December 31, 2009

Sea of Hope

When I was at the Lyons, Colorado Song School last August, I was at my camp, noodling around on my guitar in a tuning I learned from Beth Wood. It's DADGCE. I came up with a rhythm and riff in the key of C that I liked, and The Muse sent me this line, "Sailing on a Sea of Hope". But C wasn't good for my voice, G was better, so as much as I loved the tuning, I decided I had to ditch it and go back to standard tuning. But here's a lesson I've learned: sometimes using a new tuning can give you a song idea that you never would have gotten otherwise, even if you go back to another tuning to finish it.

I wrote the chorus first, and then pillaged an unfinished song from 2005 for some verse lyrics. Another lesson learned: don't be upset about unfinished songs. Maybe they weren't meant to be finished. Put them in the song junkyard and use them for spare parts for other songs.

I don't know if it's done yet. It's a first draft. I'll probably tweak the melody and chords a little more, maybe some of the lyrics. I'll record a rough version and put it up on myspace.com/robroperdemos. Here's the lyrics as they stand now.

Sea of Hope
by Rob Roper 1st Draft December 31, 2009

Mistakes are necessary
so I'm gonna make some
This life of comfort is
a life of boredom
The radio plays
the same old songs
I've got to do something
even if it's wrong

Chorus
Sailing on a sea of hope
Bailing out this leaky boat
Set the sail, catch the wind
Won't be coming back here again
Won't be back here again

Tired of living
in the slow lane
Tired of saying
another wasted day
Everybody says
"You've got it made"
But even the best zoo is
still a cage

Chorus

Bridge:
I don't know
what I'm searching for
But I don't care if I
ever make it to the shore

Chorus


November 28, 2009

Point of View in Songwriting

A songwriter friend of mine, Tim Riordan, once said if he writes a song about himself, he writes in the third person, and if he writes about someone else, he writes in the first person. I like that.

Check out Timmy's website, he's making a new record now.

-Rob

November 22, 2009

House Concerts

In the last few years a new player in the music biz has come on the scene. But it's not really part of the music biz. It's outside of the music biz, because it's not a business; it's not a music venue trying to make a profit. To call it an underground revolution taking place may be an exxageration, but maybe not. It's the house concert.

What's a house concert? Someone invites one of their favorite singer-songwriters to do a concert in their living room. They invite friends and the performer publicizes it, mostly via email and websites. You bring food or drink as in a potluck, and a donation is requested for the performer. The performer keeps 100% of the donations, and also can sell cd's. The host doesn't do it to make money, they host because they love the performer and want to turn other people on to them.

I love house concerts. Typically everyone comes an hour early and socializes, eats snacks and drinks. The performer is right there in front of you. Some house concerts are unamplified. It's like going to a party where someone breaks out an acoustic guitar. Except instead of someone singing "Margaritaville" out-of-tune, it's a professional singer-songwriter singing original songs.

It will be interesting to see how this "underground" trend develops.

-Rob

November 15, 2009

2am

It was snowing in Denver yesterday and today. It reminded me of a song I wrote in 2004. It was one of my first songs, and I made a conscious effort to use imagery, metaphor, and create a good melody-- things I had learned at my first Lyons, Colorado Song School in August 2004.

Some other songwriters that I showed it to had some criticism of the lyrics and music. So I tweaked it over the years, and just yesterday and today changed 4 lines. I haven't figured out a way to change the music, probably because I actually like the melody and chords. Demos of the music are at myspace.com/robroperdemos. Here's the lyrics as they stand now:

2 AM
© Rob Roper January 2005 revised Nov 14-15, 2009

2am on a winter night
Denver, Colorado
I put on my boots, and winter coat
And step out into the snow
The cars are all sleeping
under their blankets of white
And a snowflake kisses my face
As I stop and view the sight.

The snowflakes toy with gravity
As they dance in the streetlight
Refracted, soft and blurred
Like whiskey eyesight
And the multicolored houses
Are now nuanced shades of grey
Like a black and white photo
A winter painting by Monet

Chorus:
I've seen many of the wonders of this world
And I've known the touch of a beautiful girl
And I've seen the works of the great Van Gogh
Ah, but this is just as fine
Like a great bottle of wine
Standing in the middle, of the street
at 2 am, in the snow.

