This year marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Nick Drake, one of the most unique and talented singer/songwriters to ever pick up a guitar, or any instrument for that matter. His incredible fingerpicking skill, unique use of melodic textures like cluster chords, and vague, morbid lyrics make his songs stand out like those of no other musician of the time. Afflicted with severe depression for most of his adult life, Drake died of an accidental overdose of prescription pills at the age of 27.
Touted as the most successful independent artist in Australia, John Butler is poised to release his latest work, Flesh and Blood on February 3, 2014. Butler's previous work, April Uprising yielded a US #1 single with "Better Than." Now with Flesh and Blood The John Butler Trio has evolved with even more fabulous writing and virtuosic performance.
In 2013 I went out on a limb. I applied to be part of a songwriting class that focused on co-writing. Up until then I had only co-written a small part of one song (I wrote the bridge), and that was it. But I wanted to do more, improve, and find new ways to be creative.
It struck me today that there are basically two kinds of writers I work with. There are empowered writers and non-empowered writers. Empowered writers write confidently and take chances. They don't complain about the state of the music business or whine about someone not getting them cuts. They realize that THEY are in charge of the ship they are on. If they are rejected, they learn from it and move on. They see criticism as an opportunity to grow.
Here's some tasteful and incredibly skilled playing by young guitarist Ben Lapp. He picked up his first guitar at age 12, and began writing his own music, and recorded his first album, The New Color, at age 14.
Standing as probably the greatest American songwriter of all time, the musical catalog of Bob Dylan is nothing short of awe-inspiring. 35 studio albums, 11 live albums, and innumerable compilations contain countless brilliant moments from the always confounding Dylan. Of particular interest is his Bootleg Series of previously unreleased material.
If you’re playing by yourself or with just a couple of friends who have their own amplification equipment, you should probably be checking out acoustic guitar amps. They are smaller, more convenient and generally cheaper than a PA, and are apt to be more useful. Some currently available models have a separate channel for a mike input, so you can even use them to amplify your singing as well.
There’s no denying, this is the decade that acoustic comes into its own. From the rootsiest traditional down-home country, to bluegrass, soul, rock, funk and pop and beyond, acoustic instruments have been taking center stage in all genres, and I say, good for us!
What’s next on the bucket list when you’ve sold 16 million albums and garnered three Grammy nominations, two American Music Awards, and five BMI Pop Awards for songwriting, including BMI’s coveted "Songwriter of the Year" award? How about going back to the basement…?!
I work with a lot of songwriters on through SongTown USA that are trying to turn their hobby into a profession. The most common mistake I see in those aspiring songwriters is that their songs tend to wander around. They start strong with the first verse. It tends to stay on topic. By the time they get to the chorus, they are chasing a couple of rabbits down different trails. The second verse is where it usually falls apart. By the time they get to the bridge, there are rabbits running everywhere.