If you’ve written songs long enough you’re gonna get stuck. I’m not talking about writers block as much as boring yourself blind. Lot’s of tricks for the musician side, open tunings, capoing, pick up an unfamiliar instrument and don’t be afraid to suck…really. All of these tricks have opened up melodies for me and I’m convinced it’s about getting back to playing and creating like a kid. Harder to do as you get further away from that inner child. But if you don’t know the rules you’re not worrying about breaking ‘em. I know I’m gonna hear from the folks who believe you have to know the rules before you can break ‘em and I understand that argument, believe me.
I have to say guitar is my comfort zone and I’ve written a bunch of songs using the stuff I picked up from the guys who really know how to play but …I’ve written some of my best stuff on keyboard where my inner kid just hunts and pecks like crazy until something happens.
I never worried too much about why it works, just one of those things you’re afraid to stare at in case it disappears. All of this to set up the story of my finest keyboard hour. I had co-written a song called “Dancing In My Dreams” years ago with my buddies Kye Fleming and Brenda Russell, both of whom can coax a diamond out of a litter box. I’m not knocking training but some people are just gifted. I had written the music on a keyboard.
So…I get a call one day that this famous fusion band is going to cut a version of the song. Household names all – even if you’re not a Jazz freak. I was told to expect a call from the keyboard player to discuss the finer points of the keyboard voicing in the chorus. If I knew the finer points I might have been nervous but ignorance is bliss and I picked up the phone. He asked me about one chord in the song. One chord that he was scratching his head over because the voicing sounded “odd”. I thought odd was cool. One guy’s odd is anothers “wrong” I found out. He asked me to hold the phone and play the chord. “That’s just wrong” led to giving me a short theory lesson. I countered with “yeh but it’s something that made the chord change unique and well..cool” and I stood by it. I still don’t think it was a mistake, I think it was a little magic. Ok, maybe it was luck but it was born out of the spirit of playing until something moved me. Some writers call them happy accidents.
They never did the song. Maybe my made up voicing struck the wrong kind of chord. Didn’t bother me then and doesn’t bother me now. I’ll take the heart over the head and those rare happy accidents over a perfectly executed passage any time. Think we’re all hoping for magic and it seems to happen when we’re not lookin’, at least for me. Still rather hear the scratches in the vinyl than the MP3 version, may not be perfect but I put them there.
Oh and the song…Tina Turner did it on an album that sold 6 million. She said the song was the centerpiece of the record for her and THAT WAS COOL!