The snow plays a symphony
of silent eloquence
and I know that I am lucky
to be in the audience
It's 25 degrees out here
But I don't feel the cold
And though I'm standing by myself
I don't feel alone

(Chorus)

Bridge:
Now you might think I'm crazy
And maybe I am
But if you could only be here
I think you'd understand

(Instrumental Break/Solo)

(Chorus)

November 14, 2009

New song - The Voice of Doubt

This one started with a guitar riff in the DADGAD tuning, probably 2 years ago or more. Then January 2009 I started thinking of lyrics for it. It sat around until today when I assembled the lyrics into a first draft. You can hear a very rough demo, just me and guitar, recorded on a handheld digital recorder, at my myspace demo site. Here's the lyrics as of today.

-Rob

The Voice of Doubt
1st draft Nov 14, 2009

Why you wanna be all alone?
Can't you just do what you're told?
It don't matter if you're right
You will never change their minds
Can't you see the game is rigged?
And that you can never win?
And what makes you so sure you're right?
What if everything's a lie?

Just go along
Pretend it ain't wrong
Do what you're told
Let your heart grow cold

I'm just trying to help you, my friend
I hate to see you suffer like this
I hate to see you waste your life
You know we only go around one time
What's the point if you always lose?
You don't have to take the abuse
Why you wanna hang on that cross?
Who the hell do you think you are?

Just shut up
Don't speak up
A fool and his dreams
And you just want to scream

You think too much
and you read too much
A fool and his dreams
And you just want to scream

September 12, 2009

The Hippy and the Businessman

This is from an email to my brother Greg. Greg is an English Professor at the University of Dallas.

Last fall and winter I felt that I advanced to a new level with my songwriting. I think I've started to figure things out. There's two stages that require different sides of the brain. The first stage, which should be probably at least 80% of your time, is the imaginitive, non-structured, creative stage, where you just go with whatever comes into your head. Then there's the editing stage where you use your craft to put some structure to it. My problem in the past was going to the second stage too early. The poor editor just didn't have enough material to work with. I had the percentages reversed. I only spent maybe 10-20% in the creative stage, then 80% in the editor stage.

I'm developing a metaphor for this. There's the hippy and the businessman. The hippy dances around barefoot with a gauze shirt and flowers in his hair, coming up with melodies, chords, rhythms and lyrics, which are all interesting but have no structure. The businessman looks at him with a combination of disgust but also jealousy, because he could never come up with such cool ideas. Then the hippy hands the businessman the stuff he comes up with and he sorts it out and gives it the structure that the hippy can't be bothered with.

The other thing I started doing last fall is, whenever "The Muse" sends me a line, and it sounds stupid and makes no sense, instead of throwing it out, now I say that line MUST stay in the song. I'll write around those lines. I may not know what they mean, but I now know those are the ones to keep. Whether they come from the deep subconscious, or God, or a god, or some spiritual blob in another universe, that can be argued interminably, but wherever the fuck they come from, they're staying. I may or may not figure out what they mean later. Or other people may figure out what they mean.

So last winter The Muse sent me these lines, and they became the titles to
songs:

"Falling into Heaven"
"Waiting on the Other Side of Nowhere"

For both, I've had people say, "that song really speaks to me". I chuckled to myself and wanted to say, "thanks but can you explain what it means, cuz I have no idea". Actually I did give them some meaning, the editor/businessman insisted and I couldn't shut him up. :)

-Rob

September 9, 2009

The Open Mic Diva

She arrives at 7:00pm and signs up for the 9:00pm slot. Then she leaves.

She returns at 8:45 with her friend. At 9:00 she plays her three songs. Then she packs up her guitar and leaves.

She doesn't hear anyone else play, except the person who played just before her.

She doesn't meet or talk to anyone else there.

I guess the Open Mic Diva thinks that no one else playing could possibly be worth hearing, and definitely not becoming friends with.

Oh well, her loss.

-Rob

July 24, 2009

Flower Killers and Poster Killers

I'm sad today.

