Tag Archive: songwriter


[Possible bonus points: 10]

On Monday nights, I usually play at Mr. Troll’s open mic at Poor David’s Pub. It’s the best listening room in town and Carlos Sanchez is the best sound man in town. Troll also let’s me talk about the Dallas Songwriters Association before my set. But the point is that I stop by Schlotzsky’s on the way because dinner usually isn’t ready when I leave. I go the location on Midway, just south of Spring Valley, before getting on the tollway.

I walked into Schlotzsky’s and stood back looking at the menu. The young man that has helped me out for the past several weeks (and seems like he’ll be there a while, unlike some) told the girl behind the cash register to treat me right because I was one of his best customers. She smiled, and he added that I would tell him if she didn’t treat me well. By this time, I was smiling, too.

I looked at the menu while she stood, patiently waiting. I considered having salad and perhaps soup as a pick two deal. Then I smiled and shook my head.

“I’ll just go for the same old thing. I thought about having a salad, but I have a show tonight and it’s hard to eat salad.”

“Show? What do you do?” she asked as she rang up my sandwich and chips.

“I’m a singer/songwriter.”

“Oh, really? Where do you play?”

“Well, I’m playing at an open mic at Poor David’s Pub tonight, but I play places around here quite a bit.”

While we were talking, I reached into my pocket for a business card.

“I have a friend,” she was saying, “he plays music and he moved…”

She stopped as she looked at my card. She looked at me kind of puzzled.

“Do you have a son?”

“Yes,” I answered, not bothering to add that I have three sons.

“Conner?”

“Yes, I’m Conner’s father.”

“Conner, that just moved to California?”

“Yes.”

“We’re Facebook friends. We have been since early in high school.”

“Tell him you saw me.”

“I will,” She stuck out her hand. “I’m Martha.”

“Dan.”

I waited for my sandwich, left, and headed for the tollway.

You get the 10 bonus points if you figured out that Conner was the friend she was about to tell me about when she read my card.

Peace be with you.

Tracie MerchantOn almost every night of the week, an open mic can be found in the Dallas area and often more than one, sometimes several. Some of the open mics include spoken word, playing cover songs, etc. On the other hand, some may prefer original songs, but talented covers are usually allowed. The majority of open mic hosts are friendly and welcoming. Most open mics have their regulars, even if it’s just a few people that show up all the time.

A number of open mics and similar events are hosted by members of the Dallas Songwriters Association (DSA). There is a supportive songwriting community in the Dallas area, a good number of whom are members of DSA. Some of us have been writing songs for years. Some are younger and just getting started playing live at open mics. Quite a few members of the DSA perform at other open mics in addition to DSA events.

But it’s the community that I want to emphasize here. The songwriting and open mic communities are very supportive in every way a community can be. One good example is the open mic at Poor David’s Pub (PDP), hosted by Mr.Troll. It helps, of course, that it is one of best listening rooms in town, and Carlos Sanchez is one of the best sound men in town. Samantha Sanders is one of the best bartenders, too.

A good illustration of my point came about recently. On Monday, I arrived at PDP, ready to play in the open mic. I said hi to a couple of people from DSA at the bar. Troll asked me to step aside and talk to him privately. He needed to go home to take care of his dad, and asked me to guest host the open mic. Of course I said I would.

Troll played first, as usual. He played two songs, but we persuaded him to play a third song. Then he introduced me and slipped out, and I took over as host. On the list were regulars – some older, some newer. The featured artist was Tracie Merchant. I introduced her about 8:45. In the middle of her set, Tracie picked up her phone and began to make a call.

“Does everybody know my friend, Bill Nash?” Many of us did. Bill is a singer/songwriter with MS. He has been in the folk scene in Dallas for quite some time. He has come up with different tunings using capos and key changes to enable him to keep playing the guitar and writing songs. He had to leave SWRFA a little early due to health issues and within a week was in the hospital. He was hoping to get out of the hospital soon when Tracie called.

“We’re here at the open mic at Poor David’s Pub. We wanted to tell you something,” she said when Bill answered. She motioned to all of us and at the same time we said:

“Get well, Bill!” He asked her if we would do it again so he could record it. Which we gladly did.

