The purpose of this post is twofold: firstly, it's intended as a gift to you to help you make your art; whatever art you are making, even if you call it something else. Secondly, it's intended to push me to ship some things I've been meaning to get out into the world for a long time, a very long time. Knowing someone might find it helpful now makes this work something I'm excited to do. It's a chance to push myself outside of my comfort zone by trying writing styles that are new to me; taking the risks however small helps us grow. Shipping that work, untested is terrifying; but the commitment is to ship, so the terror will have to find another home. Thanks for reading. Enjoy your struggles this week, they are helping you fill a well that you (and others) may draw upon.
- Musical Notes
- A list of song lyrics
- Hot off the Espresso- A Short Story in Draft Form (The Needle and the Knife); Where is your Well?
- A quote of the week
- Artful challenge
- Word of the week
- Frugal Recipe
- Listening Suggestions
- Joke of the Week
- Question of the Week
In addition to improvements that came from this very helpful feedback, my work was helped by the opportunity to notice the work of others. Correspondence with readers this week suggested a similar theme for other people. Noticing what another is doing in their art helps us get unstuck from the roadblocks we may have created in our own road to success. I noticed that people who were most pumped about their art and inspired to share it with the world had a tendency to pause and appreciate the work of others. Those who were bitter seemed to be caught up in the fact that not enough people were looking at their work.
Besides receiving e-mails from readers who daily sent me questions and links to their music, one of the highlights of this week was receiving an e-mail from Ingrid Croce of Croce's Park West. Ingrid's contribution to the world of art and music has been incredible; she is a role-model from whom many of us could learn much. Besides contributing her own art and musical work to the world, she and her husband Jimmy Rock work tirelessly at keeping alive the music of Jim Croce. They also help discover, promote and encourage emerging artists. Somehow between all of this they operate a thriving restaurant where great music is served along with great food. Dinner at Croce's Park West is the final destination on the Life is a Rocket Tour planned for 2015. Hope you will join me then; I can hardly wait!
The Well Runs Deep
If you are inspired to write music for any of them please drop me an email.
Hot off the Espresso:
The Needle and the Knife (still in draft form)
Where is your well?
Quote of the Week:
"To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless." G.K. Chesterton
There are many reasons to include a recipe. I love to cook, but surprisingly I rarely write about cooking. I use recipes like other things, as a jumping off point for somethings else. I take a quick glance at them to get the basic idea, and then wing it based on the ingredients on hand, the time available and the occasion. I forget that a lot, perhaps even most, people don't cook that way. They expect something spelled out step by step or simply eat what has been prepared for them by someone else. My childhood was spent watching cooking shows every Saturday afternoon and perhaps because I did not know otherwise, I learned to cook from experts whose food came from the heart, not from the pages of a cook book. Learning cooking as an art influenced the way I do other art.
One Saturday after watching my favourite cooking shows, I decided to make a pot of carrot soup, which had been the recipe featured that day. It was the first thing that I really remember cooking on my own. It was a terrifying adventure into the unknown. I made a small pot at first. It was delicious, and very rich. On the heels of this success, I made a huge pot of it, thinking that I would share it. Nobody wanted it; carrot soup does not look that appealing and I couldn't convince anyone it was worth trying. I didn't want to throw it away, so I ate the whole pot over a few days. After days and days of carrot soup, I grew tired of it and have never made another pot since. Yet somehow I always think I'm going to. I made a rule after that to eat what I made; throwing it away was not an option. This rule made me more cautious about the quantity of stuff I was making but also about the quality. I don't like eating things that are burned and consequently, this rule has made me an attentive cook. Having a few rules helps art. Now I know that if the first few people turn down your offer, for carrot soup or other things, you can widen your market; someone is always hungry enough to eat carrot soup.
The other reason I'm including a recipe is because "carrot soup" is something I hear myself saying in my head every time I try something new. The phrase "carrot soup" means to me, I can make this if I know the basic steps. I can make this if I put my heart into it. I can make this if I believe I can. I can enjoy the fruits of this labour if I keep working at it. "Carrot soup" means, I have tried something new before which once was risky and now is a memory of a time I was successful. "Carrot soup" means try making a small batch of something first. If it works and you like it make more to share.
The recipe section is here also because I want each "Shipment to the Mountain" post to have something useful for everyone, not just songwriters, but everyone. We all eat and most of us cook at some point. Learning how to cook artfully is a skill anyone can develop. It is no surprise that many musicians, artists and actors are also great cooks. I decided to keep the recipes simple and frugal for two reasons: firstly, there is the practical consideration that many musicians and artists are living on tight budgets. I wanted something that was accessible for everyone. Secondly, it's a reminder that no matter how big our bank accounts get, returning to simple pleasures now and then can feed the soul.
