't quite happen to me, but it came pretty close.
To begin with, let's be honest. What am I?
I am an avant-garde, weird, silly song girl
I don't write songs you're going to hear on the radio
I don't write songs that make sense to sing at a bar (unless it's an oxygen bar)
I write songs about fruit and pasta and enjoy covering Syd Barrett songs
Essentially, I write the kind of music that makes you want to laugh.
One of the most memorable trips in my life was backpacking in Mexico, taking a semester off from college. And though there's a myriad of experiences that rank high, including playing music on the street during carnival in Mazatlan, learning the subway system of Mexico Citygetting around one of the biggest cities in the world for pennies, and standing atop the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan; the spring equinox at Chichen Itza was probably the most amazing.
Marfa Texas. The most amazing place we’ve ever toured. We found it by accident on our first-ever road trip from NYC to LA.
While crossing the deserts and open plains of west Texas into New Mexico, with a day in between our shows in Austin and Phoenix, we set out for the state border. We stopped at an old gas station and met up with another band randomly. They recommended that we swing an hour out of our way to Marfa, Texas, the city where No Country For Old Men was filmed, and home of a mysterious unexplained phenomena called “Marfa lights”. The little town of 1,000 people sounded just strange enough to try going to check it out.
The Room is a song which deals with the inevitable loss we all have to face at some point in our lives.
Growing up, we're taught how to deal with loss, how to move on, how to cope. There comes a point for everyone where no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we need to, the loss is too much to overcome, too hard to bear, too inconceivable to look past.
Mountains Go is the title track from a seven song EP just released. The song was written while I was spending the summer in a small town in the wilds of Alaska. The town is very remote (even by Alaska standards). No paved roads, no electricity, no running water and tons of bears! It is a magical place with many eccentric towns folk.
This is song is based around a conversation I had with local about the simplicities of life and the eternal quest to see what lies beyond. It is about how our past doesn’t have to define us. The real truths are seen in our present. I hope that this song resonates with people’s innate need for wilderness and desire to see where the mountains go!
Pull Out a Rabbit
Originally this song was part of a group of songs that were written in a tuning of my own devising. As first conceived, Pull out a Rabbit was just a simple, unusual melody and some soft backing organ, the chief inspiration being Elliot Smith's "Angeles". When I decided to present this song to the full band as part of our latest recording sessions, we all agreed that it worked well as a quiet song but something was missing. In a moment of rare inspiration we decided that what was missing was a full on rock out ending, a la The Flaming Lips or Granddaddy.
Lyrically the song draws from that place in each of us where we know something isn't right but we do it anyway. And from the feeling that you just want to give up on everything, but know in your heart you aren't that type of person and most likely you'll get out of bed even if you don't want to :)
This was the first song I wrote lyrics to for Mojo Radio. When I write lyrics I usually split the difference between what roles off my tongue on the first jam- through, and whatever I can eloquently fill in around that. In this case, upon hearing the chorus part, the phrase "My gilded cage has been rattled." came out of me. I have the easiest time writing lyrics when a chorus comes to me first, it lays the groundwork for my thesis.
Next I think of how to lead up to the message of the chorus, in this case, I went for the commonly used young-old blues stance: "Used to feel that I could fly so high...nowadays feeling the weight of my time, it's much easier to close myself in...my gilded cage has been rattled"...etc. I'm particularly happy to sneak in any double entendre bits such as birds out the window to shake my loose seed at (huge Steven Tyler fan). All in all I feel the song's about two main themes, not growing old complacently, and the blues theme of busting out of a bad relationship you're stuck in. Specifically in some of my pentameter, you can hear that I was just coming out of playing reggae music, with crammed in triplet bits like "whatever it was, whenever that happened to be, I said I'd surely love to feel it again."
