Friday, March 16, 2012

Highway 1

(Fagan/Royer) This is one of the few actual country 'pitches' included in the Pitch Sheet. It was written with Rich Fagan and the amazing vocal is by Rivers Rutherford. The song is pretty much autobiographical.

Highway 1

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kyrie

(Cerney/Griffin/Royer) Kyrie was the first song Jimmy, Todd and I wrote together, a relationship that soon led to the formation of the band Toast – so named because of the presence of three ex-Breaddies, slightly burnt.

For a while I was going to include it on the upcoming Toast album but it’s more of a pre-Toast song than a Toast song and I can’t find the master anyway so I’m putting it out here.

Kyrie is the sweet story of a friend (I always thought it was a dad but Todd felt that would limit its chances of a cut) who finds a rodeo girl alone in her room grieving a lost love and tries to cheer her up.

When we wrote it, I was under a heavy Dave Loggins influence. Dave could write songs that were so natural and free flowing that there hardly seemed to be a form at all until you looked closely and saw the masterful construction. This was my shot at that kind of a song.

Kyrie

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Share This Love

(Griffin/Royer) From the album 'Jimmy Griffin'. As I've said on the album notes, this is the last song Jimmy and I wrote together after a forty year writing career. According to my BMI statement, it apparently has been receiving airplay in the British Isles. It is a classic example of Jimmy's unique ear for harmonies.

Share This Love

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

If Only For A Moment

(Rutherford/Royer) This is the first song I wrote with Rivers Rutherford. I really like Rivers' vocal on this demo but it's hard to imagine him being so innocent.

If Only For A Moment

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shades Of Green

(la Cour) This was the first song Karissa really wrote for the project. I love the song and still like the orchestration.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Feet Of Clay

(Robb Royer) Another cut from the Finnigan Brothers, this time featuring that most happy felon, Sean, on lead vocal. ‘Feet’ is that song of mine that’s been on the verge of getting a ‘company cut for fifteen years. (Whenever you’re ready, RT!) Quittin’ Time took eight years to find its artist and its recording but this is ridiculous. Oh well, Sean took to it right away. He could relate to the lyrics and did a great job on the song. With all the bands around that claim to be ‘outlaw bands” because they possess a fuzz tone or don’t bathe, Sean makes a ponk out of all of them. But he’s got a great voice, great expression, and having Mike around for harmonies ain’t bad either.

You get words on this one.

"That far away look in your eyes
Is something that I never saw before
Sure ain’t the lovelight I been lookin’ for
Can it mean that you don’t love me anymore?

Just once I’d like to see you cry
Any indication that I’m getting’ through
To touch your heart and make you love me too
That’s somethin’ else I’m never gonna do

Feet of clay up against a heart of stone
Girl, if you don’t love me where’s the threat in saying that I’m gone?
Ain’t no way to ever turn this thing around
Hearts of stone will always wear you down

It just remains to say goodbye
I put my suitcase over by the stair
Hopin’ to God this gives your heart a scare
There’s just one problem, you don’t really care

Feet of clay up against a heart of stone
Every time I touch you it just skins my fingers to the bone
Ain’t no way to ever turn this thing around
Hearts of stone will always wear you down"

Feet Of Clay

Friday, November 4, 2011

Coplach

(Iceberg/Royer) Coplach arose from a period when Michael and I were doing a lot of writing together. I had to adapt my method of collaboration because Michael Iceberg is not your average songwriter and Coplach is not your average song. We were working, at that time, on the score for a roll-out film for Walt Disney’s Epcot theme park.

Coplach arose from an improv Michael did one evening. I had learned from bitter experience, when I see him heading for a keyboard, run like hell for the tape recorder. After he did the improv, we took the whole thing apart, created a form, wrote bridging material, he would flesh out lines I sang to him, and Coplach is what we ended up with.

Many have asked about the name. We felt it sounded like Bach’s melodic structure with Aaron Copland’s harmonies, hence Coplach. Of course, it’s a play on the word Kreplach which we felt was justifiable since Michael and I constitute one-and-a-half Jews.

The video was shot by Harrison Holmes, Harold Jarboe, Michael Catalano and me at my farm. It was edited by Harrison and Ryan McVay.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fade Into You

(Faulk/Royer) As long as we’re on the subject of Chris Faulk, this is my favorite song I did with her. A number of you have asked who did the guitar work on these records. It was George Marinelli who played with many artists, most notably Bonnie Raitt.

