The Party’s (Almost) Over… But the Beat Will Go On


You know that very first moment of a cherished experience—a vacation, a trip, an adventure—when you gleefully acknowledge that you’ve finally arrived, you’re there, it’s starting, and you’ve got the whooooooole event in front of you just waiting to unfold?

That’s always been a favorite moment of mine; the beginning of something; something anticipated, looked forward to. The moment when you recognize the bounty of your circumstances, flush with the sheer breadth of time you’ve got in your grasp before the days and weeks tick by and you start looking at the calendar, counting down…

That’s how I felt January 3rd when I arrived in San Diego to start my four-month stint as a performer in the new musical, The Geeze and Me. I’d been sent off with enthusiastic support from my guys at home, arrived in SD to find my procured quarters a delightful abode, and my first official show meeting with B.J. Robinson, the musical director of the show, who could not have been a warmer, more joyful introduction to this anticipated chapter.

From there the months stretched ahead, long and leisurely; weeks to explore a new city, spend time with new friends (and old); day after day to revel in a creative reality that was both sharply reminiscent and refreshingly new in this new period of my life. As I traveled back and forth from San Diego to Los Angeles at the end of each week’s rehearsal schedule, I marveled at how quickly I assimilated into my two-city reality: happy to see my family for the time I had each week, excited to get back to the show Monday night. Even as the days rolled by, I remained blissfully aware that there were still so many of them ahead, months ahead, plenty of time for singing, dancing, scene work, collaboration, the creative process, laughing (so much laughing!)… and it was all so good. Even the not-so-good moments, which every show has at some point, were intriguing because they, too, were part of the process I was rediscovering (and were luckily outweighed by the so good!).

But clocks tick and calendars flip, and there’s that inevitable next moment when you acknowledge time: The moment when what’s ahead is less than what’s behind. You begin parceling out activities to make sure you get them all in; you make comments like, “let’s be sure to get together before I head back for good,” and the sheer exhilaration of the work, the performing, the audience interaction; the cast members you’ve grown to love, all become more precious for your realizing that “abundant time” has whittled down to weeks… then days… until the final countdown begins.

That’s where we are as I write this piece: counting down the last days of this journey, feeling the bittersweet tang of knowing it will soon be over: The Geeze and Me has its final three performances this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. As far ahead as that denouement seemed when I arrived on January 3rd, it is now upon me and I’m… well, not to be too dramatic, but I’m bereft.

Not because I’m going home—I look forward to wrapping myself in the warmth of my family again, my house, my neighborhood; my view of the ocean each morning. Being home. But I’d be lying if I said I was ready to leap back into my life as it was, my life without the kind of creative collaboration the last four months have afforded me.

You see, it has been a very long time since I’ve had this intense of a creative experience over this long a period of time—since I did plays, made movies, worked in theater companies, sang in bands—and the resultant effect has served to waken the sleeping diva in me (and I mean diva in the purest sense of the word—the lead singer, the creative adventurer, the artiste—not the high-maintenance harridan demanding special treatment, I promise!). And that awakening leaves me now, at the end of this transformative experience, not only bereft, as mentioned, but a little befuddled.

What do I do with her when I get home, home to my “writer’s life,” a place of solitude and introspection, where I think and compose, spend quiet time with family, and enjoy the peacefulness of  walks by the ocean? My Awakened Diva will not necessarily embrace that solitary life as being… enough. It no longer feels enough. It feels like a wonderful addendum to what is enough, but the part of me that spent the last four months remembering that I sang, I acted, I expressed ideas out loud; I regularly engaged with exciting, creative, hilarious people who seemed to think I was all those things too—well, that part of me now has to service the Awakened Diva… and I don’t know how. Yet.

But I gotta figure it out. Because I now recognize, I’ve been reminded, that she is an intrinsic part of who I am, the soul of my creative being, the essence of the person who not only does what I was doing before the last four months, but who rediscovered the self that brought me, breathless and anticipatory, to my city by the sea as a young girl, driven by dreams designed by my Diva, dreams that, in recent years, got buried for reasons many artists encounter: artistic obsolescence, opportunity deficits, ageism; ground-shifting life events that demanded life-changing plans. I have no idea how to transcend all that in this new, awakened period of my life, but I’m inspired to find out.