"The Ship" is the first single released in May of 2012 from alternative folk rock trio 2nd & Broadway. The Ship has a universal meaning that anyone who has experienced being taken advantage of emotionally can relate too. The tone of the song is set in the first line. "Rig it up from the highest sail and point it towards the sea, let it take you wherever you want oh don't you worry about me" The nautical references are metaphors for a vessel that is quite literally carrying the singers heart on board. Using it to their advantage and utilizing it as a guide for themselves. The meaning comes to fruition in the line "and when it beats know it beats for you, it's iron forged, it's strong." The song comes to an end with a melodic chant one could hear through the smoky haze of a pub as the last drinks of the night are finished.
I was in the midst of writing for a new record that I was hoping to begin work on in the winter of 2011 and I had taken in interest in Boxing.
Not so much in terms of being glued to a TV screen watching ESPN and following specific fighters, but in terms of thinking about the mechanics and metaphysics of being a fighter, the reality vs the perception. This was also made more absorbing by the fact I was reading a book called "On Boxing" by famed fiction writer Joyce Carol Oates, who apparently is an avid boxing fan and has been going to see fights since she was a little girl, going with her dad. In her book she talks a lot about the connection between the artistic process and that of training for a fight.
I was asked once, what was the funniest gig experience I have ever been through. While I have several hundred stories I could tell, one event on the road really sticks out for me. First a little background on my childhood. My name is Joe Vitale Jr. and I am the son of veteran rock drummer Joe Vitale, who has played drums for the Eagles, Buffalo Springfield, Joe Walsh, Crosby Stills & Nash, Dan Fogelberg, Peter Frampton, and the list goes on. I had a normal childhood but I also grew up going out on tour with my dad. My mom and I watched my dad perform with a multitude of groups and at nearly every show there would be something hilarious worth mentioning.
I began writing Reality my senior year of college. A work study at the campus audiovisual department, I was afforded the opportunity to record anytime given it didn't clash with the department's recording schedule. Slow to recognize my blessing, a couple months til graduation I decided I would make the most of my last days and record several songs for me to take with me as I entered the "Real World" as so many adults had hinted toward. Always a defiant and stubborn individual I ignored my Aunt's concerns of graduating with a philosophy degree and being able to survive. I, like every other past, present, and future college graduate, was running on a high. That high of late nights with no consequences, deep conversations with new friends, and an identity independent from my parents and my childhood. I knew things were going to change but I had faith that I was equipped- I would conquer the world as I had conquered campus parties as the resident DJ via smooth transitions and popular songs. I would not compromise, I would continue to fight for social justice, and continue to quit jobs that did not make me feel fulfilled. I did have sense enough to secure a position in NYC as a teacher, expecting to eventually find a gig doing music. Just in case my aunt was slightly correct, I would have income until I could eventually branch out on my own.
Certain I would never be a "slave" or drone, I was still optimistic about my future and changing the world. I had become confident within my four years- the most social and comfortable I had ever been- I was performing poetry at open mics, actually dancing at college parties, and earning a reputation of being "cool and laid back." My work study gig at the audiovisual department was a plus and complimented my cool demeanor. People would walk by me amongst the huge mixing board, quality listening monitors, and top of the line microphone and somehow it reflected me. Thou the equipment was nothing I could afford especially on my work study paychecks, the fact that I even shared the same space was valuable. With graduation steady approaching I realized my 8.75/hour job- though it was only enough for club outings and alcohol consumption- was a rare opportunity and most likely the coolest gig I would hold for a long time.
I have always had a fascination with songs about writing songs, so when our principle songwriter left the band just before we started to write new songs for our album I knew that this would be the perfect opportunity.
I had dabbled in lyric writing before but I was extremely nervous about taking charge with the lyrics, so I decided that I would write about just that. At first listen, "Tornado" seems like a bittersweet love song (which in a way is very true), but in reality it is about my struggle with writing lyrics on my own. Unfortunately, Ryan and I have since grown apart, so I feel like this song is my closure.
