Track 13 - If You Say

 

Maybe pulls back the wrong curtain.

 

Track 12 - Good Morning, Mourning Dove

 

I didn’t think it was anything special when I wrote it.

 

Track 11 - Ghosts and Plastic Bags

 

I say, “Whoops!” when it happens.

 

Track 10 - Every Trick in the Book

 

I don’t want to get sued.

 

Track 9 - A Song About Birds

 

Here is a song that is not actually very good.

 

Track 8 - A New List

 

I don't know if anyone else feels what I do, but what do I care?

 

Track 7 - An Estimation Song

 

Perhaps that is my true talent, and I am wasting it by being too highfalutin.

 

Track 6 - Baseball Diamond

 

Picking good titles is hard, right? I'm not just imagining that, am I?

 

Track 5 - 19th C

 

Often when I announce a song by saying, “This song is about . . .”, whatever follows is invented on the spot.

 

Track 4 - Home (Right Lane for the Right Turn)

 

I made up some stuff about things with which I had no experience (typical writing trick), and *boom*, I had a song.

 

Track 3 - Bitter/Better (in the tradition of carpe diem)

 

If I were teaching this topic, I would use Billy Joel's “Only the Good Die Young” as an example, because it might as well have been written specifically for classroom use.

 

Track 2 - Shoes

 

Track 2 – Shoes

I worked at a certain shoe store for a long time. When people learned this fact the most common response was, “Everybody needs shoes.” Fair enough. The particular store I worked at specialized to some degree in work boots. I helped a lot of gruff dudes buy steel toes. In general people wanted the following things from work boots: infinite durability, domestic manufacture, water proof, oil proof, cosmic ray proof, slip resistant, light as a feather, and dirt cheap.

Some thing about that sales experience inspired at least the beginning of this song. I also felt I had 'something to say' in this song about labor unions or war or TV or something, but it really turned into an incomprehensible, condescending mish-mash. With hindsight, I think that was a OK. This is a catchy pop tune, and I think many catchy pop tunes are better when they are over confident and don't quite make sense.

Musically, I have always enjoyed the guitar part. I have always heard this with a 'full band' in my head, and maybe there will be a chance to do it that way some day. There is a meter change in the bridge that works on me every time. And, I go from the bridge straightaway to the final double chorus. Nice and efficient. No need for a third verse here!

The singing on this recording is not very good, but I'm not ashamed. The style of this song is somewhat different than the jangly, strummy type of stuff I was mostly doing, which is a nice contrast. The tempo I took back in 2005 was pretty quick, but thankfully it gives the track energy rather than ruining the song. In the end, it made the cut.

 

Track 1 - 500 lbs in a Room of One's Own

 

Track 1 – 500 lbs in a Room of One's Own

500 lbs is one of the earliest songs I wrote. You wouldn't know it from this recording, but it started as an imitation of 90's post-hardcore, specifically the band Braid. I had been playing this guitar part perhaps for years, trying different words with it. I still remember bits of those. I rejected those attempts because I was trying too hard to say something directly to the listener. Very pedantic. I knew that is not how (good) songs worked, but I couldn't come up with anything else for a long time.

Finally, I settled on something that bears many of the features of many how I still write songs today. The title, of course, is a play on the title of the famous Virginia Woolf piece which, to this day, I have not read, but felt an arrogant freedom to reference because of my Liberal Arts education. Another song (Bitter/Better) is more explicitly about this idea, but I love tiny changes in language that completely change meaning. So, 'pounds' (GBP) becomes 'pounds' (lbs) and 'and' becomes 'in'. This kind of wordplay also happens in the song, when verse one returns, slightly altered, as verse three. Such a clever boy am I!

From the punny title I get an idea for a joke, more or less. What if there was an oppressive, totalitarian state which brutally enforced health standards on all citizens? What if, specifically, you were unhealthily over weight (500 lbs) and you were imprisoned (in a Room of One's Own) and and controlled until you met the state's health standards? Now I have an idea for a song! This is another recurring theme in my songwriting: totalitarian dystopias. Go figure. The “everything moves in circles” business, for all its frequent repetitions, actually has nothing to do with the theme of the song. It does sort of refer to the form of the song and the return of the altered first verse, but really it was more of a “newspeak” ripoff idea, that this dystopia chose circles as one of its symbolic anchors.

This kind of humor in songwriting can be a emotional shield. I certainly was using it that way, especially this early in my writing. If the song is a joke, then I am not exposing myself directly to the potential rejection or criticism of the listener. Whew! This is very helpful to a coward like me. However, I also found that having a literal topic can gain me the freedom to explore the more important content of the song. 'Show, don't tell', and all the normal Creative Writing 101 stuff. One interesting feature of this song, which I only realize as I write this, is that the speaker in the song is the 'attendant' (read: jailer), while the main character is the prisoner. The only way we learn about the prisoner is through what the attendant says.

In my mind, this song is my first 'hit'. I played this at open mics in my college town and people seemed to really enjoy it. I think one reason people liked it is that the melody is slightly high in my vocal range, so I could really belt it out. This gives the vocal line a somewhat mournful, strident feel. I recorded it fast (on “5 Songs/5 Dollars”) and performed it fast week after week. This got boring to me. So, I slowed it down and changed the guitar part significantly to what you hear on this album. I started doing funny things like singing some “Stairway to Heaven” lyrics in the bridge section, etc. Thankfully, I got over that.

As I listen to this song, I still like it. It is no “Like a Rolling Stone”, but I am proud of it. It is humorous and somehow emotionally resonant. It is very interesting that such an early song is such a typical example of how I continue to write songs.

 

Live Album?

 

When I started making pop music, it happened in two ways:

-4-track recordings with as many instruments and as much drum machine as possible.

-Playing 3-song slots at open mics.

At the time, these things seemed very separate. Over the years, people kept saying things like, “I like your recordings fine, but I wish you had something that was like your live show.” Foolishly, I took this as an affront to my autonomy as an artist. Who were they to tell me how to do my art stuff?

After ten years of contemplation, I've decided they were correct. Here is a live album. These particular tracks were all recorded at the The Coffee House (the-coffee-house.com), a little venue with a lot of history in Milwaukee, WI. They also happened to be recorded by one person, Sandy Weisto. I am very thankful to both The Coffee House and Sandy, because they made these recordings possible and have been very kind to me.

These tracks come from three different years, 2005, 2007 and 2008. Listening through these recording, I hear great improvement over that time. I removed all the songs that had too many mistakes. I removed all the embarrassing on stage chatter. All that is left is a baker's dozen of pretty good performances. Many of these songs are already in my small recording catalog, but more than half are what the industry calls “previously unreleased”. I am happy these will “see” the “light of day”. Fans of my tunes might notice that some favorite songs are missing. That only means we have more to anticipate. How happy!

I am very thankful to Dora Klunk, who drew the “cover art” for this digital release. She responded to my request with a very excellent picture. She is a maker of many cool things. I'm sure she would make something for you if she could.

Anyway, I love you and I think you are great. Take care. Enjoy this music, if you dare.

 

John Muther "Live Album"

 

Guess what everyone? My “Live Album” is out! This is a digital-only release and you can get it from most purveyors of digital music. Here are the ways that you can help me:

1. BUY IT! You can buy it from:

Me directly

CDBaby.com

iTunes

Amazon

Google

2. LISTEN TO IT! You can also listen to it on major streaming services, like:

Spotify

Slacker

Rdio

Rhapsody

I am usually paid about half a penny on each 'play' on these services, and it adds up!

3. REVIEW IT! Write a short review on any of the stores or services listed above.

4. SHARE IT! Please also SHARE this with friends and family on social media. Link to my website or Facebook page. Post the track you like the best. This helps me more than you think!

If you are really feeling ambitious, you could do all four. It is not that hard. I don't have to tell you this, but the more music you buy from musicians, the more those musicians can buy groceries or replace the axles on their cars.

I will be posting about this album track by track through the next month or so. Please watch my Facebook page and website for those postings. Let me know what you think!

Take care.

John Muther

 

Every Trick in the Book 7" Vinyl Single

 

Hello Friends. It has been quite some time since I “officially” released any music. Guess what? Here are two “new” tracks!

 

http://johnmuther.com/music/s/every_trick_in_the_book1

http://johnmuther.com/music/a/bitter__better

 

These were recorded at Velvet Sky Studios in Milwaukee, WI under the auspices of Cat Dracula Records. How can you get these bomb tracks? Allow me tell you.

 

For $7 you can get:

1) Every Trick in the Book / Bitter-Better 7” vinyl single.

2) Download cards for mp3 versions of the above tracks

3) John Muther: Adventure Music bandanna (your choice of navy blue w/blue whale, green w/elk, red w/red fox, sky blue w/ arctic tern)

 

(You'll cover shipping too.)

 

Interested? Please contact me, and we will transact some business!

 

Also, if you like the tunes, but don't have $7, please recommend it to friends. It helps a lot.