Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pick a color and get started

A long time before iMix playlists I made theme cassette tapes from my vinyl. What a wonderful way to study the art of songwriting. Now with iTunes you can actually share it with the world forever... Here's a list a songs with a color in the name..

Crayola Doesn't Make a Color for Your Eyes..Kristin Andreassen
Another Kind of Blue...Slaid Cleaves
Blue River...Samantha Farrell
Baby Blue...Rachel Pearl
Erin's Green Shore...Mick Moloney
Red Staggerwing...Mark Knopfler And Emmylou Harris
Catnipping Green (parody Fiddler's Green)...MARC GUNN & THE DUBLINERS
Black Is the Color (of My Cat's Fur)...MARC GUNN & THE DUBLINERS
Red Rocking Chair...Leela and Ellie Grace
Flying Red Horse...John Gorka
White Cross...Jeff Talmadge
Brown Jacket..Heather Waters
Shades of Gray,,,Cry Cry Cry
Rose for a Blue Jay...Chris Elliott
Green Into Gold...Chris Elliott

What a wonderful mix of songs and styles... pick an artist, go find them in iTunes and check for this iMix. Vote it a FIVE stars because I love all these musicians.

Ok back to subject. We humans relate colors so instantly with emotions, RED & GREEN combined are Christmassy, Red Dress is already hot, BLUE suit, GRAY sky... you get the picture. These are powerful deep images in our physche don't forget to use them. My absolute favorite color song is Multi-Colored Lady by Greg Allman. I don't even have to tell you the story to know this lady is happy, sad, and most times mixed up. Isn't that so many people we know? and it was told in two words.

Here's a piece I wrote for Hope Waits after she lamented somewhat of the decision to live in LA. She put out the 2008 Zemmy CD of the Year there but she longer for her home in Louisianna, and ultimately has moved to Nashville. Most of the rest of the song is fictional and it needs a little work... but I like the chorus.

Lady in Blue by Dave Schipper © 2007 Rose Riversongs

A thought fixed in a venom moment
Surrounded by a harried world.
She sits alone with a personal torment.
A bottle of Jack numbs the senses
Maybe she’ll go dress up with pearls
Hit the bars and take some chances.

The lady in blue has a life to choose.
The lady in blue stuck in Hollywood.
The lady in blue turns to look away
The lady in blue will find the way.

Her tall and slender frame turns heads
She’s learned to ignore them easily
But with this she’s added a hard edge.
An armor of cold disdain for true love
Can crush those who approach weakly
Leaving her left with just the tough.

A trickle of hope is never really gone
She was raised in family of eternal joy
But left it behind to write her song
The lady will bump into life in the dark
Will she choose to notice or be coy?
Here’s a wish the ending is not stark

Monday, December 8, 2008

A cup of coffee?

A free Cup of Coffee

I wanted to quickly thank everyone for the birthday wishes a while back. Most MySpace readers knew that my love of iTunes has changed my music consumption. I have always been a huge buyer of music, and now while I’m spending as much money, I’m spreading it around to more artists with a flick of a button.
It dawned on me that I’ll listen 40 times to a great song that cost me about what one cup of coffee does. Ouch, that doesn’t bode well to have an artist live off of this revenue stream. Well my advice is to not stop this, but to buy more and ask you to do the same.

So what’s free? Obviously the multiple listens, but the other thing is that Zeman’s stuff has been all free and it's all over the web, FolkAlley and MySpace when it works. So enjoy, I’m posting my favorites that I’ve been listening to myself. I guess if I can take my voice, you should be able to also.

Here’s a short snapshot of the songs that I’m committing to keep up for awhile because spring has sprung and I think I should get out of the house and enjoy myself.

Julia: Inspired by Ang and her passion she showed to support her family during a crisis.

California: Inspired by Allison’s coyly erotic songs that have weaved her way into my psyche.

Opposite Destiny: Written as poem to release tension from a tough day, I was blessed to have Kim Davidson turn it into a beautiful song.

Baptized in Blood: Written by Brad Behenke, this was fun to see it come to life and stretch my style to a modified Screamo song.

The West Shore: This song provides balance to the other songs, and proves that I have been raised with Electric and Eclectic tastes. Ride a lie….

The fifth song was tough… it left out Gypsy Soul, Unsaid, Grace, Phonograph Blues, You Forgive Me, Denim and Lace, Blonde Attitude, and 8 is Midnight. Goodness maybe I do have enough to crank out a cd for myself to listen to.. ;-)


P.s. here’s my coffee song just for you... may every song writer write at least one song about coffee...

HARD Wired by Dave Schipper © 2005 Rose Riversongs

Want my cup of java, it’s just that I hav’ta,
To get inspired, Cause I’m old and tired
Want my cup of Java; It’s like brain Viagra
Turns the soft and tired Into hard wired. (2x)

Alternative lines:
My head feels in a pliers, I could end up fired

It’s Eight O’Clock, come to my House
And let’s enjoy some Columbian ground
Wake the Hills brothers and hear them grouse.
Till they smell of the aroma abound Chorus

A Java High to just laugh about.
And it’s not a café latte for me
Boil it in a enamel pot and pour it out
Some rich hearty black co-off- ee Chorus

Caffiene inspired
A jolt of fire
Can’t stop this needless talking
Or the urge for walkin
Just need a cup of joe
Oh please help me sooooo. Chorus

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Songs with song titles

I have love of the clever songs that authors slip things inside their songs. One I would point to is “Outta Love” by John Prine who wrote a whole song blending beer ad clichés into the song. Art Thieme was also good to mix terrible puns into songs. For some reason I was inspired to try to put song titles into songs. I guess it started when I wrote a song about Rose River. I was trying to write a song to introduce our new band, Tim Kolek, Paula Pryzowski, and me and I used the verses to talk about songs we covered. The song just ended up a little boring. I tried to change it to a more dramatic beat, but basically shelved it.

