The New York Times And Me.

tori-amos-gold-dust

 

So. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Not only am I in a band, I’m writing a Middle Mojo-themed column for the New York Times. It’s called The Creative Mid-Life and it works like this: I call an artist, ask them questions about the impact of aging on their creative lives, and our conversation goes in the New York Times. Neat. I had an interesting talk with Tori Amos, who has some thoughts about anger and discipline and motherhood and taking a different route to the coffee shop. Read all about it.

 

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I’m In A Band. You Heard Me.

Field Day

 

Oh, hello. Remember me? It’s been forever. I’ve been terribly remiss, but also hard at work. There’s so much to tell but for now here is all you really need to know: Field Day.

 

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intersecting-lines

An F In Collaboration.

Middle age is confusing. As years go by I care less about other people judging me and at the same time seem to have developed a severe case of self-consciousness. It’s like arriving at the point on the graph where acquired wisdom collides with declining relevance. I’m bold! I’m old! It’s an inconvenient truth, especially when you’re trying to do something new, something that requires openness and spontaneity. Something like collaborating on a song.

The plan was this: Gary and I would put our guitars in the car, drive to a lake with a beach and a snack bar, and write a tune. People do this sort of thing all the time. It seemed doable. We swam for a while and then sat in the sand talking about ideas for song titles. There were families barbecuing on the lawn and some rowdy Italian guys hauling kayaks into the water and a couple of teenage girls in gold bikinis whipping their hair around to get the water out. Gary said, “How about ‘Skin’?” We were surrounded by it. I said yes. The guitars came out and I sat on top of a picnic table holding the Danelectro. Gary tuned his low E string down to D and started pacing and picking out drony little riffs. He came up with a cool one and tried to teach it to me but I couldn’t play it, so he dumbed it down until I could.

The rest of the story is humiliating so I’ll make it brief: things that were supposed to happen next — the coming up with a melody and the calling out of lyrics and the choosing of chords — didn’t. I choked. Mojo, it turns out, is a finicky friend. It demands a small room with a closed door. After a strained hour of nothingness I told Gary I was too insecure to work with him and that I would take his riff and write the thing by myself.

Fact: Playing with others is instructive, illuminating, fruitful, and fun.
Fact: Playing alone feels safe.

Here’s a sketch of a song that sounds like failure.

Skin by Middlemojo

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Listening Lab: Bob Mould

My age. Kicking ass.

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bass

A Bass Guitar, The Father of Hypnosis, And A New Song

A couple of weeks ago Gary suggested I start a song with a bass line. I don’t play the bass, hadn’t ever picked one up, but I’ve tried enough of his crazy ideas to know that they are not crazy at all. Mostly they have to do with limitations. I seem to prefer choices. Maybe it’s a California thing. Endless summer means endless possibilities. But songwriting is ass-kickingly unfamiliar terrain, and when you’re struggling to get the lay of a land limitations are your friend. A narrow path through brambles. A high beam on a dark night. So I borrowed a bass and starting pawing at it and wrote a song.

It’s about Franz Mesmer, an 18th century German physician who was at the forefront of alternative healing. Mesmer believed that life energy flows through channels in our bodies, coined the term animal magnetism, and successfully treated people for everything from blindness to madness. He was maligned, naturally. He was also a rock star. Mozart was so tight with the doctor he named a character in Cosi Fan Tutte after him. And he left us a word.

The song doesn’t have an ending yet. Loud guitars would be nice.

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