Willie Nelson: ‘Ain’t Many Of Us Left’ (NPR)

NPR: Producers would tell you your phrasing is off. What does that mean?

Willie: It means change producers.

————

Yes!! That’s one of the reasons I like Willie. Joni Mitchell said a similar thing about how/why she produced her own records in her fantastic book, In Her Own Words. Going to have to pick up Willie’s new book!

Wow… Interesting that Apple studies Gould at their internal Apple University.  I’ve been a long time fan of Gould and have used Apple products for a very long time now.  Hadn’t thought there was any correlation until now.  Makes sense when I think about it though…

http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/how-apple-and-its-products-are-inspired-by-canadian-glenn-gould-1.2335254

I think, like many artists do, that writing can be a kind of therapy. I simply feel better after putting my feelings into a song. And this song, Back On Your Life, is a special kind of therapy for me. Last week a former student and now friend gave me a call and asked to meet with me. Hadn’t seen my friend in four or five months, but that wasn’t that odd — life happens and we all get busy. When we met up it was absolutely, painfully clear that my friend was profoundly, terminally ill. I wish I could say there was an upside to this, but there isn’t. That meeting really was a last goodbye.

I had been working on Back On Your Life for a few years now. Yes years and I could never finish it. This song isn’t really about my friend — it’s about Sonya and me and about getting older. But I will always be thankful that the meeting with my friend gave me the sense of purpose to complete the song.

This version of Back On Your Life is a demo with my very less than stellar vocals. Maybe I’ll re-record it with a “real” vocalist. Maybe not. Either way, I’m happy it’s done.

Here are the lyrics:

Verse 1

So some of our dreams were broken
Some lost, some unspoken
Don’t need to know
What the hurt surely shows
That this was all we had to give

Pre-Chorus

Look away
For a moment
Look away
And you’ll be looking

Chorus

Back on your life
Back on your life

Verse 2

Today I look at
Could have beens and should haves
With more life behind me
Than there is in front of me
But that was all I had to give

Pre-Chorus

Look away
For a moment
Look away
And you’ll be looking

Chorus

Back on your life
Back on your life

Verse 2

When the time arrives
To say goodbyes
You need know
That I loved you so
And I’ll miss you always

Pre-Chorus

Look away
For a moment
Look away
And you’ll be looking

Chorus

Back on your life
Back on your life

Chorus Out

Back on your life
Back on your life

I don’t think I’ve ever met a guitarist who wasn’t on some kind of a gear quest — on that never ending torturous yet joyous search for a particular piece of gear that you absolutely know will present the perfect tone. Or feel. Or really anything good.  And you will finally be able to calm the dark voices in your head.

Those voices do stop — for a few minutes, maybe an hour or if you’re really lucky a day, but the inevitable rears its ugly head.  You actually do truly without a doubt need the next piece of gear. It matters. Cue the quest redux.

When I talk about those on the quest, I’m not talking about the “others”.  I’m marching right along with everyone else.  Ask my wife about my affliction and she’ll tell it’s in no way a subtle thing.

But I do recognize that too much “stuff” gets in my way — artistically speaking.  Smarter people than myself have labelled it option anxiety and I think that’s a pretty good term.  I started noticing a few years ago that having more plugins (synths, compressors, delays, etc.) wasn’t helping me to write better or more efficiently.  It was slowing me down and sometimes to a crawl.  So I started looking at what really mattered to me, chose the plugins that resonated with me and focused strictly on those.

A little while later, I started applying the same philosophy to my guitar gear.  What didn’t work was out.  Didn’t matter how much I thought a piece of gear was really really cool. What mattered was — does it work for what I do.  How will this new guitar or effect pedal help me to get to the core of my music in a more elegant manner.

So this leads me to my current acoustic pedalboard. It’s a simple affair in my opinion: a Fishman Spectrum into a Tech 21 Boost D.L.A into a Tech 21 R.V.B.  Yes, it’s not an acoustic straight into a nice mic, but for my kind of music that’s not really possible in a live setting.  And I absolutely love playing with delay and reverb. The last piece in this pedalboard puzzle was the Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus I added about a week ago.  I suppose it’s weird to buy a pedal to take away sound, but that’s exactly what it did — it took away the noise issues I was having.  Everything sounds a lot cleaner now and for lack of a better term “nicer”.

I’m truly happy with this board and I think it’s going to stay like this for a long while.  It has to — I have no more space for any pedals! Of course, I could always get another board…

It seems like I’ve been a slashie my entire career. You know, one of those artists whose style is defined as this/that/and-the-other without seeming to commit to something. I suppose that’s to be expected when you’re inspired by so many genres when writing and playing your music, but it makes it awfully difficult to describe what it is that you do. Really, your elevator pitch better take place in a VERY tall building!

So here I sit, working away on my seventh solo release and thinking once again that my music is some kind of hybrid and wondering how best to describe it. There’s the New Age sensibility, there’s Jazz harmonies, Classical melodies, some Pop, some World, a little Folk and a whole lot of acoustic guitar — pretty much the same mix as I’ve done since my self-titled debut album Jamie Bonk came out in ’98. [That is, other than my electronic-based album, Side B, that I put out a year or so ago. Yes, I know Side B was quite a course change, but I loved making that record, and I like to think it’s okay for artists to occasionally dip their toes in other stylistic waters.]

But back to the slashie problem because New Age/Jazz/Classical/Pop/Acoustic, or any other slashie hybrid isn’t cutting it for me anymore. I feel a little like Derek Zoolander right now when he asks: “Who am I”? and then answers himself. But here it goes: I’m a New Age Jazz Guitarist. That’s it. No slashies! Sonya, my wife, came up with that off-the-cuff so maybe the Zoolander analogy doesn’t exactly work, but I think the description is a good fit for what I do. New Age Jazz Guitarist. Not one OR the other, but both, which encompass all the other musical elements.  I know there may be all kinds of pluses and minuses to committing to this or any other descriptor and I know occasionally that I’m still going to need a long elevator ride to explain what it is that I do. And it’s also true that I’ve now just traded being a slashie for being a compound phraser, but that’s okay because now I feel like I can finally own a label: New Age Jazz Guitarist.