During the evening a harmonica player was hanging around, hoping to join someone. Vince Alexander is from Atlanta and is here working at the State Fair. He was looking for a break from the fair to do what he loved the most – playing music. Toward the end of the evening he got his chance and stayed on stage to play with Tin Man Travis. Vince had the pleasantness on his face and in his upbeat and friendly attitude of one who is away from home in an unfamiliar place and finds a music community to be a part of (albeit temporarily).

See what I mean about community? And you’re all welcome – to play or listen. At any of the open mics or DSA events.

Peace be with you.

20131103_132007I recently joined the Board of the Dallas Songwriters Association (DSA) after having been a member for several years. I am now the Lyric Contest Director, as well as helping out in other areas. I was given the entries to the recently completed contest (it is run quarterly). My job is to read all the lyrics and pass along to another member of the board the songs I think are worthy to be considered in the final judging. After reading the lyric contest entries, I have a few thoughts to pass along to those planning to enter a lyric/songwriting contest.

If you are just writing lyrics, find someone to write or play the melody. Make sure that it is a song, not just a poem. Granted, sometimes the line between the two is blurred. But even in those instances, one can tell the difference between a poem and song. Read it out loud.

If it sounds good to you, then have a few other people read your song. It is your choice to accept or reject suggestions or criticism. But if more than one person says the same thing, it would be prudent to follow their advice. If you read your song out loud and it sounds “sing-song-y,” you might want to work on it a little more.

At the very least – and I mean the very least – read your song several times before you submit your entry. Use spell checker and check the grammar. When I’m reading the song entries, I can forgive a misspelled word or single grammatical error. But if you misspell the same word in the chorus each time you type out the chorus, the song instantly goes in the rejection pile. It’s the same with the gramatical errors. If you are using slang purposely, or  are misspelling words to imitate an accent, use quotation marks. But make sure  it fits the song.

If you are going to take the time, make the effort, and spend the money, you might as well make it worth it. Present yourself and your song in as professional a manner as possible. A song should fit on one page, maybe one and a half. Certainly not more than two pages. You do not need to type out the chorus each time it occurs, if it is the same each time. Using 12 pt. type is quite sufficient – anything larger is unnecessary.

The first thing you should consider before submitting an entry is whether or not you have written an actual song. I do not have time to tell you how to write a song. There is so much already written on the subject, I do not need to. If you’re in the Dallas area, you could join the DSA and attend meetings. Every major city should have a songwriting association. Keep writing and learning as you go along.

Along the journey, when you decide to submit to a lyric or songwriting contest, you need to do four things. Make sure it is actually a decent song. Present yourself and your song professionally. Read it over carefully a couple of times before sending it. And follow the entry rules  to the letter.

Peace be with you.

Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt

Sitting at my desk thinking about the last year and planning for the new year, I was looking forward to playing shows more often. Not to mention the upcoming music conferences. Such as the ASCAP Expo in April. Or the Songwriter Symposium hosted by the Austin Songwriters Group coming up in a couple of weeks. Which naturally caused me to relive last years symposium, in a fashion. Which led to recalling an interesting story I thought I would relate to you.

For a number of years, I have been attending the Theological School for the Laity at Perkins Theological Seminary at SMU for a weekend in early March. I took a few classes with Robert Hunt, a professor at Perkins. I have also been to other functions at Perkins and have seen and talked to Robert. He has preached in our church. He also gave a presentation at a meeting of the Religion Communicators Council of which I am a member.

Then at the symposium, I saw Robert and thought it was cool that he wrote songs as well as his theological works. I never heard his name at the symposium, but he seemed to know who I was. We are both a friendly sort of people – when we see people we give a knowing look, as if we are introducing ourselves with facial expressions. Which makes each of us seem as if we knew the other beforehand. But I had no doubt at the time that I knew him.

In October, I played a showcase at eSpiritu in Frisco. One of the other four songwriters was Robert – or so I thought. In the emails from the host, Ryan Michael Galloway, he said Richard Hunt was playing – along with Julie Jean White, myself, and Mudcat Reames. I thought he had Richard’s name wrong. When I arrived, I walked up to him and shook his hand. He said he was glad to see me again. While he was playing, his wife was standing at a table across the aisle from Cyndy and I taking pictures. I asked her if he was writing songs under the name of Richard.

“Yes, he’s a lawyer. Both of us are. And yes, he goes by Richard – his real name.”

Now I was thoroughly confused. Cyndy and I looked Richard up on the internet, since she had met Robert as well, and found our answer quickly. Julie Jean played after him. I went on after her. After my set, I walked up to him and asked if he had a brother.”

“Yes,” he said, with a smile and a nod, “a twin.”

“When I saw you at the symposium, I thought you were Robert.”

“That’s a common occurrence.” Another nod and smile.

I was just thankful I was not going stark raving bananas. Who would have thought I would meet twin brothers in basically unrelated areas of my life? I know quite a few sets of twins, but I met them together. I also know there are a lot of twins – more than you would think.

Have you ever met a set of twins, each at different times, not knowing they were twins? I would be interested to know. I don’t think I am the only one. Let us know in the comments.

Peace be with you.

P.S. This story reminded me of another story I heard years ago. Look for the next post.

Picture of Willis Alan Ramsey from Wikipedia taken by Ron Baker.

Picture of Willis Alan Ramsey from Wikipedia taken by Ron Baker.

Cyndy and I had the good fortune to see Willis Alan Ramsey Thursday night at the Shipping and Receiving Bar in Ft. Worth. His wife, Alison Rogers Ramsey, opened for him. I saw him quite a few times in the ‘70s. One time in particular was at a club called Mother Blue’s on Lemmon Ave.

His throat was sore and he had a bottle of Chloraseptic on a stool with a glass of water. After each song or so, he would spray his throat with the Chloraseptic. About half way through the show, he appeared frustrated. After the next song, he looked at the audience, said “to hell with it,” unscrewed the top and chugged part of the bottle. He made it through the rest of the show.

Thursday night, Alison played as good a set as she could play with an injured knee and constant pain. She was quite funny and the audience was supportive since she was obviously plagued with pain. They both talked about the 900 mile drive from Colorado they had just endured – with a stop in Childress for auto repairs.

Then Willis Alan took the stage, with another round of applause for Alison.
He began with “Watermelon Man,” to the crowd’s delight. He played new songs and some of his classics, including Northeast Texas Women. He did not play “Muskrat Love.” Then again, no one in the audience expected – or even wanted – him to play it.

Ramsey did mention the song though. He said a teacher in college told him to write what he knew. At 19, he didn’t know anything. So he quit school to “go learn something.”

“I write songs about things I don’t know anything about. For instance, I didn’t know anything about Muskrats? Still don’t.”

Willis Alan talked about staying on Leon Russell’s land in Oklahoma soon after Russell had acquired it. It was while Russell and George Harrison, among others, were planning the Concert for Bangeladesh. Ramsey stayed in one of the small cabins on the lake – literally on the lake with a boat slip on the side – with his dog. At one point, he asked if anyone had a cough drop.

He took a short break, after which he returned to the stage to play a set of “mostly ballads.” The ballads included songs that were not on his first album, such as “Mockingbird,” “Desiree,” and “Boys Town.” Ramsey also played “Angel Eyes,” receiving a standing ovation, and ended with “Satin Sheets.”

Cyndy and I went to talk to Willis Alan and Alison where they were sitting on a couch. Cyndy had already talked to Alison when she went to the restroom. Alison had mentioned on stage that “in the ‘70s there was nothing to do in Dallas.” She went to Hockaday and Cyndy and I went to W. T. White which were not far apart, although not the same years.

“One of the only things to do in Dallas in the ‘70s was to hang out at the bowling alley at Preston Forest.”

“Oh my God,” Alison said. “I haven’t thought about that place in ages.”

When I got to the couch, Cyndy was talking to Alison again and introduced me to Alison. I told Willis Alan that I thought it was funny that he had asked for a cough drop, and I told him the story about the Chloraseptic incident. Alison got a kick out of the story. He looked at me with a knowing smile.

“I remember that, actually.”

Willis Alan Ramsey and Alison Rogers will be playing at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas on November 7 with Bob Livingston.

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