Frank Turner Interview

Written by: Liam Eales

He has been called the hardest working musician in the world. With over 7 albums 4 complication records (With an abundance of originals and covers), 2 books and numerous other side projects including hardcore band Mongol horde, Frank Turner has established himself as one of the most relentless artists of our time.

The closest England has come to producing their own Bruce Springsteen, Frank has a knack for blending his ideas, interests, passions, anxieties and personal life into fantastic sincere rock/folk/country/punk records. The kind of record that can be hard to find on the mainstream market in recent years.

His accomplishments include selling out Wembley Arena and playing at the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony in London.

The man is a master of his craft and owns the stage. Having played over 2000 shows and counting, he has no plans of slowing down.

If I haven’t made it painfully obvious yet, I’m a fan (A word he doesn’t like). So even though it is early days in my career, I thought I would reach out to ask Frank for an interview and try to allow him to introduce himself.


Liam: Hey Frank, how are you?

Frank: Good thank you. Happy to be home at the end of the year.

Liam: First of all, thank you for doing this during the busy holiday season.

Frank: A pleasure. It’s good to be home from tour and winding down for the year, if not the decade.

Liam: Awesome, well let’s get started.
So, you’ve just got off the Mongol Horde tour, this past summer you came out with an amazing new album No Man’s Land, your second book and a lot more touring, the album Be More Kind just a year earlier, as-well-as getting married! Where did you learn to have that kind of work ethic?

Frank: I come from two families. My father’s family is characterised by impatience, my mother’s by practicality. It seems to be a good mix.

Liam: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be more productive?

Frank: There are 24 hours in each and every day, you can use them all.

Liam: On top of all this, you still make time to meet and chat with fans, and leave your email open for them to write to you. I know we have met on a few of these opportunities you create.
However “ Fan” is a word I hear you don’t really enjoy using. Can you elaborate on that philosophy?

Frank: The word “fan” implies a permanent divide between the people who make music and the people who listen to it, and I’m uncomfortable with that. My early exposure to live music was through the London hardcore punk scene in the late 1990s, and it was a scene that was very much characterized by egalitarianism. When bands finished their set, they’d jump over the barrier and watch the next band. It’s ingrained in me from back then. I want my music to be part of a wider conversation between equals.

Liam: Speaking of fandom, you were recently name-dropped by the Boss (Bruce Springsteen) himself, on a list of more contemporary artists he enjoys. What was that like for you?

Frank: That was pretty surreal, but something I can be proud of for sure.

Liam: Eton College is a place that hung around your neck for years. Not the most punk rock place on earth. What is your relationship with your secondary school and are there positive things you have you have to say about it?

Frank: I don’t have a current relationship with my secondary school, I’m in my late 30s, that would be weird.
I didn’t enjoy it much at the time, and certainly didn’t choose to go there. I got out as soon as I could and started making my own choices. The education was, obviously, pretty incredible, and I’m grateful for that. But the social milieu was vile, and it’s something I’ve been trying to distance myself from since I first got there.

Liam: On your most recent tour, you did an unplugged set with the Sleeping Souls as well as a solo set for the No Man’s Land songs. In the unplugged set, you opened up about your past and created as sit down storytelling experience from songs across your discography. Why was this important for you to do?

Frank: I’m not sure I can say it was important as such – more that it struck me as interesting, as different, as a refreshing approach. I try not to repeat myself as an artist if I can avoid it. I’ve never tried that approach to a show before, so I got into it conceptually, and found it really inspiring actually. It’s given me a lot to think about going forward, both as a songwriter and as a performer.

Liam: Forgive me if I’m wrong, on No Man’s Land, it sounds like each song is sonically and lyrically tailored to stylistically fit the time period of each song’s story as-well-as tonally match the subject matter. Personally I find sounds incredible and incredibly, sonically diverse as a result (Jinny Bingham sounds like it could be ripped from Sweeney Todd, and Dora Hand sounds like it was being played by an actual cowboy). Was it difficult to write in various styles and learn so many new ways of crafting a song, all for one project?