Until then, I still have three more nights of this glorious show. Three more opportunities to sing, dance, laugh, act; feel the excitement of creating art, of touching audiences, of reveling in the talent and expression of the many wonderful people with whom I’m working. Yes, I am counting the remaining nights, days, hours left, but I’m not neglecting the joy factor of what’s still to experience. I’m going to pay attention to every remaining moment so that when it does finally end, I won’t have left out a one.

Then I’ll pack up my car, head north to Los Angeles, tuck back into the love and warmth of my family, and ponder all that’s happened. Where me and Awakened Diva go from here…. cuz the beat does go on, doesn’t it?

All I can say is: keep walking to your own and I’ll let you know where mine leads next!

If you’re in the San Diego area and would like to partake of whatever tickets are left for this week’s shows, April 27-29, go HERE for ticket information. 

First four photos by Ken Jacques; last photo from Tonight in San Diego taping. 

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Remember That Piece About Songwriting? Here’s The First Follow-Up: ‘You’re Still The One’

Remember that piece I wrote about songwriting, the one with the memorable title, I Write The Songs That Make The Whole World… Well, I Write The Songs I Love And We’ll Go From There? In it, I shared my particular creative process when it comes to songwriting, detailing a new collaboration with an old friend, Jason Brett, that held high hopes. I promised to follow-up on the adventure as we got deeper into it, so let’s launch the next chapter!

When we last left off, we’d just finished writing our first song together, “You’re Still The One.” We’d worked out the arrangement, found the right key, then I had to dash to the airport to return to Los Angeles from Chicago, leaving us to figure out how and when to get the song recorded. Which meant I happily returned to Chicago shortly after, for the third time in five months, and Jason and I headed into the studio with the amazing Elliott Delman, a wonderful guitarist/composer with a remarkable musical history (including a collaboration with Dan Fogelberg whose early records were a soundtrack to my life for many years!).

Elliott Delman

With Elliott mastering the recording process and much of the instrumentation, and Jason handling acoustic guitars and drum programming, we spend an entire day in the studio doing something I’ve spent thousands of hours doing: taking a basic idea and building it into a – full-blown, put it on your iPod, listen to it in your car – piece of recorded music. A record. An mp3. A file. A disc. Whatever the format, it’s the music that counts.

Jason rocks

Though, actually, I wasn’t able to be there for the full ‘birthing process” this time around. After the basic tracks and vocals were done, schedules demanded that I leave it to the guys to finish it up (damn those long-distance relationships!)… which I believe they did to stellar results.

With the music done, we now leap into the commerce side, getting it out to song publishers and music supervisors we know, looking for the right soundtrack, the right show, the right artist to fall in love with it. Certainly let us know if you have ideas on any of that… we’ve got more coming.

So, as promised, I’m sharing the finished song. We call it a “country slow-dance heartbreak song.” It’s not twang country (anyone who knows me knows that’s simply not possible!), but it has a country/pop feel and instrumentation. You’ll see… it will hopefully touch a heartstring or two and make you want to slow dance with the person of your choice!

I’ve included the lyrics below, as requested. Since I well remember laying on the floor of my living room with the inside sleeve of whatever album I was listening to, singing along with the lyrics in my hand, I’m happy to oblige!

Enjoy…

You’re Still The One 

Words & Music by Lorraine Devon Wilke & Jason Brett

We were young, we were dreamers
We had time on our side
We had life, we had love, we had hope, we had … everything

We set out, we surrendered
We held on for the ride
Till the road we were on left us weary and wandering

You say time got the best of us
Maybe love got the worst
Now you stand at the door with your sorrows
Your goodbyes all rehearsed

CHORUS:
But there’s still a spark that’s holding us together
And you’re still the man who promised me forever
So I’ll tell you once again so you remember
You’re still the one… you’re still the one for me

You say love it was easy
It was life that was hard
And we were foolish to think we’d have everything

Now you beg my forgiveness
While you’re breaking my heart
Finding words to deny any reason for lingering

Now you’re ready to walk away
No more room for the fight
Should I listen and learn to forget you
Or convince you I’m right?

