Song Stories

I always love hearing how songs came about, what happened in the studio, and what was played.  In case you do too, here ya go!

 

Live Like Jimmy Buffett

“It takes no more time to see the good side of life than it takes to see the bad.”
― Jimmy Buffett

Well, don’t we all want to be Jimmy Buffett when we grow up? I know I do. Besides embodying all things island, he just seems like a happy guy. Most of my other heroes are mentioned in this song too.  Lyle, B.B., Ray; I guess I would have to write another twenty verses to get ‘em all in, but you get the idea.

This is the first of four tracks on here that feature the wonderful Clay McNeill on steel drums; an amazing multi-instrumentalist and percussion director at Lockhart High School.  Thanks Clay!

 

Fishin’ On Credit

“Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.”
― Henry David Thoreau

This song has my favorite back story.  My buddy Greg Guenther and I were wade fishing in Corpus Christi one afternoon, enjoying the fishing atmosphere more than the fish.  I called out “Hey Greg, you got any bait left?” “Nope,” he says, “You?” “Nope,” I replied. Then we proceeded to cast our empty hooks in the water and pop another cold one. Greg smiles and proclaims, “We’re fishing on credit!”  So, with a partial chorus in hand, I visited my friend, Pete, a wonderful quirky songwriter who actually lives in Corpus.  If anybody would be able to come with some good fishing lines, I knew he would.  Oddly enough, at a gig a day later, my pal Tony (another great writer of silly songs) showed up in town out of the blue, so I told him about the song too.  Over the next couple weeks, we all texted and emailed lyrics back and forth.  What’s funny is that none of these three guys ever met!  Yet we were able to come up with one of my favorite songs on the album.

I played the drums on this one in a rather unorthodox way.  I used a 2×4 to play the kick drum by hand and used toms for the rim sounds, as well as the loosened bottom head of a tom for the “timbale” sound.  I was doing my best to get the rhythm section to sound as quirky as the lyrics.  Thanks, to Pete and Greg, for helping me recreate that wade fishing conversation on the recording.  Oh yeah, and the fishing reel and water noises you hear on there were “played” by Greg.

 

Island Time

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”
― Albert Einstein

A milestone – my first recording of a song written with my son Kai!  How cool is that?  I know I’m supposed to deter my children from being musicians, but what a writing talent.  I’m very proud.

I’ve never been able to wear a watch more than a week or so; something about acidic skin or something kills ‘em.  Coincidence, I think not.  I’m not sure if I passed that trait on to Kai, but I’m certain I passed on those ideals.

It was nice to get Kai to play some percussion on this one too.  Thanks again to Clay for his steel drum track.

 

My Topia

“Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly.”
― Leo Tolstoy

This song sort of represents my actual life.  I have a great place to live, wonderful kids, and an amazing job that I’m allowed to drink on.  But all would be nothing without my soul mate, Michelle.

“My Topia” was written rather quickly this year and was originally intended as a late album-only uke song.  When my other son, Shea heard it, he said it was one of the only songs he had heard from the album that could be played on pop radio.  As soon as he said that, I started to hear Train and Colbie Callait, and knew I had to cut a full band version.  Thanks Shea, It’s now one of the biggest sing-alongs on the album.

 

Beach Bum

“All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”
― Jeff Spicoli

Before I had a sweet recording system, I relied on an elaborate sample keyboard setup to get drums down for demo-ing tunes.  When this song hit me driving down the road one day, I rushed home to record some semblance of the idea before it got away.  Instead of setting up my makeshift system, I just grabbed whatever household items I could find to churn out an island rhythm section.

I used a laundry tub for a kick drum, a hairbrush for a guiro and hi hat, an egg shaker, and two bathroom trash cans for congas.  I never intended to keep the tracks (especially a vocal from 15 years ago) but they had such charm, and seemed to perfectly convey the resourcefulness of a guy living on a beach with nothing but a guitar.  It reminds me of many a spring break trip to Port Aransas playing a rusty out of tune 5 string guitar around a bon fire with a bunch of rusty out of tune drunks beating on tailgates and singing at the top of their lungs.  Good times.

