All posts filed under: Songwriting

Lyrical Triggers & Process

Sometimes it is as simple as a title I have no control over; an inspiration that opens a floodgate of lyrics. A poignant melody combined with the title “Charlie” inspired these words: I once was young I was new we shared a kiss that’s what you do I didn’t know you’d go Charlie A tender branch on a tree will bend not break that once was me but now I am old I’m not so free My brittle heart will surely break it only takes one small mistake, I know, so….. I’m careful And if I try, I’ll be strong and I won’t cry I know, this feeling will go I’ll hold this thought in my mind of innocence, and love that’s kind of youth and truth Charlie CHARLIE ©2011 Laurie Early [Based on melody by Johannes Faber, as played on: Artram-Mantra by Fausto Ferraiuolo] The original musical piece is a tribute to the saxophonist, Charlie Mariano, but Charlie was also the name of my boyfriend when I was 13-years old. So, my lyrics reflect the contrast between taking …

Sometimes I’m Happy

Things are getting really interesting this year! I am taking an improvisation class with saxophonist, Bob Mover, and have started to re-learn all the basic music theory I had forgotten. Bob has been really kind to me by tailoring his instruction to my level of understanding. He does that for all of his students, even though the class has a mix of fully-informed professional musicians and musicians such as I who have compensated for a lack of technical knowledge with many types of audio-focused “work-arounds”. (Which in my case means trying to hear what’s needed in a particular composition – playing “by ear”. Or, it means trying desperately to pull up, from the deep recesses of my brain, theory and voice leading concepts I foolishly suppressed years ago during a musical “dark night of the soul”. I had mistakenly thought I would never have music in my life again.) I appreciate the fact that Bob “dumbs it down” for me without making me feel dumb. Thank you, Bob. One of the best parts of the …

Easy Does It

“Blue skies, smiling at me, nothing but blue skies do I see”….for a while that song meant everything hopeful. I had a glimmer of a wonderful future that seemed to be possible. For a short time I began to believe that life could really bring exciting, joyful experiences my way. I was really happy, until I was hit with some difficult life upheavals and it took me a long time to get my balance back. I allowed external situations to influence my feelings, my reactions. Now I have learned that responding often means just allowing, just observing and not turning everything into a stress, not feeling that I have to fix or control what is going on around me. As I learn to ride the waves of life more languidly, I find that I am happier. I see those Blue Skies again! In the Spring of 2015 I was in Basel, Switzerland, for a week and while I was there, surrounded by fresh air–redolent with roses and flowering trees–I turned some of the images of …

A Burgundy Twilight

I feel a major shift in my life, starting today, October 1, 2017. Without going into details, a nine-year cycle ended yesterday for me. Yes, yesterday I learned many things: revelations about people I know, observations about how love is expressed (or denied), thoughts about how I am (or am not) respected, and a new confidence about my ability to keep going through extreme periods of grief, stress, and rejection. I sometimes see flashes of my future, I know certain things are coming, and I try not to judge them as good or bad. This ability is sometimes very reassuring as it gives me hope. But, there are times I am frustrated when I know something unpleasant is heading towards me and there is nothing I can do about it. And, sometimes, I am just plain WRONG and my “prediction” turns out to be just a negative fantasy. A small case in point, my lyrics for Barry Harris’ fantastic tune “Burgundy”. I wrote them the week following a class where we scatted syllables along with …

Let It Rain !

 I will be leaving for Italy in a little over an hour from now. It has been a crazy morning of cooking–a huge baked ziti prepared in the dark, (yes, boiling pasta and creating the mozzarella/ricotta filling with just a small hallway light, my apartment is so small and people were sleeping); searching for my “performance shoes”; and, conquering the challenge of getting 2 weeks worth of necessary clothing and technological paraphernalia to fit into one very small carry-on bag (and what the airlines call an under-the-seat personal item.) Just as I thought I had completed every task, I remembered I had not posted here for February, so here is a sneak peek at a song I have been working on for Nicola Borrelli, composer/bass player in Latina, Italy. UPDATE: Here is a link to a rehearsal clip of Let It Rain Let It Rain © 2016 Laurie Early (for Nicola Borrelli) Each cloud has a melody and when there’s a storm I hear a symphony Yes, it’s a song I can’t explain I hope it …

My Dreamy Man

A friend once posted on Facebook that her guy was “dreamy”. I wondered why we don’t use that word much anymore since its hey-day in the 1950s. My mind must have been pondering this idea while I slept because as I walked to work the next day, this song came into being. Subsequently, it has a nice “walking” tempo. Last year, in Gela Sicily, over a lunch break at the Barry Harris’ Jazz Workshop, I was able to record the song in the classroom.  On this link to our audio recording, you can hear Angelo Di Leonforte’s stride piano interpretation; so fun! My Dreamy Man © Laurie Early I love your face I love your style I love the way you always make me smile You, you, you you are my dreamy man. I love your eyes I love your mind I love the way you always make it easy to unwind You, you, you you are my dreamy man. I love the way you always cheer me up when life gets blue You always help me to …

Dear Lord (Happy Birthday, John Coltrane)

I arrived back from Italy on Monday night; I was totally exhausted, and literally bruised, from traveling back with luggage that was far heavier than what I had brought with me. Yes, I was unwise and brought back groceries for my daughter that turned out to be very heavy. I am not sorry I packed them, but if I had to do it over again I would have taken a taxi to the train instead of pulling my bags from San Lorenzo to Termini. I tell this part of the story to set the stage for the wonderful piece of music that was waiting for me in an instant message. You see, when I arrived home I felt totally numb creatively, but then I turned my telephone back on and John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord” was waiting for me. A jazz friend “across the pond” sent it to me while I was traveling and my phone was in airplane mode. I listened and immediately in my mind I heard the opening line in words–always a wonderful surprise. I …

Poems for Billy Strayhorn (III)

In the early morning of May 31, 1967, Billy Strayhorn made his transition to another realm. In honor of him, and his musical legacy, I would like to share “Lotus Blossom”, the third poem from my series inspired by his compositions. I was deeply moved by the recording of Duke Ellington playing this piece as an impromptu tribute to Billy. I understand that it was accidently recorded after the session for Duke’s album “And His Mother Called Him Bill” was supposed to have concluded.  In the background, you can hear the other band members talking and packing up as he begins to play this intimate solo. Oh! I listened to this recording many, many, many times while I was writing the words below. You can also listen to it here: “Lotus Blossom” on YouTube*. I wanted to compose a piece where the lotus not only described how I personally feel about Billy Strayhorn, his life, the man, the artist, and how he inspires me and countless other musicians, but one that would also describe the natural life cycle of this mystical plant. It was the juxtaposition of these two metaphors that inspired …

Trying to Get Through Spring

There are so many beautiful songs about Spring–songs that cover different aspects  of the weather, the flowers, themes of renewal, loss, and love. I think that the seasons resonate with everyone, at least everyone who lives in an area of the world where they set the schedule for planting, growing, harvest, and fallow. Anyone who has experienced these shifts in temperature, these quarterly phases and physical reminders of life, death and re-birth can appreciate the metaphors of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn. The song I want to talk about today, analyze in a way, was written a few years ago. At the time, I was learning many jazz standards, all new to me, while also grieving a loss, so I happened to write a song that reflected my deep sadness, yet reminded me of all the lovely things Spring has to offer. I was especially focused on flowers I had been singing about in the other standards, or flowers that had personal meaning to me from my childhood. So, I will attempt to dissect and explain the song lyrics a little and to indicate …