Ryan Welton

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Songwriter’s notebook: Perfection is the enemy of good

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Perfection is the enemy of good. Perfection is the enemy of good. Repeat it and repeat it.

It’s not that creatives don’t strive for greatness; it’s just that many of us nitpick our own work to the point that our quantity of production is minimal with no tangible improvement in quality. Some of the time, production for the sake of production is tantamount to a repetition that gets us closer to the significant improvement we desire.

As a songwriter, I try to be prolific. I try to churn out the tunes.

Sometimes, I go about a song as if it were a long-term project. Heck, I have one song that I’ve dummy-titled “Joy” that I’ve been sitting on musically for five or six years, waiting for the perfectly open day when I could devote all of it to its lyrics.

If you’re waiting for the perfect time, for anything, you’ll be waiting forever.

Trust.

Sometimes, I knock it out super fast, knowing that the music and subject matter isn’t so much “throw away” but that it’s not in the realm of something I consider seriously to be good. Truth be told, some of the times, however, I end up with my best work when I don’t think about it so much.

Take last Saturday when I decided I was going to conceive both the music for a new song and its lyrics in a three-hour window, whatever it took to accomplish. That type of setup can be too much pressure on some days, and I end up on the couch watching baseball or surfing the interwebs.

What I do is start pounding the keys. I typically start with something funky and see if a brave new c-jazz or Steely Dan-esque progression emerges. Barring that, I find myself rerouted toward something that’s more yacht rock or 80s pop. I’ll go back and forth and forth and back until a riff and a melody emerges.

If one doesn’t after 20-30 minutes, I get up from the bench and do something. Sit on the porch. Read a book. Mow the yard. Run a mile. Eat. Maybe not eat; I don’t like to be all belchy before I record.

Periodically, I force myself to go basic on the progressions and focus on 1-4-5 type of songs. Keeping things to three chords can force a meandering brain like mine to keep things simple enough that I can focus on developing a melody.

That’s what I did this weekend with my new song, “Wandering, Wandering Me (The Container Store Song).”

Although it’s not technically 1-4-5 (it’s 1-6-4-5, I believe — F to Dm to Bb to C in the verse), it’s still super simple. In terms of inspiration, I was trying to channel a little bit of Glen Campbell or Jerry Jeff Walker, especially in the chorus. It might not surprise you to know that I loved Glen Campbell, but it might shock you to know how much I love Jerry Jeff Walker, especially this song, which lyrically was kind of an inspiration for this song.

Musically, it’s quite different.

The title for the tune just started coming to me, “Wandering, Wandering Me.” I don’t know where it came from. I think I was THINKING about Warren Zevon and “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me” when I was riffing with the chords. However, I liked the title, and as my process goes, I rolled with it.

And then I get to writing lyrics.

I had an afternoon appointment to make, so I needed to boogie and get words to paper. My process is pretty simple. I start rhyming and see how the story develops. It’s as if I don’t even know what I’m going to write when I do, searching instead for interesting phrasing or well-crafted rhymes.

Once I get a verse, I immediately get to a chorus, even foregoing a pre-chorus until a second- or third-take.

At this point, you know kind of what the story is about, and if you’re feeling traditional, you try to develop that story. Advance the story is what my far-more-experienced songwriter friends call it.

However, I don’t let curve balls or crazy ideas throw me. In this case, I was writing about the week after Mom had died and the trips I took back-and-forth to Henryetta. There was no Texas. It was a metaphor (or just an excuse to mention the great Lone Star State). In the third verse, I talked about wanting to settle down, which I’m presently doing (details soon), while at once maintaining my freedom.

In my case, that mostly means freedom to create (content creation, songwriting) and freedom to “Ryan.” Ryaning is the name I give to the process of me taking a whole day to work on projects of interest to me, which typically includes household errands, cleaning and organization. So, I wrote my truth and then faced a conundrum.

How do I explain, “How to write some songs and organize?”

Does he mean organize such as in a union or as in a community organizer? Is he an activist?

That’s where I threw in the line about The Container Store.

And just like that, I’ve explained what was an extraordinarily satisfying afternoon of songwriting, fighting the urge to review and edit and take months to produce a piece of content. Truly, if somebody came along and said, “Great concept. Would you mind hooking up with a co-writer for some collaboration?” then I’d do that in a heartbeat.

Yet the sooner that you finish one song, you can get to the next.

I don’t necessarily apply this to all pursuits, and it’s definitely not an excuse for sloppiness. But I find that striving for perfection is just a recipe to quash production.