I don't enjoy going around and putting up posters and flyers for gigs. I doubt if anyone does. I'd much rather be home creating new music, or practicing, or, for that matter, watching a movie or reading a book. But until you're big enough to hire your own publicity department or have a street team, you have to hit the streets yourself. Every band and singer-songwriter just starting out has to do it. So I'm not complaining. It's like cleaning the house, you don't like it but you have to do it.

This weekend is the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase. 200 bands playing various venues on S. Broadway in Denver. I have a gig the following weekend. So I figured that was the perfect place to advertise my show. Thousands of lovers of original independent music will be there.

A few months ago I paid a graphics artist to design to generic posters with a blank space where I can just fill in the specifics for each gig. So Wednesday night I got out my sharpies and made up several posters for my gig, then headed down to South Broadway and spent a couple hours putting them up in the showcase area.

Then Thursday night I went to down to the festival. However, I found that every single one of my posters had been torn down. Not a single one was up. They didn't even last 24 hours.

Who tore them down?

The event organizers? Were they paranoid that I was competing with them? If so, they didn't read the date on the poster. My gig is a week after the Showcase ends. And it seems laughable that they would feel threatened by little ol' me. Afterall, I'm not big enough for them to invite me to perform at the Showcase (and probably justifiably so)--at least this year. So surely they wouldn't they waste their time tearing down my posters. Would they?

Was it other bands or singer-songwriters? I hope not. Most of the folks I have met in the music community here have a cooperative and supportive attitude.

Was it the police? Perhaps there's an ordinance against putting posters on light poles? If so, boy, they sure acted quick. When I've called the police to complain about the lack of enforcement of dangerous drivers running red lights, I'm told they don't have the "resources" to enforce those laws. Perhaps posters on light poles is a higher law-enforcement priority than running red lights and other illegal activity that threatens public safety? I hope not.

Perhaps it was a random citizen who didn't like my poster? Perhaps they thought my ugly face was defacing the beautiful dark green metal light pole? Art, of course, is subjective.

Or perhaps it was just someone has a lot of rage inside them, for whatever reasons--justified or not--who took out their anger by ripping down my posters?

I paid Kinko's $1.50 each to print the posters that nobody will see. And I spent two hours of my life putting them up. So all that money and time is down the drain. But that's not what bothers me the most.

The day before, I noticed that a flower was missing from my flower bed along the front sidewalk. Someone had ripped it right out the ground, roots and all. It was the only one of its type. I planted it last summer. At the beginning of this summer, it didn't show much signs of life. I worried that it didn't survive the winter. But then it produced one beautiful, yellow flower. It survived! Now it's gone. What kind of person rips flowers up? Perhaps the same type of person who rips music posters down?

So I'm a little depressed today. I guess I'm overly sensitive. But it saddens me to know that there are people in the world who would rip a flower out of someone's flower bed. And it saddens me to know that there are people who would rip down a poster for a struggling independent musician just trying to reach a few people with his music.

-Rob

July 12, 2009

Songwriting Lesson Learned: Don't Care

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I wrote several songs last fall and winter. I'm now trying those songs out at gigs and open mics; taking them for a test drive, so to speak. And tweaking them a little, lyrically and (especially) musically.

At the time, I made a conscious decision to experiment both musically and lyrically. That is, I consciously decided to try new things and not worry about whether the songs would be any good, whether anyone would like them; or even whether I would even ever perform or record them. The idea was to try new songwriting techniques. These songs would be "lab experiments".

A funny thing happened. These "experiments" turned out to be some of my best songs, according to several friends and fans. In fact, after posting the the song "Misfit" to my myspace demo site, I wrote that I would probably never record or perform it, because it was so unconventional. Several people go on me about that, asking why not? They thought it was one of my best songs.

Based on that experiment, I now posit the following hypotheses about songwriting:

1. The more you concern yourself with writing a "good" song, the less likely the song will be good. In fact, you probably will never even finish writing the song. The less you care how good the song will be, the more likely it will be good.

2. The more you worry about whether people will like the song you're writing, the less people will like it. On the contrary, the less you care whether anybody will like it, the more likely people will like it. That's because the song will be honest.