Then one night I took an alternative way home along the Minnesota Mississippi River Highway 61. (Yes, it is the same highway Bob Dylan revisited.) When you drive along unfamiliar roads, it’s a great time to watch for inspiration. You might see a barn setting, a peaceful ravine, a rusted old automobile, a hitch hiker, and the list could go on. That night armed with a piece of paper to scratch a note at 65MPH, I saw a sign for Cedar Creek Road. The road sign sounded like a fast upbeat folky dance song to me, and it had those “Cr” sounds that made it fun to say.

Ok so how did it move from a folky dance to a rock song with song titles mixed in?

Well I had shell of a chorus when I got home, and I believe a party needed people and things they were up to during the party. Pierce Pettis said to make songs progress from one verse to another. So what happens during parties, some are in the own world, and then there are groups to do things, and then the party ends. Well I wrote two verses, and emailed it to my advisory group. My thought it was a throw away; just another throw away to learn how to write songs.

To my surprise, Tim Kolek showed up with a demo of the song. He put a great rock melody to the song, tightened up the rhymes, and highlighted one line as the title. (Eight is Midnight is a rewrite of a line from Pat Murphy’s Wake ---“they turned back the clock so that Mrs. Murphy thought it was Nine O’Clock.”)

Here are the lyrics, and I’ve underlined the song titles hidden inside it.

Eight is Midnight by Kolek/Schipper © 2005 Rose Riversongs.

Tim tells his sad tale to some bad scotch
Margaretville, is all Dave’s got
Paula has a 5 O’clock blonde attitude
So crank up the sound and get in the mood

Follow the Mississippi moon shadow
Down Little Creek Road for dancing tonight
There’s a keg of the king so get down low
We’ll push back the clock, so eight is midnight

Adeline is fine for sweet cherry wine
But Sue’s on the edge cause it’s quittin time
We’ll drink Lynnie’s Lakewood Blues and be
Back to the keg king and good company


Our Ramblin Boy stops by with a friend
With guitar in hand and songs he penned.
So turn down the sound, and grab a chair
He’ll paint you a dream and take you there

If you want to listen to this masterpiece go to

Friday, December 5, 2008

Progressing the story

Storytelling in songs are my most favorite part and the one thing I try to pay the most attention to in songs. Look at your favorite songs and my guess is there is a story going on. It might be a very short one like the one Brown Eyed Girl, or could be elaborate like The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but there is a story going on.

In the workshop I attended with Pierce Pettis, he talked a lot about continuing a story through the song. Don’t have a structure like this:

Verse 1: Betty lives alone in a dirty one room flat
Verse 2: She’s poor and old and has no friends
Verse 3: It sure is sad about how miserable Betty is.

In contrast, Pierce offered this story line:

Verse 1: Betty lives alone in a dirty one room flat
Verse 2: She was once beautiful and famous with a handsome beau
Verse 3: Her lover was killed and she never recovered.

If you want to read lyrics with that type of transition from Pierce, look up the lyrics for Little River Canyon. It has some of my most favorite lines, including, “heads more full of hormones, than brains”, and how he compares making out into a car as “holding your baby like a floatation device” is incredible as he weaves both the story into the running imagery of the swimming in a river canyon. Then the story is basically: Verse 1 remember when you were a kid, Verse 2 remember when you were a teen, and Verse 3 remember when you went back home to visit when you were older. Heck it’s a great story that we all can relate to, and probably write our own version.

So a mission of a songwriter, tell a story in 3-4 minutes, keep it interesting, and write something that people can identify. I’d love to write a story about traveling to and living on the moon, but not a lot people can identify with that, but as the Pettis song above demonstrates, we can all relate to that story line even if you didn’t grow up in Alabama.

So here’s one of my story songs, about a subject matter that I have to admit I’ve only encounter by watching them in movies, listening to stories from others, and just daydreaming a little. Prostitutes are not one that many of us would ever readily admit to experiencing, but we all could paint a picture. My story here is basically about one makes good money, maybe because she’s good, maybe because she steals, or maybe she kills her Johns. There has been a resurgence of poker, and since I grew up playing it those images, plus the devil at play seemed to provide an excellent backdrop. I attempt to weave the gambling Jack’s better, into call the trick “Jack” rather John. I actually wish there more like that in the song. The story isn’t elaborate, but it progresses so it’s not real taxing on the listener to keep up with the story. I deliberately repeated lines, and didn’t do them to make it easier to write.

Let me know what you think.

Diamonds on her Shoes by Dave Schipper Rose Riversongs © 2005

She’s got diamonds on her shoes, she’s paid her dues
She’s slick as a cat, and that’s a fact.
Street worn, some bed sheets torn
Call her late, it’s worth the wait

The night is filled with souls like her
The devil has his cards laid out
It’s deuces wild, with Jacks better
Tonight the stakes might just be lights out

It’s just a sales trip, the Jack lets slip
Pocket full of cash, and his mind of ash
A night full of tricks, next day full of shit
He called her late, and it spelled his fate.

Back on the street, she does compete
She’s slick as a cat, and known for that
More diamonds on her shoes, she doesn’t lose
Call her late, and test your fate.