Mar 8, 2016
  • Comments Off on My first co-write session…a look back

My first co-write session…a look back

Posted: March 8, 2016

I was recently thinking back on my first co-writing session. It was very memorable to say the least….an experience I’ll never forget. In the spring of 2012 I was headed to Nashville for the IBMA Leadership Bluegrass Class. I was thrilled to have been accepted and really looked forward to the opportunity. I arrived a little early, having set up a songwriting appointment with Donna Ulisse. I had always hoped we could write together someday. Never having participated in a “real deal” co-write session with someone who does it all the time like Donna, I was understandably a bit nervous and somewhat anxious days before we met up. My plane landed at the Nashville Airport around 1:30 PM and we were to meet at 4:00 PM at her publishers office. I was staying at a hotel near the BMI building where the class was to be held….not far from where I was to meet up with Donna. I had not rented a car as I needed to economize and felt I could easily walk to my destinations. Overly optimistic!

Everything was going well until I left the hotel to meet up with Donna. Thought I allowed enough time and brought a hand held GPS to help me find my way. Somehow the GPS malfunctioned and kept leading me to the wrong place. A lot of the street names in that area are very similar. Time was flying by, I was running late, and getting tired from all that walking in the heat. Finally I got Donna on the phone and explained my dilemma. She guided me in and I was running full tilt by the time I got there, about an hour late…..out of breath and sweating profusely.
When I arrived, first person I met was Jerry Salley, one of my songwriting heroes. He had a co-write appointment cancelled earlier that day and just stopped by to say hello. Donna asked me if it was OK if Jerry joined us. My heart was pounding faster and faster. My first co-write would be with Donna Ulisse and Jerry Salley. Wow! On top of that Donna wanted to try & write a new song for her upcoming Christmas album. It was a surreal experience. Three hours later we finished writing “Morning In Bethlehem”, which was a featured cut on Donna’s acclaimed “All The Way To Bethlehem” release. Being part of that collaboration was a highlight for me personally. I was in the presence of greatness, witnessing how two of Bluegrass’ finest songwriters approach writing a song together. I learned a great deal about the co-writing process during that session and will be forever grateful to Donna and Jerry for that wonderful opportunity.

Nov 24, 2015
  • Comments Off on Christmas Concert Tour…Behind The Scenes

Christmas Concert Tour…Behind The Scenes

Posted: November 24, 2015

Well the Holiday Season is almost upon us that means preparing for our annual Christmas Concert Tour. Now in its 12th year, we are playing six shows in three states. The show features The Blackstone Valley Bluegrass Band, Amy Gallatin & Roger Williams, Rick Lang & Friends. All the shows are held in churches and have pretty much played for packed houses the last few years. We spend most of November rehearsing, and working in new material to keep the show fresh.
The tours beginnings go back to 2003 when I released my first Christmas CD “The Season Of My Heart”. The material consisted of all original Christmas/Seasonal songs I had written over the previous eight years. Bob Dick produced the album, who two years previously has released his own solo Bluegrass Christmas CD “Tidings Of Comfort And Joy”. We decided we should put together a show to promote our respective releases. The initial show featured The Blackstone Valley Bluegrass Band and Rick Lang & Friends (Bob Dick, Dave Dick, Roger Williams, Karen Lincoln and myself). We played at the Northbridge High School in Northbridge MA, and the Performing Arts Center in Stratham NH that first season.
After two years both venues ended and we needed to find a new place to bring our show. Bob made an arrangement to try it out in his church (Rockdale Congregational Church) and it went over extremely well. I tried the same approach with my church in Brentwood NH with similar success. Meanwhile Amy Gallatin joined the show making it three acts. This helped broaden out the scope of material we could perform and things really took off from there. I needed to continue to write new Christmas material to keep my part of the show fresh. This in turn led to the recording of a new Holiday album “That’s What I Love About Christmas”.
Interest in our Christmas Concert Tour continues to grow, and we’ve added two new venues this season. The key to it all is putting on a quality show, which is why we spend the entire month of November rehearsing and working up new material. It is really a lot of fun and hope we can keep it going for years to come.