In summary: be playful and experimental, both musically and lyrically, have fun, be emotionally honest, and don't worry whether the song will be good or if anyone will like it. I don't know if this will work for other songwriters, but it worked for me.

-Rob

June 29, 2009

Music Website Design

I'm redesigning my website (www.robroper.com). So I looked at other websites and made a list of things I like, and things I don't like, about other music websites.

Things I don't like:

1. Homepages that take 40 days and 40 nights to load. This is usually due to videos on the homepage, music players, and/or excessive high-resolution photos.

2. A homepage that's not a homepage; you have to click something to enter. Why can you just bring me to your homepage.

3. Pathetic begging for money and support. Buy my CD! Come to my show! Get on my email list! Now!

4. A cluttered page. Too much stuff on one page.

5. Small fonts that are hard to read. I'm not going to read it if it hurts my eyes.

#5 and #6 frequently go together.

6. Music players that auto-play a song on the homepage.

7. 4 billion cookies. There's no justification for more than one cookie.

What are the characteristics of a good music website?

The homepage should be simple, uncluttered, readable and fast loading. It should have the most important info up front. There should be links to other pages for everything else.

Music, video players and most photos should be on other pages linked to the homepage.

The site should express your personality. If you are humble and personable, then the site should convey that; it shouldn't make you out to be self-centered and pretentious. On the other hand, if you are self-centered and pretentious... hey, a lot of fans like that in their heroes. :)

For me, I like color and shape, so I like a nice background and a nice color scheme.

And last, but definitely not least, the site code for the site should meet web standards, and you should test your site with 2 or 3 common browsers.

Of course, those are just my personal preferences. I'd be interested in hearing what others like and don't like about music websites. And I'd love to get feedback on my work-in-progress, www.robroper.com. I'm just an amateur web designer at this point, but it's fun.

-Rob

June 15, 2009

Minor Key

I only have one song written in a minor key (When They Go). I need to write more.

That's all.

-rr

June 14, 2009

Art and Commerce, or No One Owes You Anything

If you put your heart and soul into creating a work of art, whether it be a song or a painting, do you have the right to demand that people appreciate it, take the time to admire it, maybe even spend money on it?

No.

Nobody owes you anything.

You can create whatever kind of music you want. Nobody's stopping you. But as soon as you want other people to spend their time and/or money on your work, you've now entered the world of commerce. And the rules of commerce now apply.

If I want someone to spend money, or perhaps more valuable, their time listening to my music, I have to offer them something in return. My music must do something for them. Make them laugh, make them cry, make them think, or perhaps just be beautiful and allow them to appreciate beauty.

As common sense as that sounds, it took me awhile to figure that out.

If you're a performer and/or songwriter, put on your music consumer hat for a minute. If I come to you and say, "Dude! You should buy my CD! You should take time out of your evening and pay the cover charge to come see me play!" What are you thinking? What if my music doesn't do anything for you? Would you spend your time and money on me just because I'm a nice guy? Just because I spent hundreds of hours, much introspection and soul-searching, to write these songs? Maybe. But that means you're doing it out of sympathy. Or even worse, pity.

Nobody owes me anything. It's my--and your--job to figure out how our music can serve people. Then people will spend their time and money on us because they benefit from listening to it. And that's how it should be.

-Rob

June 1, 2009

Friends and Fans

It's been about 3 years since I started playing out as a solo acoustic performer playing my own songs. I've noticed an interesting phenomena, which probably applies to bands also (none of the bands I was in before I starting songwriting lasted long enough for me to notice this phenomena).

At your first gig, or rather your first few gigs, of course you have no fans yet, so you invite your friends, family members and co-workers. You have a good turnout, because of the curiosity factor-- the "I didn't know you played music!" factor. But then once their curiosity is satisfied, they stop coming to shows, unless they really like your music; that is, they have become fans. Your closest friends may continue to come to shows for awhile longer, just to support you, but eventually unless they also become fans, you'll see less and less of them.

This can be discouraging. At your first shows you've got 10 or 15 people, now a year later, even though you're a better songwriter, a better singer, a better performer overall, only one or two people are showing up.

So once you've passed Stage 1; that is, after you've exhausted the pool of friends, family members and co-workers, the question becomes: how to you get actual fans? People who come not to "support" you, but because they love seeing you perform and hearing your music.

