I hang with a great group of songwriter/amazing people who inspire and challenge me: the superfriends. Over the years the superfriends have established a grand tradition of goal setting, particularly in regards to the musical/writing life. Sometimes they are long term (ultimate life-long, three-year, one-year). Sometimes they are mid-term (six months, nine months), and when we go to Song School at Planet Bluegrass they are short term (this week). Usually we write them down and sign them. Then, we check in over the course of time and see where we stand.
On one hand, this is very light hearted. We like to tease each other mercilessly about how the goals are going. Sometimes a person (Andy) has strange and unobtainable goals and if the rest of us are unsuccessful in dissuading the goal from being formally set, we are very successful in reminding the goal setter (Andy) of the strange and unobtainable goal and asking how it is going (knowing that it is not going anywhere). On the other hand, the goals are serious and seriously helpful business. It is great for me to clarify what I want: what I want to do, achieve, learn, see, or experience. It is great for others to hold me accountable to those things; to encourage, inspire, help, guide, and remind me. It is great for me to see my friends working hard, struggling, and making magic happen.
Ultimately, we all want the others to do well and goal setting has been a way that is helpful in making it happen AND in ensuring that we see successes and are able to acknowledge them as intentional and hard fought, not just a thing that happened (Emily's pledgemusic campaign went live and is kicking butt--high five! Hope ordered business cards--high five!).
One of my goals was to spend some time analyzing great songs. I have never done this in a formal way, which is surprising. The poetry unit in my AP World Literature class was my favorite. I wish I could have taught a whole poetry class--totally my cup of tea. So why have I not looked at the songs I love with the same analytical eye as the poems I love? I know the danger of picking things apart too much (see this poem by Billy Collins and this song by Paul Jacobson), but I also know that to get better at anything, it helps to study the greats.
My original intent when I sat down this morning was to analyze the Shangri-Las song The Leader of the Pack, one of my all-time favorite tunes, and share my deep and poignant observations. I know it is a weird choice, but it has held its grip on me for like 35 years. I adore this song. I meant to write a short introduction and get to it. Now it is a long introduction and will have to stand alone for now, but I'm hoping it will be the first in a series of posts that actually include looking at great songs and figuring out what makes them that way. Stay tuned.
PS: You should tell me what songs would be on your list greats to study.
PPS: Andy is working hard on some really worthwhile goals.
The Song School at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, Colorado is summer camp for songwriters, complete with tents, traditions, canteens, and sing-alongs (oh, man, the sing-alongs!). Though I've gone to the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival many, many times, this was my third trip to Song School and the first after a four year hiatus (aka: "my teaching career").
The nuts and bolts of my Song School experience are as follows:
But the nuts and bolts are not the real story.
I got to glamp with some of my favorite people in the whole world: friends who make me laugh until I can't breathe, tell me when a line isn't working, and inspire me to write more, play better, and live well. (PS--it was soooo NOT glamping). I got to witness someone write his very first song and then play it ten minutes later; see someone play on stage (to a roaring crowd) for the very first time (and play guitar standing up for the first time!); watch folks wrestle to uncover the truth of a song and themselves under a tent in front of friends who want nothing but for them to be great; sing on stage with Hope and Tom Prasado Rao; watch Buddhist monks at work; take an unexpected field trip to dinner and a Darrell Scott/Tim O'Brien concert in Boulder with a carload of funny, funny people; sit by lamplight and pass guitars, songs, and a bottle around a circle; be lulled to sleep by the St. Vrain river rushing mere feet from my tent; have warm morning coffee with my feet in the cool dewey grass staring up at the canyon walls.
And that was just Song School. The festival brought magical sets by magical people--music to fill my soul.
Now I'm back home. The kids have gone to school, the husband to work. I have many awesome projects on my plate that I am excited to tackle; I'm trying not to panic that most of them don't have a paycheck associated with them. I'm trying to lasso all the inspiration heaped upon me last week and ride it until next year.
Pressing projects of the day: 1) plan my 40th birthday party and 2) get tickets for the Willie Nelson and Neil Young concert.
Ready, set, go!
What I'm reading
What I'm listening to
My Favorite Murder Podcast, Someone Knows Something Podcast, The Cars Greatest Hits