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Sandy Hemenway / Blog

Grains of Truth - "Look In Your Heart"

GRAINS OF TRUTH - "Look In Your Heart" The song "Look In Your Heart" was my first real effort at writing "New Thought" lyrics. One oddity is that for the first 20 years I was writing songs, (before I knew anything about New Thought religion or the Unity Church), I used the Elton John method, starting with the lyrics and then adding music. But, when I started writing music again after my long sabbatical from religion and musical creation, I produced so much music so quickly that the lyric first approach was not an option. I actually rented a few hours in a small local studio so I could capture all the music I was writing before I forgot it. This became my introduction to CD production, as I assembled 17 piano-only instrumentals into a collection I called "Sandy Plays". I bought some blank CDs and got some CD labels and burned about 20-25 of these CDs on my home PC. It allowed me to learn a number of aspects about record production without breaking me financially. But, most of the melodies I had written so quickly fairly screamed for lyrics. "Look In Your Heart" was my first success. It sort of kind of almost has a hook. I've never been good at hook writing, as there is a balance between repetition and surprise that is needed to work well. When I try to write hooks, even to my ear they sound forced. Of course, even in this case, I took the repetitive phrase and reversed it - with the lines "What will you do? What do you see?" turned around rhyming with "me" on the first go 'round and "you" on the second. It was appropriate for the message of the song, but is just confusing enough to fail as a hook. But, I think I actually captured a number of New Thought themes in a very short time. The concept of the "Christ in you" was new to me at the time. The church was doing a book study on "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle, which made it into the song, but probably deserved to be in a song all its own. My favorite line, however, was one I borrowed from a pet phrase from my wife, Bobbi. "God, give me some patience. And I need it right now!" I like irony and love puns, but somehow they rarely make it into my final lyrical efforts. When I was recording the piece, I had this desire for really great harmonies ... like The Statler Brothers or Wilson Philips. Unfortunately, while I love harmonies, I am not adept at writing them or singing them. The final recording isn't bad, but it never quite made it where I was wanting it to go, but it was the best I was capable of creating at the time. It would have almost certainly helped to have voices other than mine, (though I must confess I did like the final dive down low on "Christ inside of me", since I don't often visit my low vocal register). My biggest regret, though, in the final master is that because I was so focused on the harmonies, I ended up mixing an absolutely wonderful bass line by Alan Smith waaaay too far in the background. I just hope I can manifest a better vocal arranger than myself for my next CD project.

Grains of Truth - "Silver Line"

Grains of Truth - "Silver Line"

When I was choosing songs for my first CD, "The Road Home", back in 2004, I had only consciously been writing spritually directed songs for a couple of years. Though I had written more than 200 songs between the ages of 16 and 36, the majority were what could be generally classified as "Silly Love Songs", (not that any were as good as any McCartney efforts). Oh, I would swerve into the eclectic from time to time. "I Wanna Marry a Rich Girl" was told from the perspective of a male gold digger. "Stormy Lane" told the sad story of a cheating family man who caught AIDS and died alone. But, I didn't have the inclination (or perhaps talent) to write songs which might be considered to have deeper meaning.

"Silver Line" was something of an exception. It was really one of my earliest efforts at true introspection. Unfortunately, from a lyrical standpoint it tends to the extreme in metaphor and allegory and works much too hard at being clever. I believe this makes it far less effective at getting across its meaning.

The "you" in the song is actually me. I was literally speaking to myself in writing it. But, it was a needed exercise, because it helped get me thinking more clearly about what it was I wanted from life, the universe ... everything. In that aspect, I do believe it has some universal appeal. I believe most of us spend most of our lives searching for meaning and purpose for our lives. Too few figure it out, I think.

Today I have a much clearer vision for my life, but I still find value for myself in this song, "Silver Line". I still have memories of coming fires. And though I have found much in my life that gives me meaning, I continue to search for that next thing that will open a new door onto a new landscape of understanding and growth.

So, even imbued with great happiness and contentment with my life and its current direction, I continue to search for the "Silver Line" of my next evolution. May you find yours, too.

Grains of Truth - ambition v talent

Okay, I've been a member of RN for a few days, so I might as well send my portion of the million typing monkeys meanderings into the ether.

I've been writing music for more than 30 years, and have been called talented by scores of people. Over that time, I've barely broken even in monetary terms. in fact, I know many very talented people with similar lack of financial renumeration for their gifts. Why is this?

My honest assessment is that it comes down to ambition more than talent for the most part. I have watched bands that were great at marketing succeed over groups with far more talent. That's really a shame. The birth of "cheap" indi music production and sites like this one or CD Baby at least allow some of this talent to be heard by a few extra ears. But, unfortunately, even in this regard, it is often the marketers that rule the roost.

Oh, don't get me wrong. The successful artists do generally have some talent. But, they are often not the MOST talented.

What irks me is that there are so many artists buried so deep in the pile of nameless thousands of talented, but unambitious musicians that will forever remain anonymous and unheard.

I made peace with the reality that I was never going to become rich or famous through my musical endeavors a long time ago. But, I hope for any who happen to stumble onto this blog that you do whatever you can to support your local indi artists. The best musicians are often the worst at self-promoting. PLEASE, buy those indi CDs or download their shoestring demoes. And tell your friends to do likewise.

Never before have the fans of struggling garage bands and singer-songwriting troubadours had more power to help promote real talent through social media. The more the fans work to promote the music, the more time and energy these musicians (most who will lose money to support their musical endeavors), will have to devote to working on their craft - rather than being forced to craft marketing schemes.

Some names I will drop here of indi artists that deserve much larger followings include: Daniel Nahmod, Vaughan Penn and The Transzenders.