Fade Into You

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gig Bag And Go

(Faulk/Royer) I don't know if you've seen the movie Turning Point but it's about second chances. I've been on both sides of the equation enough to know that everything has to break right for an artist, luck, timing, right people, etc. otherwise you need a second chance.

In the movie, two young ballerinas are vying for a role; one, Deedee, becomes pregnant and must retire to have a family. The dance goes to Emma, her rival, who has a brilliant career but ultimately no family. The child, Emilia, is a brilliant dancer. She is named for Emma but is actually the artistic rebirth of Deedee, her second chance.

In my case, Karissa followed Chris by about ten years. I produced about six sides on Chris Faulk in the late nineties. Gig Bag and Go is one of them, a song about a girl who has the wrong boyfriend.

Gig Bag And Go

Monday, October 3, 2011

Set Out To Sea

(K. laCour) This is another of Karissa’s message songs, vignettes from her inner dialog. Beautiful thing; certainly not a radio tune. Some of the lyric…

You hope for the best then you leave the rest
Maybe someday, the waves will take you on your way
You tell me of places you long to go
Of all the things that you yearn to know
So tell me why are you still at bay?

Sailor, sail
Set out to sea and start steering
Start steering at the stars


A song of hope and determination, right?

Except that’s not what she wrote. I thought it was for months, but one day when I was mixing it, I just couldn’t, in my mind, make out the word ‘start’. It sounded like ‘stop’. When I asked her about it, she said I had the whole line wrong. It was really ‘stop staring at the stars’.

Oh my God. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t a song of determination; going at it with new energy; it was a song of giving up. Setting out to sea wasn’t pursuing her dream. It was about getting on with her life.

We were only two songs away, both hopeless introspections, from her being gone.

Set Out To Sea

Thursday, September 22, 2011

'Til You Find Your Heart Again

(K. laCour) This is the first appearance of a song I didn’t write, only produced.

Karissa was a girl who I worked with for most of the latter 00’s. Broke my heart. I wasn’t a big enough fish to get her signed and, after four and a half years of laboring fruitlessly, she quit the business. Quit! Nobody quits! If you’re in music, you’re supposed to do this until you die! I did! Well… I’m not quite dead yet, but almost. And I’ll guarantee you, I’ll keep going ‘til I am.

Anyway she’s a lovely singer/songwriter and a true original. This is one of the last songs we did together and sometimes I almost think the lyric is to me.

You look to me for rescue
You look to me for healing
You look to me for definition
But I can never do for you
I can never do for you
‘Til you find your heart again

If it is to me, by the way, it’s not entirely true. What I looked to her for was to confidently stand up and be the star her talent demanded but you can tell she was feeling burdened and overwhelmed. The song is probably actually to herself.

Karissa certainly wrote what she knew. As the last songs came in, they were even more heartbreaking cries de Coeur.

I’ll post more of them soon.

'Til You Find Your Heart Again

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Let Me See The Light

(Griffin/Royer) This is an 'accidental' song that occurred something like this.
1. Jimmy started the chorus and brought it to me some time during the pleistocene period.
2. He and I finished the chorus, but never got verses or lyric.
3. I finished Let me see the Light one night in a fit of inspiration.
4. I took the song to Jimmy who sheepishly admitted he had finished the song too, with another writer. His version was called The Healing has Begun. We agreed we would just keep our own versions.
5. I recorded the song with the Finnigans. Mike sang it, and Sean, who is quite a promoter, turned out half of Hollywood and a film crew to record the chorus. (Note video credits)
6. We didn't get around to editing the film for years. By the time we did, Jimmy had died and I didn't feel right about leaving his name off, so I added his name back to the credits.
7. The video turned into quite an event on the internet, getting tens of thousands of plays. Yeah, I know, Rebecca Black has more but this was pretty good for old guys.
8. Here 'tis.

Video


Finnigan Bros. album version

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Least You Could Do


(Robb Royer/David Miner) I’ll bet you Jimmy/philes have never heard this one or I’ll eat my hat. (If the unexpected occurs, a gluten-free pancake hat will have to be constructed) I can do it. Call my bluff if you must -- but be honest.

And if honesty is indeed the order of the day, and if memory serves, this is one of the songs that led us of out of the wilderness of alienation caused by a toxic, litigious presence finally fading from scene and facilitated by the early arrival of Marti.

