Cantina on Mars
In 1994 I remembered seeing a National Geographic article about
Mars showing mountains and canyons that were bigger than anything
on earth. Since there is water on Mars, I consider it to be earth,
too, not for conquest ("because it is there" is false.
Pick up the trash on Everest because it is there.) but for life
itself. People will go to Mars probably after we have restored
and learned to steward the earth. This song is about a lonely
blue collar (titanium collar) worker who misses his true love
and uses the sentiment from "Rambler and Gambler" to
say the sands might change but my love for you will remain.
On that Road
I wrote this in 1995 after Gerry Harthun loaned me his '63 Yamaha
12-string and I learned how easily open G with drop C adapted
to fingerpicking and slide. The well-kept secret is that 5-string
banjo chords are the same. This song is about being in touch with
your heart wherever you are. I had to have hand surgery in 1990
and I thought I might never be able to play again. I learned that
I'm always on the road home and now I know where home is.
Written in 1996. I was volunteering at Fiddler's Dream and closing
down when everyone had gone home, when these verses came to me
and hurried up home to write them down all at once. We make mistakes
in life, life makes mistakes and flattens people, but if you're
lucky, you get a second chance, or you make new opportunities
by staying true to yourself, staying alert. Ambition is one thing,
but awareness is precious.
Wings of Fire
I wrote this in 1997, again it was written all at once. I tried
to use a minimalist approach to the music, just two chords in
the verses, but more expression of the rhythm. It's about traveling
and the lovely anticipation of returning home. A nice, short but
Kansas City Nights
Penned in 1999. I remembered this one time when we were all seniors
then, the words are self-explanatory, a true-story song, rites
of passage, passage of rights. No poetic license necessary. I
still hear the birds singing at sunset, the roll of the earth,
the temperature and humidity, the sound of traffic.
So Many Ways
First written in 1982, this song has been played
in different keys, permutations and on various instruments. Then
in 1994 I played it on my Strat through a digital delay that Tom
Bertling gave me. I learned that I could send myself a musical
message in the approaching future seconds by delaying the present
and play on top of the original matrix. I know other bands use
this, but then I learned to tap out the harmonics on the acoustic
guitar. This song might change again since there are still so
many ways. Sometimes your friends don't understand what you are
doing, change is good.
Pennies, Nickels, Dimes & Quarters
Written in 1999, I came home from work and noticed some change
laying on the table. The sentiment here is that even though you
may not always have the money you want, or the wind is in the
wrong direction, you can still set the sails and with a little
grit, you just might make it through.
A true love song written in 1994 when there was no one in my life,
a really idealistic expression and use of questions and answers
in songwriting. I first got the idea when it was raining and I
had my front door open.
South Pole Surrender
Written in 1978 to find out where Mrs. Santa Claus came from.
A cartoon song about possibilities. A man who is a warrior of
strength would know that surrender to love for another person
is not a weakness, but an expression of wisdom. I believe we are
not humans on a spiritual quest, but spiritual beings on a human
Written in 1985 in Kansas City. I was living in Oregon, but my
mother was deathly ill and in the hospital and we siblings were
taking our turns being at the old home and taking care of family
business. I was very depressed one night, walking home from a
cafe in my old Brookside neighborhood when I saw something coming
down the old streetcar tracks behind 63rd and Brookside. Something
was coming at me about 30mph and 12" off the ground. I froze
in my tracks as it came right up to me and then flew straight
up into the air, right past my face, I could still feel the wind.
It was a killdeer, a little bird that eats insects at night. They
are easily seen in the light of any billboard or baseball game
in the Midwest. They lived up in Oregon and we have them in Arizona,
so I'm sure they're all over North America, wherever there is
food, but I like the way they circle and chase food to each other,
at least I would like to think that they do that. I love the idea
that swifts and swallows sleep on the wing and nestle in a bed
Like a Leaf
Written in 1976 in the bathroom of my room in the Camlin Hotel
in Seattle. The home I grew up in also had those little hexagon
tiles and the acoustics were great in there. It's a song about
how we are a fiber in the mighty cable of life. Maybe it's about
the approaching storm but we all know the sweetness of the morning
air after it rains.
This is the first of my experiential songs starting in 1978. There
was a time when I wanted to write only about things I had personally
experienced. I felt it gave a further authenticity to the sculpture
if I cut the stone myself. Life and music are not all about me.
I'm here on the planet with other fellow beings ("fellow"
meaning all other life). But in early 1977 things changed, or
a new chapter opened for me that allowed me to see further into
the interdependency of life and the ripple effect of our actions.
First this song was just two verses, then I wrote a third later,
and there is actually a fourth verse, but I couldn't find it to
put it on this version on the album, maybe when I play it live
or maybe other experiences will present themselves because lately
I've been seeing clouds of little orange-shouldered blackbirds
on their way back and forth up the trail. There are distinct allegorical
components to this song, but this too is good if used in proper
proportion in the recipe, who needs bread with too much salt?
Written in Phoenix in 1989. I explored this whole valley when
I got my first mountain bike. I ride with finesse and fix the
trails. I started out on the tame canal banks and graduated to
more challenging trails, but sometimes there are very remote places
right in the middle of big cities where no one goes, and nature
is there in abundance despite noise and pollution. Ask any Peregrine
falcon in Portland, Oregon. So I found a place where there are
many hummingbirds all year because there is food and water. I
won't tell you where, you have to get there yourself in the vehicle
of your own heart.
Written in 1974, I first played it at the freshman orientation
at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon that autumn. It is
inspired by the diary of Benjamin Franklin.
Closing Down Hell
At 2:22 a.m. on 2.22.2000, I sat bolt upright in bed from a dream
I had, and the words of the first verse were there. I stumbled
and ran to find my notepad and pen and just let this song out
onto the paper. I have had this experience before with the Muse,
but not for awhile, I like this process better than sitting down
to do what I call "bricklaying" songwriting, where people
cut and paste and try to find out what rhymes with sponge in their
lyrical cul de sac. I never set out to be famous. I wanted to
write good songs that would stand the test of time. Sure, these
songs identify me as an American writer from the American culture.
I enjoy playing them when I am home alone or with friends or on
stage. I have no compulsion to teach guitar or songwriting. I
love this process that urges and then sometimes shoves me to write
something down, then sometimes the creative wind howls and you
lose your shirt, but you can't buy those experiences. I don't
believe in hell. I don't believe that guilt is good for people.
There is one heart per soul and one path per heart. There ain't
no hell to send each other since we boarded up and closed it down.