Which came first…

I was asked this week which comes first, the poetry or the music

[I’m going to assume it’s not a question of prioritization for the time being]

And I really don’t have an answer, well not any that is any easier to understand than the chicken and the egg at least.

Sometimes a line of poetry will spur a melody, or a chord progression on the guitar – and a song will emerge.

Sometimes a chord progression or melody will in turn spur a line of poetry – or at least a lyrical frame – and a song will emerge.

Sometimes a complete poem will sit for weeks, months, years and suddenly a piece of music will make sense when bedded beneath the words.

One marked shift over time – I will rarely if ever write a lyric for a song

[verses, choruses, bridge, etc.]

without a guitar in hand. In my immature, naive song-writing life, that was how I mostly did it – writing on scraps of paper and in lyric books.

The songs that emerged were ponderous and didn’t grab people.

So I stopped doing that – long pieces will typically stay as poems, or be reshaped to song.

Reading over this as I write, I realize that I interchange poetry and lyrics all the time – I know that probably upsets some purists, but these strands of the muse run so close

[intertwined]

for me, that it’s easier not to try to separate them.

So, which comes first? It depends on where the muse leads me in the moment.

Not much of an answer, I know, but an answer all the same!

 

2016 Whalie Awards Nominations

I am very, very lucky to be part of an incredible music scene here in South East New England

[some have suggested New London, CT is the Live Music Capital of New England – and who am I to disagree]

The Whalie Awards celebrate the breadth and depth of talent across our corner of the universe and I’ve am honoured and humbled to have been nominated across the past few years, including winning the Americana Record Of The Year for 2014 with Sparse.

While winning may be nice, I know of no musician here for whom the making of music is in pursuit of awards, and the same is true for me. Every year, the Whalies serve to remind me of how lucky I am to make music, and to share that music in collaboration with so many others. For this reason, you won’t see or hear me shouting that you need to go and vote for me or mine in the people’s choice awards. If it helps, you should know that I don’t vote for myself in the awards!

For those keeping track, though, I (or we) have been nominated for the following awards this year:

People’s Choice

Critics Choice

Voting for People’s Choice ends tomorrow (6th June) and ceremony is next Saturday, 11th June – immediately following that, Anne Castellano & The Smoke, are playing at 33 Golden Street, just down the street from the awards – so I guess we get the after-party!

On loops and direction

The beauty of accepting that my music has limited commercial viability

[I am  blessed to have a small group of followers who enjoy and support what I do, and they have my love]

is that it removes nearly all my self-imposed constraints.

My online-only release last year, Writer’s Flow – Music For Writing, is a great example, recorded and released in short order, and trying to be nothing more than it is: music for writing.

Start to finish, it was an enjoyable piece of art and craft – a large part of which was that it wasn’t song-based. I’ve always made instrumental sketches, and have many demos of non-vocal tracks, but because of that notion of commercial viability, I’d always limited myself to the expectation that I was a

[lyrics included]

songwriter, who would perform, record and release records of songs. With lyrics.

As I let this go, I can feel a

[largely]

instrumental record emerging. A couple with words, but mostly instrumental.

In practice, things like this are emerging:

Literally, the first thing I played after pulling an old flanger out of the cupboard and adding it to my practice board. And, while it’s a rough take on my Ditto Looper, it’s not a million miles from what will end up on the record.

For any of us, giving up a long-cherished hope/aspiration, is a tough road, yet the acceptance can lead to just doing what you enjoy doing – music is such a gift, and these instrumental ideas/motifs are always just beneath my surface – diving into the pool is proving sweet relief.

Love-peace-trust,

Vince Sig 131x89

 

Like Taking A Gun

[sigh]


[Originally published June 2nd, 2011]

[and again on December 24th, 2014]

Lots of people taking sides on who shot who, why they pulled the trigger, were they right, were they wrong…

At this time of peace, I keep getting drawn back to this meditation, written in response to an atrocity in Syria, but applicable to so much happening in our world right now

LIKE TAKING A GUN – VINCENT TUCKWOOD

It’s like taking a gun
and pointing it
in your brother’s face
Telling them
unless they stop
you will pull the trigger
Wasting life
to make you feel better
to make you feel like
you are getting
somewhere
You become those them
becoming you
face down on the ground
for the sake of scant borders
Pointless
Pointless
Pointless
Like taking a gun
and pointing it
in your brother’s face

Words, Music – Vincent Tuckwood
Performed, recorded, mixed and mastered at Monkey68 Studios, Waterford, CT.