Strive for good. There is no perfect. Check out my new song, “Wandering, Wandering Me” and read the lyrics, below. You can find more from me at youtube.com/ryanweltonmusic


“Wandering, Wandering Me”
Copyright 2018, Ryan Welton

Verse:
I have a hard time trying to stay in one place
One day I’m here then I’m gone with no trace
Though it might be hard to swallow
I do not want to be followed
It’s just wandering, wandering me

I like to take the back roads Into small country towns
One minute I’m your neighbor then I’m never around
If you think it’s cause I’m flaky
You can take me at my word
It’s just wandering wandering me

Chorus:
Baby, I remember Tulsa, Oklahoma
Summer nights of harmless fun
Then I packed my bags and drove to Texas
With the sun
Put a lot of miles on
Never took a day off
Saddle up, and there I’d go
And there’s not a single minute
Hardly even seconds
I’m not missing you so

Verse:
It’s mostly human nature as I know it to be
I wanna settle down, but I want to be free
Free to write some songs and organize
But end my day deep in your eyes
It’s wandering wandering me

 

The story behind, “Dear OG&E,” & remembering the 2007 Oklahoma ice storm

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We had ice in central Oklahoma today, but I’m not sure we can call it an ice storm. Back in 2007, we had an ice storm.

And it was an ice storm of epic proportions.

I was in my third year of work at the ABC affiliate in Oklahoma City, and I spent my days writing stories and sending out alerts via email — digital tactics that were pre-Facebook. It’s bizarre to think about. There were no push alerts. There was no Facebook really, yet. Not for anybody but college students. Definitely no Twitter, no Instagram, no Snap.

We just wrote stories, posted video and sent out a lot of emails to subscriber lists.

It was late November. Freezing temps and a big patch of moisture converged on the Sooner State, and we knew it was coming. It dropped a ton of freezing precipitation, enough that trees in Norman bent over quickly. Ultimately, the city of Norman lost a bunch of historic trees — and those trees pulled out a bunch of electricity meter boxes from the sides of homes.

Everybody in central Oklahoma was without power, some for days.

Others for weeks.

I didn’t have electricity for two weeks. The station put me up at the nearby Best Western on Santa Fe and 63rd in Oklahoma City. I spent so much time at that hotel over the years that it’s officially my most-visited hotel, although the Omni in Dallas comes close. Editor’s note: I love the Omni in Dallas. Best. Hotel. Ever.

The reason I didn’t have electricity for so long was because the fallen tree pulled out my meter box. My electricity provider was backed up with thousands upon thousands of power issues, and my neighborhood was super low priority.

But I got homesick quickly.

One night, I skipped the hotel and drove back to Norman, determined to sleep in my own bed. It was 26 degrees in my house because it was 26 degrees outside, and I had no heat. I slept in my winter coat and a hoodie and pants and sweats and probably a gorilla costume. It was so damned cold, but I was in my own bed, and I was thrilled.

I got up the next morning and took the world’s quickest shower.

The whole experience led me to write a song called, “Dear OG&E,” which I posted to my YouTube channel. It’s gotten 3,300 or so views over the years, and it got the attention of some of OG&E’s communications team, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know over the years while I worked at Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores. Fantastic people.

What made the video, however, wasn’t me or my creativity or even the timing of the song with the storm. Nope. It was my late cat, Finley, who meowed on cue at the end of the tune. Her timing was impeccable.

So, as Oklahoma dealt with its dose of winter Tuesday (with me now at the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City, I should note), I shivered and bemoaned the fact that it’s not baseball season yet.

However, I didn’t complain.

It could have been a whole lot worse. Believe that!

 

Valentine’s Day original song: “Somebody Loves You”

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All my music posted to YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RyanWeltonMusic

Licensing: ryanwelton AT gmail DOT com.

Somebody Loves You (Valentine’s Day Song)
c. 2018
Ryan Welton

Verse 1:
If I bought you flowers
Would it make you long for spring
If I said the magic words
Would they mean anything?

Trust me, you can do it
Tell me what you want this year
Valentine’s Day is special
When the one you love is near

Pre-hook:
But baby,
You tell me
Wednesday’s just another day to you
I’ll take to
My piano
And my heart will write the words I want to say
Oh, oh, oh, oh

CHORUS:
Somebody loves you
And his name is me
And me wants to tell you
That he’s fallen for you completely

X2

Verse 2:
Remember us in Reedsport
Hand in hand along the beach
As recently as three years ago
This kind of love for me was out of reach

Pre-hook:
And baby,
You tell me
Wednesday’s just another day to you
I’ll take to
My piano
And my heart will write a love song just for you
Oh, oh, oh, oh

 

Best new contemporary jazz sound comes from sax player Justin Young

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This is a totally self-serving post.

But if you enjoy contemporary jazz or smooth jazz and haven’t given saxophonist Justin Young a listen, do yourself a favor and check out his new album, “Blue Soul.” You’ll get to hear three tunes I wrote as well.

There’s the self-serving part!

