Archive | May, 2016

The King

13 May

It’s been awhile since I posted a new song.

But not because I haven’t been writing and playing.

To the contrary: I’ve been doing a good deal of both, and with some truly amazing musicians. (More on this to come… hopefully, much more.)

Meanwhile, I wanted to talk a bit about the process of songwriting.

For starters, I’m no expert – despite having worked at it for years.

I have a healthy respect for the ocean of knowledge I don’t have and will never have.

Then again, songcraft isn’t ALL about knowing your mixolydians from your Ionians.

I sometimes wonder how much Robert Johnson knew of musical theory, or even someone like Dylan. I honestly don’t know the answer, but their music tends to be pretty simple and every bit as much about what you can do within simple structure and melody to give the song its unique sound signature… and emotional power.

How you bend a note is every bit as important – if not more so – than the note you’re playing.

That’s not to say I plan on hiding behind this “dude, it’s all about feelings” thing forever. I am studying and trying to expand my theoretical knowledge as we speak.

Meanwhile, the most recent effort for your listening pleasure (hopefully)…

This started off as a song about some guy who liked “stuff” to much – you know, all that crap that comes from Amazon in those promising little gift boxes of joy? Or he liked money too much. That sort of thing.

It was partially directed at yours truly. I can indeed become obsessed with the next widget for my guitar, or the next TUFI (Totally Unnecessary Fishing Item). And certainly, I am a workaholic – only partially in recovery for that.

But the message seemed kind of thin and screechy: Don’t like “stuff” too much!

Something was missing.

And talking with Melissa one night about family history filled in the puzzle for me.

Turns out, we spent several months tracing back our Livingston family line many, many generations. Luckily, there is ample historical documentation, and prior Livingstons who have made much progress and did most of the leg work for us.

Well if you go back far enough… you can trace the family back to Montana (where Mom and Dad were born)… to North Dakota… to Missouri… to Virginia… (where the first Livingston of our side of the family, Sir John Livingston, came to America in 1650)… and thence back to Scotland.

The events that preceded our family’s arrival to America were the stuff of legend and family tragedy.

The John that came to America arrived with little money, but a great title (Knight of the House of Dunipace). However, he came with just the title and the name, but not the great estate of the Livingstons of Dunipace (a cadet line of the Livingstons of Linlithgow, who became our cousins in New York).

Why?

Because his father was a profligate drinker and gambler. According to family history, he spent most of his time in London pretending to have more money than he had and playing off his title and his nobility. Over the years, he not only went broke – he went into hock. And when he died, he left his name… and a pile of debt… to his family. His wife had to basically sell the family estate near Linlithgow for pennies to retire the debt, and apparently died destitute.

What a guy!

What’s weird is, I was kind of on his same path myself for many years.

So I can see that we’re all a little too close to some form of this story in our own lives.

Regardless, this gentleman’s downfall – which led to our family coming to America – gave me the story I needed.

And I put it into the song.

And it gave the song a story.

Here’s the song.

The King: