Morgan the Musician and Shannon the Chef

After years of music school and uncountable hours of practice Morgan makes a decent living playing jazz guitar in clubs and coffee shops and as a session musician at a local recording studio.

Following a similar path, Shannon studied under a chef who was a family friend and has worked for the past six years in various upscale restaurants.

Morgan, the musician, has always loved to cook. Guests at Morgan’s special dinners have always said “You should open a restaurant!” Morgan just smiles.

Shannon, the chef, took piano lessons as a child and a few years ago, started practicing in earnest. Guests at Shannon’s living room concerts say “You should play down at the coffee shop!” Shannon never took it seriously—before now.

One of Morgan’s friends was hosting a special dinner party for out of town business guests and begged Morgan to cater it. “Nothing fancy, do what you always do, but please, feed my guests!” Though Morgan initially refused payment, the friend insisted.

Without even asking, a friend of Shannon’s booked a gig at a local coffee shop. Based on some recordings the friend had made at a living room concert, they were glad to pay a small fee for the performance.

Since Morgan and Shannon share a network of friends, each is aware of the other’s vocation—and their avocation.

When Shannon was invited to a dinner party hosted by Morgan the musician, Shannon expressed genuine appreciation for the food, for the flavors and presentation. It never entered Shannon’s head to expect a professional presentation at the level Shannon was capable of. Morgan was, after all, a hobbyist, and amateur simply having fun with friends.

After one of Shannon’s living room concerts, Morgan asked about some of Shannon’s original songs, and expressed genuine appreciation for the arrangement of a cover tune Shannon had performed. Morgan wouldn’t dream of critiquing Shannon’s fingering on the fretboard or choice of material. Shannon is, after all, just having fun, an amateur. Music is Shannon’s hobby, that’s all.

Now, though, things are different. Morgan, a musician, is being paid to cook. Shannon, a chef, is making money with music.

Would you expect them to have different expectations of each other’s hobbies now?

Folks who hire Morgan to cater a dinner are delighted with not only the food, but the price. They couldn’t afford Shannon’s highly professional service anyway, so they’re just glad they can get something they like at a price they can afford.

The coffee shops where Shannon makes a few bucks, the living room concerts that pay in generous tips, are glad to have lively music played by someone who loves what they do, who does it well enough for their guests at a price that allows them to have live music instead of prerecorded.

If these clients are happy to pay Morgan and Shannon for what were once only hobbies, should the other be miffed that “Shannon’s guitar playing isn’t studio-ready” or “Morgan’s cooking would never make it in a fine restaurant”?

At what point does it become a professional artist’s right to set expectations for another artist?

When a hobby morphs into a side business does an artist owe patrons the same quality as leaders in their field?

Is an artist obligated to be excellent, world-class, top of their game, before they’re allowed to exchange their art for money?

Or is that between the artist and those who are exchanging their money for that art?

Mom and Dad and Bets

This is an excerpt from an unpublished work.

“Jacob, are you even listening to me?” His mom always seemed to think he was ignoring her.

the music“I didn’t hear you. Sorry.”

“I’m standing right here. I’m glad you love reading, but honestly, you get so lost in those books. Are you going or not?”

“Aw, mom. It’s a bunch of girls and they don’t even like music.”

“You can talk to girls. And even, heaven forbid, people who don’t like music.”

… more … “Mom and Dad and Bets”

The Music – Excerpt from an Unpublished Coming of Age Novel

The Music

When he first realized that no one else heard the music, he went to his room, sat on the bed, and stared at the closet door. It had never occurred to him that he was a freak, walking around with this noise in his head all the time.

the music

When his father used to tell him to turn off the record player and enjoy the peace and quiet, he’d been too baffled to respond. … more … “The Music – Excerpt from an Unpublished Coming of Age Novel”

Greenback Blues

While many of my songs are about Best Beloved, this one is not.

Although the lyrics reference any number of U.S. Presidents, the astute observer will note that it is not even remotely about politicians.

Without boring you with musicological details, the intro to this song is a challenge when we perform it live. While many of my other songs can be shifted up or down as much as a full key, those where I play the harmonica don’t have that luxury. Mostly because I don’t own enough harmonicas.

Someone called Ireland the land of happy wars and sad love songs. This song always feels like a little of both.

Greenback Blues

You should have married Andrew Jackson
I know that you think more of him than me
I’ll bet Ben Franklin would be fine with you
And that’s fine with me as far as I can see

Alexander Hamilton is only half as much
As Andrew Jackson in your twisted mind
George Washington‘s just peanuts; Abe Lincoln‘s not much more
But Grover Cleveland would be quite a find

Too bad Woodrow Wilson don’t circulate no more
Got your hands on him he’d never leave
But gimme just one Roosevelt to call a cab
And I’ll be gone for good you’d best believe

beautiful carelessly sultry: the song with no nouns

My buddy Charlie Cheney stuffs his songs full of nouns. Every time I’d send him a set of lyrics and say hey, wanna put this to music? he’d respond “Where are all the nouns?” Yes, I tend to write ethereal touchy feely stuff. (You should note that Charlie has shared the stage with Jackson Browne and I have not. I know which of us is the better songwriter. Still, I soldier on.)

Charlie and some folks once put together a song made entirely of nouns. It was fun, but it didn’t make as much sense as Charlie’s Palmer Johnson Yacht.

I responded with this song: beautiful carelessly sultry.

It has no nouns. Zero. (You’re writers. You know what that means.)

… more … “beautiful carelessly sultry: the song with no nouns”

Meta-Limerick

For 7 years I participated in February Album Writing Month. Short version: a bunch of loonies (over 10,000 last year) get together online and write a whole album of music.

limerickEach.

That’s 14 songs in 28 days. It’s crazy.

So crazy that the forums are filled with thousands of songwriters talking about it. As if writing 14 songs in 28 days wasn’t busy enough.

Eventually the FAWMku tradition arose. (February Album Writing Month = FAWM = the prefix for everything about the event.) Someone always started a forum thread with haiku about songwriting.

And every year, … more … “Meta-Limerick”