Letters From Hamburg: Sophomore Studies

by Kevin Burton

   Well here it is, go day for me, a musical milestone of sorts, at least I hope. 

   This is the day I get into a local studio for an assessment of sixteen of my original songs. Publishing this post is one of the final things I will do before heading there.

   My reference to Hamburg in these music posts is to the long sets the Beatles played there, accelerating the pace of their musical improvement.  Neither my dedication nor my music approaches their heights of course.  But this is where I am.

   Because this producer I plan to work with is the friend of a friend, he got trust by association. I have already sent some song lyrics to him. So the session has already begun in a way. And it’s off to a good start.

   Having seen my lyrics he said that three or four lessons he usually discusses with new artists, I have already learned.  I’m taking that to mean I enter this class as a sophomore rather than a freshman.

   Make no mistake though, I still don’t consider myself an accomplished musician or anything close to it.  In fact, the mental part of this may prove more difficult than the musical part, having a true belief that I belong in this neighborhood.

    In “The Writer’s Book of Hope,” author Ralph Keyes writes, “The hardest part of being a writer is not getting your commas in the right place, but getting your head in the right place.”

   You can apply that to music and to me, then install it as preamble to this late-life venture of mine. This is the business of acquiring comfort and confidence wherever they may be found.

  That comfort and confidence is something not usually articulated directly in the music, but something that comes shining through the music and lyrics. If they are lacking, the resulting product can be truly cringeworthy.

  An even bigger factor is this: There has not been nearly enough prayer behind my previous tentative forays into music.  That is probably the main reason they have gone nowhere. 

   If it isn’t God’s will, isn’t God’s timing, it isn’t going to happen, period. 

   If you could add your prayers to mine, that would be good too.

   Today in the studio we plan to match the music to the words and map out a course for whatever comes next.

   That noted poet and philosopher Joe Jackson, in an 80s song, said “You can’t get what you want till you know what you want.” The musical addendum to this from the Rolling Stones, actually preceded it by several years: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

   Though I know this to be true, I found myself surprisingly inexact recently in talking with the producer about where this is all going.

   At some length I think I have it, or at least a clearer version of it. There is no need to make sweeping declarations at the beginning of the process.

   Step one in this process is to record and copyright the first set of songs. This will take some time. In that time I hope to become familiar with the studio, and with the producer and how he works.

   At that point I would have all I really need from this, to be able to pass along these songs to whichever family and friends care about me and the music.

    Moving beyond that, to selling records on a small scale or larger scale, writing lyrics and songs for other artists, etc. If I am blessed to do any of that it will be a very pleasant surprise.

   In our discussion, the producer used the word “calling.”  What is my calling?  That is pointing me back to prayer, a very good place to be.

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