Dueling pianos is one thing that never crossed my mind when I ventured out to create a career in music. Original music was all I did, and playing in bands was all I ever wanted to do. I quickly learned, however, that the average stranger would much rather give me a few dollar bills to play Tiny Dancer or Sweet Caroline than to hear me pour out my own emotions. This realization led me to a job playing dueling pianos in Chicago to help with the bills as I continued working on my singer/songwriter career.
Dueling piano players are absolute rock stars, for about 3 hours, and only in the bar they're playing in. As soon as the bar closes and all of the drunk fans who listened as if we were the greatest musicians ever go home, the dueling piano player is completely forgotten. You go from rock star to employee in sixty seconds. My song, Almost was born one night I finally started to realize that the glory I thought I had at the piano bar was worthless.
I was sitting in a booth by myself, waiting for the manager to finish paperwork with the servers so that I could get paid and get home before the sun rose when that first verse popped in my head - "The bar is closed but I'm still here/It ain't a glamorous life but the money's real..." I go on to write about the way I felt when the bar goes from ultimate party to hangover silence. Sitting there after such an emotional change would always get me thinking, and it would generally be about regrets - in this instance, a past love.
The chorus of the song evolves with each instance. The theme of the chorus is that I still think of this past love, and at first it blames my surroundings, revealing that "I think of you almost every night." Influences from the dueling pianos begins the second verse as well - "Take another drink just because I can/I'd rather drown in here than suffocate out there" - referencing the free drinks and how easy it is to want to drown your sorrows rather than face them.
The bridge describes the morning after, and how thoughts of the past love are still very apparent, leading the song to end with "I think of you almost all the time." It is a true regret, not simply an emotion triggered by alcohol.
Somewhere in the wooded boondocks of Northwest Washington there sits a barn, converted into a restaurant, bar, rehearsal studio, and music venue by a former Icelandic children's television star (this story is true). Being a new band with limited options for shows in our area, we decided to give them a call. After setting a date, listening to frustrated exhales regarding the size of our band (there are four of us), and repeating and spelling the name of our band several times, we listened as the curmudgeonly booking manager explained the origins of our band name to us. It was not, as we had thought, a traditional folk tale with its roots in African and Cherokee culture, but in fact a cartoon segment in a 1946 Disney film. We thanked him and went on our way, promoting our show as usual. As the date drew closer, we noticed that the website for the venue had not one but three calendars, and none of them had a correct listing of our upcoming show. When we contacted the booking manager about this, he assured us with a bite in his tone that this could not be true, for he ran the website himself. The calendars never changed.
My Best Worst Gig Ever
My worst and best gig were actually the same gig. I had been playing regularly in a small town in Michigan, one lost between Flint and Lansing and farmland, and I had made some new friends in the town. One new friend said, "We have a huge festival in town you need to play! Here's an email for the festival organizer. Her name is Natalie."
When you start out in music, you don't ask questions about gigs; you are excited to play anywhere. I looked past that this was a train festival (Yep. choo, choo trains), and focused on the promise that there were supposedly going to be tens of thousands in attendance.
I wanted Radio Waves to reach someone.
The whole idea for the song sprung out of a moment several years ago when I was torn up over an ended relationship. One of the things I hate most about painful break-ups is how difficult it can be to relate naturally to that person after it's over. I felt like a robot, saying what I was supposed to say, but never really what I wanted to say. The song was my way of saying what I needed to say, sincerely and unashamedly.
I wrote the song when I was home visiting my parents in the summer. I'm from the inland desert area in southern California so it was one of those hot, impossible to sleep summer nights, and I woke up in a sweat after a strange nightmare about a satellite falling from outer space in through the window and crushing me. I stayed up all night writing the song on an electric guitar.
The song was in a way, one of my sincerest confessions. I wanted to tell this person that I loved them, despite everything. It wasn't about getting them back, its not a song of desperation, it's simply my way of saying, wherever you are in the world, the universe, whatever, wherever you go in life, I love you, and I just want you to know that.
