Sunday, November 30, 2014

Words on a page

We had the first snow of the season a couple of weeks back. In the days ahead I expect more snow and a nod to the Christmas season. 

The weather changes daily. On the days the sun shines and the warmth can be felt, the landscape has a sense of possibility. When the overcast sets in and the rain mixes with snow it gets harder to stay awake. My body believes it should hibernate. It is during these winter months that I find the studio to be a busy place. Lately I have been working on multiple projects and the flow has been good and steady. 

Words on a page is about just that – getting words on a page. Sometimes the writing needs to start with a borrowed phrase or some idea that has been nagging at me for a while. Whether or not those ideas are there I still write. For me writing is more about routine rather than inspiration. I show up each day and write. It may take four or five songs before I find one that has the spark I am looking for. 

Wait until dark came as a title first and then a guitar line that worked well with the words. At the time I was reading a book on writing. The main idea of the book discussed writing towards an idea as opposed to pulling things out of thin air. More often than not I tend to pull things out of the air and then mesh them into a cohesive mess. Writing towards an idea works well when you want things to have a more linear alignment. I’m not sure it shows up perfectly in this song but the driving idea was the first line, “Daddy said wait until it’s dark”. All of the other lines were written to support that line.  I think the song captures the time when days get shorter. I’m standing on the driveway as the yellow lights from the garage shine on the pavement and the sounds from the kitchen spill outside. 

I played Moment of peace out for over a year before I realized what the song was about. I try not to judge or control a song when it spills out on to the page. I will let it come into being and be comfortable not knowing what it is about or even where it came from. What I learned one night playing the song live was that the song was about a relationship that ended years before. When I figured it out it scared me because I was unsure how I could write something so specific and not realize what it was about. The relationship left me scarred for sometime and I guess this was a way to process the damage.  I am thankful for the hurt because it made me stronger and it gave me indication of where I would allow myself to spend my time and energy. I didn’t know that at the time but that’s how life works, right?

Strewn about is a simple love song. Sweet. Gentle. My wife is from Texas and this was written for her. I tend to write a lot of songs about my wife and I feel bad about this because living with a songwriter can be difficult. All of those little private moments find their way into songs. Sometimes it is intentional and other times it is not. Sometimes it is nice and sometimes it is not. There is a lot of humor thrown into this song. This song was influenced by John Mayer’s Comfortable. I remember hearing that song for the first time and thinking it really captured a relationship’s ups and downs.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

They say we burned so bright

They say we burned so bright.
We take each day for granted. The years accumulate like rings on an old oak tree. The stories we tell get passed down, faded, and forgotten. I make music to stop time. The words and melody come out in fragments. Pausing I take a sip of coffee and let my mind wander on a story, a picture, or a smell. In my head I’m fifteen and full of dreams just out of reach. I use the song to take me back to that place. To dream like I am fifteen as the sun settles on my face humming a song I’ve not written down yet.
I tell myself we’ve got time but that’s the great lie, isn’t it. Our numbers are up at any time. I continue to push myself to keep this up regardless of who is listening. Once I am gone, I am silent. I can’t make the noise anymore. But through these recordings we stop time. We can stop time and remember which is sometimes better than the actual moment because we can spin it in a way that avoids the mistakes and pitfalls. That younger self I take pity on. I didn’t know you would always take the hard road. Toughen up the skin flower child.
Take the songs as the stories they’ve been portrayed to tell. There is a little bit in this for the romantics at heart. Make them yours as you would and connect them to the photographs of your past. You’ve got today. Make the best of it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Sky Creates Itself vol. 3

Sometimes the last part of the journey is simply where the feet land. Each morning during my walks I have started to see the sunlight shift and the leaves to begin their descent to the ground below. The morning walks are something new and I can feel the change in the seasons more than I have in previous years.
The tall oak trees I admire each morning have weathered the change in seasons longer than me. The thick bark with its scars and knotted branches reminds me that life is about growing and appreciating nature’s ways. My favorite oak tree on my walk is about 75 to 80 years old with branches that reach far into the air. It didn’t grow overnight. It didn’t always have what it wanted but it survived. It took each day one at a time. It is a good reminder for me when I don’t think I am moving fast enough to get to that elusive “there”.

I finished the last group of recordings for the Sky Creates Itself some time ago. As I listened to the songs I found myself back in time to the moments when they started out with a notebook, pen, and guitar. It is difficult to write about these songs without sounding dramatic or aloof.

When I sit down to write a song the fingers fumble through some chord changes hoping to find a sequence I haven’t done before. Each lyric comes out a line at a time and doesn’t always make sense. Over time and with some trimming the song begins to walk on its own and it is then that it sounds the freshest and holds the most sincerity.

These recordings were an attempt to catch those songs in that fragile state. I didn’t want to over-rehearse. I wanted to let them slip out sticky and newborn. I believe in them. It is a good way to head into autumn.

 released 28 August 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Sky Creates Itself vol. 2

I grew up in a house full of boys in middle America. The long summer days found us running in and out of yards, underneath high ways and through abandoned ball fields. Our house backed up to a plot of land called the “Common Ground”. The trails running through the trees padded down by our feet and bike tires. We lived a lifetime in those short summer months.

