And Now For a Musical Interlude

Let’s PLEASE talk about something other than the election while we wait in line to vote, shall we? Here — I’ll just make up a topic:

I’ve always sort of wanted to be a songwriter. (I don’t mean I tried and tried to be one; I mean I always thought it would be fun but never really did anything about it. Lazy.) Nothing’s stopping me, I guess, other than everyday obstacles like having my hands full already with regular writing work and, well, life in general. Every now and then a little snippet of a lyric will come to me, but I have no idea what to do with it or how to set it to music or to whom I’d send it… Just more obstacles I’ve never taken the time to figure out. Oh well.

Anyway. I’ve been wallowing happily in the great songwriting of others lately and thought I’d share a few faves today, just so we can talk about ANYTHING ELSE for a few minutes. Turn your phone speaker up for the folks in line with you; open up your iTunes; and get your downloading thumb ready.

* * *

Will Hoge

That Justin Bieber is a household name and Will Hoge is not is a travesty of cultural justice that deeply offends my soul and my mind and my… my face. I just don’t understand the world. Even if you’ve never heard of him, you may have heard one of his songs, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” (recorded by the Eli Young Band, nominated for CMA Song of the Year):

“Way back on a radio dial
A fire got lit inside a bright-eyed child
Every note just wrapped around his soul
From steel guitar to Memphis all the way to rock and roll

I can hear ’em playing
I can hear the ringing of a beat up old guitar
I can hear ’em saying,
Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart”

Here – listen to him sing it:

The first time I heard Will Hoge play live was in 2004. I’m glad he keeps on dreaming (even if it breaks his heart), because he keeps on writing great music. Do yourself a favor and download a bunch of his albums, starting with early ones like Blackbird on a Lonely Wire, and enjoy the catchy deliciousness of songs like “Better Off Now That You’re Gone” (soon to be released as a recording by Lady Antebellum, by the way).

Man, I am being bossy today. Listen to this… Download that… Geez. Anyway. Do what I say.

* * *

Brandi Carlile

As you know, I like to imagine that Brandi and I are good friends. So you can understand how delighted I was to catch a last-minute show over the weekend when she decided to stop into a local bar where she used to play when she was just starting out. This was a small, intimate show, and she took requests from the crowd. I asked for “The Story” (and then clamped my hand over my mouth to prevent yelling out, “LET’S BE SONGWRITING PALS AND GET MATCHING TATTOOS OF LITTLE PENCILS WITH HAPPY FACES!”):

“All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true… I was made for you”

Pardon the grainy image. It was dark, and I was clapping.
This was the view from my seat. Quick story: When she walked into the room wearing a plaid shirt much like the one I had on, I was like, “I AM A BADASS AND WE ARE TOTALLY SOULMATES.” Then she pointed to hers and said, “As you can see, I’m completely out of clean laundry.” And I thought, I am not a badass and we are totally not soulmates.

She also sang “Keep Your Heart Young,” a new one that’s a favorite at my house. I play it on the guitar, and my kids sing it while shaking their tic-tac boxes.

“My grandpa gave me a wee penny and I kept it in my pocket
Had big plans in my backyard to build me a space rocket
Talked to my brother on a fake CB that I made from a tic-tac box
Packed my snowballs nice and tight and in the middle I put rocks

Don’t trade in your tic-tac box for a ball on the end of the chain
And don’t go spending grandpa’s pennies buying into the game
You gotta keep your heart young
Don’t go growin’ old before your time has come
You can’t take back what you have done
You gotta keep your heart young”

* * *

Mumford and Sons

“Lover of the Light” is a song I’ve adored since they started playing it live a couple of years ago, and now it’s on their new album:

“In the middle of the night
I may watch you go.
There’ll be no value in the strength
Of walls that I’ll have grown
There’ll be no comfort in the shade of the shadows thrown

But I’d be yours if you’d be mine

Stretch out my life and pick the seams out
Take what you like but close my ears and eyes
Or watch me stumble over and over

I had done wrong, you built your tower,
But call me home and I will build a throne
And wash my eyes out never again

But love the one you hold
And I will be your gold
To have and to hold
A lover of the light”

Here’s the new video for it. Allow me to boss you around: Watch it.

Holy shit. This guy. (Idris Elba, the actor in the video, also directed it, btw.) When he rubs his cane between his thumb and fingers, then hangs it back up… In his dreams, he’s like that buck (moose? whatever it is): independent, free, able to find his way. And damn if he doesn’t go out there into the wild and give it a go.

Now there’s someone who’s not afraid to conquer some obstacles and try something new.


  1. Ok I’ll check out Will Hoge if you check out Teddy Thompson. It’ll be an even trade.

    I once got into a fender bender while parking because I was singing along to Brandi Carlisle so loud that I took leave of my senses. She still owes me $150 for the deductible.

  2. love sharing music recommendations! – thanks for the pointer to Brandi Carlile… she’s awesome. Since sharing is caring, you might like to check out one of my personal favourites with a similar alt/country/rock sound which you obviously appreciate – he’s a Kiwi (as in a New Zealander) leading an Aussie band and writes songs that kick ass. Matt Joe Gow is the name – this song in particular rocks (but the whole album is stellar) Like you, I once turned up to a small, intimate concert he was giving and could hardly contain myself. I wasn’t wearing a matching plaid shirt, but I did note that Mr Gow appeared rather more disconcerted than flattered by the fact that I clearly knew all the lyrics to his songs, perhaps even better than he did, on an album that had only been out all of 5 days.

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