Day Two, Cowboy Bob Marshall.
Sometimes everything all happens at once or nothing happens at all. This was one of those days. Bob Marshall is a REAL Live cowboy from Michigan. He has been in rodeos, Ridden bulls, pretty much everything and now raises horses and cattle. I met him and his girlfriend, Lori, about three months ago on a songwriter's festival in town. Liked them very much from the beginning.
The thing with Big Bob (AND HE IS HUGE!) you have to be careful about how you tell him things. Don't want this guy mad at you. But like a lot of really large people, he is a puppy dog and a real softie. I can see why Lori loves him. They are both a blast.
The first part of any tour is to go through the PAST. That way we can get to the PRESENT. Then the FUTURE. Which is why it is a TOUR. Many people come to me for many reasons. Sometimes it is that they can't break out of certain habits. That can include writing the same song over and over.
Bob had done that with COWBOY SONGS. Every song had a cowboy componant to it. Cowboys, horses, cowgirls, honky tonks, swinging baroom doors, cattle, all filled up every song. Many were good, but you can only go so far with certain subjects. If this was the Southwest, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, etc. that would be very cool. Campfire, story songs, are the norm there, and the fact that he is authentically a cowboy figures in great. But the fact is, he wants to go to more subjects and that was the reason he came to me. To broaden his musical experiences and abilities.
A side note, while a lot of people have heard the term, COUNTRY WESTERN and still use it when they come to Nashville, they really show themselves to ignore where that came from. That really has never been Nashville. The Country-WESTERN designation, came from HOLLYWOOD, where the Western movie serials, of Gene Autry, Roy Rodgers and the Sons of the Pioneers, were out among the cacti and the range, singing songs around the campfire in perfect harmony.
While there were Nashville artists who embodied the clothes, and some of the styles, Roy Acuff, Lefty Frizell, and others, the "Western" designation really never connected with Nashville. And that designation today kind of will cause an insider to know that someone doesn't know their history. There are a LOT of hyphenated versions of country now, contemporary country, country blues, country soul, country rock, alternative country, cap act country, etc. It is all really COUNTRY.
So we get through Bob's songs, make some suggestions, fix a few and then it is his turn to say what he wants. Lori was involved and offering insights on him he doesn't see. Most of it was to
Turn the horses loose and get out of the barn. No more cowboy songs. For now.
One of the things I do in these sessions is determine what types of music they like but have never written. Or what they would really LIKE TO WRITE. One of the things he liked was cajun music. I have written a few of those, understand the format, and can do that. I've spent quite a bit of time in New Orleans and have worked with a lot of writers and artists (not always the same thing) from that area, so I have some background.
In my sessions, I will apply an old hit writers trick of taking notes on a yellow legal pad of things people say. Kind of a running dictation. My Father, Grady Barnette, used to write thousands of things on yellow pads, business ideas, private notes, book notes, (was always writing a book) and song ideas. I have continued that habit. It is kind of a random word search and I am trying to find different phrases, rhymes, words, whatever. When I get something really rolling, I transfer it to my lap top for a more cohesive version that I can read and work from.
I write from the first line down, and try to get a verse/chorus pattern. I simultaneous have an idea for melody's and rhythms going on. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. I try to keep about a 20 minute time limit on it, then pick up my guitar and play what is in my head, to see if that is the direction, or not. If it is not, we can shift to something else. If it is in the ball park, we can continue on. The idea is to get as much on the page as possible, so that if the session has to break up, there will be a road map to work from. Many Nashville songs are written in TWOS. The first to get things going, the second, after the writers work individually, to tweak it out and finish it.
On this occassion, I came up with an idea, GATOR BAIT, about a guy named oddly enough Gator Bait. I had the verse and chorus, thought it was pretty funny and played it. But I could tell that Bob was not quite into it. That was fine. We could try something else. But I had the verse and chorus there if we went back to it. If he was not into it, I might finish it later and run it by him. Never wait on someone else to work on something if you like it.
He started talking about other things and we found another idea that I really liked.
"Things Your Mother Said" had potential to be something really funny. And Bob had a whole list of things all Mother;s have said throughout history. I wrote several of them down, "Ben Franklin get out of that rain, you'll get struck by lightning", "Mona Lisa, wipe that smile off your face".. and things like that. THAT made me laugh. And so it was time to put that into practical application. I changed the wording and started to put the things he had listed into an order, and getting rid of some that really didn't work. First, the story:
THINGS THAT MAMA'S SAY
They're universal, everybody's heard em'
From the time that we are born
Every Generation, in every single nation
Have heard a million times before
They're supposed to make you think, You can take them to the bank
Like a stopped clock twice a day,
It's three chords and the truth, the Undisputed proof
It's the things that Mama's say
Okay. This is a universal verse. Portraying what the song is about. Now we need to fill in some details about WHAT Mama's always say. This is different than I usually do. I am usually specific in the verse, general in the chorus. But I like to drift out of my own comfort zone now and then, and wanted to try something different. Time for the chorus:
LIKE BEN FRANKLIN'S MAMA TOLD HIM
BENNIE BOY COME ON OUT OF THE RAIN
LADY GODIVA, DON'T GO OUT UNDRESSED LIKE THAT
MONA LISA WIPE THAT SMILE OFF YOUR FACE
VINCENT VAN GOGH, YOU BETTER WASH YOUR EARS
OR YOU'RE GONNA LOSE ONE SOME DAY
MIGHT NOT ALWAYS BE THE RIGHT THING
BUT THEY KEEP ON TALKING
THEY'RE THE THINGS THAT MAMA'S SAY
Okay, this is going to be a different song. But you gotta admit, it has some humerous elbow moments. I gave it a bit of a "lope groove" which is mid tempo kind of sexy type thing. Needs to be fairly slow to get all the words in. But I think we did it. Into the second verse, I have to find something to tie it in to make it more than just a song about sayings. I wanted to personalize it and bring it home, with the second verse being about something else. Again, I used some of my own past examples tied up with some things Bob said about his rough and tumble past:
Well I must admit, I never listened
To my Mom growing up
But I have to say she was right when she talked about
All of that safety stuff
I broke my leg, cut my head
Had a lifetime of bumps and bruise
But there was once when she wasn't right
She couldn't keep me home that time
On the night that I met you
Now we have it turned into a love song. I am breaking my own rules all over the place. Really different second verse and now even going to do a different chorus. I egven change my pattern by having the second verse end differently than the rest. Gotta know the rules and when you can change them. Sue me. The overall thing is the examples Bob had were too good not to use:
LIKE EINSTIEN'S MAMA SAID IF YOU'RE SO SMART
AL FIGURE IT OUT FOR YOURSELF
OR YOU BETTER WATCH OUT WHERE YOU SWING THAT STICK
LITTLE TEDDY ROSEVELT
MOZART QUIT PLAYING THAT PIANO EVERY DAY
BILLY GATES , WHY DON'T YOU GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY
WIN SOME AND YOU LOSE SOME
BUT THERE'S LOTS THAT YOU CAN USE
IN THE THINGS THAT MAMA'S SAY
Okay. This is a different animal all together. But sometimes that is the point. To get away from formula, find different things and have a good time. And being able to work within the things other people bring in. Part of tthe whole co-writing process is to include others, find elements of you, elements of them, and find some ways to have a good time. That is the real deal. Finding ways to go in and out of a story, finding ways to pull a twist that nobody saw coming, and making each other laugh.
That is the key for me.