 

Hammock Built For Two

“If you live to be a 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.”
― Winnie The Pooh

My brother Ric is an amazing writer who doesn’t even realize it.  He and I have been doing quite a bit of internet writing lately with great results.  This particular song didn’t happen the way you would think.  I was at a point in the album’s writing where I needed a serious heart-felt ballad to offset the whimsical upbeat songs.  On checking my email, I found one from Ric, subject: Hammock Built For Two.  Without reading it, I began to form this story in my head around the way I imagined living out my last days with my wife Michelle.  Well the actual lyric ideas Ric had written were much more tongue and cheek, as he has always been about the fun.  What was amazing was that after I sent him instructions for “more heart,” less “hey baby,” he revealed to me a wonderful talent for tender writing I think neither of us knew he had.  Lucky me.

I think Ric and I will both claim that we wrote this one for our beautiful wives, whom we want to “sail out by the current’s grace” with.  And I believe we’re both right.

 

Tuff Gong (A Tribute To Bob Marley)

“My music will go on forever. Maybe it’s a fool say that, but when me know facts me can say facts. My music will go on forever.”
― Bob Marley

If you didn’t know, “Tuff Gong” was Bob’s nickname.  “The Gong” was the nick name of the early Rastafarian leader, Leonard Howell.  Marley, being a fierce street fighter and avid champion of the Rastafari movement then gained the name “Tuff Gong”, a name which the Wailers would later take for their record label.  There are many who bash today’s average listeners because they don’t appreciate the message in Marley’s music, and don’t follow the teachings he worked his entire career to promote.  I, for one, believe you can hear the virtue and goodness of his ideals in his music the same as if he were singing in a different language.  There’s a reason reggae makes you wanna close your eyes and sway back and forth.  You’re at peace when you hear that rhythm and that’s what he wanted in the first place.

I thoroughly enjoyed studying and trying to capture every little detail of Marley’s style in this recording.  And I discovered along the way, that what made his music so great was that he honestly put so much of himself in it.  I tried to do that with some of what I think is myself: blues guitar.

 

Piña Rita

“It was a woman who drove me to drink, and I never had the courtesy to thank her for it.”
― W. C. Fields

This is the oldest song on the album, late-nineties as a matter of fact.  It goes back to the days I was playing restaurants and really discovering the joy of performing different styles of music. It’s obvious that I developed a love for island music as this was the first of many to come.
It was originally intended for an album with the band Haywire which fell through. The drummer on that project was the great Jessie Sanchez. He plays on “Deep in Your Eyes” as well (another track from that session).  I also got him to overdub the timbales. Thanks J.J!  Listen for his and Clay’s great work on the jam ending which was an afterthought that turned out to be a gem.

 

Acapulco

“The human voice is the most beautiful instrument of all, but it is the most difficult to play.”
― Richard Strauss

I always wanted to try an a capella song like Bobby McFerrin, and I finally got my chance.  We in the music biz always refer to it as singing “Acapulco”, so I thought, what a perfect subject matter. Much like “My Topia”, this song was a late addition and was never intended to be included as a main track. Well, it’s usually the first song people talk about, now. Go figure.

There are 16 separate vocal parts, most of which are doubled plus hand claps.  The total track count was 28, so don’t show up to my gigs requesting this song unless you brought the cast of The Sing-Off with you!  In all, from conception to mixdown, this song only took about 6 hours to write and record (and I’ve been working on these other songs for years! I guess Bobby had it figured out.)

 

Mental Vacation

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”
― John Lennon

This was a tune that came to me in the office.  Although, my office is probably not like yours, it’s a cattle pasture where I work cows.  Don’t laugh, it’s a real day job.  Still the concept is the same.  Sometimes you just need to escape from everything and find a happy place.  I usually do that by singing loudly.  The cows don’t mind, and often sing along.

I love me some Little Feat and some Bo Didly.  Musically, those were the big influences on this one. I guess that’s where the slide came from too; I don’t usually record slide cause it’s so hard for me to play in tune, but it ended up on here and “Bumpin’” too.  I guess that’s a good reflection of the free attitude I had on this record. I never worried about what would be hard to play live, what was “my sound”, I just gave the songs what they wanted.

 

Deep In Your Eyes

“Conquer the devils with a little thing called love!”
― Bob Marley

This was a song that I wrote for my amazing bride, Michelle.  It’s true, this whole album is about escaping reality, but being with her is the ultimate in escapism. No, her eyes are not blue, they’re an ever changing magical kaleidoscope of amber, green, sparkle, crystal, but that wouldn’t quite fit in the line.  Sorry, babe.