Vincent Tuckwood is a story-teller working in fiction, song and verse. His novels are EscalationFamily RulesKaraoke Criminals, and Do Sparrows Eat Butterflies? His records are Turquoise Cyan SapphireWriter’s Flow – Music For Writing,  Grope, and Sparse. His poetry is collected in Garbled Glittering Glamours.

About a song: Rough Diamonds from Turquoise Cyan Sapphire

I woke up today to a request to share some of the background to Rough Diamonds, track 7 from Turquoise Cyan Sapphire. So, here goes…

Rough Diamonds was originally written and recorded in about 1998, and started off with that main picked guitar riff

[for those playing along at home, it’s my ES-335 fitted with Seymour Duncan P-Rails playing that part throughout the TCS version]

once again, the riff is a function of my broken hands, so lots of drone strings – though it’s possible now to play it with the barre, it loses a whole lot of that certain something.

The original demo featured Ruth on vocals, though at that stage in my song-writing journey I hadn’t quite twigged about changing key to suit voice and, as a result, Ruth

[who happens to be a trained opera singer – here she is on Pepperbox]

takes the main chorus up an octave  – and it does something very special to the song.

As a result, I seriously doubted my ability to perform Rough Diamonds to its potential – it doesn’t stretch my range, and I can’t really project it hard – and I put it in a time capsule: “songs I will never sing”.

Yet, that guitar riff kept coming back. And I couldn’t stop it.

As I headed into recording Sparse, I began to play with the song, trying different keys, tempos, treatments; all the time coming back to the original key, though the tempo changed. I ended up putting an acoustic treatment as a bonus track with the download of Sparse

[and you can definitely hear me reshaping the song]

While I love the original version of Rough Diamonds, I would dearly like to have a time machine to take my current tracking, mixing and mastering skills back to that younger me. All of my early demos are way too slow and, as a result, lumbering. No matter how good  Ruth’s performance was, the musical backdrop didn’t help!

So, when it came to producing the version that’s on Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, I had a couple of references and a pretty clear idea of what worked and what didn’t.

Musically, the riff remains prominent, though here, with the toms, it takes on something of a Radiohead-feel. The original demo had a lot of guitars in lots of directions, and I kept that spirit alive here, doubling the bass during the link-chorus, putting some stabs here and there, and some angular rhythm guitar in the verses. This also has the benefit of pulling the song closer to the “nearly blues” spirit of Turquoise Cyan Sapphire.

In the main chorus, I took a different tack – adding horns to keep things fresh, and also to allow the picked riff to return clearly, as well as the prominent echo on the vocals

[which had been on Ruth’s original take]

The original demo had a beautiful, structured guitar solo by my former band-mate John Matthews, and I decided not to try recreating it myself; instead, I turned to my daughter Elise and together we wrote the simple but effective trumpet solo that’s on the final version.

Not much else to say about the music, aside from that the Sparse treatment

[work-in-progress as it was]

reassured me that I could sing the song, and that in doing so, less would be so much more.

Lyrically, Rough Diamonds is a song about survival; in this case, living through psychological manipulation and interpersonal politics. I know what and who it was written about, but that’s not important to anyone but me, myself and I.

What I hope the song offers is the hope/belief that, even when people seek to undermine us by persuading us to undermine ourselves

[in this case, in the guise of “trying to help”]

we can emerge stronger for the experience; as strong as diamond.

Even as I wrote the song, I knew there was a higher level of interpretation – at the societal/political level, Rough Diamonds was also a statement of hope/belief for those activists for change; in the lyrics, this is represented by the shift from “you/I” to “we”.

In essence, Rough Diamonds was the emergence of my offering to the world:

Keep going

I think this fundamental core is why the song still hits me so deeply; it’s among a handful of favourite songs I’ve written.

They won’t believe what they have done
When you pull them from the earth
Rough diamonds
Catch the sun

Enough writing, have a listen, read the lyrics, let me know what you think!