Ah, if I only knew the answer to that problem. I'd be interested in hearing how other singer-songwriters and bands have made this transition.

-Rob

May 25, 2009

Searching for a Producer



I now have enough songs I consider worthy of a full-scale album. I'm currently recording an EP, but it's stripped-down-- just acoustic guitar, violin and voice. What I'm talking about here is a full-sized record where I bring in other musicians to play and create arrangements for the songs. This could happen as early as next fall, but most likely will be done over the winter.

Step One is to select a producer-- the person overall in charge of the project. In my case, I'm looking for the following:

1. Someone who likes my songs and is passionate about making this record. Sure, I could hire any number of experienced producers, but I don't want someone who is just going through the motions because they're getting paid.

2. A producer who is also a songwriter, who will challenge me to make the songs as best as they can be, both musically and lyrically. Someone who might even co-write a song or two with me for the record.

3. A producer who is a singer, who will work with me to help me sing the songs as best as I can.

4. Someone who will be creative about the arrangements, the instrumentation, and the selecting of the musicians who play on the record. I don't want a generic-sounding singer-songwriter record, where you bring in studio musicians, go through the song once, give them a chart, and then they play generic, conservative parts. I want the musicians to listen to the songs several times before coming into the studio, try different things, take chances, be creative. I want a producer who knows these kind of musicians and has a pool of them to draw from.

As you can see from the above criteria, I'm looking for a *musical* producer as opposed to a *techical* producer. While some producers are also recording engineers, in my case they just have to know good recording engineers that they can hire (and good studios).

So the search begins. Ideally I'd find the right person in Colorado, but if I have to go elsewhere, so be it.

May 18, 2009

Amsterdam Songwriters Guild

While in The Netherlands recently, a friend pointed me to the website (or rather the blogspot site) of the Amsterdam Songwriters Guild. As a result I found two great open mics in Amsterdam where I play, Cafe Sappho and Skek. If you're ever in Amsterdam, check 'em out!

-Rob

May 7, 2009

bicycles in Holland

Upon arrival in Amsterdam, one of the first things you notice are all the bicycles. Same in Utrecht and other Dutch cities. There are far more people on bicycles than driving cars. I would guess the ratio must be at least 5 to 1, maybe as much as 10 to 1.

But it's not like the people who bicycle in Denver, where I'm from, or other US cities. No skin tight shorts and shirts polluted by advertising. No $2000 bicycles made of special metal alloys. Here, the bicycles are cheap and rusty, with a basket on the front or back. No self-respecting American cyclist would be caught dead on one of these. But here they are ridden by everyone--young and old, business people, students, everyone. And they are ridden by people wearing their normal clothes. That's because they are not riding for "exercise" per se; they are riding to go to work, or to shop; the bicycle is transportation. Less expensive than cars, and frankly, easier to get where you're going in a big city.

Not many fat people here. Wonder if there's a connection?

-Rob

Playing music in The Netherlands

For the past week and a half I've been in The Netherlands. I was hanging out with Chicago Mike Beck on the Netherlands leg of his European tour. Mike did a presentation about playing in Europe at the Lyons Song School last August, and I decided to come over and check it out. Mike was gracious enough to let me hang out with him, and play a few songs to open his shows here.

Mike plays a rocking acoustic show, mostly blues-rock in style, playing mostly popular covers but also his own songs, which are good. He uses a looping pedal so he can play guitar solos over the chords, and was usually joined by two great Dutch musicians on keyboard and bass, Tim and Eibe. He's been doing this for several years now and has a following in Holland. Check out his website, mikebeck.us.

Here's where I played:

Sunday April 28: arrive in Amsterdam.
Monday April 27: open mic/jam at the Oude Pothuys in Utrecht.
Tuesday April 28: open mic at Sappho in Amsterdam.
Wednesday April 29: open for Chicago Mike at Scooters in Drachten.
Thursday April 30: open for Chicago Mike at Scooters in Leeuwarden.
Friday May 1: open for Chicago Mike at Skutsje in Haarlingen.
Saturday May 2: open for Chicago Mike at De Gouden Leeuw in Geldermalsen.
Sunday May 3: open for Chicago Mike at Café de Merckt in Tiel.
Monday May 4: a day off! went to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.
Tuesday May 5: open mic at Cafe Averecht in Utrecht.
Wednesday May 6: another day off. Slacker.
Thursday May 7: open mic at Skek in Amsterdam.
Friday May 8: back to Denver.

