My thoughts and out loud thoughts on composition, performance, and many things musical.

Coffee shop playing, but with wine.

I am sitting here in my room, before my monitor and keyboard writing for concert band. There is a disheveled pile of paper with thematic notes I can’t understand, underneath old coffee. I wrote the damn notes… As I take a break from trying to make sure I don’t anger my flute and piccolo players for whom I’m writing a whole lot of movement, I have become suddenly grateful for the music communities with which I associate myself.

I am talking about the singer-songwriter community, primarily. It is a lovely community that I have long been surrounded by and have slowly crept into. The comparison between that lifestyle and the aleatoric bassoon passages I am desperately trying to write with the least amount of pretentiousness is Jekkyl/Hyde-esque.

There was a long period of time before I had the confidence to call myself a “singer-songwriter.” Nowadays I simply prefer “musician,” but as a culture I don’t think we are to the point where that term will suffice when trying to inform someone of what one does. I digress…

And while I compose, more and more, of more formally notated, structured, and multi-instrumental music, I have yet to reach the point where I can confidently call myself a “composer.” By the technical definition I am. I don’t feel like I have earned it yet, though.

Which is why I find comfort in my confidence in the singer-songwriter community. And I appreciate it. Like any other art form, genre, style, it’s just bunch of folks trying to say something and be heard.

SO, I played a benefit concert this past weekend, and it had been a while since I shared the program with other musicians. Honestly, it had been a while since I had listened to other singer-songwriters, live at least.

  • There was this girl, Lacee Sills. Wowsers. Heartthrob alert. If you mixed Colbie Caillat, Madeleine Peyroux, and perhaps whatever is in Martha Stewart’s cupboard, you might get this girl’s sweet, silky, soft voice. It was airy and beautiful, and perhaps it was because she sang so softly that I leaned in close to listen, or maybe it was because she cast some enchanting spell on me.

I will listen to her sing anything she wants, because she’s saying something with that voice.

  • After I performed, there was an Austin-based musician named Scott Evans. Standing at roughly 10 feet, 11 inches tall (..he was really tall, anyhow…) he strummed in strong with a lot personal stories. He reminded me of friends back home who would make their performance a true conversation with their audience. He employed a lot of empathy with the listeners and made his set more than just a group of songs.

He is certainly a storyteller and that is a corner-pocket of the singer-songwriter community I love so much. He was a fine guitarist too and had a Joe Purdy/Brett Dennen/Bob Dylan complexity to him and was a joy to listen to.

  • The last musician to perform was a girl named Alex Winters. She totally tricked me. She was dressed as though she was going to play an MXPX or (any other punk band) tribute show. With a stylish fedora, boots that meant business, and tattoos (though I’m becoming covered in tattoos…) she pulled out her beautiful electric guitar and started playing.

Totally NOT punk music at all, she had a lovely, emotional voice with some heavy lyrics. Historically, I have most often related with musicians who completely eradicate any lyrical barriers. She did just that. She was there to play to win. She won.

I’m listening to her CD while writing this, and the full band versions of her songs are a fun mix of something notably Texan, a (for me) reference to musicians like Michelle Branch, and there is some killer guitar going on. Totes dig it.

After we had all played our sets, I called us up to the mic to sing Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love” together. Lacee on my left, Alex, on my right, and Scott coming in halfway through rocking on my mandolin, we ended the evening with a communal farewell.

So, that headline again: “I stood between two pretty, talented ladies singing, and Scott rocked out.”

So after a refreshing reminder of where I have been and where I am going, musically, I am much more appreciative for the power of music that we take for granted. There’s no right or wrong. There’s no good or bad. (There IS music I don’t care for, but someone else might be moved by it, therefore it can’t be altogether “bad.”) There’s just things to say and things to hear.

I will try and keep this on my mind as I take a short deployment in the upcoming holiday seasons to play music for my fellow military brethren in sandy countries.

Ok…so back to trying to balance euphonium and oboe together…


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