Tag Archives: country music

Willie’s Oasis (The Mitchell Feeney Project)

(Willie’s Oasis…a song about looking for drink in all the wrong places)

This a song from my collaboration with John Mitchell (The Mitchell-Feeney Project).

I wrote the lyrics and John did pretty much everything else (except the violin)

The lyric was adapted from a poem I wrote called “A Dry Country in Arkansas”. The poem was published some time ago in Cyphers,  a long -running Irish literary magazine. When I gave the lyric to John, I had no concept what kind of song would emerge, I couldn’t have been happier with what he did. I’ll let John explain…

“Willie’s Oasis” turned out to be quite a challenge musically. I loved the feeling of the tune, that southern heat out on Highway 82, but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t hear the music. I tried using my electric guitars, my acoustics, I even tried my piano, but no matter what key I played in and what chords I used, I couldn’t make it work. So I decided to use technology, and I searched through some of my pre-recorded samples and found this rough sounding, bluesy guitar riff. As soon as I started to work with it and edit the sample, add a few more samples, voila, “Willie’s Oasis” appeared.The only live things I put on this tune were my handclaps and my vocals. 

I decided that it needed something else, so I called a wonderful violin player friend of mine named Ben Mink and asked if he would put some fiddle on the tune. Modern technology allows me to send him my tracks, he puts on the violin and sends it back to me via e-mail. We were never in the same room. I expected him to put some real down-home fiddle on, but he completely fooled me and played the most smoking electric violin parts that took the song over the edge. 

(A note about the violin player, Ben Mink: Ben co wrote “Constant Craving” with KD Lang. The song won KD Lang a Grammy in 1993. Ben and KD Lang also got co-writing credits on a Rolling Stones song, “Anybody Seen My Baby”, because the Stones noticed that the chorus of their song had similarities to the chorus of “Constant Craving”).

Five Miles Outside of Austin (Rhymes and Tropes)

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Listening to alt country on Spotify I begin to wonder….

who are all these country boys
with their cowboy hats, pickup trucks and beards
staring clint-eyed into the mythical distance
listening for the call of who knows what
a phantom cattle drive, perhaps,
anything at all to git them
back on the road again;
and who are all these country girls
left behind or waiting
and why the hell do they care
about these feckless drifters
who love their whiskey
as much as they dread commitment
and why does all this happen in Texas?

rhymes and tropes, folks
rhymes and tropes

and slowly through
a Spotify fog
a Spotify trance
in the distance
a song emerges…..

Five Miles Outside of Austin

I’m five miles outside of Austin
with a pounding in my head
full of yesterday’s whiskey
and wishing I was dead

I left a girl back there sleeping
as dawn began to break
I gave her all that I could give
and I took all I could take

and I wish I had done better
that I hadn’t stayed so long
now I’m five miles outside of Austin
and I’m stuck inside this song.

Five miles outside of Austin
and I’m stuck inside this song.

II
Down the road, a girl is waiting,
drinking beer and playing pool
waiting for deliverance
waiting for another fool

and I’ll dust the road off of my coat
and walk through that door
she’ll say “howdy stranger,
I ain’t seen you before”

but now my head is beating like a bass drum
there’s stubble on my tongue
I’m five miles outside of Austin
and I’m stuck inside this song

Five miles outside of Austin
and I’m stuck inside this song.

 

Photo (by Marie Feeney) of Lukas Nelson and Neil Young at Desert Trip

 

The Mitchell-Feeney Project – Upcoming Album (Crossing the line between Poetry and Song-Writing)

I was sitting down one night over a few drinks with my good friend, John Mitchell, talking about music, poetry and soccer when the subject of song lyrics and song writing came up. At that point in the evening where the power of drink makes every idea seem like a good one, John suggested that we should write a song together.  John is a successful professional musician and I am a chemical engineer and occasionally published poet, so I have to admit I felt  a bit out of my league, but I agreed anyway!

Over the next few days, I pulled out some poems I had hanging around but none of them really fitted the bill given that they were basically non rhyming free verse. I had a phrase, though, – “sitting in this motel room/ I could be sitting anywhere”- and I started to develop a character and story around that phrase. The final lyric eventually became the song, “Emma Jean”, which you can take a listen to below. It’s a long way from words on paper to a finished song, and that’s where John’s talent as a singer, song writer, composer, musician and arranger took over (in other words, John did the heavy lifting!). Here’s the song, please, please use headphones to listen rather than just your computer’s speakers, the song is mixed with headphones in mind.

In the end John and I collaborated on 5 songs which, together with 2 songs written by John alone,  we have put together on an album.

Click here to preview the whole album, and if you like the songs, buy one, buy them all!! Also available on iTunes (search for “The Mitchell Feeney Project”, no hyphen)

A few notes about the song “Emma Jean”, it was obvious from the start that this would be a country song, it’s about divorce,  separation, there’s a child involved, and what could be more country than that? But I wanted to avoid formula, so the story took a twist, at the end, that perhaps disqualifies it as a mainstream modern country song, but hey, never pander!   Initially, the song didn’t have the middle two verses, being more accustomed to writing poetry where my rule is “say what you have to say with as few words as possible”,  I thought I had said enough. But songs need verses and John told me to flesh it out a bit, so I came up with the lines “Who know why love goes wrong/ It’s not written anywhere” and took it from there. John was right of course, the extra verses created context. Now…over to John!

Writing lyrics for me, is about as easy as giving birth, not that I have experience of both. My lyrics are either incredibly self indulgent or incredibly preachy, or a bit of both. The ability to paint pictures with words is truly an amazing gift and I appreciate that gift in others. My favourite lyricists tell stories and take us to another place and time or share experiences through someone else’s eyes. When I first read Jim’s poem, Emma Jean, I could see that motel room and I could smell the mixture of stale beer and carpet cleaner that is the telltale odour of cheap motels. I recognise it from years on the road with bands.

In the case of “Emma Jean”, the music came quickly. First, it had to be in a minor key, as the story was fairly dark and the background music needed to be sparse with minimal instruments so as not to interfere with the lyrics – just guitar, a little bass, and a touch of southern slide. The vocal tries to express how Emma Jean’s dad would feel in that hotel room – loneliness with a good helping of bitterness. I then wanted to use different instruments to accent the chorus, so I added accordion and trombone and orchestral cymbals. The acoustic guitar( a Larrivee D-50)  and vocal are all real, but all the other sounds are digital samples. I recorded it all on my laptop using the program, Logic, and mixed the tunes for headphones to hear the full spectrum of instruments.  

As Jim noted above, please use headphones to listen to the sample track above or plug into a good set of speakers.

In our next post, John and I will discuss another track on the album.