Frank: That wasn’t the case on every single song – there’s precious little link between the music of “The Lioness” and the life and cultural world of Huda Sha’Arawi. But where I could make it make sense, I did.  Trying to write a jazz piece for Nica Rothschild was a major challenge for me, and one I enjoyed. I always want to try my hand at pushing my own boundaries a little, every time I make a record. I guess it was just more at the forefront this time around, given some of the subject material.

Liam: Have you ever thought about writing a musical?

Frank: I can’t say I’m a huge fan of musicals alas. That said, I have friends in that world more recently who’ve given me a deeper appreciation of the artistry involved. Still, not really for me.

Liam: Sierra Leone charity group WayOut Arts, is something you’ve been working with for a few years now. What can you tell us about them and how it’s inspired you?

Frank: They’re a group who use music as a conduit to reach some of the poorest and most marginalized people in the world. It’s really quite mind-boggling, visiting the slums and the camps, but then also meeting a lot of the people involved and hearing their stories, and seeing how much of an impact a group like WayOut can have on individuals’ lives. It’s a small group, they’re not going to change the world, but then again their size makes everything they do more personal. I like to think I have some genuine friends out there now, which is a lovely thing, and the fundraising I do for them enables them to make a huge impact.

NOTE: If you are interested in making a donation or finding out more about WayOut Arts their website is https://www.wayoutarts.org/

Liam: Known for being always on tour, you are finally making the rounds in South America. What took so long? and how does it feel to finally get over to that area of the world?

Frank: Touring in South America is, it turns out, not the easiest thing to organize, the scene there is still pretty wild west, there are a lot of sharks and you have to be careful about committing to travelling so far. Thankfully I finally found the right promoter, so I’m going at last. I’m excited, it’s a completely new part of the world for me. There are people excited about the shows, which is cool, and I hope to learn something new while I’m there too.

Liam: Author/Critic Clive James recently passed away. You often plugged him, and his writings as an inspiration for Be More Kind. Care to say a few words on his work and how it impacted you?

Frank: I was aware of his work as a television critic, but it was only comparatively recently (the last 10 years or so) that I became aware of his work as a cultural writer and poet. His erudition and wisdom blows me away, he might be my favourite prose writer ever, and he’s certainly hugely broadened my cultural horizons. The book “Cultural Amnesia” pretty much changed the way I think about everything.

Liam: Your catalogue is huge and a lot has been released in a short amount of time especially compared to other artists. What in your career are you most proud of? and/or what would you like to be remembered for?

Frank: In a way, the thing I’m proudest of is still being here, still standing. It’s a rare thing to sustain a career at this level for more than a decade, to release 8 albums, and still be selling tickets and making some kind of an impact. It was unlikely enough that I’d ever succeed, but to continue to do so after this long feels like a real achievement to me. Spending your time considering how you’ll be remembered strikes me as a slightly foolish thing to do, it’s quite narcissistic, plus I won’t be here then anyway by definition, so I can’t see why I should care that much.

Liam: The roaring 20s are about to begin! As I understand it you’re a man of history and learning as much as you are a musician. You went to University for 20th-century history, any reflections/analysis on the past decade and anticipations for the next?

Frank: I feel like we’ve lived through a decade that has seen a lot of political fragmentation and division in the west and north. That’s pretty worrying. But from a statistical point of view, we’re still living in the wealthiest, healthiest, most peaceful moment in the history of our species, and that’s something to consider and cautiously celebrate, in my view. There are huge challenges ahead, not least the state of the climate, but then I think we’re discussing that more than ever before, which is some small kind of progress

Liam:  What does the next decade look like for you? and any plans for next year, that you are at liberty to reveal of course?

Frank: I have no idea how the decade as a whole will go – in 2010, I’d have been surprised to see myself here, I’d imagine. Next year will be about touring, but also finishing off a new record for 2021. So there’s that.

Liam: Frank, thank you for joining us, it been a pleasure.

Frank: The pleasure was all mine.


So there you have it!

