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June 2019: Inventing Songs

Rodney Crowell once famously wrote “I don’t drink as much as I used to, lately it just ain’t my style…”. As I approach midlife, I find that to be appropriate but more so I find it fashioned into other facets of my life. I don’t waste my time on people, places, things or music that don’t move my needle in a positive direction. I inherited that from my Grandma. She was a no nonsense survivor of the Great Depression who didn’t suffer any fools. I’m a patient, laid-back guy but I know my lanes and tend to stay in them. I stay away from the socially aggressive types and the ignorant arguing types, the climbers, movers and shakers all do very little for me. To quote Mark Allan Atwood, I’m a peace lovin’ redneck…I’m a hippie in a hat. I hold my own beliefs but respect the point of view of others. I used to not be so forgiving. In my youth, I thought I knew everything better than anyone else. Best band. Best song. Best football team. Best beer. Best bar. Best whatever. My opinion was the best. Age has a way of making you less hardened with all that and more accepting of dissent. I still have my favorites, but no longer begrudge you yours. Unless that favorite is Luke Bryan (I kid, I kid…sort of). You get dinged up and miss a few predictions and you can’t help it.

The one area of my life where I find myself to be as flexible as ever is with regard to music. I still have the suffer no fools approach and my BS detector is as sensitive and finely tuned as it has ever been. But, I have come to understand that Drew Kennedy’s depth isn’t for everyone. That Shinyribs may be my favorite live band but some people are going to walk away confounded. That Josh Weathers is probably the most naturally talented guy I’ve ever met and could be as big as he wants to be…and he’s as big as he wants to be. And so on. I put some Guy Clark deep in my veins and then unabashedly get down to “Old Town Road” or Koe Wetzel. The one key thing I look for when enjoying music is originality in some form or aspect. The Stones can rip off black blues musicians…but they’re the Stones. Everything is derivative. So what I mean by originality is found in strains. There isn’t anything that is completely, wholly original anymore. It’s just impossible. Everything influences the next thing.

This epiphany recently hit home when I had a thought while watching young entrepreneurs attempt to create a business that had never been created previously. Their requirements were such that it couldn’t be something already on the market in style, name or design. Upon hearing those instructions, I immediately made the connection to songwriting. The songwriters we all admire and listen to must continually create a one of a kind invention. An album has a dozen unique ideas. Tech giants just need one solid one and then coast. Zuckerberg, Jobs, et al. Hyper focused, results driven. They’ve been called geniuses…and for good reason. Their creations will last forever.

Songwriters have the expectation to keep cranking out exceptional songs again and again. When artists we dig hit a dry patch or seek outside songwriting help it shouldn’t be surprising. It’s just them realizing they may not have the greatest ideas at that current point in time. By design, creative folks are wired the way they are for a reason. It’s not that they actually run out of ideas…it’s that they often run out of good ones.

Let’s celebrate the good ones. Share them. See them play. Buy their merch. The fact that one good idea came out of anything is remarkable. The fact that we’ve all been drawn to it is something else entirely. And when it all comes together in one perfect package that’s the sweet stuff.


-The hiatus of Turnpike isn’t shocking or hasty. It was a long time coming and much needed. I’m hopeful that everyone involved comes out the other side better off than they are the first week of June 2019.

-I think the reason so many people are taking the break so hard is that Turnpike was one band that truly seemed to have it all. Draw, artistry, respect, legacy, smarts, hell-raising. Their music and their shows had a bit of it all. And at the root were the lyrics of Evan Felker. Geniuses are often troubled, it’s just not always so public.

-This month I’m seeing Paul McCartney, Jimmy Buffett and Jason Isbell in successive weeks. I’m writing a longform article about the degrees of success in songwriting. Some folks are successful if they can get gas money; others turn one song into a billion dollar empire…and others are a damn Beatle.

-How ’bout the Rangers hanging around .500 instead of tanking?

-The demise of iTunes was another death knell to the commercial side of recorded music. Few industries have had to withstand such an onslaught of economic change.

-The Drew Kennedy/Josh Grider acoustic project is Hold My Beer Watch This for whiskey and tequila connoisseurs. Also, the artwork and imagery for it groundbreakingly awesome. It’s as if Step Brothers: Americana had been produced.

-The older I get, the more I feel like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm when encountered with inane and mundane social situations (waiting room, grocery store etc). I know I’m not alone.

-We are but one month out from River Jam 2019! July 12 – San Marcos; July 13-14 – New Braunfels. Join us.

-This month’s recommended album: Shane Smith and the Saints – Hail Mary. The Saints are one of the best live acts to come out of this scene in a very long time. While the recorded output still doesn’t quite capture the energy and vibe of the live experience, this newest collection of tunes (released in installments) gets as close as one possibly can. “Oklahoma City” is an early standout that is the hallmark of Smith’s live shoutouts to Turnpike Troubadours helping the band out early in their touring. Keep an eye and ear on this entire project. Poised to go next level.

-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain

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