The Song as Milepost

On occasion, the question arises: how many artists out there are obsessive/compulsive? Dwelling on words, repetition–looping thoughts constantly, refining, worrying–they factor into the act of listening, the act of creating or editing. Is there a difference between the artist and the general population? Other fields? Freud, I seem to remember, had a few thoughts about that. Maybe he had a point.

Recently, a co-writer called me a perfectionist. It may have been a compliment. Maybe it was solely an observation not intended to impart a mean judgment, a destructive criticism. I do believe that perfectionism has a part in the artistic process, as an overall aesthetic as well as an editing tool. Do we have any idea what flawless is? We’ve got the word, but does it exist? We evaluate and accuse art of being beyond improvement. In my view, art itself, even in the moment of creation, is perfect–but in some way we can improve on it, until we have the sense to leave it alone.

The Nashville way is, in large part, the way of the co-writer. It brings advantages as it affords songs more opportunities to be heard professionally, pitched. It brings collaborators together for the aim of achieving that perfection, going beyond what a solo writer may do, especially if they are only lyricists or composers, or if they have not felt they could finish the job via their own editing process.

Co-writing is a big part of what I do as a songwriter, but the Nashville way has pulled me a bit too much from my solo work. It’s a two-way street in my opinion: co-writing can make you a better individual writer, and solo writing will help you bring more to a collaboration. All assuming, of course, that it leads to your further opening your mind and heart.

I recently decided to recommit to getting solo write time in. It, just a few days ago, yielded a new one that I’m pretty excited about (the internal buzzkill critic says, “but don’t get too excited, dude, it’ll set you up for disappointment.”). In reviewing the song, editing it, and maybe displaying a little bit of the obsessive/compulsive, I have come to see the song as a milepost.

Hey, if I see it as that, that’s what it is. We’ll see what happens as I share it with different audiences. On to the next!

Technology and Me and Music and Food and WTF

My mornings seem at the moment to be pretty stable, predictable to a certain extent.  Coffee is a must.  It takes a while to get the juices flowing, to get moving.  I am sure there’s room for improvement.  Any productivity consultants out there? 🙂

I am floored by technology.  Part of it is the eternal child in me.  Hitting a button and seeing something, anything, happen is still miraculous.  “How can this possibly happen?” I ask myself.  Even though I have a bit of an inquiring mind, some technological know-how, the wonder of it all still wins.  I embrace the technology from the vantage point of one who wishes to find true convenience and improvements in personal and professional effectiveness as well as one who is simply curious.

Among other things this morning, I used Google Reader to aid in Music Discovery.  Learning of folks who are enthusiastic about songwriting is way high on my list, so I sift through the noise to find some gems.  Among the great material was “Rest Your Head on My Shoulder”, from PGO.  It’s got a great acoustic Celtic groove, a hypnotic melody and heartfelt lyric and performance.  The song made it into the Top 10 Finalist Stage in Broadjam’s International Songwriting competition.  What do you think?

This is what leveraging the technology is about–discovery, to enhance your life, to find what is rewarding, what makes you feel something, to make this an engaging, positive journey.

Then, as the morning continued, in my haphazard way I grabbed one of my favorite foods, a Chocolate Chip Clif Bar.  They can be a healthy part of your diet–Calorie Count gives it an A for nutrition.  Not bad, I’d say!  This is where more of the technology comes in:  I go to my Android Calorie Count app and try to enter the item–but the search does not yield the result;  but with the new version of the app, you can now *scan the bar code* on the product, and the nutritional information will appear.  I did this using the Android QR Code app, and instantly the info appeared and I was able to log it.  If only the technology could get me to enter everything I eat at all times (I’ll keep hunting that app down)!

The WTF reaction was instant.  The child in me came out and froze in amazement, transfixed at what happened on that Android G2 screen.  My wife, though, saw it more on the 1984 Big Brother side.  I acknowledged that, but I stated how this could be put to good use.  Let the tools and technology be your servant.  Maybe your partner.  I seek to be and stay the master of this mind-obliteratingly, ridiculously intense, futurisic magical technological stuff–but it seems to get more difficult by the minute!



Holiday Songs to Leave You in Stitches and Tears

I hope all are having a great holiday season so far! The spirit is certainly in the air, and it will no doubt become even more evident as December moves along.

Did you get your shopping done?

Just in case you did not know, two original Robert K. Wolf holiday songs are available for download!

IN LIMTED QUANTITIES – Cross-Dressing For Christmas PHYSICAL CD Single
This is bound to become a collectors’ item–makes a great stocking stuffer/gag gift!


You can reach the Holiday Songs page with more details HERE

The Little Willies Play a Big Show

My ears and heart and soul are giddy.  How could they not be?  3rd and Lindsley, one of Nashville’s coolest venues–recently remodeled–had The Little Willies on stage on November 30th.  They owned it, and they gave more respect to authentic Nashville country music then, well, Nashville.

The band–Lee Alexander (bass), Jim Campilongo (guitar),Norah Jones (piano, vocals), Richard Julian (guitar, vocals), and Dan Rieser (drums), played seamlessly, with comfort, abandon, and an urban edge.  Evident was the love for music, the friendship, the joy in sharing the experience with the enthusiastic audience.