Oct 19, 2015
  • Comments Off on Children’s Songs

Children’s Songs

Posted: October 19, 2015

For the last several weeks I spent a good deal of time re-visiting a
collection of Children’s songs I started back in the summer of 2012.
Inspired by time spent with my three granddaughters, I first
developed an interest in attempting to write children’s songs after
taking my oldest granddaughter Amanda for a ride in my row boat
on a nearby pond.
We somehow got stuck in some lily pads (bad navigation on my
part) and saw a frog on one of them, naming her Lilly. On our way
back to shore we started singing a song about that frog that we
finished when we got home. That’s when I got the bug. At that point
in time, for whatever reason, I started to see the world through a
child’s eyes and came up with lots of interesting song ideas. Some
were written by myself, some with Amanda and one of my other
granddaughters Abigail.
I continued to write every day that summer/fall, and ended up with
over three dozen songs in this new collection. Most of them I wrote
on a Uke which lent itself well to the style of music I was shooting
for. It recently occurred to me we should really find a way to record
some of these tunes. One thing led to another, and I am now in the
planning stage to record my first children’s album. The working
album title is “Walk Like A Penguin” ….which is the title of one of
the songs. Makes for a nice visual! Working on this collection of
tunes has been a lot of fun as well as challenging. It’s all new ground
for me as a songwriter. Still have some fine tuning and editing to do
to get them “recording ready”. Hope to start sometime in 2016, first
need to find a producer and place to record. That’s it for now, more
to come

Jun 2, 2015
  • Comments Off on Re-writing


Posted: June 2, 2015

Been slacking off on the Blog posts far too long, got some catching up to do. Don’t know where the spring went, but it’s come and gone. Most of my music time in the last few months has been focused on re-writing. There are several songs I’d written, finished or nearly finished, that still needed work. I can tell when I’ve got a tune just the way I envisioned it, or if it falls short. There are a few I was totally happy with years ago, but now I hear differently. Really don’t know why that is. It would be easier just to let them be, but I feel that would be a disservice to the song. So for about two to three hours each day I would take one of them and try to improve it. In some cases I would need to create a whole new music setting to the lyric, taking the tune in a totally new direction. Sometimes it would be about tweaking lines, or adding a new part. Whatever it takes to make the song complete.
Rewriting songs is a very important part of the process, at least for me. Every now and then I lose track of that. The key is recognizing that there is still work to be done, and not giving up on the song until it is the very best it can be. I find that letting a song alone for a prolonged period of time is very helpful.
I can revisit the tune with fresh eyes and ears, and a clear mind. Over time this has served me well, producing some pretty good results, and would highly recommend to any songwriter. I do not want to have doubts or second thoughts about any songs I hope to record or pitch.
Also should mention that there are instances where I would have two distinctly different versions of the same song, and I like ’em both. Some songs can keep changing and evolving over time. It’s all a part of the creative process and I’m totally good with that.

Mar 5, 2015
  • Comments Off on Freelance Writing

Freelance Writing

Posted: March 5, 2015

This winter I have kept busy working on some new articles for Bluegrass Unlimited. In addition to songwriting, I have always enjoyed other forms of creative writing. One of them has been free lance writing for Bluegrass Unlimited and other music publications. It started about twenty five years ago writing for Cuzin’ Isaacs Bluegrass Gazette, for the Connecticut publication Northern Bluegrass, and Candy Sawyer’s Bluegrass Guide. Also during that time I’ve written occasional feature articles for Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine, something I continue to do to this day.
The last couple of years I have focused more on songwriters including Jerry Salley, Donna Ulisse, and most recently started working up a feature on Becky Buller. The next article I’ll have published will be on Stephen Mougin and Dark Shadow Recording that is scheduled to come out in BU in the April issue. Hopefully there will be many more to come.

Feb 9, 2015
  • Comments Off on Songwriting Workshops

Songwriting Workshops

Posted: February 9, 2015

This week I’m ramping up for a couple songwriting workshops at the Joe Val Indoor Bluegrass Festival the weekend of Feb 13th.
One again I will be conducting a workshop on co-writing with Dawn Kenney. Last year’s workshop was great, lots of interest, and met several other area writers for the first time. My catalog of co-writes has been growing in recent years, resulting in a few more song cuts. This is a great opportunity for me to encourage others to pursue collaborating with other writers, and discuss the benefits as well as various approaches to co-writing.
The other workshop will be with Ted DeMille on writing Bluegrass Gospel songs. Very excited to work with Ted, who I have written with for many years. We have had a few of our songs recorded, including some Gospel numbers. Gospel music is a very important element of Bluegrass music and it is essential that we add new songs as time goes on. Gospel will always be a big part of my own songwriting and look forward to share what I have learned with other writers on the subject.