CHORUS:
That there’s still a spark that’s holding us together
And you’re still the man who promised me forever
So I’ll tell you once again so you remember
You’re still the one… you’re still the one for me

Bridge:
Yes, some dreams have been stolen
I’ve lost a few of my own
So we cry and we try but we hold on
To the love we have known

CHORUS:
Yes, there’s still a spark that’s holding us together
And you’re still the man who promised me forever
So I’ll tell you once again so you remember
You’re still the one, you’re still the one for me
You’re still the one… you’re still the one

© 2013

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

I Write The Songs That Make The Whole World… Well, I Write The Songs I Love And We’ll Go From There

SOMEW TRAYIN.QXD

I spent a weekend in Chicago recently with a group of old friends celebrating a birthday. This particular group embraces people from every era of my life – grade school, high school, college, and beyond – and every single one of them is supremely talented in one creative arena or several. Particularly music. Which meant the weekend, like all weekends with this group, was filled with music: the singing, playing and, this particular weekend, the writing of it.

Writing songs used to be a major part of my life. I wrote my first real song back in the 80s, a very era-centric pop ditty called The Ghost, which I co-wrote with the drummer and guitarist of my band, Tony Alexander and David Resnik, respectively. It had a boppy sing-along chorus and a great synth part and the words worked with the rhythm. That song, for some odd reason, became a popular tune in France and was one of the band’s top requested numbers at live gigs. And I was singing my words… I was hooked.

The process of songwriting was mentored for me by both players but mostly Tony, who, though a complex fellow I didn’t always understand, was a deeply creative musician who organically understood the flow, rhythm and meter of music. He taught me to listen to what the music communicated and trust what it told me. He taught me to trust my own skills as well, and gave me plenty of opportunities to practice them. I became a good songwriter, predominately a lyricist at that point, and we – Tony, David and I – wrote some great songs together. One of my favorites, one that also, strangely, made it to France, garnered us the attention of 80’s icon, Kim Fowley, who thought we “smelled like money,” as well as thought we had an 80s hit in “What Can I Do?While the song never fully blossomed into the commercial boon we hoped, it was one that remained emblematic of the mood and musical sensibilities of the era and our part in it. One of my dearest friends, Tina, knows she was the inspiration for the lyrics and to this day presumes most of my lyrics are about her. 🙂

DEVON band photo w-logo

I eventually began writing melodies as well as lyrics, a process that relied on my ability to grab the “music in my head,” since my hands never learned to play an instrument well enough to properly assist me in the task. I’d listen to a recorded track over and over, locked in my “songwriting bubble” of focused, meditative concentration, and eventually the melody (and the words) would come to me. Sort of magical, always very exciting. As I was sorting out these various songwriting methods that worked for me, I discovered that the process is as personal and individual as any craft and, as my own confidence rose, I listened and learned where I could, but also came to understand that no one else’s process need be my own. When I’d read articles about that great writer who “wrote 5 songs a day” and all I could manage were one or two a week, I didn’t let it bother me. When friends from Nashville told me everyone there sits in a room together and hashes out lyrics line by line, it wasn’t hard for me to say I worked alone inside that “bubble” to find the story of a song. When others said you should do this or that or the other… well, I followed my own drummer and became my own songwriter. We each have our way.

My second prolific songwriting period was what I called “the English chapter.” A couple of longtime Rod Stewart vets, the inimitable Jim Cregan and Kevin Savigar, were looking to put their own side project together, looking for a singer/lyricist specifically, and mutual contacts “made the marriage.” We worked together under the moniker Third Person (ironic that in the only band photo we took, Jim couldn’t be there so our “third person” was a mannequin!) and together, as well as with other writers the guys knew, we created a catalogue of songs that are still some of my favorites.

It was with “Tender Mercy” that I stepped up in this particular incarnation to first contribute melody parts. Both Jim and Kevin welcomed my contributions (and were very fun guys!), so writing with them, as well as with the other writers they brought along, was always fabulous. Lots of laughing and wine. Our process was, typically, that they’d give me already recorded music tracks with some melody ideas hummed over them, and I’d come up with the words. As we continued, tracks started to come without melodies so I could find my own, and, eventually, we started songs from scratch, sitting around Kevin’s music room or Jim’s Sunset Strip vintage condo bashing out songs we’d later record in some stellar Hollywood studio. Notable was the opportunity I had to provide Rod Stewart, at his request, with lyrics for the song that would ultimately become “Forever Young.” He didn’t use my words, but just the asking was a heady experience at that stage of my career!