It's been a good trip. I've learned about some of the places to play and made contacts, met some great Dutch musicians and made some new fans. And I learned from Mike about some of the logistics of playing here. I plan to set up some gigs for myself and come back sometime in the next year.

Another thing that was reinforced on this trip is the primacy of the music in songwriting. Almost all the Dutch speak English--some very well. But I could tell when I was singing my songs that, for many of them, they missed the nuances of the lyrics-- slang words, metaphors, etc. So in choosing which songs to play, I started using the songs where I created a good melody, and/or had an interesting rhythm. The English language is not universal but music is.

-Rob

April 22, 2009

How to Describe your Music



When I meet someone in a band, or a solo performer, I ask "what kind of music do you play". Frequently they'll say, "I don't know, I can't really describe it. My music is original and unique". That doesn't help me decide if I want to pay money to go see them, or buy their cd. "Original and unique" is great, but it doesn't mean I'll like it.

But that's exactly what I do when people ask me about my music. I fumble around; I'll say it's a little this, a little that... I really don't know how to describe my music.

That's a problem. It doesn't help get people interested in coming to hear me.

There was an interesting blog about this by Derek Sivers, a video with Ariel Hyatt about the need to be able to describe the your music in a short phrase, see

So I'm trying to come up with a description that's reasonably accurate that would help people know what kind of music I play.

Several months ago I put some songs up on the folkalley.com website just to see what sort of reactions I would get. A songwriter friend told me, "you know, you're music isn't folk music at all". Another songwriter friend told me "you know, you play true folk music". Aarghh! Not helpful! Or is it?

I've been playing solo acoustic for the last few years, but that's only because I got away from playing electric guitar in bands to focus on songwriting. Once I get a bass player and drummer, I plan to pick up the electric guitar again. Then I doubt anyone will use the term "folk" to describe my music.

Last year I asked some friends to describe my music, and they wrote some wonderful things, which I put on my website, and my myspace site. That was great, and I've been using those quotes. Tim Riordan said I'm "a rock and roller and raconteur with an acoustic guitar". I like that. But I still need a simple category that most people will understand.

I suppose I could say "acoustic rock" or "folk rock".

"Alternative rock" lost its meaning a year after it was invented. "Alternative" quickly meant "mainstream". I fear "indie rock" will soon suffer the same fate.

Any suggestions for me? Got an opinion on this subject in general?

-Rob

April 18, 2009

Recording a 2nd EP

Today I scheduled a recording session at Swallow Hill in Denver for May 21. As of now, my plan is to make a 5-song EP of songs I've been playing for the last year or so. I'll record the 3 songs I wrote a year ago-- "Like a Child", "Me", and "You Could Have Had Me", and two of the first songs I wrote that I didn't put on my DIY record, "Daddy's Little Girl" (2004) and "I Miss Me" (2005).

"Some Songs I Wrote" was a DIY record I recorded myself in my basement 2 years ago, mixed and mastered it, played all the instruments, and did the artwork--even took my own photograph. This time I'll have Swallow Hill's recording engineer and live show sound man, Brian Hunter, handle the technical duties. And I'll have my violin player who's been accompanying me the last two years, Julie Oxenford O'Brian, record her parts.

The tentative title is "More Songs I Wrote". It will come out in a cardboard sleeve (I HATE jewel cases).

Of course I reserve the right to change my mind on any and all of the above. :)

-Rob

April 17, 2009

A singer-songwriter has 4 jobs

It's not just singer-songwriter; it's not just two things. It's four:

1. composer of music
2. lyricist
3. musician (guitar and/or piano, or whatever you perform with)
4. singer

In the "old days", one person composed the music, another person composed the lyrics, a band of professional musicians played the music, and the singer sang. Sometimes it's still done that way today. Singer-songwriters are trying to do the jobs of 4 people. No wonder this is so hard. I'm not whining or complaining; I love it. But it explains why it's so difficult to be good at all 4 things (see my previous blog, "3 Types of Songwriters).