Frank will be on tour in 2020 and a new album 2021!

You can buy his latest album No Mans Land on his website https://frank-turner.com/

Unique Guitar Picks Created by Some Dude’s Pesopicks Stuart Brady

Before I get to my talk with Some Dude’s Pesopicks creator, Stuart Brady, I want to say a few words about the humble guitar pick.

If you play guitar, you probably know there are picks of all shapes, sizes, colors, thicknesses, designs, etc. 

You might even keep several guitar picks handy, and stop by the local guitar shop regularly to re-stock.  Picks are usually kept at the front of store and sold for under a dollar, near the other relatively inexpensive musical accessories like guitar strings, capos, etc. 

For such a small object, guitar picks are certainly an important part of guitar player’s setup.  They help define the sound, even though they don’t generally get a lot of credit.  

Guitar players can get rather particular about their picks, the more they develop a certain sound.  It is at this point that guitar players start to notice the different characteristics in the picks they like or dislike, and their preferences get more particular.

Some players want picks that have a grip, others like ’em smooth.  Some want them thicker, others want them paper thin.  Some like gimmicky picks that are covered in logos and designs, others like them with no symbols on them in just one color only. 

The type of pick you use depends on your own playing style more than anything, and that can take time to develop.

It’s worth mentioning, for the sake of beginner guitar players out there, that the type of pick does contribute something significant to the sound that’s being produced by the guitar. 

That said, guitar picks, for the most part, are made of plastic and many players don’t think about them much.  You just buy 10 for a dollar as you’re making other purchases, and if you drop them on the ground and lose them, many would say “Who cares?”

But some picks you might not want to lose.  

Pesopicks

The thing is, not all picks cost $0.25 and look cheap and shoddy.  Some guitar picks are worth showing off.

Enter: the Pesopick.

These unique picks are made from actual Mexican pesos by a dude by the name of Stuart Brady, AKA Some Dude.  In fact, his business name is Some Dude’s Pesopicks.

Here is the Pesopickdude himself standing with the late great Bill Paxton.

Stuart makes a living producing these Pesopicks by hand in his home state of Texas, home of some of the greatest guitar players of all time. 

He started making Pesopicks decades ago, in an effort to create a more durable, unique type of guitar pick that creates a deeper, richer sound.  They have other benefits as well, such as outlasting the person using them.

We were lucky enough to talk with Stuart about his prized creations.  We just had to get the lowdown on them straight from the source. 

Enjoy our Q&A with the the Pesopickdude!


What are Pesopicks?

Pesopicks are authentic Mexican pesos handcrafted into guitar picks.

How durable are these things?

They will last forever…the first one I made is owned by my best friend and is over 40 yrs old.  He still uses it everyday…they are heirlooms.

What do you like about the metal on metal sound?

They make your stringed instrument a little brighter and louder, creating awesome pinch harmonics…they are super fast due to less friction than other picks.

How much does a Pesopick cost?

They start at $50.00 and go up in price depending on type of peso and the work done to it.

What’s the difference between a Pesopick and your typical $.050 plastic guitar pick?

They don’t wear out and they wont harm strings…kinda of a nickel on nickel thing.

Is it true that Billy Gibbons has a soft spot for these picks?  Also, why does he like them so much?

Yes, Billy Gibbons loves them and I am currently making him a large order of them now. I believe he likes them because of the tones they create plus the mystique of the peso as a pick.

Who’s the intended audience of these types of picks?

The intended audience is anyone that wants to improve their technique and tone.

How long does it take to make one of these babies?

It normally takes me about an hour to complete one single pesopick…but I do about 30 to 50 in stages.

Do you ever run out of stock?

Sometimes I do run out of stock…but not for long…I have a lot of contacts.

How unique is each pick, would you say?

Each pesopick is unique, but they are consistent with the shape and size of a regular fender 357 style pick…they are never the same because of dings, dents and scratches on the face of the coin.

Do you use any other coins these days besides the peso?

Sometimes I’ll make a pesopick with a lire or shilling, or any cool high quality metal coin large enough.

