"What's My Line?" "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" "Would you like to use a lifeline?" "LINE!"
A songwriter's life IS her/his line. Although a song is made up of many lines, the crux of its success often pivots upon one line. Often, that line is the one designed as the hook. However, it might also be just one line that stands out for some other reason. Perhaps the writer's use of alliteration, or metaphor, or some other clever use of words. Songwriting is, after all, writing.
Just as the songwriter in me likes certain lyrics because of the cleverness, the singer in me likes some lines because of how they feel in my mouth. Perhaps it's because of the combinations of sounds (alliteration, sequence of one sound to another, a sequence of plosives...). Either way, these things make these songs (or at least those few lines) special, therefore, memorable to us. A song's "hook" is based creating that one "perfect" line or phrase.
When people ask advice about writing better songs, I sometimes tell them, "If you want to be good at songwriting, improve your music skills, and improve your writing skills." Yes, it is a very simplistic answer, but a true one. Metaphor, simile, allusions, alliteration, onomatopoeia, idioms, and the like... You can't go wrong!
Some of my favourite lyrics: * "Trying to catch the deluge in a paper cup" - HEY NOW, DON'T DREAM IT'S OVER, Finn Neil Mullane (Crowded House) * "...her face, at first just ghostly, turned a whiter shade of pale." WHITER SHADE OF PALE (Keith Reid (Procol Harem) * "...ducked back down the alley with some roly-poly little bat-faced girl" - YOU CAN CAL ME AL, Paul Simon (LOVE singing those words!) * "Little, old lady got mutilated late last night..." WEREWOLVES OF LONDON, Warren Zevon (all those L's are fun to sing).
What about you? What are some of your favourite lyrics?
*You can find Robert's music on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other such markets. Links at www.rcfullerton.com
"WHY I WRITE SONGS"... * more accurately, why I WILL CONTINUE to write songs. Things weren't at all busy when I arrived at my gig this past Saturday. By the time I had finished setting up, there were only a very few people there. Actually, at that moment the staff probably outnumbered the guests. The cook had even left her post and grabbed a seat at the bar. I knew some people would eventually drift in. Even still, it can be discouraging - no matter how much you "get used to it" and rationalize to yourself, you don't ever get used to it. As I sat to begin my first song, I decided to mix things up a bit - start with something different. Now, even though "Let It Rain" is the title cut of my forthcoming album, I don't often play it at gigs. No clue why - perhaps because there's no swirling B-3, no gospel-style backup singers like on the album cut of the tune - just me and my guitar. HOWEVER, I decided not only to sing it, but to use it to kick off the gig. I played "Let It Rain"; as I always do, tried to do it with all the appropriate feeling. One man turned to watch me sing. I could see him nod, following both the lyrics and the beat. That was nice - something a songwriter wants to see. HOWEVER, what happened next was what made the evening for me. Right after the song ended I heard a small voice - the cook who had settled herself at the far end of the bar: "Wow, that was good. It made me almost cry." "Darkened skies don't bother me; That's how I've come to expect it to be, But when it rains through sunny skies, I just can't see it for the tears in my eyes." BINGO! JACKPOT! EUREKA! She got it. It hit her - touched her. Mission accomplished. That is why I write, and will continue to write songs. RCF https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/let-it-rain-single/id875464298
is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow??? Well, that's not exactly what I had in mind, but it is on the right track. As a part of my marketing scheme for "LET IT RAIN", I'd like to make an "interview" video, and I'd like YOU to contribute some questions. They can be about my music (in general, about the new project, about specific songs, influences...), my life, or... well, whatever. Any question is fair game: funny, serious, personal, in Sanskrit... I will answer them all ("answer" subject to discretionary creativity)! So, what would you like to know? You can send me your question in one of three ways: Post it here. Email it to email@example.com Send me a video of you asking the question (it need not be elaborate, phone video would be great). firstname.lastname@example.org I'll put them all together into a video. Looking forward to hearing from you! RCF
Writing a blog here has been a bit of a challenge. I come up with several ideas, but either never develop them, or never sit down to type them out. This results in quite a space between blog postings (something that is really not good from a marketing perspective).
Not so, the case with songwriting. Ever since this past November, it's been a bit like the rain was for us, here in New England, this past summer: deluge.torrents.cats&dogs.call.Noah.
