Although we never dated, rarely saw one another, and perhaps never spoke in high school, we found ourselves smitten. Within 6 months we were married, and I moved back to my â€œhome groundâ€, a mere 40 miles from Taft.
So it was that on a particular day in Bakersfield, fighting the traffic of the city, and listening to the music and feeling a bit perky, that I said to her, "I wonder if there is some part of a train that has not been the main theme of a country song?" I mean, trains are everywhere in the genre, and while there are many topics that seemed to be required for any country song to be properly labeled, (David Allen Coe's "She Never Even Called Me By My Name" makes sure we know that), trains are certainly one of them and I got to thinking....about what part of a train could I write a lyric; what part of a train is not yet famous?
I play no musical instrument, and I learned late in life, to my chagrin, that I cannot carry a tune in any key, not even for one note. So, I decided that I would write a lyric, and then I would find someone who might be willing to, "marry it to music" as I later heard the phrase.
So, properly inspired, I sat down and wrote a lyric which I called, "The Boxcar In My Bedroom". I was really taken with the title and the concept of a lonesome guy (what else) holed up in his space burdened by lost love and thus "boxed in" by his sadness.
After several conversations with Linda, extending over quite a few months, she convinced me that the lyric needed to be less ethereal and more fixed. So, the boxcar became THE bedroom.
SEARCHING FOR A MELODY:
My task now was to find a songwriter, and in a way, chance just provided me a superb one. In early 2005, (I was now helping to plan our 50th High School Class Reunion) I renewed contact with a classmate, Ken Sorenson. In conversation one day, I learned that he played acoustic guitar, and had been doing so for many years. He also sang. I asked if he could write a song to a lyric, and he said, "oh, sure." I asked how long it would take, and he said, "oh, about 20 minutes".
We made an appointment, and I brought the lyric over for him (still titled, "Boxcar In My Bedroom") and sure enough, in twenty minutes, he had a melody for it and sang it powerfully. I was stunned, seduced and now sentenced to a new stage of life
I wrote a couple more lyrics, and then got to thinking how much pleasure I would get if I were to make a recording of them.
I went looking for a songwriter, and that took me to Reggie Langendoerfer of Bakersfield Music and Sound Studios. Reggie in turn placed me in touch with Steven White, and we began working on some of the lyrics I had.
I went back to Ken and asked him if he would be willing to work on lyrics for a few new pieces, and then record them for the album, and he said sure. He liked "The Boxcar" but did not feel as attracted to it as "Time is a Lonesome Traveler," and by the fall of 2005 I had the process of creating a CD under way.
THE ALBUM CONCEPT:
It was my thought that it would have about eight songs in it, but as the project continued, I would, from time to time, find some inspiration and write another lyric. On a couple of occasions, I actually awoke with an idea and wrote it up at 4:00 a.m., just like in the movies.
Upon the advice of Reggie, I sought out a number of different vocalists, and drew upon the songwriting abilities of both Steven White and Ken, as well as those of Amber O'Reilly.
In doing this, I found that my lyrics provoked melodies that not only had country tones but also songs that spoke with a variety of musical genre. Steven White wrote eight of these medodies, and his rendition of two of them, "Lock the Gate" and "Looking for You" resonate with his feeling for both, but neither is what I would call "country."
When Ken recorded "Time Is a Lonesome Traveler" and "In the Hidy Ho" he brought a compelling folk tone to both songs, and his "take" on "A Wedding Vow" substantially improved the focus and the theme of the lyric. I wrote a special lyric, "She's Gone" describing my wife's Susan's final trial in life, and for that Ken brought tenderness, conviction and a willingness to bare his emotions in the song which make it, for me, a remarkable creation.
Then, I think to the surprise of both of us, while just fooling around a bit in the control room, listening to playback of one of Ken's songs, Reggie began pluncking out a blues melody with his fretless bass guitar. Boy, I was really taken with it, and so was Ken. I said I had a lyric that I thought would really go well with a blues rendition, but I needed to find a blues singer.
Ken said that he could sing blues, and by golly, he could and he did. So, when we made "Life is Just a Week of Thursdays" we did it with 45 minutes of fooling about a bit, strumming out the melody, working a little with the tempo and fiddling a tad with the lyric. Then, we recorded the vocal for better or for worse. I was so pleased with Ken's work on every song he layed down, and I thought again, how fortunate I was to "bump into" a high school classmate so creative and talented as he is.
Some tracks were peculiar to Bakersfield life, and I found that Steve Davis, who does a regular Saturday night gig at the Crystal Palace, was willing to record a few cuts for me. "The Boxcar Is My Bedroom", "Holding Hands at the Crystal Palace," all have that Bakersfield connection; and considering the number of people here who came from the Lone Star State, so does "Let's Dream About Texas".
Amber O'Reilly brought a completely different flavor and tone to the lyrics I sent to her. Her melody to the album's title song, "Life's True" could not be more compelling to me. When she found a tune for "Hit Save" I knew that indeed I had found an unusual talent, and her arrangements, which incorporated the voices of her two sisters, Natalie Espinoza and Cali Cheek, allowed Amber's melodies to be sung with a full harmony that was really thrilling for me to hear. "Roll Up the Lights" was written as a kind of honey-tonk near riot kind of song. She turned it into the intense energy of nightime party exhurberance and Natalie Espinoza really "brought it"; and I knew that she and her sisters would work magic with "That's How I Know". Cali Cheek sang lead vocal, and they did.
Relatively late in the process I discovered Jason Buss singing at Sunday service, and he was kind enough to record two numbers, "Looking for You" (with Racella DeGuia) and "Toll on My Soul".
Write, record, find musicians, record, mix, record...it is a long, but intensely fulfilling creative process. I hope that you enjoy some of these as much as I enjoyed making them.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Time Is Lonesome Traveler
2. Roll Up the Lights
3. The Boxcar Is My Bedroom
4. Nobody Makes It Through Calloway
5. Life's True
6. In the Hidy Ho
7. Let's Dream About Texas
8. Looking For You
9. Hit Save
10. Holding Hands At the Crystal Palace
11. Lock the Gate
12. A Wedding Vow
13. Rear View Kind of Guy
14. Toll On My Soul
15. Life Is Just a Week of Thursdays
16. Looking For You
17. That's How I Know
18. She's Gone