Are they only good for rock music?

They work excellent on any electric guitar, acoustic guitar, or bass guitar without harming the strings.

Where can people get them?

They can be had by contacting me on Facebook at this time…however, a website is in the works and should be up and running soon.

Check out the Pesopick Facebook page!

10 Country Songs You Should Be Listening To Right Now (July 2018 Edition)

Summer is the perfect time to listen to country music and right now, there are so many amazing new country songs being released! In no particular order, check out our list of 10 country songs you should be listening to right now.

“Babe” – Sugarland

“Babe,” a midtempo pop-country song about a break-up, is written by Taylor Swift and Patrick Monahan of Train, but it’s performed by country music duo Sugarland. When Swift heard that Sugarland was making their first record after a six-year hiatus, she reached out and asked if they were interested in recording her song. Even though they had never recorded a song written by someone other than themselves, they agreed. From the guitar riffs to Swift’s backing harmonies, everything about the song is catchy and you’ll be singing along in no time.

Check out the “Babe” music video here:

“Life Changes” – Thomas Rhett

The lyrics in “Life Changes” – arguably Thomas Rhett’s most personal song – covers his music career, his marriage and the birth of his two kids. To reflect the changes in his life, Rhett went from singing “Now Lauren’s showing/Got one on the way/Yeah that’s two under two, hey, what can I say?” to “Now there’s Willa and sweet Ada James/Yeah that’s two under two, hey, what can I say?”  While instrumentally, the song is closer to pop than country, lyrically, the song tells his personal life story – which is exactly what country music is all about.

Listen to “Life Changes” here:

“Simple” – Florida Georgia Line

Country music duo Florida Georgia Line kick it old school with their single “Simple” which they wrote with Michael Hardy and Mark Holman. FGL is known for straddling the pop-country line, but this upbeat tune features all the country fixins – catchy whistling hooks, layers of acoustic guitars and banjo riffs.  Plus, the music video features a super fun barn dance and the most perfect Notebook-esque love story.

Check it out here: 

“Pushing Up Daisies (Love Alive)” – Brothers Osborne

Country music duo Brothers Osborne show a softer side of them with the heartfelt “Pushing Up Daisies (Love Alive).” The song, which they wrote with Kendall Marvel, talks about a love so strong it never dies and it’s filled with everything the duo is known for – clever lyrics, wicked guitar solos and catchy melodies. It’s the perfect song to listen to on a summer night with your significant other.

Listen to “Pushing Up Daisies (Love Alive)” here: 

“New Light” – Baylor Wilson

Baylor Wilson is an up-and-coming country artist in Nashville, Tennessee and “New Light” is her newest tune. The song, which she wrote with Jordan Minton and Jordyn Shellhart, features Wilson’s signature raspy voice and lyrics that tell her personal story. From start to finish, you can’t help but be drawn in by every honest line. 

Get “New Light” here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/new-light-single/1402088312

“Rich” – Maren Morris

“Rich,” Maren Morris’ newest single, is hands down one of the most clever songs ever written. In the second verse, Morris, who co-wrote the song with Jessie Jo Dillon and Laura Veltz sings, “If I had a dime every time that you crossed my mind/Well I’d basically be sitting on a big ass pile of dimes/And all the times that you make my heart feel cheap I might as well have won the lottery/All of this pain and me cursing your name would just turn into dollar signs.” Not only is it fun and hilarious, but it’s admittedly honest and relatable.

Make sure you check out the song here: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/rich/1214433730?i=1214433972

“Tequila” – Dan + Shay

“Tequila,” the new single by Dan + Shay, is a piano ballad about heartbreak. Even though the song is a ballad, it has intense melodies, bold instrumentation and strong lyrics. The song builds and explodes at all the right places, leaving you hanging on to every word and every note.

