Squawk Radio

Thursday, September 21, 2006


So...here I am in Nashville. For those of you who may have missed the earlier versions of this story, I am in the process of writing a story for More Magazine about starting second careers (I know, I know--I'm not exactly a person who needs to take on another job). Still...this seemed like fun, especially when the Weekend Today Show said that they wanted to roadtrip right along with me. So a couple of weeks ago, I signed up for a Vocation Vacation and set off for Nashville...to learn to write country music. With a little help from my friends here on Squawk and on my BB, I hasten to say. I posted the first version of my song over on my BB, and very nice people pointed out that there was supposed to be a Bridge. And one person noted that the Chorus was supposed to be the same every time. The same? My choruses were almost the same...it was more interesting this way!

So I was totally prepared for my trip, right? No! I had to buy a pair of jeans. Honestly, I haven't owned one in 10 years. After a painful enounter with a 12-year-old saleswoman in Neiman Marcus, I emerged with flared jeans -- and you can't see this, but -- they have sequins on the back pocket! Nashville, here I come!
The first thing I did was spend two days learning how to write a country song. One of the first lessons? Choruses have to be exactly the same every time! And -- who knew? -- rhymes are important! argh.

But with the help of the wonderful Bruce Berg, head of the Popular Music Department at the University of Athens, Georgia (and writer of several of Reba's Number One hits!), together with Ken Johnson, an up-and-coming young Nashville star, we managed to write a song. I say "we"--because that was another thing I had wrong about song-writing. In Nashville, songs are written in collaboration. Sitting around on the floor, writing that song was one of the most fun days I've had in years. Which is strange because the song is very sad -- I wrote it after having the news that a friend of mine has suffered a recurrence of her ovarian cancer. I started thinking about saying goodbye -- and ended up writing a love song for the person I would leave behind. Here I am in front of the astounding Bluebird Cafe, where Ken sang our song live on Saturday night. If you ever have a chance to go to Nashville, go to the Bluebird -- it's one of the most astonishingly intimate, joyful places to enjoy music that I've ever experienced.

The next day we went out to a state-of-the-art recording studio in the country and recorded the song -- with all sorts of people on the bass guitar, steel guitar, piano, etc. That resulted in a Demo CD, which will be (or is being) pitched to major country music singers. It could be that the song is too sad to be picked up, but I hope not. Here's that plaguey Chorus that cost me so much trouble:

Let's live all our lost tomorrows
In the days that we've got left
Kiss me now like midnight
Make me remember how I'm blessed
I may leave you in a whisper
When the dawn calls out my name
But I'll take your love with me, my love,
Like a photo in a frame...

The song is called "Photo in a Frame" -- that's another thing I learned from my friends on my Bulletin Board. Every song is supposed to have a Hook. So "Photo in a Frame" is my hook, and it repeats throughout the song.

So...guess where I'm going next week? To a fancy Bed and Breakfast to learn how to run a B&B! The Today Show is coming right along. I'm feeling a bit whiney -- writing a song was so much fun that I'm not sure baking blueberry muffins at dawn is going to match up.

At this point, the Today Show is scheduled for January 16 -- with a possible bump to the weekend after. My article in More Magazine (with lots of pictures) should be coming out that week as well (it's the February issue). I'll blog the news if I find out anything different. Here's a really fun part to it -- they're going to give away a FREE Vacation Vocation! So you too can head down to Nashville to write a song with Bruce!

So let's pretend you win a Vocation Vocation -- and you can go "try out" almost any job in the US, with a mentor to help you out. Where would you go? What would you do? The only curb on your imagination is that you have to be realistic -- don't say you want to be a start-up on the Yankees or a ballerina in the New York Ballet. Posted by Picasa
Eloisa James, 9:00 AM