You know the drill. Some talented musicians and artists have submitted their music towards this theme, and I have indulged in a rant. To see the submission from the artists, click on the names.
I used to be in a little duo band, and we called ourselves Evergreen. We both sang, both played the guitar, and were pretty opinionated about most things in life. We both had distinct songwriting styles and as we came to discover, we had some rules. I wouldn't use names in my writing, no freakin' way. And he had to rhyme, and occasionally tried to slip the name of a city or person past me. His choice of words and visuals were abstract, and mine were meant to communicate directly. He used to write in a single sitting, and I would have to process things through different angles and mental states, and sometimes would just get bored and leave a page. It wasn't easy to write together- we took a few stabs at it and tough a big challenge for our massive heads, it turned out to be very rewarding. But there is one night, one song, that came about so urgently; one that left a powerful mark on me. Free.
It was a rainy Friday night, and something horrible had happened yet again, and many people were dead and a lot were suffering from the shock. The news had sucked the life out of us, and we didn't know how to cope. We were at a bar, listening to loud music. We were emotionally drained and psychologically distraught. Caught between a feeling of wanting to disengage and to do something about it, we left the bar and went back to the writing station.
We wrote this one his way: in one sitting. And we wrote it my way: no need to rhyme. We wrote it heartbroken, satirical, scared and free, with our different political, world and psychological views- but we wrote it in unison. We started it with a lump in our throat, and finished it with a smile. To the world, that song never existed; but to me, that song meant the world. None of the other songs came to us so naturally- none of the other ones felt as emotional. For that song, we tried to heal by diving deep, addressing the scream within, the breath without, and the fear washing over and dripping from our hair and windows.
The shittiness in the world didn't stop that day- in fact it feels like it got worst. But the memory of that night is no longer simply that of a tragedy. It's the day that, two people with very different views and backgrounds, sat together, mourning the loss of people they've never met, to write a song they will never sing, to try and heal a wound that will never heal.
This band doesn't exist anymore, and there are no records of this song- I'm not even sure if anyone except the two of us ever heard it. I don't know what compelled me during these last few hours to share this story- maybe it was the realization that I won't share this song. Maybe I just wanted to tell you about a time where two people helped each other get through some shitty times in the world through a brief collaboration.
Or maybe it's because I'm sick of seeing people being divided for their opinions on everything from the way we worship an invisible man we hope is watching to the way we prepare our rice or our hair.
Sit down and make something beautiful with your differences. Your legacy isn't just what your ancestors did together and left for you: it's what we leave to the world- whatever will be left of it after us.
Sella Malin & naghmeh
Naghmeh came to visit me for a few days during the crossover point of December and January, right on the intersection of where the past year spills into the new one. On the second evening of 2017, Naghmeh and I were sitting on my rooftop in Brooklyn, trying to wrap our heads around the slightly chaotic whirlwind of a New Year's Eve we'd had the night before. We stared at the stunning view of church spires, brownstones and distant city skyline, and in between our observations of the interconnectedness of the physical world we were seeing and our explorations of the mental weight we both felt we were carrying into the new year, a song began to weave. We proceeded to pour the song out of us in a passionate frenzy, writing some of it that night on the roof, some of it the next morning on the subway to Manhattan, and finishing it under a tunnel in Central Park while the rain pounded down all around us. And of course, the only natural thing was to end the day with a performance of the freshly conceived song at an open mic in Brooklyn before Naghmeh headed back to Montreal that very night. I can honestly say that I've never written a song in such a smooth, motivating, all-consuming, adrenaline-fueled way. "At All" blends the similarities and differences in Naghmeh and my songwriting styles in a fascinating way that I could never have predicted. It isn't just our lyrics and melodies colliding: it is our souls merging together to form one elevated being -- a perspective beyond both of ours. The outcome of this collaboration was as surprising and thrilling to us as it would be to anyone hearing a new song for the first time, and I can't wait to be just as thrown off my feet by the future co-written pieces the two of us will brew." Sella.
Damn... I had something to say too, but Sella put it so beautifully that I just can't even...
You can follow and like Sella on her facebook page. After a year in Paris, she is now living and signing in New York. Excuse me, Brooklyn.
Marissa Kay & Carlie Mari
"I honestly don't think any part of it was challenging. We were jamming out by the Embarcadero one afternoon and basically improvised the entire song in one go. I loved working with her because we both added our own influences to the song. Carlie's great at writing beautiful, dreamlike melodies. We tried to keep the song as simple as possible so it would be really easy to sing along to." Marissa
Everything you need to know about Marissa and her music is on her website.
You can find Carlie Mari on her facebook page.
Eileen Torrez and Tabitha Joi
"Recording "Sister" was one of the most rewarding recording experiences I've ever had. Not least because I got to do it with my best friend, Tabitha Joi. I couldn't have written the song without her inspiration and her input, so it meant all that much more to me that we got to sing it as a duet in the studio. She helps me live the spirit of this song. The challenging part was it took us a year to record. We didn't have the money but a friend of ours supported us to do it because she really believed in the message of the song. We released it for free on Creative Commons because we wanted it to be a gift to the community and all those who are needing kindness. That was what was really rewarding… Knowing that at the end of the year we would be able to offer something to people." Eileen.
This song is available on Eileen's webpage for free or by donation. Go for it! It's worth a latte. See what I did there? I meant it's worth a lot, but I was also reminding you how much you spend on coffee.
RyVo and the revolving doors
"The challenge in making this was simply getting together, by which I mean, finding the time. Part of the reason my band is called 'The Revolving Door' is that it IS literally that. So many of the people I want to work with are not just in, say, one or two other bands or projects, but often almost 6 or 7. In Kelyn's case, he has got to be the most sought-after studio musician I have ever known. He may be here for a few days, but than at a moment's notice, he's off to New York, Texas, or even London, England or Paris, France. Hell, at the time of my writing this, I believe he's in Dakar, Senegal. He also teaches guitar at the local Guitar Center. Similar could be said about Mindy Michelle. I hardly ever see her, either. But so far as any worries about having any difficulty working with either of them, there was almost none. We all seem to get each other & they both have an immediate instinct about what works best for any given song I might throw at them. The reward? I get to have them on my album, and I could not ask for a better gift! It makes my art 100 times better just to have people like them contribute something to it. It brings us all closer together. What could be better than that?" Ryvo.
featured in this song:
*Mindy Michelle- lead singer
*Kelyn Crapp- lead guitar
*RyVo: 12-string guitar & backing vocal
*Frank Schubert (aka NO!) on bass
*Ben Peterson on drums
You can follow and like Ryvo on his facebook page. Stay tuned as he will be making some announcement soon.
If you're interested in contributing to the RockBlock, make sure to like on facebook, and then tell your friend to like it on facebook. Happiness is better when shared, and I don't know about you, but to me, art is happiness.