“Better Off” in 2013

A friend from Eastern Washington (who goes by the nickname “Puck”) recently sent me a touching post, thanking me for a certain song that lifted his spirits, and sharing one of his own, thusly inspired.

Whenever I perform at Hogan’s Pub in Clarkston, (usually w/ Scott Cargill & 7 Devils) Puck requests my 12-year old break-up song “Better Off Without You.” I wrote it a dozen years ago — a paradox of anger & levity — and it got me through a difficult time. (It was cheekily deemed “the greatest break-up song ever” by a Eugene Weekly writer.) Here is a version from my former “Alternative Rock” incarnation (from Pollyanna Loves Cassandra):

The song seems to have helped my friend see the hard times through. That is the best news a songwriter can get. And, even better, Puck paid it forward by writing a similarly-themed tune “Better Off.” He graciously allows me to repost his video here:

As much as we performing/recording artists strive to get good reviews from the press, nothing gratifies like finding out that a fellow human being has been emotionally affected by the work we do. And even better, that someone would be inspired to put their own creativity to work and keep the collective torch burning.

Artists work for real human beings, not just Entertainment Biz entities.

Thank you, Puck. Keep up the good work. See you in April to celebrate happier times.

Here is the live acoustic version from the 2001 A Stealthy Portion, featuring Elisabeth Babcock on cello. (It was selected for Michelle Malone’s compilation of independent artists):

Shipe @ Saginaw Vineyard, Cottage Grove 2/15

Sometimes the demographic in the crowd is so mixed, it’s hard to connect, and hard to choose what songs to play from my 150-tune list.

Last night’s gig at Saginaw Vineyard started at 6:00 pm, with unfamiliar folks in the audience. So I started out with a bunch of cover tunes. Unusual for me; it’s not my style to lean on covers so heavily. I prefer them as palette-cleansers as I move through my original compositions.

(Did I just refer to my songs as “compositions?”)

When I first inquired about this gig, Karen (who is an absolute sweetheart) rejected me. The music on my website is not what they want. For the first time in years, I had to sell myself. She described the typical Saginaw performer as an easy-listening, semi-country, lots of classic singer-songwriter covers…. basically a “rural James Taylor.” (Admittedly, my latest album is produced with a light-indie, full-band tweak on my Americana sound.)

So I sent an email, fibbing that I am “exactly” what she has in mind. And I figured that when I showed up, I could approximate the requirements just barely enough. Although I have some sort of block against James Taylor, I have twisted two Van Morrison songs into my own unique personal indulgences, which go over well at wineries.

To liven things up, I had Pat Kavaney sit in. If I’m going to play my safest (oldest) material — and covers — it’s a lot more fun with a jammin’ friend.

However, I was pleasantly surprised (knocked out, actually) by the arrival some unexpected friends… including the drummer from Hot for Chocolate. And I did not want to feature my “safe stuff” in front of them. Poor Pat! I put him through my most challenging tunes, and new stuff he hadn’t even heard before — in keys like E flat and C#. (“Just play slide, Pat. you’ll be fine.”)

I know he’s gonna get me back by making me sit in on his Steely Dan set, a task of nightmarish proportions for a hack like me.

The good news is that the gig went great. House was full. Patrons were happy, CD’s were sold. (I am nearly cleaned out of “Villain.”) Karen said that a house record was broken.

“Love Ain’t Easy” (for Valentine’s Day)

Here is a close-up of my latest song. A gift to struggling lovers on Valentine’s Day.