Jan 23, 2015
  • Comments Off on New Year…New Resolution

New Year…New Resolution

Posted: January 23, 2015

Each January I always do some soul searching and a general review of the previous year, inevitably, making a few New Years Resolutions. This is also the time of year I look for sources of inspiration to ramp up and elevate my game. My focus right now is to find more time to write in 2015. That involves making songwriting a priority again, and an integral part of my daily routine and schedule. Like a lot of writers, I may start off with the greatest of intentions, but something always comes up to derail my plans.
I am going to fit in some time to write each and every day, and to collaborate more with other writers. In the last couple years I have created a growing list of new song ideas that I am very excited about. Trouble is I have not taken the next step and started to develop the ideas. Hopefully I can turn things around and have a more productive year with a lot of new songs to demo and pitch.
Last few years I dropped the ball pitching songs to bands. Plan to be more aggressive on that front as well. It’s good to have ambitious goals and set your sights high. A year from now I’ll look back and see how things played out. Time will tell!

Dec 5, 2014
  • Comments Off on The Christmas Season

The Christmas Season

Posted: December 5, 2014

Well December is here once again and the time when I start focusing on Christmas music. For the 15 years or so I have incorporated writing, as well as recording, Christmas songs as an integral part of my songwriting game plan. It is a niche I really enjoy and look forward to each season. The very first Christmas song I composed was “I Dreamed That I Was There”. That eventually led me to record my first Christmas/Seasonal album release “The Season Of My Heart” in 2003. Since then I have added new tunes each year building my catalog to more than 60 original Christmas/Seasonal compositions. To this point I have recorded about 1/3 of them….ten on the newest CD release “That’s What I Live About Christmas”. At some point I would like to demo some of these and pitch a few to artists looking for original Christmas songs to record. I also keep an ongoing list of new song ideas and try to write at least one (or more) new Christmas song during each winter season. I have better luck at it this time of year when there is snow on the ground and a chill in the air…..inspired by the Winter Wonderland. I also spend time every day listening to my very large collection of Christmas classics and personal Seasonal favorites for inspiration. Hopefully I have more Christmas/Seasonal songs in me….time will tell!

Nov 14, 2014
  • Comments Off on Harvest Song Collection

Harvest Song Collection

Posted: November 14, 2014

With Thanksgiving around the corner and Autumn in full swing, it’s time to re-visit my “Harvest” song collection. Several years ago I wrote a couple songs to celebrate Thanksgiving, as it is one of my very favorite Holidays. Over time I started adding a few more that have “fall” themes ….focusing on things that happen between Labor Day and the first of December.
So a new tradition developed that each November I would try to add to the collection. So far I have around twenty songs that I hope to record someday. One of them I wrote with my granddaughter Amanda “Thanksgiving Day” which we included on her very first album entitled “A Song in My Heart”
I also started collaborating with my good friend George Claborn who brought some very cool claw hammer banjo to the collection. This resulted in three new tunes, two of which are instrumentals.
Have a list of new song ideas to work on, here are a few of the titles of ones that are finished:

Autumn Wind
Thanksgiving Prayer
Apple Picking Time
Bountiful Fruits Of The Harvest
Dance Of The Falling Leaves
Barn Dance
Sow A Little Love
Leftover Turkey Blues
Plymouth Rock
Home, Family and Friends
Hay Ride
Harvest Of The Heart
Thanksgiving Day

Nov 6, 2014
  • Comments Off on Concert rehearsals coming up!

Concert rehearsals coming up!

Posted: November 6, 2014

Well, November’s here and that means our annual Christmas concert tour is right around the corner. Since 2003 the Blackstone Valley Bluegrass Band, Rick Lang And Friends, Amy Gallatin & Roger Williams have been putting on a New England Christmas Concert tour, that includes five concerts in three states. This is the month when we start rehearsing, shaking off the rust, and learning the songs for our upcoming shows. Some will be ones we’ve done before, and will add some new material keep the shows fresh. We usually rehearse at Bob Dick’s church in Northbridge MA on Sunday afternoons. We’ll definitely plan to include tunes from the new Christmas album, as well as my first Christmas release “The Season Of My Heart”. Lots to learn and catch up on as we usually perform as many as 30 songs collectively. The Concert tour starts right after Thanksgiving so better get cracking!