Check out the music video here: 

“Drowns the Whiskey” – Jason Aldean ft. Miranda Lambert

“Drowns the Whiskey,” written by Josh Thompson, Brandon Kinney and Jeff Middleton, is performed by Jason Aldean and features Miranda Lambert. The song tells a story of heartbreak where the male narrator tries to “drown the memory” of a past lover with whiskey, but fails to forget, and so the “memory drowns the whiskey.” The idea is simple, yet clever, and Aldean and Lambert’s voices blend well together.

Check out the song here: 

“Break Up In The End” – Cole Swindell

“Break Up In The End” is an acoustic guitar ballad written by Jon Nite, Chase McGill and Jessie Jo Dillon and performed by Cole Swindell. The song shows a softer side of Swindell, who is known for releasing upbeat pop-country songs. Swindell has said that the message of “Break Up In The End” is that “it’s better to have loved than to not have the chance to.”

Watch the music video here:

“Get Along” – Kenny Chesney

“Get Along,” written by Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman, and Josh Osborne, is performed by Kenny Chesney and is the ultimate summer song. It’s super catchy, super fun and super upbeat. Plus, it’s got a great message about getting along and finding common ground.

Watch “Get Along” here: 

Bill Monroe – Mandolin Masters Series

Bill Monroe is a very important figure in the world of mandolin. He helped create bluegrass music, earning him the title Father of Bluegrass.

A Bit About Bluegrass Style

Bluegrass is encompassed by the genre of country music, taking root in Irish, Scottish and English music while incorporating elements of jazz. These traditional music styles often take the form of ballads and folk dance music. When listening to bluegrass you will notice that different instruments take turns playing lead roles, known as the head of the song. These are often improvised around while one instrument plays the melody, and this is where the jazz inspiration comes in.

When bluegrass was born, this style was so different compared to old-time music, where all the instruments would play in harmony together, or one would lead and others would accompany. There is traditional bluegrass with acoustic instrumentation; progressive bluegrass, which uses electric instruments or other music styles; and bluegrass gospel, which uses Christian lyrics and soulful singing.

Bill Monroe – Mandolin Master

Bill Monroe played traditional bluegrass, which uses acoustic instrumentation with traditional chord progression. He was born in Rosine, Kentucky in 1911 to a musical family that sang and played music at home. Many famous musicians grew up this way, enabling them the early practice that would turn them into stars. His brothers played the fiddle and guitar, so he was rather forced to take on the mandolin.

His mother died when he was ten, and his father died when he was 16. This forced him to live with varying aunts and uncles, until he settled with his uncle Pendleton Vandiver who would accompany him with the fiddle at dances. Monroe recorded a song in 1950 entitled “Uncle Pen” for him, and later in 1972 recorded an entire album called Bill Monroe’s Uncle Pen. Indeed, it was Uncle Pen who taught him all the ways of that music including a large repertoire of fiddle songs from traditional music: these songs are what got into Bill’s bones and created a hunger for the fast-paced melodies. 

He also gave credit to a fiddler and guitarist named Arnold Shultz who introduced him to the blues. 

He moved for work in 1929. While working at an oil refinery with his brothers, they played music together until 1938. He spent some time searching for band members and eventually formed Blue Grass Boys, whose songs had the early beginnings of bluegrass style including fast tempos and virtuosic instrumentation. Monroe was still experimenting with his band’s sound. He only sang tenor harmony rather than lead vocals; likewise, his banjo player did not play any solos.
 

All of the recordings from 1940-1945 showed a transitional style between tradition string-band music and the genre he was about to create. These new additions to the music included a rhythm guitarist (Lester Flatt) that would help keep the time, and a banjo (Earl Scruggs) played with three-finger picking style. Monroe and his band Blue Grass Boys performed at the Grand Ole Opry and added fiddler Chubby Wise and bassist Howard Watts. This band recorded 28 songs between 1946 and 1947, and these songs would come to be known as the classics of the bluegrass genre. Some of their best known songs are “Toy Heart” and ballad “Blue Moon of Kentucky” which was later recorded by Elvis Presley in a rock-n-roll style.

Bill Monroe also recorded some gospel songs, with four-part vocals accompanied by mandolin and guitar. He felt the church songs should be as raw and true and possible.