I imagined myself a mad scientist, crossing transmission wires, interrupting satellite signals, capturing my message in a sing-a-long style song and somehow feeding it into the radio station they had tuned into at the time.
The song didn't come together musically until later. I was living in Madrid at the time and had begun to play with a group of musicians there. We put the song together in the attic of my piano player at the time, Sergio Valdehita, and that's were it took on the sort of jazz old time feel at the beginning, and the musical builds that give the choruses their power. I didn't realize just how powerful the song was until we started playing out around Madrid at our live shows. We had built up a lot of momentum on the scene there, and I remember people getting teary-eyed, others singing along at the top of their lungs, couples wrapping their arms around each other or sometimes just a person staring up at me, like I had written the song for their ears only. It's one of my favorite songs to play live. When I first wrote it, the song was a tribute to something that was gone, but now it's taken on a more hopeful quality. When we play it around new york these days, I see the affect it has on people and I know its about something living, the beginning of a love story, between all of us.
Inside The Flame
I thought this song was going to be the simplest song on the album, and it turned out to be the most complicated. It was like meditating a mandala, circling around and around, going deeper and deeper into a vortex to reveal the song’s truth.
I started writing this song during Diwali in my bedroom in India (mainly because it was the only room in the apartment that had a/c). At times isolated and lonely, I started thinking about my past relationships and how everything seems to go so well at the beginning and then slowly disintegrates - that the image that your partner portrays at the beginning of a relationship isn’t necessarily who he really is and that the real person emerges in time.
Phantom Fundamental is an up-and-coming band from Mason, MI. (just outside of Lansing) We are classified as an 'alternative' band, but one of our goals as musicians is to exist outside the confines of a genre. Instead of trying to fit in, we just make the music we want to make. Of course, we have roots constant in our songs- such as rich acoustic undertones through guitar and piano layered with complex, stimulating sounds through electric guitar and synthesizer- but we always try to reinvent what a band can do. Using those aspects of our sound as a base, we are able to branch out, taking leaps into more areas of music than even we anticipated upon joining together in early 2011.
In this way, we aren't limited to a single genre and combined with an openness to take interesting and unique paths in our songs, we can really write from within ourselves. And this is the single most important thing about making music: You've gotta feel it and you've gotta mean it.
Our story as a band is interesting and unprecedented. Three members started out as a classic rock cover band doing 60's-70's hits for parties around the Dallas area in their freshman year of high school and the fourth member was in the grade above and was in a bluegrass band. When he was a senior and the other three were in the 11th grade, the four members decided to jam together and write some original songs. Our first song we all wrote together was So Cold. The song featured much input from each band member and took many creative turns in the writing process. After about a whole month of writing the song, we attempted to record it on a Mac computer in a friend's small and dark garage. We finished recording, but it just didn't come out exactly how we had hoped, but we just couldn't put our finger on the problem. Two months later, the computer with the recording file crashed and we lost the song, but it was a blessing in disguise. We rewrote many parts and added in the special elements of fiddles, horns, and a wah guitar solo. It came out perfect and we just had to put it as the opening track for our self-titled debut album released in August 2012. Although one member is now in college and the other three are still seniors in high school, Light Horse Harry is still in full effect, playing shows in Dallas and Austin and is beginning to make a major impact with their debut CD.
The song "Break My Fall" is about realizing the journey that one has to make in life to reach the apex of a dream. One must risk everything to achieve greatness. "Break My Fall" directly refers to cushioning an impact from fate itself. After recently almost dying in St John's hospital from a heart virus, I started to realize how fragile life is, and how important it is to use our time wisely. Growing up in LA has opened my eyes to a different side of people. In the song, I use the desert as a metaphor for LA' shallow abyss. Essentially the song is about starting over and "Setting out into the unknown." The lyric "I walk on this tightrope" refers to the balancing act of trying to make it in LA and staying sane.
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