After that chapter came a few years of writing and recording songs for films (my favorite being one I wrote with my old guitarist, David Resnik, for the independent film, To Cross the Rubicon, a tune called “I Surrender”). But the next big foray had to be my most profound and satisfying as a songwriter. I’d always wanted to write and record my own album; it was, in fact, a life-long dream. But as the music business undulated in the changing, churning tides of the digital and internet revolution of the 90s and into the 2000s, things changed. When piracy and downloading shattered all previously known paradigms, leaving the bar for “rock star success” so high and down so long and winding a road that few know how to follow, it became, for me, simply about the music.

In the early 2000s I started working with a deeply talented guitarist and songwriter, Rick M. Hirsch, doing a blues/rock gig, which was incredibly fun but largely built on classics rather than originals. Two years in, it finally felt time to create our own music and so we did. The first song we wrote together was built on a guitar riff Rick had in his personal library, one so evocative and emotional that I was immediately drawn to the melody and words of Drowning.” Songwriters are often asked what compelled certain lyrics, if they’re fact or fiction, and this one was definitely inspired by an outside source. Mira Nair had directed an emotionally wrenching film called Hysterical Blindness about a floundering young woman struggling with the fallout of her father’s abandonment and her own inability to find meaningful love, and the ache of that script jumped out at me; “Drowning” ended up being an homage to that very heartbreaking story.

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Another of my favorites from our collection was hatched in its melodic and lyrical entirety in the “songwriting bubble” inside my head, assisted by no music track or chord progression. It was just a musical line that ran over and over in my mind, its melody slowly attaching, with lyrics to follow. I sang it into a boom-box recorder (yes, that’s what we used back in those days!), gave Rick the cassette, and he came up with the chords and arrangement that not only supported it, but built on the words and melody. The song, Richer For Rain became an anthem of sorts, a testimonial to the triumph of realizing that one’s hurts and heartaches only add to the richness of who we ultimately become. It also became the title track of Rick’s and my CD of 11 original songs which, later, after the incarnation of our project took some turns, I released as a single artist under the new title, Somewhere On The Way (a refrain from “Richer For Rain”). That CD, a true labor of love and one I will remain forever proud of, is up at CDBaby and iTunes, if you’re interested.

While I continued to dabble in the craft even after that album was done and out in the world, as anyone reading this likely knows, my creative focus shifted more predominantly to other writing arenas: fiction, non-fiction, journalistic, etc. But the music Muse was always there, always tickling my brain with snippets of melodies and lines of verse that begged be formed into something cohesive and melodic. But circumstances to collaborate were fewer and farther between and so I suggested the Muse sit down for a bit, relax, and wait until some new turn of events offered an invitation. That came with this glorious gathering of friends.

One in particular, Jason Brett, is a brilliant and accomplished producer (About Last Night), entrepreneur (founder and CEO of MashPlant.com, an emerging artistic and educational platform for school/student interaction), and all-around creative enthusiast, who also happens to think I’m one of the funniest people on earth (the feeling is mutual so you can imagine the time we spend falling to the floor in laughter, particularly if certain mutual friends – Pam and Louie, that’s you! – are there to egg us on!), and while I was visiting recently, he pulled out his guitar and we sat quietly for about 30 minutes banging through a chord progression he came up with, recording it on our iPhones to listen to later.

Later was back home in Los Angeles; I ran it over and over, inviting my Muse to sit with me and see if there was something to hear and translate from the music. We listened, again and then again, and there it was… slowly emerging from the tinny, muddled recording on my phone. First a melody idea, than a lyric or two; before long the whole song flowed out of that progression and I rushed to type up the story that was being told. I went back to Chicago a couple of weeks ago and we sat around Jason’s music room to work out the bridge, find the right key, come up with the feel and flow of the arrangement and, before I hopped back on the plane, we had our song. It’s ready to be recorded, but we’ve decided to accrue a few more before we go into a studio to experience something both long-distant and oh-so-familiar to me, as well as one of the most exhilarating experiences any singer/songwriter can possibly have: going into a good studio with excellent musicians and top-knotch technicians to record a song you wrote. Nothing much better than that in the spectrum of creative experiences.

I’m writing about this today because it reminded me of how powerful and energizing the creative process can be – whatever creative process – and how life can prove so circular and unpredictable. How things that once seemed to have disappeared can come back anew; how something we long ago abandoned or felt we had to put aside can suddenly move right into the forefront to bring us back to some part of ourselves we loved… and missed. My Muse is delighted to be back in the room. I’m delighted to have her there.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.