Flatt and Scruggs left the band in 1948 to form their own group, but Monroe went onto the golden age of his career with new members in the Blue Grass Boys, including lead vocals and rhythm guitar, banjo and fiddler. It was with this new band he recorded his song Uncle Pen, with other bluegrass classics like “My Little Georgia Rose” and a mandolin feature called “Raw Hide.” These years saw big success for the band until Monroe and bass player Bessie Lee Mauldin were in a car accident. He spent four months recovering from the injuries until he resumed touring.

Into the late 1950s, bluegrass had lost its popularity and there was less and less demand for his band’s live performances, despite their regular spot on the Grand Ole Opry. However, the popularity of folk music in the 1960s brought him back into the spotlight as young students and fans of folk saw him and Blue Grass Boys as folk rather than country. They expanded past the southern country music scene in the later 1960s and was the central figure of a 1965 bluegrass festival in Virginia. The diverse backgrounds of his band members contributed to an overall more diverse sound and they were widely received.

Blue Grass Boys c. 1966

The bluegrass revival went into the late 1960s and 1970s and his band continued to record and release music up into the 1980s. In 1989, he celebrated his 50th year on the Grand Ole Opry.

His last performance was March 15, 1996, and he passed away September 9, 1996 in Springfield, Tennessee.

5 Famous Jazz Mandolin Players

Mandolin takes 20th century root in American bluegrass and jazz style, both of which utilize tight improvisation and quick movement. With this article we take a look at five famous mandolin players who make/made significant contributions to the jazz mandolin style.

 1. Jethro Burns

Kenneth Charles Burns earned the name Jethro after touring as comedic duo Homer and Jethro back in the 1930s, with Henry D. Haynes. He brought humour to his mandolin acts, telling jokes between songs. His great energy and humour combined with impeccable mandolin picking and original style made him a mandolin legend.

He was a country musician, but played jazz style on the mandolin, using clean, single-note melodies rather than bluegrass style. He was responsible for introducing jazz melodies and methods of playing to country mandolinists. Growing up in the big band era, he took a lot of influence from Cole Porter and Duke Ellington.

Over the decades and into the 1970s he had inspired an entire younger generation of acoustic musicians. In this same decade he wrote several columns for Mandolin World News on both music and humour.

He toured with Haynes, Ken Eidson and Steve Goodman. He was a great entertainer, a master teacher of mandolin jazz, and was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

  1. Paul Glasse

Paul Glasse grew up in New York. As a young person he was drawn to the acoustic sound of the mandolin. Growing up he listening to bluegrass, old timey and New England traditional music, and moved to Austin, Texas in 1977 to sturdy under Tiny Moore who taught him Texas Swing. This genre is quick in tempo and blends early country with jazz harmony, a la 1930s swing. To this day, Paul is known for this style.

In the 1980s he won several mandolin contests for his master picking including the Buck White International Mandolin Championship. His signature skills include improvisation and head, where he takes on the lead of a song, or its main theme.

  1. John Reischman 

John Reischman has a large repertoire of songs and styles, whether he is writing original pieces and touring with his band the Jaybirds, re-inventing old-time tunes, or playing bluegrass. He is renowned for his mastery of the mandolin, which he began playing in the 1970s, and helped build the new acoustic sound.

He was highly influenced by early bluegrass mandolinists such as Jethro Burns and David Grisman. Over the years he has collaborated with many artists, creating new hybrids of cross-cultural sounds on the mandolin due to his interest in musical rhythms and stringed instruments.

In addition to his collaborative albums he also has three solo albums, on which he performs both original songs and traditional tunes. He stands at the forefront of American Bluegrass style, but his mandolin style is very jazzy in the sophisticated interplay between himself and other instruments, and his ability to improvise.

  1. Tony Williamson 

Tony Williamson is a mandolin virtuoso, bringing his extensive knowledge of musical intruments and their histories to his playing. For 40 years he has delighted audiences across the globe with his superb mandolin playing, and when he is not playing he is selling vintage and pre-owned instruments. This originated with his grandfather, who made musical instruments and inspired his grandchildren Tony and brother Gary, on banjo, to begin playing in 1957.

