bob_dylan_guitar_player

A One-Chord Song.

Gary’s been trying to get me to write a one-chord song for months. At first it seemed insane, then just impossible, and finally I decided to take a crack at it. The whole idea of the exercise is to remove the focus from chord changes and pay closer attention to what songs, according to Gary, are really made of: melody and rhythm. I chose E but wound up putting a capo on the first fret so I suppose it’s really F. There’s been some debate over my pinkie finger on the G string, which some people believe changes the chord, but whatever. It sounds good. Sue me.

The song is about Bob Dylan. The painting above, Guitar Player, is by him.

Filed under: I am trying to write some songs Tags: , ,

A Midcourse Middle Mojo Correction.

If it seems like I’ve been scarce around these parts, it’s because I have been. Changes are afoot at Middle Mojo. I’ve decided to take a hiatus from the website in order to focus my time and energy, at least for a spell, on songwriting. How long is a spell? I don’t know. All I know is that I need to go down this rabbit hole. The moment may not come again — god knows it’s taken a long time to get here — and I’m seizing it.

In the year since launching this project, I’ve set out to be both dedicated journalist and budding artist. To talk with the masters about aging and creativity and to explore my own creativity as I age. To become a songwriter and at the same time chronicle the process of becoming a songwriter. What I’ve learned, among other things, is that these tasks involve wildly differently parts of a person’s mind and attention. One requires critique and analysis, the other vanquishing critique and analysis. One involves pointed thought, the other opening the mind in ways that I’m just beginning to grasp.

I’m going to write about this adventure. But first I’m going to have this adventure.

I’ll continue posting songs and making the occasional blog entry, but I imagine they’ll be few and far between. Wish me luck. Write me notes. Send white light, if you’re so inclined, because the mystery deepens even as it unfolds. And because I suspect, dear reader, we’re in this together.

Filed under: I am trying to write some songs, Word/Play
mall -- jason brockert

Mall Song

My friend Wesley sent me a text a few weeks ago from a mall near my house. It included the words suburban and consumer and nightmare. There are a pair of upscale malls close by, and I have a complicated relationship with both of them. They’re seductive and depressing. They’re comforting and soul-sucking. Malls are not what they seem to be; they’re not placid retail oases. They contain something weirder.

I wrote a song about it, which I’ve been calling Mall Song, and the name has stuck as things will do when you don’t change them. I recorded it on the Danelectro with GarageBand’s Dreamy Shimmer effect. A friend asked me if I use the effect to mask my lack of expertise, and I told him that I use it because I like how it sounds, but I wonder. You can’t have a good guitar player but here, have Dreamy Shimmer!

The structure is odd: four verses, a drone-y chorus, and an entirely new section at the end. It drags. I’m figuring out how to sing. Let’s call it work in progress.

Mall 11 by Jason Brockert

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Listening Lab: EMA

I’m writing a moody rock song about the mall. It’s pretty dark and sort of pretty and there isn’t much of a rhyme scheme but I’m enjoying the literalness of it. I like a lyric that looks you in the eye. There’s something mesmerizingly literal about EMA’s “California.” It’s also mesmerizingly stream-of-consciousness. That’s a neat trick. I can’t look away. Here’s to pointing fingers and naming names and my home state.

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The Real Thing

The Opposite Of Good.

I’ve been reading again. Tragically, I’d stopped for a while. Since striking out on my own it seems like there’s always something more important to do. Write a blog post. Work on a song. Prepare for an interview. Tweet. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Reading seemed like a luxury. But it’s not. Quite the opposite, as it turns out.

I’ve just finished “Poser,” by Claire Dederer. It’s a memoir about yoga and family life and expectations — the expectations we have of ourselves, the expectations we imagine everyone else has of us, and how we navigate the murky divide between the two. I chew on that one a lot. You might assume that a grown woman such as myself, a thinking person who has lived a little, maybe more than a little, would know the difference between what she wants and what she believes she should want. You would be wrong. Which is why when I arrived at this one line I stopped and closed the book and stared into space for a really long time like I’d been conked on the head with something heavy. Which I had.

What if the opposite of good wasn’t bad? What if the opposite of good was real?

I know I’ve been getting all philosophical but, goddamn, what a notion. It applies to everything.  Songwriting. Relationships. Decisions. Housecleaning. It’s revolutionary. It’s liberating. It’s a tonic and a corrective and an angle of approach that throws judgement out the window. People ask me what my goals are. For a while I said I want to write some songs. Lately I’ve been saying I want to write some good songs. Now I’m thinking all I want to do is remember what I set out to be at the beginning of this project: sincere.

Oil painting by Todd Ford

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