Merry and the Mood Swings / Blog

Time Warp

Hard to believe an entire year has flown by since I last posted to the blog. A few things have happened since then.

I haven’t blogged because I had a time warp – I went back to work full time, and my personal time warped to almost zilch. MUCH less time to play guitar, write songs, noodle on the bass….I do have an “office guitar,” but it mostly just sits on its stand waiting to be picked up.

Michael is our bass player now! It’s been a year already and he’s been a wonderful, wonderful addition. First, he’s a great musician – plays guitar like nobody’s business – he’s a songwriter and a good one, he sings and on pitch, he’s easy to get along with, he has a sense of humor, he shows up for practice ready to play….he’s a dream. We’re having a great time with Michael!

He and Mary H. wrote a song called “Modern Fairy Tale,” and I have to say it’s one of my favorites. It has a bit of a cowboy-flavor to it, which rounds out our playlist. We were missing a cowboy –style song, and now we have one for our collection.

Mary H. came up with a doozy called “Under My Spell,” another new favorite; guitarist Dickey Johnson helped work out the chords and it’s another one that gives me those music-induced goose bumps. Yeah boy. It’s a sultry, jazz-y number that just all falls together.

I’ve started playing more bass—when you have a lead guitar player like Michael who can play anything, you have to put that into play! Michael plays guitar on some of our covers, like House Is a Rockin’ and Mony Mony and California Dreamin’, so I get to jam on bass. Plus he’s got this great bullfrog song that we’re going to add & I get to play bass on that one – I love to play bass, but not all the time, and I love to play guitar and I love to sing – I get to do all these things. Life is good. Thank you God.

Diane got a new flute. She added a wireless mic to her sax, and Mary H. also got a wireless mic, so now they can wander around the audience.

I’ve been writing and performing more solo and duo material this past year, that’s been new. Four out of five Mood Swings play in other bands or duos.

That about wraps up the past year. Still playing mostly festivals, with the occasional coffee shops thrown in, and less often, a bar. Oh hey I forgot to add that we played Wildflower Fest this year – that was a first!

Changing Moods: Waiting for the Groove Bird

Our travelin’ bass player Carol (drives all over six counties to play with various bands, shazam) left the band last spring. ‘Twas a good run with Carol. At first we thought we’d search for a new female bass player – that rare bird hidden amongst the flocks of female guitar players in the Dallas area—but they are few in number and very hard to find. Until we find that Special Someone, we are overjoyed to let the boys fill in on bass.

Jack Reed, bass player with The Coppertones, Model Citizen, Alpha Dogs and myriad other configurations of musicians, sits in with us (no, he won’t wear a yellow sundress) and Michael Byron, lead guitarist/singer for Alpha Dogs, plays with us, too – he’s a bassist at heart, we suspect! We love the guys for stepping in, and MAN can they groove – whoa! But it’d be nice, swell, groovy, awesome, I-know,-right?- if we could find that magic combination of deeply funkified groovin’ gal. Had one of our fans tell us recently that we need to keep it all-women. Pure. ….mmMaybe. I dunno. It’s hard to look for replacements when the guys sound so good.

I’ve heard people say a band is only as good as its bass player. I’ve heard the same thing said about drummers. And “only as good as the lead singer,” “only as good as its lead guitarist,” ad nauseum. Heck, in my experience, all five pieces of the band have to be cookin’ to get it right, make it tight, get it “in the pocket.” Bart Elliot of the website drummercafe.com has it right when he explains that “in the pocket” means: “To the musician, it feels like the music is playing itself, as though everything has merged together ... all the rhythmic parts being played by one instrument.”

That kind of playing is such nirvana! I call it being “inside” the music, when the music is flowing and you are enjoying the ride. It’s a lovely feeling.

Anyway – back to bass. Mood Swings are still groovin’ with our temp bass players and loving every minute of it. But if that special female Groove Bird flies into our nest, we’ll be happy to make the room.

24 Hour Music Race (originally posted Sunday, March 13, 2011 )

Holy smokes. Imagine writing a brand-new song AND recording it with a band in a studio ---in one day. Oh-- and the line "Was anything real?" HAD to be in it, as did a fortune cookie message pulled out of a bag: "When the flowers bloom so will great joy in your life."

Thus was the 24 Hour Music Race, organized by Tom Jordan of Garland Recording Studio (and lead songwriter, singer and rhythm guitarist for band Chin's Mojo). It wasn't a competition; it was just a way to get the creative juices flowing in the music community.

It started on a Friday evening at 6. Tom gave me the two lyric lines that had to be in the new song. Met with vocalist Mary Hestand at 7, and for two hours we pounded out lyrics. No time to get deep or brilliant -- all extraneous efforts were stripped away. After two hours Mary H had to stop - it had been a hard work week; we decided picking it up in the morning would be best. Before she left she sang a melody into my laptop computer (Audacity program) and we said goodnight; I worked til 11 on lyric sheets, chords, and a shift in chord progression for the bridge.

Next morning at 9 a.m. I zoomed to Mary's house. We still had to get the skeleton of the song to Martha, the drummer, and our bass player Carol. After another hour of tinkering and singing into Audacity, we emailed the skeleton. All that afternoon the inbox was punctuated with questions and scratch-outs, and slowly the song developed. The first chance we'd have to play it together was at the recording session scheduled for 6 p.m.

At 5 pm we gathered at my house and drove to Tom's studio in Garland. It is a small space, but plenty of Pro Tools and good speakers (and a great Gretsch drum kit that was borrowed) made it as big as was needed. Tom was amazing -- worked very fast, and was a breeze to work with. He also was able to make a few quick suggestions that made our song better.

Since we had prepared as best as we could, and because we designed the song to be easy to sing and to play -- no time for fancy tricks! -- we actually recorded it in just over an hour, with 45 minutes left to do some mixing work. Way cool.

Did I mention Tom did this all for free? We really enjoyed meeting him and his wife Bethany and their girls, and are looking forward to hearing the other teams' renditions on Saturday, March 19 at O'Riley's on Forest Lane in Dallas. Each team had different fortune cookie messages, but we all had "Was anything real?"

Wonder what they did with it?

I highly recommend doing something like this --it really knocked the barnacles off the songwriting process

You've Been Seeing a New URL, Haven't You?

Mary G. here. I've been keeping a blog on music and on the Mood Swings at http://moodswingsblog.blogspot.com for a few years now, but for whatever reason it-will-not-link to the Reverbnation/Facebook sites....so I'm re-pasting/re-posting some of those blogs into the fabulous, New & Improved ReverbNation blog palace. Here we go!