We’d built forts out of fallen trees and black plastic sheets we stole from the hardware store. Using knifes and machetes we cut down the different flora and fauna around us. We made the wooded land our world. The small fires we made sent smoke up through the old oak and willow trees and gave us something to watch. We’d tell stories, sharpen spears, and drink water from our army surplus canteens as the day extended into night. 

All of the stories we shared around the small fire gave us courage to dream out loud. We saw the days and years ahead as an escape from the things we avoided. Our families, school, and the police wanted us somewhere other than where we were. At 7-11 we were get chased off by the clerks for not having any money to buy anything. The filling station posted signs that said no loitering. The grocery store managers stopped us before we could walk in the air-conditioned store as our shirts hanging out of our back pocket. A dad drunk and throwing tools in the garage was avoided at all costs.

We came out of our childhood with enough stories to last us a lifetime. The songs tumble and fall on to the page with fond memories of creeks, dirt trails, and hoping fencing in the midday sun.

released 14 July 2014

Words and Music by Mogo Kutu 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The path ahead

I’ve just finished up my summer vacation. There’s been plenty of rest and relaxation as well as some organizational decisions regarding my work as an artist. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect about the creative life. In December of 2013 I decided I needed to renew my faith as an artist and since then I have been taking small steps forward. 

At some point I needed to make the decision for the path ahead. To date I’ve played in bands, wrote a couple of soundtracks for independent films, established a local label, produced a couple of songwriter projects for others, and written a lot of songs and albums. In the last few years I have closed some doors and let wounds heal. It has been a long journey over the last 17 years as a musician and artist. All of these experiences have given me a lifetime worth of experiences to dwell from. As I think ahead I realize I have some ambitious goals I would still like to reach. Some of these include projects I have kicked around for a decade or more. Things like concept albums, experimental hip hop tracks, instrumental music, and a couple of books / short stories. I figure it is time to start my life’s work. I feel like I have accumulated a healthy amount of push and pull moments to get me to this place. 

My plan is fairly simple. I plan on creating a number of things as time permits. I have a few ideas kicking around. As they become reality I will begin rolling things out as they meet my quality control standards. There will be a little bit of something for everyone. The underlying theme to all of this is to share and build community on the internet. There are a lot of like-minded individuals out there doing great and unique things. It is time to connect and reach out to fellow artists. 

I ask for your patience as I transition the blog and my work to meet my new needs. Things may be a little slow at first as I coordinate efforts in this transition.
As always – create.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sky Creates Itself vol. 1

It is June and the lightning bugs float in semi circles though our backyard. With the sun falling late into the day my daughter's sweaty face comes into my view as I strum my guitar. The back porch is littered with whirly birds and remnants of the leaves from the large twin silver maples rooted in back. I've been writing and recording a new project for the last few weeks.

Summer lends itself to time with my acoustic guitar. My Martin HD-28 is an extension of me. Named "Sis" after my grandmother it has yielded the majority of my songs from the last few years. This new group of songs comes from my walks along the river during these long, hot days as well as these nightly mini concerts for my daughter in the backyard.

This project was an effort to get back to the basics. I wanted to create a group of songs that could stand on their own with voice and guitar. I spent the earlier part of this year embracing a band to assist in creating a context for my songs. These new songs were recorded live in a couple of takes. It is as close to the source of the creative well as I can get.

The first three songs in this project are part of a larger collection of songs. The nine songs total are called The Sky Creates Itself. The title comes from a quote from Sylvia Plath. Ms. Plath was a very early influence for me and my work. Her words are the fibers holding these songs together.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Friend the Chocolate Cake - New Live CD

A package arrived in my mailbox today. The airmail stickers, security tags and bubbled envelope come one to two times a year. Bedge’s scrawled writing across the front gets me excited. In an email a week ago my dearest friend from Australia said to keep an eye for a package. It’s content, a new My Friend the Chocolate Cake album. Each time one of Bedge’s packages arrives it is a perfect day. A holiday among holidays. 

As I turned on the stereo in the front room and slowly slid the sealed plastic off I found myself dipping back into memory. It’s been almost twenty years since I set foot on Australian soil. The mysterious land of one of my great adventures. My eternal tie to Bedge serves as a reminder of days past. 

As I set the CD to play David Bridie’s unmistakable piano sounds out the first few notes. Mr. Bridie looms very large in my musical education. It was upon hearing My Friend the Chocolate Cake’s self-titled debut and follow up Brood that I realized what I was shooting towards as a songwriter. I first learned of the Cake one afternoon early in my trip. With a guitar in my lap I sat and watched Bedge sing through the first few verses of A midlife’s tale. Singing “get it back, get it back now” I was enticed because Bedge’s love of the music was so present. It was evident in those first few moments that this was a band I needed to embrace. 

Bouncing between varieties of styles, the Cake reflects the sound of Melbourne in the early evening. I remember being on rollerblades shifting in and out of traffic as the sun set on those summer nights. School had let out for the semester and with nothing but time on my hands I listened to the Cake non-stop. On the beaches of Point Lonsdale I would walk for hours listening to my CD player wondering how many great white sharks were just off shore waiting to eat people. I remember sitting on the beach listening to Danny Boy dreading the moment I would have to return home but yet also being thankful for what was in front of me. 

As the CD plays through different tracks I can see parts of my life in a world far from here. Dear old friends and experiences that I am thankful for each and everyday. My Friend the Chocolate Cake is the soundtrack of a young person coming into his own for the first time in his life. I need to send Bedge a great big thank you for the CD.