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Suzanne Harper and Talk Like June / Blog

Playing in a Band I Love

Today I got to thinking about the time I've spent playing music and being in a band for so many years. The main thought that crossed my mind was how blessed I am, being in a band with my best friends who I share the stage with when we play music together. Writing and playing music with the closest friends in your life is the most awesome experience any musician could ever ask for. Sure it sounds cliche to say that you "wouldn't want to play with anyone else," but for me, in my experience with music, it's the absolute truth. I could never have asked for a better group of musicians and friends than the ones I am in a band with now.

There are many bands out there who could say the same thing, but then again there are bands that seem to just play music to try and live the dream of being famous, or because it's the cool thing to do. Some bands don't think about what it really takes to be a hard working musician. But being in a band is not as easy as it looks. It takes hard work to write and rehearse music while navigating each person's personality. It takes much more than just jamming in a garage or room with random people. There are lots of factors, such as learning to play well with each other, how well each person plays their own instrument, how well they practice together, etc. But most of all, having fun and doing what you love with people you enjoy, while sharing the same ideas and playing music together, is why I love playing in this band.

I couldn't see myself playing as well with another group of people other than the friends I have grown to love and have fun making music with. It's not perfect all the time, and it's not always exciting. There will be days of frustration and disagreements. That's all part of band life. The outcome of all your hard work is the rush of playing for fans, friends, and family.

Playing shows with this band has been a blessing. I have been playing/co-writing music with my best friends for a little over eight years now and can't complain about the journey we have been on. I truly can't describe this whole experience other than it has been the best eight years I have had. Thanks to my band-mates, my family and friends, our fans, and most of all to God for blessing me with the gift of music and my band.

- Eric, Guitarist TLJ

How do you write a song?

"How do you write so many songs, Suzanne?"

That is probably one of the most common questions I get after a show. The last couple of nights I've been doing some writing, so I thought I would try to answer the question of how...at least...as much as it can be answered.

Last night I got "the itch." I don't know how else to describe it. It's a weird feeling in the back of my brain that trickles down to my shoulders and to my arms and hands. I feel antsy. Like I want to say something, but I'm not sure what, and if I don't sit down to try and do it right then I'm going to get frustrated.

So I sat down, pulled out my guitar and started playing. Ross gave me some input on chords that I was playing...gave me a few ideas of what the chords themselves sounded like. Things being broken...cars...fences...people...relationships. I liked the idea a lot and so I formed a couple of phrases about things being broken and what that looked and felt like. So then I worked them into a chorus pattern with the chords I'd already decided I liked, and began experimenting with melodies and rhythms.

Now that's the part where people start getting freaked out - writing melodies. But writing a melody is just taking a chance with your musical self, trusting that you'll be able to find something that sounds pleasing and suits the content and feel of the song. I seldom use the very first melody I sing, and usually once I write the verses I try to make sure that the melody in the chorus is an elevation (either in pitch, or emotion, or both) from the melody in the verse.

After the chorus and first verse are written, I usually just alter the melodies slightly in the second verse and chorus while continuing to tell the story set up by the first. The bridge gives you the emotional conclusion to the story while generally either climbing in emotion and feel or "breaking down" as a step back from the rest of the song, more as a reflection than a climax. (And when I say "you," I mean me. This is just my process and mind while I'm writing. Don't feel like you have to do exactly what I do!)

When I write by myself, usually I'm working on a skeleton - simply chords with words and melodies. This was how I wrote songs like "Hallelujah" and "Love, Love, Love". Then we took the simple skeleton that I'd created (all words/chords /melodies done) and produced it together as a band. We all take part in that process, each finding our own little flavors to add, but Ross generally drives us and prods us along during those sessions. He has a pretty good ear for that stuff.

When I'm co-writing, generally with Eric and/or Ross, usually Eric comes up with a guitar hook and I piece together verses and choruses around it. This is the way "Take That" was written. Then we took the song and finished/polished it up with the rest of the band.

However, once in a while, the initial writing process just happens. Truly. Sometimes, I'll sit down after getting that "itch" and 20 minutes later I'll have a song. Sometimes less. "California" was one of those. Ross said, "You should write a song about how people say we can't be a country band because we're from California." I loved the idea. So I sat down and did it. Within minutes I'd had the rough drafts of the first verse and chorus written. Ten minutes later I had everything but a few lines of the bridge. A few minutes more and the song was done, front to back.

So for me, writing is either a creative process that has to be worked into musical goodness, or a creative event that I just get to experience. But in general, that's how Talk Like June songs are born. Pop Magical songs? Now that's a story for a different night.

Thanks for reading my very first TLJ blog! I'm hoping to get the guys to post some too real soon, so stay tuned and as always thanks for listening!