I began as a guitar player. Then I took singing lessons. Then learned how to write songs. Others do it in a different order.

I took piano lessons a few years ago, and took more last year. But my focus for the last 5 years has been songwriting (music and lyric composition). As a result, I'm starting to feel more confident in my songwriting. So now I'm taking singing lessons again, because I think that's my main weakness.

I've got 4 jobs. Not counting my paying job.

When I look at it that way, I don't call myself lazy anymore.

-Rob

March 22, 2009

Heart but no Brain

I started this one about a year-and-a-half ago, then it sat for awhile, and I came back to it about a month ago, and feel like it's at a first draft stage where I can put it out there for feedback. I'm still trying to figure out how to sing it; it's a little challenging for me. I think that's because I'm still trying to figure out what the melody should be in some places. (You can here it at www.myspace.com/robroperdemos). And the lyrics may need some tweaking also. The structure is unusual, but that seemed to be what the song wanted musically.

Heart but no Brain
by Rob Roper 3rd draft March 22, 2009

You got a heart but no brain
a voice out in the rain
spoken, never heard
and so much to say

An apprentice with no master
Apollo's little bastard
left on your own
and time moves ever faster

I can see you're just a flower
that needs a little water
the neglected middle son
the farmer's ugly daughter

You just need a little help
but you're too shy to ask
you don't want to be a burden
and you're afraid they will laugh

You've got so much inside you
that wants to come out
but no one believes in you
and you've got your doubts

You know where you're going
but you don't have a map
So you stare at the road
and you feel that you're trapped

If you quit and gave up
no one would care
nobody knows
what you have to share

And now your forehead
is all black and blue
'cause the brick wall is stubborn
but so are you

(instr over B part)

(repeat V1 and V2)

March 2, 2009

President McCain's 1st Month in Office



On the foreign policy front...

One of President's McCain's first acts was to announce the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison, where Prisoners of War were being held and tortured, contrary to the protections required by the Geneva Convention. Most of the prisoners had been quietly freed by President Bush over the past several years. President McCain is not freeing the remaining ones, but simply transferring them to other prisons in the U.S.

President McCain also announced with great fanfare that he had ordered US military and intelligence personnel to stop torturing prisoners. However, he stated that he would continue the nefarious practice of "rendition", where prisoners are sent by US intelligence agencies to other countries where they can be tortured and the US can feign ignorance.

President McCain announced that he would continue the American occupation of Iraq, leaving as many as 50,000 US troops, and an unnamed number of mercenaries, to maintain US domination of the country. He did say, however, that he would reduce the number of direct US troops over the next 16 months in order to transfer them to Afghanistan in an attempt to shore up the US occupation of that country.

Regarding US support for Israel's ongoing war against its indigenous population--the Palestinians--President McCain has sent his new Secretary of State to Palestine to meet with officials there. However, based on statements made during his campaign, there is reason to believe that that he will press Israel to end its violence and land grabs against the indigenous population, and comply with UN resolutions to resolve the conflict.

Prior to taking office, the new President announced that President Bush's Secretary of Defense would continue in that post, and reached across the aisle to name Hilary Clinton--a strong supporter of President Bush's Middle East policy while in the US Senate--as his Secretary of State. Thus President McCain's continuance of Bush's Mideast policies, with a few minor variations, should come as no surprise.

Moving onto the domestic front...

President McCain announced a new budget with a record deficit, following in the footsteps of President Bush. Although he said this is the worst economy since the Great Depression, there are no Roosevelt-style WPA jobs programs. Instead there are tax cuts a la Bush, and subsidies to companies in the tradition of trickle-down Reaganomics.

Of course the new President is continuing and even escalating the massive bank bailout program, which is no surprise, since he voted for it as a Senator just before the election. There is no talk of punishing those responsible for the meltdown, unless you consider limiting the bailout companies CEO's salary to "only" $500,000 a form of punishment.

So far it appears that, as his opponent charged during the campaign, President McCain is just going to be "more of the same".