Love-peace-trust

Vince Sig 131x89

ROUGH DIAMONDS – VINCENT TUCKWOOD

You are you and I am me
And we could break so easily
When they’re kicking us in shape
And we can stand and take
Their taunts and fears and crap complaints
They can’t stop us
It’s their weakness

You know what’s strange
I’m half-and-half
I forgotten how to laugh
At the same time
I feel 10 feet tall
6 feet wide
I have got a smile inside
They can’t stop us
We are rising

We could bend until we break
We could fall to our knees
Take all that we can take
We are stronger than we think
But when they get in your head
It’s tantamount to rape

They looked for blame and they found us
Though they cut and they run
They will find they have not won
They won’t believe what they have done
When you pull them from the earth
Rough diamonds
Catch the sun

See the sun and the moon
You’re catching them in your eyes

From Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, released 28 July 2015
Instruments, voice – Vincent Tuckwood
Trumpet solo – Elise Tuckwood

Written, performed, mixed and mastered by Vincent Tuckwood at Monkey68 studios, CT, USA.All rights reserved, Vincent Tuckwood – 2015.

About a song: Noodle – 10 Years Later

aftermath-of-hurricane-katrina

10 years ago, bloated bodies floated in the water of NOLA as Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge overcame the levees.

I dreamed of drowning; water as emotion, emotion as water.

With so many brothers and sisters from Louisiana, I knew that unlike other tragedies, I would be unable to look away, unable to avoid the reality of what was happening in a city and state that has brought me great friendship and love.

I faced the deluge with my eyes and heart wide open.

Sleepless, a riff emerged at 5 am – a first-take recording on my rarely-played Jackson Surfcaster, the file saved as Noodle giving name to the song that emerged; a song written as the government failed in its core duty, as the media painted the victims as somehow-deserving perpetrators, as the end-times were claimed.

And as the bodies floated.

Floated.

10 years later, listening to Noodle, I close my eyes and find the flood.

Love-peace-trust

Vince Sig 131x89

NOODLE – VINCENT TUCKWOOD

Live on a hill with the river below
Live in the desert where nothing will grow
Live undersea with no chance to stay dry
Watch the water rise

Its ebb and its flow and its surging deceit
It’s crashing upon me no chance of reprieve
Engulfed by the storm surge no will for the good
Swallowing the flood

Leave me to choking and trying to breathe
Leave me to dealing with all that you leave
Leave me to swallowing pride and conceit
Swallowing my tongue

Hold me down, I’ll try to break the surface
Hold me down, I’ll try to catch my breath
Hold me down, I’ll try to ignore all this
Hold me down, I’ll try to turn the tide

Voice, instruments – Vincent Tuckwood
All Rights Reserved, 2005
Recorded, mixed and mastered at Monkey68 Studios, CT

Photograph from envgeology.wikispaces.com/Picture+Album

About a song: Just Love from Turquoise Cyan Sapphire

Just Love is the sixth track on Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, my record of “nearly blues”.

Though this record saw me revisiting some older material

[as I did on Grope]

there are several completely new songs written while tracking the record, and Just Love is one of them. It arrived while noodling on my Cole Clark Angel in my dining room, which is rapidly becoming a songwriting hub for me

[ley lines, I think]

the first couplet providing the entry point to what I knew wanted to be an innocent, simple song which might just as well have been written and recorded in the 1950s.

Musically, I let myself completely explore classic rock-and-roll textures – most notably in the slapback echo of the rhythm guitars. Though I didn’t consciously bring it in on recording, I hear something of Buddy Holly‘s rhythm playing in the song. On the other hand, the solo is my heavily modified Gibson Les Paul in its out-of-phase setting, and a definite nod to Peter Green.

Several songs on TCS see me exploring my lower vocal range – I’m not as comfortable in baritone as I am in tenor – but I think it works here

[otherwise I wouldn’t have had it one the record!]

and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by reactions to my playing it live.

Lyrically? Well, it’s love, just love, just love.

So, there you have it: Just Love.

Vince Sig 131x89

JUST LOVE – VINCENT TUCKWOOD

Let your knees shake
Let your heart break
Let it break

Let your blood flow
When it wants to
Let it flow

Let yourself go
Down the wormhole
Down you go

Yes, you’ll know
When it hits you
When it hits

It’s love
Just love
Just love

All it takes is one step then the next
To the beat of the rhythm in your chest

From Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, released 28 July 2015
Instruments, voice – Vincent TuckwoodWritten, performed, mixed and mastered by Vincent Tuckwood at Monkey68 studios, CT, USA.

All rights reserved, Vincent Tuckwood – 2015.