Justin is currently based in Seattle, but I got to know him when he and his wife, Rachel, lived in Oklahoma City. She and I worked together at a TV station in town (not the one where I currently work). As soon as I found out that Rachel’s husband played sax, I sought out his music and was blown away — not only by his technical skill but also by his sound, which I found quite compatible with mine. When I write instrumentals, it’s often with a sax lead in mind, and I usually have had players like Dave Koz, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and many more in mind.

Luckily, I met Justin.

I immediately started combing through all my recordings in hopes of putting together a demo CD for him. The hope was that, maybe, someday, he might record one or two of them. It turned out that he liked many of them, and he and his dad hooked me up with recording equipment to start writing more, some of which you can hear on my SoundCloud channel.

That was an incredible opportunity for me because it allowed me to learn Logic Pro. I got pretty good at it, although I’m not a Mac guy and will probably have to start over with FL Studio soon on my new laptop.

Justin went into the studio, and I knew that he might use one or two of my tunes, but I didn’t know which ones. He ended up picking three, and was pleasantly surprised by two of the three he picked. The one I knew he’d pick was called “Sweet Release,” a tune I first put together about 15 years ago. He did an amazing job with it.

The first version here is the track I put together in Logic Pro, not the original original of this song that I did back in 2003. But I still kind of liked what I did. This was after only a week of tinkering around in Logic.

But then Justin killed it on the album version. Yowsa:

The first of the two tracks that surprised me was a song he ended up calling “Razzmajazz.” I called it “Moment of Indecision” when I wrote it 18 years ago. I’ll put my original up first and then his, and you can see just how much he and his team of musicians and producers livened it up. Wonderful job.

“Moment of Indecision”

“Razzmajazz”

And then the third track he included on the album is the title track, “Blue Soul,” a song I called “Night Things” when I originally put it together in 2000 or so. I wasn’t expecting this one to get picked, but Justin heard something in this composition and again blew it away on the album.

My version of “Night Things” here:

And then what Justin did as he turned it into “Blue Soul.” Amazing.

If you see this post, do me a favor and go follow him on Facebook or pay him a visit at justinyoungsax.com. If you happen to have Sirius XM, you can also hear Justin on Ch. 66, Watercolors.

 

Yacht Rock Original: “Everybody’s Girl”

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I’ve loved all-things yacht rock before the genre even had a name. Christopher Cross, Toto, Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Hall & Oates: love all of it.

And after 20 years I finally have a classification for all the music I write. Well, that and smooth jazz.

Here’s my latest. It’s a tune about a girl who is the ultimate people-pleaser. She’s “Everybody’s Girl.”

 

Oh, if you dig the song, please come subscribe to my YouTube channel. I post all sorts of stuff out there but try to keep it to all-thing smooooooth. My channel is YouTube.com/soonerryan2000

Lyrics below:

EVERYBODY’S GIRL (a yacht rock original) c. 2017, Ryan Welton

Verse 1: You talk about us, you never stop I can tell: my ears are ringing

You’re chirping here and you’re buzzing there I’d much rather hear birds singing

But if everybody talks, then nobody listens

To the words they say

Maybe I’d have a fightin’ chance some other way

 

Verse 2: I’ll meet you down at the club tonight

You can tell the boys you’re single

Wear that black dress that’s extra tight

I’ll observe you while you mingle

Pour me a whiskey

Hell, make it a double

Dance the night away

But I can’t pretend to be at ease while you’re at play

 

CHORUS: She’s everybody’s girl (everybody’s)

If you can be OK with her as everybody’s girl

Then go ahead and step inside her crazy, crazy world

There’s few who can survive it for long

Everybody’s girl

 

Verse 3: She looks at me but she dreams of him

That’s a constant game she’s playin’

She never says what she really means

Unless she punctuates, “Just sayin'”

Call her a phony

Or just a pretender

You can call me a fool

The girl plays with minds like she plays with hearts: no rules

CHORUS INTERLUDE CHORUS 2x

Ticket To Fly: #TBT ‘Smooth Jazz’ tune I had completely forgotten (video)

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I’ve failed to keep up with my YouTube comments and with the subject of this very blog, half of which is ‘Smooth Jazz.’ On the other hand, I did achieve what I set out to do at the beginning of the year — and that’s to re-start this blogging endeavor that I had so enjoyed some 10-15 years ago.

But it was a comment from a YouTuber named Hector that caught my attention tonight. He wrote on one song of mine that he was responsible for at least 50 of the 362 views of an original tune I posted called “Ticket To Fly.”

So, I responded with gratitude for sure…but then I had to listen to the song. To remember it.

This is “Ticket To Fly,” and I wrote it seven years ago. I’m not sure whether it’s more Steely Dan influenced or more akin to something I’ve heard from more straight ahead smooth jazzers such as Acoustic Alchemy, The Rippingtons or something like the Brand New Heavies.

Hope you enjoy it as much as Hector has, and I’d love it if you’d come check out my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/soonerryan2000

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