Too cryptic? The fact that the song is written by myself and David Miner (who was a member of Tracks) but sung by Jimmy indicates some kind of melding of disparate forces, some new wind that led us next to Preacher on the Air, Shango, Throw the Bottle, Be That Way… the ‘Island’ period, if you will, a fresh breeze which followed years of confrontation and litigation.

‘Nuff said. Lyrix on this one for sleuths…

That was a meteoric climb
And you sure made it in record time
Well I should have known
I was your steppin’ stone
Now I’m very passe’
Since you’re makin’ your way
With the A crowd

You could have took the time to tell me
You could have took the time to tell me
That I never had, I never had chance with you
It was the least you could do

Now you’re appearing at the Greek
Babs takes you dancing
Chic, too chic
Now you’re never home
And you’re never alone
And I’m just in the way since you got your entrĂ©e’
To the A crowd

You could have took the time to tell me
You should have took the time to tell me
That I never had, I never had chance with you
It was the least you could do
The very the least you could do
It was the least you could do

c Robroy West Music / D Miner Music

Kudos to Reggie Fisher for making re-introductions

David Miner on Bass and Keys
Robb Royer Programming
Chuck Cochran Guitar
Mysterious friend of David on Electronic Trumpet
Jimmy Griffin Vocal

Least You Could Do

Friday, September 2, 2011

Say When

(Griffin/Royer) This is a song that will be familiar to many of you although it has never had a major release. It was written for a tour the last incarnation of Bread went on in 1998. Apparently Jimmy and I performed it together for some TV show around that time; I have no memory of doing it but there I am on the videotape so it must have happened.

We demo’d it around the time it was written and I remember Jimmy only took one pass at the vocal but it was nearly perfect. Jimmy could really sing that song. Later, when I finished up the Jimmy Griffin album after he passed away, I overdubbed Michael Rhodes and Shannon Forrest on bass and drums. There was still something missing, so I had the engineer for the project, Brandon Henegar, who is an excellent guitarist, overdub a weepy guitar. I finished it off with a light electric piano.

This is the song I wish we had back in the early days of Bread. Had it been there then, I’m almost sure it would have been the missing Jimmy Griffin Bread single.

Say When

Friday, August 26, 2011

Boys

(M. Finnigan/S. Finnigan/Royer) Okay, enough with all this nuisance good taste. Time to get a little raucous. Boys was a bluesy idea I had been working with for quite a while when I showed it to Mike Finnigan. This was about 1990 and I had been working with the Finnigans, Mike and Sean, in one combination or another, since the late 70s. For the historians among you, here’s some background…

In 1978 I was producing a band called Tracks which kept morphing members and names. It started in 1976 as Baby Grand with Mike Boddicker, a keyboardist-singer, Eric Nelson on bass and Pat Mostelato on drums. Baby Grand had a lot of label interest at the time, however it was decided that the band needed a guitar player and Chuck Cochran was added. There was immediate tension between Chuck and Boddicker and when the split came I broke on Chuck’s side.

Okay so now we needed a keyboardist. All-world pianist Larry Knechtel joined the band (which was renamed Bandit) but he decided he needed to move back to Washington and once again, we needed a keyboard player. Mike Finnigan was a legend around LA and I decided to go for the best. I chased him down at the Saddle Peak lodge. He was just out of a couple of record deals, one on Columbia, the other on Warner Brothers, disgusted with the pop scene and resolved to play only the blues.

Here I am trying to talk him into another pop band. I said I was thinking about the audience. His reply: I’m an audient.

I could see he was going to be a handful, but he was an unbelievable player and singer so we combined him with Chuck, uber-bassist David Miner, drummer Rick ‘Snacks’ Jaeger and percussionist-singer Harry Stinson. This was Tracks’ final line-up.

I worked with Tracks for four years, we had interest at A&M but could never get them to pull the trigger so I finally turned the project over to producer Freddie Pirot to see if he could have any better luck. He didn’t.

Okay, here’s where it gets weird. During our last days together in Tracks, Mike kept telling these hilarious jail stories about his brother Sean, who in a momentary lapse of judgment had robbed thirty one banks. I was veering off into writing screenplays at the time, partially because of frustration with the music scene (we were in the throes of Disco) ended up telling Sean’s story to a studio, they loved it and, after parting company with Tracks, my next years were occupied with trying, along with his family, to get Sean out of jail so we could write this movie. Quick summary: Sean got out in 1986, screenplay was written in three weeks, sold to producers at Fox, major director was brought in, Spielberg swooped on the director and, after writing and selling several more screenplays, it was back to the music business.