In the past, I wrote songs sporadically; even then, it was mostly instrumental work: jazz, "classical", or choral works where I could easily use pre-existing texts. When I started working on the project that was to become "NEVER TOO LATE", I had two original songs. My plan was to use those, add in two or three covers, and make an EP. Well, by the time this past April rolled along, I had a full album of nine songs - ALL original!
Since completing NTL in April (released in June), I've completed six songs, with two or three more in the works! As pleased as I am with NTL (both the songs and the production), I love my new songs even more. I have already been working a few of them into my live performance repertoire, with very favourable response.
SO, if you're interested in hearing a song about a bird, a couple bears, a dragon, queen, a shoestring, or a toothbrush - get out to a gig. Or, you could buy up NEVER TOO LATE so I have the cash flow to get these other songs recorded. Better yet, do both. Find NTL on iTunes, spotify, Amazon... and buy it. Then, drop by a gig: hear some tunes from NTL, a few of my new ones, and some of my interpretations of some great cover tunes.
NEVER TOO LATE: * Universal Hamster * Can't Seem To Find Her * Phantom * I Saw An Angel * Both Ways * Relentlessly Persistent * Hard To Be Gone * The Trees Have Started Walking * Unsung Lullaby
New Songs: * Brings Me Back Again * Let It Rain (the only thing it knows how to do) * Two Bears, A Dragon, and A Queen * Livin' On A Shoestring * Phoebe * Golden-Haired Goddess With A Toothbrush * ...???
I began work on a project. The speculation was, that I would make an EP: maybe two or three original songs, and one or two of my versions of some cover tunes. Well, here it is, almost nine months later, and I'm about to release a full-fledged, fully produced "CD" (album, but, yes, some actual CDs) of nine original tunes! It has a been a fun journey. Keep checking here, or at www.rcfullerton.com. Join my mailing list here. On July 9, 2013, "NEVER TOO LATE" will be available on most of the major digital markets! Want an actual CD? Catch me at a gig, or send a note to email@example.com!
Some of you know that I can be a bit indecisive at times. Well, I'm not really indecisive, per se, but can take a long time to weigh out the options and make that choice. But I have come to two conclusions recently regarding my gigs.
One, regardless of the audience, play. Play well. Play what you feel. Play what you choose. Play your heart out. Play as if that could be your last gig. I have tried to take this latter attitude at my last two gigs, and I think it makes a difference. It was a small crowd at last night's gig, comprised of a few friends, some people who had never seen me before, and the staff. Although small, there was a definite singer-audience connection...and great response! People sense your "spirit", "soul", your passion, when you let go and sing from deep within (and...AHEM...do it well).
This leads me to the second thing. Taking the "last gig" approach, I've incorporated more of my original tunes into the last two gigs. Normally, I might only do two or three. Last night, if my memory is correct (dubious, I know), I sang six of my original tunes, and each one was greeting with the same enthusiastic response as my covers. So, guess what? From now on, you'll hear a lot more RCF tunes at my gigs.
...you have to learn to accept one thing: * patrons don't always seem to be paying attention to you.
They are there to eat, drink, and socialize. You are often a peripheral. This can be very tough on the musician's ego. You are there, playing/singing your heart out, yet you sometimes don't think they are even listening - especially if you go by applause. Sometimes you kind a smattering of of "kind" applause, or some from your friends or regulars who show up. Still, keep in mind that it is at times a part of the environment. Ignore it; play with all of the talent and passion you have - regardless. I guarantee you'll get some kind of response. I've had times where I've felt I was singing to the wall. However, watch their toes and fingers tapping, their heads nodding to the beat. You might spy someone mouthing the words to a certain song. There have even been times when I've thought the crowd totally unreceptive, only to have several people make it point to say (as they pass me on their way out the door), "Man, you're really good!"
Sometimes, it's a matter of the right song at the right moment. This was the case last night. I had played several songs: some Beatles, Bill Withers, Spinners, Stevie Wonder - some with small response, others with none. About six tunes in, I saw someone standing at the bar, bopping to the song. Someone else clearly bouncing to the beat as she walked across the room. Then, THEN, as that song ended... the whole room stopped what they were doing and applauded!!!
Well, I have to say, the response felt really good, and not just for the obvious reason. Every performer wants to know that he/she/they have connected with, and pleased the audience. It's doubly good (maybe more), when the song that suddenly brings such a good response, is one of your original tunes!