This tune was another track from the Haywire sessions, and was written stylistically with the country soul of Curtis Clay in mind.  I still would love to hear his version of it!  I’m not sure how it turned to reggae at the end.  I’ve been performing it that way long before this album was conceived.  Must be in the blood.

 

A Little More Rum

“Why is the rum always gone?”
― Captain Jack Sparrow

This is the kind of song Ric would be famous for if he was famous.  Classic “drink her off your mind” stuff that somehow makes you feel good about it.  He uses plays on words like no on else I write with: “A little more rum to make the wind blow in the sails of my escape”, that’s perfect.

The song was already written and half way recorded when I came along and stole it.  I played the big record company card, and told him I’d record it if he let me change a few things. Ha Ha Ha (evil laugh).  But seriously, I think we were able to take it to another level together and with, Clay’s help again, maybe we can “make a million bucks selling it on eBay auction.”

 

Bumpin’ Flip Flops

“Bump! Bump! Bump! Did you ever ride a Wump? We have a Wump with just one hump. But, we know a man called Mr. Gump. Mr Gump has a seven hump Wump. So… if you like to go Bump! Bump! Just jump on the hump on the Wump of Gump.”
― Dr. Seuss

I had this hook line long before it ever became a song.  Many attempts failed before I found a little reggae pocket I liked.  In fact I was still a little unsure about it until the recording started to come to life.  Again with the slide guitar;  I think it puts a little of that Hawaiian “sway” to it.  When I really started digging it was when the clav and the 808 tracks went on. (those are the waka waka keyboards and the big boom in the dance sections.)  That made the song for me.  Now I’m counting on you girls out there (Michelle!) to come up with a dance to go with it.  Bump, bump, bump, let’s go!

 

Granny’s Peace

“I sell escapism.”
― Jimmy Buffett

My mother (Granny) deserves all the credit for this song.  She had just gotten an iPhone, and was starting to realize its potential as a music library and player.  When I asked her what she wanted for mother’s day, she said she needed some music to relax with her earbuds to.  She said she wanted me to turn on a mic and just play guitar, no plans, no writing, just sit down and play.  So that’s what I did.  I just played what ever came off the top of my head, no verses, no chorus, no roadmap.  Then I did the overdub, which was the same idea; just play whatever comes to you.  In fact most of it was done with my eyes closed, so as not to analyze and calculate.  Just feel.  The result is what might be my favorite guitar track, …ever.  And it was recorded in about 30 minutes.  Wow, thanks Mom for giving me that gift I gave you.

I would like to thank the Port Aransas seagulls for singing backup on the track.  No other gulls sound quite right to me.  I was raised a few hours from that Texas Gulf, so I had to make a special trip to the Port A beach to record them.  Poor me.

 

Bonus Tracks:

Hawaii Blues

“Ua mau ke ea o ka `aina i ka pono”
― Hawaiian Proverb

When I was in Hawaii a couple years back, I kept thinking, “Why would anyone want to live anywhere else but here?”  It’s true.  If you can afford it there’s no more perfect place.  The weather, the beauty, the attitude, (Hang Loose!).  So please buy my record so I can afford to move there!

Anyway, I wondered what people around there could ever get upset or blue about.  So was born this little sarcastic uke song.  I’m certain, a full version will show up on the next album.

 

Coulda Been A Pirate (Acoustic)

“There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life that he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.”
― Mark Twain

I very rarely write songs that don’t have a verse chorus type structure, but here’s one. I guess we all have dreams when we’re kids that you look back and go, “What was I thinking?”  But the truth is you should never stop dreaming, and you should play dress up every once and a while.  And maybe those ideas weren’t so far fetched.  Maybe you won’t be a pirate, but you can be an oceanographer and search for sunken treasure.  Maybe you can’t be an outlaw, but you compete in a rodeo or be a professional poker player.  Maybe you’re not a movie star, but I bet you can make a you tube video.  And maybe you’ve never played to an arena of fans, but that’s why God invented Karaoke. Keep dreaming!

 

My Topia (Uke Version)

“The ukulele…the thinking man’s violin.”
― Krusty the Clown

Here’s that unplugged version.  I still kinda like it.