By 1969 Tony and his brother were child sensations and won World Championship. He received his degree with highest honours at University of North Carolina where he was born and raised, and after graduating, went on tour with the Bluegrass Alliance. From there he played in a number of bands utilizing classical, folk and jazz styles on his mandolin.

His work with the mandolin is largely responsible for its modern-day popularity, as he is immensely talented as a player but also highly knowledgeable. He shows his collection of vintage guitars and mandolins to crowds, demonstrating their tone and craftsmanship. It is rare to find instruments like these being used, as opposed to sitting in museums. He continues to record, using F-5 mandolins from the 1920s (around the time Gibson had invented this model). 

  1. Don Stiernberg 

Don Stienberg has been playing mandolin for fifty years, and in this time period he has also performed, written, recorded, produced and taught. He was born in Chicago and is based there. As a child he was gifted a mandolin, and was sent to study with Jethro Burns, who became role model, mentor and friend. Don lived and breathed mandolin and played in a bluegrass band called The Morgan Brothers, and later in The Jethro Burns Quartet.

He is currently regarded as a trailblazer for the jazz mandolin style. His working band is called The Don Stiernberg Trio, with whom he recently recorded his ninth music project. The trio has performed across North America and in Germany and Brazil. He participates in The Mandolin Symposium in California and several mandolin and acoustic camps across the United States, Italy, Germany and Brazil.

How To Write A Hit Country Song

melissa koehler live in concert elmira maple syrup festival

Enjoy our chat!


YC: Hi Melissa, how are you today?

MK: I’m good, thanks! How are you?

MK: Okay.

MK: I like to consider myself that, yes.

MK: Haha, probably “Chevrolet” and “Monster-In-Law” off my EP, called Narrator, as well as “Easy” which was a song I wrote about a year ago. Those are songs I’m proud of both lyrically and instrumentally.

melissa koehler narrator album coverCheck out Narrator on iTunes now!

YC: Ah ok, and so then the inevitable question of “What makes a hit song?” .. or a hit country song, because there might be a difference between writing a hit for country, and writing one for say.. alternative rock, I’m assuming.

MK: Country music is lyrically driven. First and foremost, it’s about stories. They can be sad, they can be funny, they can be happy, they can be clever, but they are always about stories. There’s always a point behind it. That being said, all the lyrics don’t necessarily have to be there when you first go to write the song, but your idea or your point, or your concept as I like to call it, has to be there. I think you have to know what exactly you want to write about when you sit down to write a song.

MK: “Follow Your Arrow” by Kacey Musgraves. Hands down.

MK: I have slightly different reasons for liking different artists, but above all I like the artists who aren’t afraid to say things. To me, Kacey Musgraves has a very country sound instrumentally, yet incredibly clever and contemporary lyrics. Other favourites of mine would be Dean Brody. I think he’s an amazing storyteller, from sad stories to happy stories, and he’s not afraid to experiment with melodies that range from pop-country to country-country. I also really admire Kip Moore. He’s got more of a country rock sound, and he writes story type of songs, but then he’s also got a ton of songs with that focus on a point or a message. They all write songs with a purpose, and I think that’s important to do when you’re writing a country song. You start with a topic/point/message/concept, and then you define the sound of that song based on that story or message you’re telling

First verse: That boy made my heart race, was perfect in every way

He bought me a white dress, a house with a picket fence

I complained he didn’t have a flaw,

Well then I met my soon to be mother in law

Chorus: And I never ran so fast, it’s a pity our love couldn’t last

I really tried to like this lady, but she was actually crazy, by dessert I was long gone

That woman was his flaw, I didn’t like what I saw, I didn’t want his crazy mother to be my monster in law

Second verse: She didn’t like the way I dressed, said my hair was a mess,

She said I didn’t love him right, I cried myself to sleep that night

She made me want to run and hide

I had no choice but to say goodbye

Bridge

He swore up and down that she was nice

I’d rather have a broken heart than this lady in my life

MK: Haha true!