I'm not lying; this is not some drummed up promo (well, yes, it is a promo, but TRUE!). The song that brought such a response??? Well, it just happened to be the one I just released as a single (how convenient), "BOTH WAYS". Like I said, it was doubly encouraging!
So, first of all, to all aspiring performers, play well, and with heart. You never know what they're really thinking, and you never know what might get them on their feet.
Secondly (AHEM), "Both Ways"... buy it. OK? See if it doesn't get you bouncin' and boppin'.
or, at least, so it seems. Supposedly everyone dreams. Some remember that they've dreamed, but don't remember the content of their dreams. I, however, generally don't even recall that I've had any dreams. My head hits the pillow; I sleep; I awake (with the exception of those occasional bouts with insomnia).
At least not that kind of dreams. I dream when I'm awake (daydreams???). Yes, I guess they are daydreams. However, I also do my best to make those dreams reality - believe in them, work toward them, put my time and energy into them.
Someone even recently mentioned the fact that I'm almost always humming, always tapping on the steering wheel as I drive (even if there's no music playing - well, it IS always playing inside my head). People used to tell me that they always knew when I was headed their direction; they could hear me humming. It's deep inside people.
Although the music is there, chasing the dream isn't always easy, but that's what I've been doing with my music. It's what I HAVE TO DO. Performing, recording, writing, arranging: these are the easier parts. Being my own PR and booking manager, not so easy. However, I am determined. As I once introduced myself to the owner of a new restaurant, "I'm Robert C. Fullerton; you WILL remember my name." :-)
Dream it; live it.
It all began last November (2012) - this album project, that is. Sure, the idea was earlier, but it was definitely last November that I began to compile songs and actually head into the studio to record. However, it has (1) taken longer than I originally anticipated, and (2) taken an entirely different shape than originally envisioned.
At first, I went in with two (I think) original songs and a handful of my regular cover tunes. I actually put them all down in a basic form, and still have those files. Seemingly out of the blue, songs began to flow. There were four... then six... The album now contains NO cover tunes, just nine original songs: * Universal Hamster * Can't Seem To Find Her * Phantom * I Saw An Angel * Both Ways * Relentlessly Persistent * Hard To Be Gone * The Trees Have Started Walking * Unsung Lullaby
The time in the studio last night was spent mastering, and playing with a proposed album order (the order in which you see them above). It's been about a half a year, but IT IS GETTING SO CLOSE!!! * I will be pre-releasing an different edit of "Both Ways" before the whole album (a "45" edition, for those who remember that, slightly different from the album version).
So, HERE'S WHAT I NEED FROM YOU: The project is yet unnamed. I would like your input. Should I use one of the song titles as the album title (if so, which one)? Just my name? Some other phrase?
Talk to me. Respond here, or to firstname.lastname@example.org I'd love to hear what you have to say.
"I'll be relentlessly persistent; I'll do anything I need to do. Like an arrow to its mark, I'm aiming for your heart. Woman, don't you know that I love you? I'll be relentlessly persistent; I'll do everything I need to do. Like an arrow, straight and true, I'm pointed right at you. I'll never quit until you say you love me too." © 2011 RCFullerton
These lyrics (yet another song from my upcoming project - NOT on any of the samplers) are based on a true story - the story of a man determined to win a certain woman's heart. This man set out on a path of old-school "wooing". He sent cards, notes, and pictures. He bought her gifts, made dinners with candles and the works. He wrote poems (the chorus is actually based on a poem that he wrote for her) and songs for her. Why? He was in love, and made up his mind to give this a wholehearted effort. He had a dream, set a goal, then set out to make it happen. All of his energy, time and resources were poured into that mission.
My understanding is, that it wasn't always an easy road. Perhaps it was a slow, and, at times, discouraging road. Yet, he continued on his course to win this woman's affection - to get her to fall in love with him.
This is where I find myself in my musical venture. The past few years have been spent, honing my craft, networking, getting my face and name known (don't forget the "C"). Now, I've ventured deeper into the world of songwriting than ever before. Although I've recorded with/for other people many times in the past, I'm now working on my own solo recording (will be done soon, I promise). It has not always been easy. Trust me, it has been discouraging at times. Yet, I plug on...like an arrow to its mark...like an arrow straight and true.
Thanks to all who have encouraged and supported me along the way. It means much, and has made a difference.
Ask me sometime, perhaps I'll sing the song for you. Ask me about the rest of the story...maybe I'll fill you in.