Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Songwriting - It's about listening to the voices in your head.

I've been writing songs since I was around 12. I was originally inspired by artists like Cyndi Lauper and Pat Benatar, both their voices and songwriting.  The first LP I ever bought was Cyndi's first album!
I started to write songs because I was dealing with the kind of complex family situations in which my intuition begged me to lock myself in my own room most
of the time with sketch pads, books, and tapes I made of songs off the radio; and this for my own safety. I didn't play any instruments, and I didn't sing the songs very loud, because I was trying to
be quiet. But based on my favorite music of the time, I knew how the songs should sound in my head. My songs largely helped me deal with difficult issues, but I was already
a fan of sappy stupid love songs as well (My mom also had a few Beatles albums and a battered Doors LP that I really took to as well). The first song I may have ever written was about a
man who worked with my dad who I smiled at one day while I was brushing my hair in the window. I was 12, and in those days at 12 you didn't see anything wrong with smiling and brushing your hair
while a man stood outside watching you. Later that night he returned and climbed up on the double wide trailer's jack, knocking at my window and calling my name in a whisper. I remember him being in his 30's.
I didn't even believe he was out there except I could see the outline of his head through the curtain. Terrified, I ran across the house to my father who ran out in his underwear with a shotgun. He didn't see anyone
and even after I explained to him about the earlier events in the day, it was apparent he didn't believe me. Having no one else to turn to, I wrote a song. The main line of the chorus was "Keep away, keep away from me." Years later I looked back at that song and thought, this is complete shit (although, trust me, a little catchy). But since those events, the subject of the song had been shot multiple times in his tiny town's Little Mexico and survived. And the little town was near a nuclear plant built the same as Chernobyl. So a few years ago I rewrote it and called it "Share Noble".

I was just writing a song this moment and was intrigued to notice how it manifested itself. I started to hear the words and melody in my head and went to write it down. I started to see images in my head that went
along with the words and as they moved around in my consciousness they shaped the words I was writing. I turned on the camera instead to record more verses and although I kept to the patterns one could imagine in the song; writing slows me down but somehow it was more together when I wrote instead of going off the cuff

A lot of the time songs will manifest themselves as if they have suddenly downloaded into my brain and they start playing. If I don't act I'll lose the song. When I was in junior high, walking home, I sang madeup songs constantly. Once I'd gotten inside and called my mom to tell her I was home safe, the song would be "poof" gone!  I went to a pentecostal church for a time and when I was there one of the many
unusual things that happened is that I was called often to speak in toungues. When this would happen it was like my whole physical and otherwise being would be consumed by a firey feeling. I would feel words
and some kind of meaning floating around in my mind, and feel the intense need to open my mouth and let whatever it was that was supposed to be communicated out. If I didn't let it out, it was almost like having
something stuck in my throat. Invariably, when that did happen, someone else would talk in toungues, and I would have this intuition that it was the same message I was supposed to say. I know, message- speaking in toungues isn't english! But churches almost always have translators that are supposed to interpret what was said in toungues. Oddly enough, most of the time, whatever was interpreted felt pretty much true in subject matter to whatever words and meanings were in my head. Once, a guest pastor came to church and interpreted the toungues. But somehow, he was wrong. The words he was saying had nothing to do with the words spoken in toungues. How do I know? I don't even know how this kind of thing is supposed to make sense, BUT......

A lot of songs I have written come to me, and it feels similar. This year a lot of songs have written themselves in my head and demanded I interpret them in my fashion. Although I don't feel like I'm on fire the demand of the song is to become. I try not to fight myself and let it come out as it intends to, just like I try to do when I perform it later - give it credit for being the song it is by trying to do it justice. Most of the time I wonder where these words and images that accompany them come from. I'm not sure if it's up to me.

I have also had dreams about songs, and one where I remembered the song when I woke up. "Bone Dragon", a new song I am working on, was inspired by a dream I had of a dragon made of bones flying around. I woke up and the melody suddenly was in my head, and with paper in hand I felt the mad desire to let my hand fill the page with words. And it was filled like it wasn't me, but it is. Another night I dreamt Elvis Costello was singing a song "You've got to be for each other". I wrote down as much as I could remember, and it was a lot. I often wonder what makes words and thoughts appear in our heads and hearts that don't have a lot to do with what's going on in the immediate considerations of the daily human. A lot of those thoughts have saved my life. Did they come from me, did my own brain figure out how to save myself, write a song, or lay my hands on a person who needed spiritual healing? Do they come from someone/something looking out for me, or do they cross over from some other realm or dimension I could never even try to understand? All I know, is I am grateful and I humbly accept the burden of thse thoughts, songs, intuitions, and hope that I do them justice.
-Julie the Bruce

Monday, June 20, 2011

Squeezebox Sampling Sixties Stomp- a gig this Friday!

When: Friday, June 24, 8:30pm

Featuring: Joseph Kojima Gray, Odd Moniker, Julie the Bruce and Mark Badovinac

Price: $6

Ages: All ages

Luna's Cafe
1414 16th Street
Sacramento, CA
916 441-3931

I think it's $6, doors at 8:30
Odd Moniker does some really interesting experimental stuff in his recordings so I am excited to see what he comes up with in an acoustic setting. 

Mark Badovinac's songs could fit in the playlist of any Beatles, Neil Young, or Kinks fan yet are completely and awesomely original.

Joseph Kojima Gray (Grubdog and 50 Watt Heavy) plays bluesy folk
and will surely stomp a beat into your feet

Julie the Bruce sings and plays gypsy punk on accordion and guitar with an act which others have recently described as "hilarious" but "because it has soul. Less recently,  "Channeling Dio", and even more less recently "Joey Ramone meets Joan Baez."  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Oh no, accordions!

Oscar the cat does not approve of a wicked new beastie that appeared last night, as if in a dream.