This week's recipe is not one for carrot soup, but rather for sourdough starter. Not sourdough bread, now sourdough biscuits or pancakes just the starter. It's the base from which all other sourdough recipes emerge.
There are thousands or recipes for sourdough starters and I encourage you to check out several to find the process that works for you. Some involve adding yeast, others rely on the fact that wild yeast will eventually emerge under the right conditions. I like simple things so I tend to opt for the later type of recipe. I like wild things and I like patiently cultivating conditions for the wild stuff to wander in. Most people focus on cultivating the thing they want to have. Cultivate the conditions and you will have enough of the genuine wild stuff to feed yourself and many others besides.
As with your art, you need to keep feeding the starter. You need to tend to it every day; when you do it grows. Be patient. Cultivate the conditions and the sourdough starter will grow on its own. Don't let it get too hot or too cold; keep it at room temperature. If you are inspired to make something with it great, if not just take care of it. Nurture it like a good idea and check back next week for a recipe where you can use it.
Something to cover the bowl like a towel or a plate
In a bowl place equal amounts of lukewarm water and flour add a bit of sugar and stir. The sugar feeds the yeast like a melody feeds good lyrics. Stir it up. If using a drum stick to do this, be sure you have cleaned it first. Each day add a bit of water, a bit of flour and a bit of love. Keep it covered to keep flies out but let a bit of air in for it to breathe; a towel on top works well. Watch it grow.
I can hear the questions already. How big should the bowl be? How much flour? Exactly what temperature is "lukewarm" and how much is "a bit" of sugar? There are countless recipes that will give you these answers but you won't get them from me. It's not the way I learned to cook. All I know is that I've been making sourdough starter this way for a long time. The only time it doesn't work is if I forget to do my part in tending it.
We long for simple ingredients to ferment. When we get a simple recipe that works, why complicate it?
- Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley (Did you know Frank Proffit was flat broke before getting royalties for this song?)
- If I Had a Hammer (Did you notice the repetition of a simple theme?)
- Leroy Brown by Jim Croce (Bet your foot starts tapping. Music is a powerful. This is one of my "go to" songs any time I need a mood boost.)
- Steve Martin on the banjo (You might think of Steve Martin as a comedian. I prefer to think of him as a world class banjo player who also happens to be funny.)
Joke of the week:
A musician goes up to a talent agent who has many top recording artists as clients. Thinking this is his big shot at success, the musician asks, "Can you give me some advice on how to take my career to the next level?"
"What do you play? asks the talent agent. "I play a little bit of the banjo and some guitar." replies the musician. "Keep practicing." replied the agent. "Professional musicians know how to play the whole instrument, not just a part of it."
Maybe it's your elevator pitch not your musical pitch that needs work. Keep practicing that too!
Question of the week:
This week a couple of people asked me if I have a melody in mind when I write my lyrics. The answer is yes, but I am never tied to that melody for very long. It changes and adapts; I rarely share the melody with anyone and instead let other people supply the music since that is their strength. My challenge last week was to shorten my songs to make them more commercially viable. When the reader asked this question, it made me consider experimenting with other melodies from songs I like. I started with the first few bars of a song and then kept that in mind as I was writing; I didn't follow it exactly, but returned to it more closely at times when I was temped to wander off. I'm using the melodies of other people like I use recipes. I check them at the beginning for inspiration and follow them closely enough to make sure the songs ingredients get held together, but freely enough to make use of what I have on hand to make something that fits my tastes. To the readers who asked this question, thank-you. It really helped me consider my own writing process and helped me overcome a challenge I had been having related to keeping songs shorter.
Please send me other questions if you want to. I enjoy the dialogue.
In case it isn't obvious, this week's package is about finding joy in what you have been given and about having the patience to let your art grow into something more. One of the primary reasons people become happy, successful, and respected is that turn what they have into something of value for others. If you want an audience of millions, go share your art with the millions of people who have no one to comfort them today. You will find a loyal following who will stay with you (and your art) for a long haul. Go make something wonderful for them. Don't spend your day wishing you had more friends, more followers, more fans more money or more talent. You have enough, you have more than enough so go share what you have. Somebody wants it badly.
Enjoy your climb up the mountain wherever you are. The view from the top will be worth it when you get there. And remember where you are right now has it's own beauty and comforts to get you and your art through the day; make the best of what you have and share it. Somebody is waiting for your package to arrive, so don't disappoint them ship it, not when you're ready, not when it's ready, but when you said you would.
Next "Shipment to the Mountain" ships on Thursday for anyone who wants it.