Clear? Good. Cut back to early ‘90s and, at this point, I am working with both Finnigans. One day while messing around with Boys, Mike activates, starts throwing around ideas, new riffs and rhythms, he and Sean write a bridge, Sean ends up on Bass, I get assigned lead guitar and… well this is the result.

Boys

Monday, August 22, 2011

Angel Mine

(Smotherman/Royer) Micheal Smotherman is a true master songwriter, with a haunting voice. An Oklahoma boy, he played for many years in Roger Miller’s band. Glen Campbell once recorded seven of Micheal’s songs on one album. One of my favorites of his is ‘Do I Ever Cross Your Mind’, written with Billy Burnette, recorded by Ray Charles (the title track of his 1984 album) and featured again on Ray’s last album in a duet with Bonnie Raitt.

Micheal and I agreed that I would try to produce him sometime in the late 90s but it took several tries to even get close to capturing his magic. After a number of misfires in large studios I took him over to Todd Cerney’s home studio and the three of us started working on the elusive task of getting to the bottom of Micheal Smotherman. Several of the tracks were recorded or finished at Todd’s. Other tracks were recorded in a small house that stood behind my home in Nashville. Seems like the more humble the setting, the better he sounded.

Angel Mine is a song Micheal and I wrote for the project. The original track for it was laid on a mandocello, a bizarre instrument I bought at a flea market near the river locks in a bad section of London. The minute I played it I was captured by the sound. After the mando part went down, Todd and Micheal laid on several overdubs. The track is from the Album ‘Conjure Man’, a project Micheal and I are very proud of.

Angel Mine

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Edge Of Love

(Burnette/Royer) I met Billy Burnette through Jimmy Griffin when I first moved to Nashville. Those audiophiles among you will know all about the Burnette family. Dorsey Burnette, who had a hit in 1960 with Tall Oak Tree was Billy’s dad. He continued to have success on the pop and country charts for many years. Dorsey’s brother, Johnny, had a number of hits on his own including You’re Sixteen, Dreamin’ and many others. The brothers also wrote hits for Ricky Nelson, including It’s Late. Both brothers are considered quintessential rockabilly pioneers and both are in the rockabilly hall of fame.

This is a Memphis story. Young Jimmy Griffin grew up near the Burnettes and used to hang around, trying to soak up as much influence as he could. He looked up to Johnny and Dorsey just as Billy, ten years younger than James, admired him. Of course Jimmy went on to find success in Bread and Billy, among his many credits, joined Fleetwood Mac, replacing Lindsay Buckingham when he left.

Billy and I knew each other for several years before we finally sat down to write. Edge of Love came quickly. I was highly cognizant of Billy’s legendary rockabilly status and was trying to write something that had rockabilly roots but a bit of post-Beatle mentality. With Billy playing these rippin’ guitar riffs it wasn’t hard. Billy does all the guitars and the vocals and I’m pretty sure that’s Dave Roe on Bass and Lynn Williams on drums. We didn’t get too far on the demo because Billy immediately re-cut it for an album he was working on at the time. But since rockabilly is such a bare-bones medium, I think the economical demo stands up pretty well.

Edge Of Love

Monday, August 8, 2011

Magdalena

(Knechtel/Cerney/Royer). This song grew out of an improv that Todd and Larry and I did in whatever you’d call the post-Toast configuration after Jimmy left (Crumbs, I guess). I wrote the lyric as kind of a tribute to the generous spirit of my wife Madeleine. I imagined a story about a guy who is down on his luck, has taken a tremendous fall, possibly homeless, and is now obsessing on a girl he occasionally sees, who seems to embody everything that is positive and hopeful for him.

The record is unfinished; we never got the guitars on. We have Todd’s vocal and Mandolin, my keyboard and Larry’s bass part but I had a really specific idea what the track should sound like and I guess I drove everybody nuts. I wanted a certain on-the-upbeat bass part that was completely foreign to Larry, but to his credit he hung in there and got it for me. But by the time we did, Todd was burnt, needed a break and we never got back to it. I would have probably finished it on my own but Todd had a completely unique way of recording that was part 8-track tape, part sequencer and part VCR audio. Simply untransferrable. There are a number of other Toast songs that only exist in this system and, now that he is no longer with us, may be permanently lost. We always thought we’d do it someday but, by the time we realized there was no someday, Todd was already very sick and had to concentrate on other things. At least with Magdalena we got a critical mass. For some reason, on this one, I’m going to include the Lyric.