YC: I think a lot of hit songs have that resonating truthful quality, and the lyrics are relatable .. maybe not to everyone, but to some people.

MK: Hahah yeah.

MK: Thanks! I think country music is very formulaic, and because I listen to it so much, and love it, it’s just the way I naturally write. I don’t think too much about it. I sit down with an idea, find the music, and then write the rest of the lyrics. If it is catchy I keep it, and if it’s not, I don’t.

MK: Nah, I don’t want to sing a song that’s boring haha.

MK: Bye!

Badass Females in Country Music

badass female country singers

It’s no secret that country music is both male dominated AND conservative. With the development of “bro-country,” female country singers have far less radio time. On top of that, it’s been said that “if you’re a female performer, you have to be original, but not that original; you have to be strong, but not that strong” (Jancelewicz, Chris, Global News, 2017). In other words, female country singers who speak their minds are not celebrated in country music.

Thankfully, women are responding to this; they’re talking about it, supporting each other and letting the girls play. In Nashville, organizations such as the Song Suffragettes and WIM Nashville are giving females a platform to speak, write and sing through all-female showcases. And right here in Kitchener, Ontario, Rhapsody Barrel Bar has been known to support female musicians through their female showcases on Thursday nights.

As listeners, we need to support women in music. We need to request their songs, go out to their shows and listen to what they have to say. To start, check out our list of badass females in country music who aren’t afraid to speak their minds.

#4 – Sister C

Sister C, who appeared on season 2 of The X Factor, consists of Cirby, Carli and Celbi Manchaca, three sisters from Texas. Faint of Heart, off their debut EP, is a hilarious and clever song that aims to shed light on inequality. In the second verse, the three sisters sing, “He makes more money than you’ll ever bring home / ‘cause you’ve got a double x chromosome.” The whole song is filled with hilarious, yet insightful one-liners.

Check out the song on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/demo-sessions-vol-1-ep/1082229066?app=music&ign-itsct=1082229066-1082229066&ign-itscg=0176&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

#3 – Kalie Shorr

Kalie Shorr is a regular performer of the Song Suffragettes female showcase in Nashville. Last year, she co-wrote and released “Fight Like A Girl.” The song spins the usually negative term “fight like a girl” into a positive and powerful movement about letting the girls play. In the video, Shorr salutes the struggles women fought through in the past. With lyrics like “I’m perfume sweet and whiskey strong / I damn sure ain’t no underdog” and “You say I can’t, well darling watch me / You can’t stop me because I fight like a girl,” Shorr’s message is clear; she’s fighting for equality in country music.

Get “Fight Like A Girl” on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fight-like-a-girl-single/1070908049

#2 – Maren Morris

When Maren Morris released her debut album Hero, people freaked out that the word “shit” appeared in three of her songs (“Rich,” “Sugar” and “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry”). While not one of her singles, “Rich” is clever and hilarious. Morris sings, “’Cause all the little lies rolling off your lips is money falling from the sky / Shit I’d be rich.” In response to people’s shock over her cursing, Morris has said that it shouldn’t be that surprising because it’s real life conversation.

Get yourself a copy of Hero here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/hero/id1103499163

#1 – Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves is not afraid to speak her mind, and she doesn’t care what you think about it. “Follow Your Arrow,” the third single off her debut album Same Trailer Different Park, advocates following your heart – a theme that is recurrent throughout many of Musgraves’ songs. More specifically, “Follow Your Arrow” is all about doing what you want, loving who you love and smoking a joint – if you’re into that. Even though the album won a Grammy for Best Country Album and the song won Song of the Year at the 2014 CMA Awards, the song received little radio play. Instrumentally, the song is reminiscent of the classic country sound, but with lyrics like “kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into” and “when the straight and narrow gets a little too straight, roll up a joint,” the song was deemed too controversial for the conservative country music genre.

Get “Follow Your Arrow” here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/follow-your-arrow/604129427?i=604129902