The most noticable change, of course--and the one that has everybody talking--is that, after taking office, McCain appears much younger, and with a more tan complexion. Reporters have also noticed that his public speaking is noticably more elegant and refined, in the style of a Harvard graduate.

Rob Roper
March 1, 2009

March 1, 2009

My Winter Songwriting Hibernation

Over the last few years I've been trying to get more disciplined about making time for songwriting, because I want to write more songs, and I now know that, if I put the time in, songs will get written. But for reasons I don't understand, I frequently procrastinate. I can understand procrastinating over something that's not enjoyable, like cleaning the bathroom, but I don't understand why I procrastinate doing something I enjoy. I suppose I could pay a shrink a couple thousand dollars and find out, but I'd rather spend that money on a nice new Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar.

In October I decided that I would focus on songwriting during the 4 winter months, November-February. I've learned that I'm an outdoor person, so it's hard for me to go into my music basement and compose music when the weather is beautiful outside, like it almost always is during the Spring, Summer and Fall in Denver. But if it's cold and dark outside, there's no temptation to go out, and I can work on music. My plan was to put in 2 hours a night on 3 weeknights, and one 3-4 hour session on either Saturday or Sunday.

I wrote this in my songwriting journal on October 26, 2008: "The goal is *not* to say I'll write x number of songs in the next four months. The goal is to put in the time, with no pressure, have fun and learn."

Today is March 1, so the 4-month hibernation is over. How did I do?

I found it hard to work on music on weeknights. I just couldn't get going most nights. Maybe my brain was tired from my day job and I just didn't want to have to use it anymore. I'm not sure why. I did some songwriting on weeknights, but not even close to meeting the goal.

I did much better on weekends. I did songwriting on a Saturday or Sunday--and sometimes both--most weekends. And I took advantage of holidays during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and even took a couple days off work just for songwriting. It was on these days, where I could dedicate a whole day to songwriting, that I was most productive.

I did a lot of composing in the DADGAD guitar tuning. I wrote 3 songs in this tuning, "Let's Go to the Mountains", "The Man in the Movies", and "The Other Side of Nowhere". I also wrote "Mama Had a Mohawk" and "Misfit" in standard tuning. I started about a half dozen others, but not quite getting them to a first draft stage.

I was also taking piano lessons during this time. I composed one instrumental on the piano, and came up with a few other ideas to be developed later. And I came up with several musical ideas on the guitar which I saved.

Compared to other songwriters, this doesn't seem very productive for a 4-month period. But for me it was more productive than any other time in my songwriting history. If I can just figure out how to be more disciplined to write on worknights, I could really be productive.

Now I plan to get back out and perform, so more of my music time will be devoted to getting gigs, practicing songs--both myself and with bandmates. But I don't plan to stop songwriting until next winter. I'd like to have about a 50-50 balance between work for performing and songwriting. I'd still like to write some songs before the next winter hibernation.

I'm not sure why I'm posting this blog. Do I just want people to write and say congrats, good job? Do I want people to write and offer suggestions how to get motivated to be creative on worknights when you're tired? Do I want free therapy to explain why I procrastinate doing things I love? I don't know. But for some reason I felt the need to write and post this. Maybe it's just another form of procrastination; afterall, I could have been working on a song instead of composing this.

-Rob

February 11, 2009

The Other Side of Nowhere

by Rob Roper 1st Draft February 11, 2009

You walk through this world
but you can't find your song
Doing what you should
not what you want
And the last time I saw you
you were drunk on despair
I'll be waiting on the other side of nowhere.

You talk of your dreams
with a frown and a sneer
You've been living the wrong way
for so many years
And you say that you're trapped
but the answer's right there
I'll be waiting on the other side of nowhere.

Drive down the freeway
Stare at the grey
You like to complain
But you don't like to pray
You could take the next exit
But you don't dare
I'll be waiting on the other side of nowhere.

(I'll record the song and put it on my demo site so you can hear the melody. www.myspace.com/robroperdemos)

February 9, 2009

Luxury

by Rob Roper February 9, 2009

What a luxury it is
to be able to step away from my desk
in the middle of the afternoon
and walk up to the park
or a coffee shop
and write.