Magdalena, will you be by tonight?
Cause when I see your angel’s face
This is my one redeeming grace
For a stranger, new to this circumstance
Here on the mean streets of this town
Where everything just pulls you down
But when you come around…

There’s a heaven that I see in your eyes
And there’s halo ‘round the street lights so bright
And I feel like it’s gonna be all right

Magdalena, girl how I need you now
If one like you can really be
Then maybe there’s a prayer for me
Please be there for me

Cause there’s a heaven that I see in your eyes
And there’s halo ‘round the street lights so bright
And I feel like it’s gonna be all right

And I could walk on the water
I’d have mind over matter
If you’d shed your grace on me
Magda darlin’ will I see you tonight?
Be there for me

Oh Magdalena

Friday, July 22, 2011

Now That I'm Over You

(Rutherford/Cerney/Royer) I had a Tuesday Night Music Club (literally) with these two guys around the turn of the millennium. Rivers was just on the verge of becoming the hottest writer in country music for a number of years, writing massive hits for Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Brooks and Dunn, Montgomery Gentry, Brad Paisley and pretty much everybody else. Todd and I were more the kind of writers who labored in obscurity for years and occasionally had a big one jump out of the woodwork. We kept telling ourselves that the purpose of our getting together was to write a big one but the minute we sat down we couldn’t help ourselves from playing R&B, everybody’s secret love. ‘Now That I’m Over You’ was a pretty good example of our output. Rivers was a monster guitar player, Todd a world-class mandolinist and I’ve been spotted occasionally holding a guitar. On this particular track Rivers plays guitar, Todd plays bass and I’m on electric piano. Rivers is doing the lead vocal, backed by Todd. That’s our old friend Roger Linn on drums. (Joke. Roger invented the drum machine).

Now That I'm Over You

Monday, July 18, 2011

Like Rain

(Lawson/Royer) Buffy Lawson is a beautiful lady and a wonderful writer. I fall unrequitedly in love with all my girl singers and Buffy was no exception. We sat down to write a commercial country song and ended up with a mountain wail. That’s Buffy singing, I remember Rivers Rutherford grabbed the guitar part and that’s probably Dave Roe on bass but after that it gets murky.

Like Rain

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Michael's Song & Viva

I know three truths about songwriting as a profession:

1. Your reputation hangs on a random and arbitrary handful of tunes that fate has decreed will become recordings and, God willing, hits.
2. You always feel that your best stuff never sees the light of day.
3. I forget the third.

Recently I had an opportunity, through the good graces of my friend Tim Hallinan, to expose Michael’s Song, an unrecorded opus which I always felt was one of my best, on his remarkable blog. It felt good. Thousands of people (well, twelve actually) wrote in to say they liked it. Good enough for me. I never required a huge audience, just an audience.

So I am initiating this device as a way of putting out songs that would otherwise go entirely unheard. Some will be solo efforts. Most will be co-writes with amazing songwriters whom I had the opportunity and privilege of working with. Some won’t be my tunes at all, but songs by other writers that I either produced or published.

Even though I’m in Nashville, don’t expect a lot of country. Some songs will be. Most won’t. One critic noted that I write without fingerprints. I think that’s true.

I will reveal a new song every few days. If anyone cares to respond or ask questions I will try to keep the garden hoed.

Some songs will be elaborately produced and some will just be scratch demos, done on the spot at the moment of creation. All will be accompanied by info concerning co-writers, musicians, inspirations and anything else I think is relevant to the song’s creation.

Th th that’s all folks.

THE SONGS
MICHAEL’S SONG (Robb Royer). If you really want the whole story I’ll give you a link to Tim’s blog which you can read by clicking here. In short, it’s about the Choice that people with some creative talent have to make: do I embark on the uncertain and emotionally bruising roller coaster ride of the professional creative person, or do I man up, get a real job, and take care of the family?

Michael's Song

VIVA (Willis/Moten/Royer). When Michael’s song hit Tim’s blog, a number of people were blown away by the prodigious talent of Chris Willis, so this seems like a good place to start. Viva happened one night when Chris brought over Wendy Moten, a fabulous singer who had had a deal in the ‘90’s and a few hits, too. Put on the spot, I quickly laid down a track just as you hear it on the record. Wendy took the lead and went out and did the vocal within an hour of our starting the whole process. We left a big hole in the middle and asked Chris to fill it. Boy did he.

Viva