This was the first time I’d seen Norah Jones perform.  The second I heard her sing, I melted.  What a soothing, mature, controlled, genuine instrument she has.  Her playing glided as a perfect extension to her vocals.  Alexander was solid all the way. Rieser held it together with complexity, confidence, and one of the fattest bass drum sounds I’ve ever heard.  Campilongo reminded me thoroughly of my time playing, jamming, with a smooth Fender sound awash in spring reverb.  The wetter, the better, and there was abandon and bravado in all of it.  Julian fronted with a right now, almost spoken style and a quick dry wit, understated and effective, a quirky but perfect complement to Jones’ smooth delivery.

Rampant in the industry, especially in Nashville, is the desire, the requirement that the artist be the writer.  The Little Willies flew in the face of this with homage to the great Nashville songsmiths.

Thank you, Little Willies, you’ve been an inspiration, you’ve kept the most authentic country music alive and kickin’.  To next time.

Veterans Day and Three Heroes

On this day in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson said, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations,” in his remarks about Armistice Day.  In 1954, the holiday was changed to Veterans Day, to honor all veterans.  With this solemn pride I do thank and salute all veterans of our armed services.

My father was a veteran of The Korean War, having served in the Air Force.  He spoke of his experiences, shared photos and slide shows and tole me how the highest casualties came on the day before the end of the war.  His contriubtion to America’s defense went well beyond these years.  Dad, I thank you and I miss you.

Jonathan Long served in the Vietnam War.  He is another hero, living here in Nashville and singing of love of America and Freedom, what life here represents, the greatness in people, their generosity, their decency.  Jonathan, though, is a brilliant man who uses his First Amendment rights better than just about anyone I’ve known.  Thank you, Jonathan, for giving so much to protect these rights for all of us.

My good, late friend Don Wayne also served in the Korean War in the Army.  Don was one of the greatest Americans I’ve ever met.  He walked quietly and carried the biggest of hearts and songs, a humility, a kindness I will not forget.  Don, I am proud to be able to honor you this evening at the tribute concert your family has planned .  You are deeply missed.

To these three heroes and to all veterans, I do hold this solemn pride and thanks for you, and I always will.

My CMA Awards Invitation

Every day I have checked the mail, feverishly anticipating the arrival of the envelope.  The raised print, the gold-dusted admittance to the prestigious Country Music Association (CMA) Awards.  Still I await.

Is there a problem with the Postal Service?  Has the invitation been intercepted?  It is all possible.  Think of the troubles that have plagued the USPS, budget cuts, manipulation of the cosmos, competition from email and every other form of modern communication.

Maybe there’s a different issue, an elusive or not so elusive one.  Maybe they forgot to send it.  Maybe they ran out of paper and did not have an alternative means of reaching me.

I’d love to go.  The excitement is rampant throughout Nashville and the Nashville music community, both with and without the matrix.  The loop, the belonging, the inclusion all seem elusive.  They appear to be remaining so.

It is seen as a measure of influence, of clout, of presence.  Is there logic in that, paranoia, is there sufficient evidence to lead to the conclusion that if you ain’t there, you’re square?  I’m not sure.  The members are a Who’s Who in country music, they are luminaries, they have the prestige.  How could one not want to be there among the throngs of fans, the artists, the executives, the media?

A friend has been setting up for the event, in a stagehand union.  He made it.

Me, it would help if I had a CMA membership, and if the circles would open up, if the glass and the walls evaporated for a bit.  Oh, I never asked anyone either if I could tag along.  That would help.

I’ll be there in spirit, for sure.  One day in person.  For real, it’s going to be a heck of a party.

Three Sessions, One Day: Today

Pen, paper, MacBook Pro, smartphone and me–all are at the ready to help me get through what is going to be quite a full day here in Nashville.  Three songwriting sessions lie ahead.  Cheley Tackett, Trevor Finlay, and Janell Wheeler–each a great talent and friend.

A book comes to mind:  Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Within one of the early chapters, Covey discusses Production and Production Capability (P & PC).  It would be great to have both of these in abundance.  All senses open.  Intuition present and accounted for.

Where will the ideas come from?  Notebooks?  The MacBook?  My memory?  This morning’s paper?  Hard to say.  The paper may be out of the question.  I don’t know who sells them anymore.  Oh, we get a local one on the lawn just about every week.  There could be a gem or two in there.

I remain grateful for every day given, to have these opportunities to practice the fine art of songwriting.  And the fine art of life.  To the most of it, to the best of my ability.

A Visit to The Bluebird Cafe

What a terrific time tonight.  Got to head out with my lovely to see my friend Mr. Brian James play at The Bluebird Cafe.  He was the featured writer at the Sunday writer’s night.  What a tremendous job he did!  Great songs like “Georgia”, “Holdin’ On”, and “Angel at the Crossroad”.

It’s easy to see why he’s a highly respected songwriter here in Nashville.  His songs are full of emotion, with strong melodies and lyrics which resonate, carrying tales of small town life, romance, and country sensibilities.

Always a pleasure to see and hear such a wonderful performing artist!

Fan Brian James here!

Sunday in Nashville

It’s a sweet Sunday here in Music City USA. Going to work on some recordings.  Doing some rehearsing of a song written with the late Don Wayne, for a memorial tribute to be held at the Texas Troubadour Theatre on Music Valley Drive.  Some great writers and performers will be out for the show.  I’m honored to be a part of it.

Without a doubt I’m going to get out with my sweetheart and enjoy this beautiful weather.

Hoping your day’s fabulous!