“Songwriting… It’s All About the Song, Song, and Song”

It hit me when I saw that Lori McKenna released her new album, The Tree on Friday, July 20th. I immediately downloaded it and played it straight through three or four times. She first grabbed my attention in 2004 with her song Stealing Kisses, which was recorded a couple years later by Faith Hill. Lori’s song Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw won CMA’s Song of the Year and the Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 2017 and Lori was awarded the Songwriter of the Year by the Academy of Country Music the same year. She’s at the top of the songwriter’s mountain and deservedly so. The Tree is filled with great songs and I highly recommend you listen to it. She has a profound and undeniable ability to tell a story and touch your heart in less than four minutes. The songs A Mother Never Rests, People Get Old, Young and Angry Again, The Way Back Home, and Like Patsy Would moved me the most, but listen to the entire album and you’ll find your own favorites. Maybe because I’m getting old and have a daughter, but I love the official video to People Get Old.

Songs are the cherished heart and searcher’s treasure to the soul of music… everyone is looking for that rare, special one. The three most important things in the music world are… song, song, and song. The great songwriters are few and far between. Every great singer is looking for a great song. The music business has changed dramatically in the past ten years, but arguably more for the songwriters of the world than anyone else. The days of making a living from getting a song recorded on an album are gone. The only songs that generate significant sums of money are hits. There are no “B” sides or album cuts anymore. Of course, everything changes… the world is constantly changing. There’s not a high demand for buggy whips either.

My recent move to Nashville brought change to my front door. Damn this town has changed in the last five years. It reminds me of what happened to Austin. I can’t even recognize Austin anymore… and for many reasons. When my partners and I built a studio on 6th Street in the early 1980s, “Sixth Street” was not a destination for tourist or college kids and there were no “Keep Austin Weird” t-shirts. We named our studio Pecan Street Studios because that was the original name of Sixth Street in Austin.

Pecan Street Studio was used to record some of the greatest singer-songwriters known. We recorded albums and demos for artists such as Carole King, Jerry Jeff Walker, Joe Ely, Guy Clark, Christopher Cross, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Marcia Ball, and numerous others. The Clash and Dire Straits used our large rehearsal space to rehearse for their U.S. Tours. It was a special time and we didn’t even know it.

One of my favorite memories was recording all night and driving to East 6th-Street to Cisco’s Bakery for breakfast. Thank goodness that hasn’t changed. It’s still there and serves the same great Tex-Mex breakfasts it did in the 1940s. In fact, the new ownership team includes the grandson of the restaurant’s founder and namesake Rudy “Cisco” Cisneros. I asked Donna Britt to give me a recipe of one of my favorite Cisco’s breakfasts… Huevos Rancheros, which Cisco claimed he was, “The man who made huevos rancheros famous.”

Donna Britt’s recipe for Huevos Rancheros:

2-3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
Pinch of sea salt

Combine the tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Stir to combine then set aside for later.

Heat a can (15 ounce) of rinsed black beans with a swirl of olive oil, a splash of water, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus a little salt and pepper and lime juice. Keep warm.

Warm about 2 cups of your favorite jarred or homemade salsa in a pan over medium heat. In a small skillet, also over medium heat, warm a tortilla, one at a time, until slightly charred. Keep warm.

Add a swirl of olive oil or butter or both to that same skillet and fry eggs. This dish is typically served with sunny side up eggs (that means they’re a little runny).

Place a tortilla on each plate and top with a fried egg, the warmed salsa, the pico and black beans. You can also add avocado if you want. Season with more freshly ground black pepper.

This amount of pico and salsa is good for about four servings.

There have been great singers, who were also great songwriters, but it’s not as common as one would think and is especially noteworthy when it happens. I think I’ve found a new one. I wrote about her in my blog “144th Kentucky Derby and Trisha Gene Brady, aka TGB”. I’ve been fortunate to have spent a little time with her and truly believe my instincts were 100% correct.  She has a remarkable voice, talent for painting and photography… but she’s even more special as a human being.

In keeping with my plan to invite artists to share their thoughts and feelings about whatever they choose, I asked Trisha Gene to add to this week’s blog. After reading her soulful insights to herself, her passion for music, and love of life, I can’t wait to hear the new songs she’s writing. If the songs match that gifted voice she has, we are all in for a truly remarkable ride.

After reading her words below, see if you agree. In case you don’t know how she sounds, listen to the title song she wrote for her EP “I Have You”.  Welcome Trisha Gene Brady in her words:

Sunday, July 15th.

As I rolled through storms back home to Knoxville from a late night in Nashville I received a text.

“Can you open for the Indigo Girls tonight at the Bijou Theater?!?”

It just so happened that Lucy Wainwright had missed her flight and they needed an emergency fill on a 40-minute solo set. The Indigo Girls were into me opening the show but I needed to be there in 2 hours for sound check- if I could make it!! From cold sweats to self-doubt and butterflies my emotions ran the gamut.

Can I do this? Do I have enough new material? Am I ready??

Then I did what I knew I’d be kicking myself for years if I didn’t… I said yes.

Now, let me go back here and say no, this isn’t my first rodeo. I’m only 18 months free of a band that consistently played upward of 200+ shows a year for almost 9 years running. I was female lead/duet/harmony so I grew used to the stage and being with an audience, but I’m still finding my solo legs. And though I was very much a lead spot on stage and on albums I was unfortunately not within the team. To meet my fullest potential my split from the group was a complete necessity.

However, necessary does not equal easy or less scary.

My last year and half has consisted of an amazing amount of song writing, gardening, family, boating, canning, recording, putting out an EP, playing a small amount of fabulous shows, and feeding my soul so that my songs can reflect that.

I’ve just started to prep for getting back to a touring schedule with this new music and the hurdles are typical of any musician in my situation…

to band or not to band? It’s not easy keeping folks together (as I know better than most)…

manager vs. booking, what first?…
how much road time do I really want to put in?…
and the first and hardest, music or not?? This is the big one that I had to face head on. I have an MFA in media art and a university level teaching background, which means I walked away from academia for a completely creative yet financially uncertain lifestyle.

But, music is in my soul and it’s how I connect with people on the largest level. More than teaching, creating a piece of art, or cutting a film. It’s my biggest addiction and one I’m truly thankful to have found.

Music is my life!

Now here I am, finding my way as a solo artist in a very difficult and unknown world where women are digging in the hardest just to get a chance to play.

So, I said YES!

I went straight home to take care of the dog and chicken before heading to the Bijou. These are the moments when it truly pays off to know the audio engineer/crew at a venue and this one happens to have some of the best.

I walk in stage side, give hugs and thanks to the IGs and staff, set up my gear and do a quick half song sound check… beautiful!!

When it sounds that good how can it go wrong?? And let me tell you, it surely didn’t.

I took some time to get ready, warm up, and remember to slow down. I made my set list while listening to the lovely sounds of the IGs warming up and just tried to soak up the moment.

It was such a different feeling to be backstage with these impressive and connective women! It felt right!!

I made my way stage side and, like so many times before, it all fell into place as I walked out into the warm glow. The room was mine… and I had them! This open and loving crowd gave such acceptance and validation and for me I passed a test. Maybe the biggest of my life to date…

A few days after the show I was contacted by the Bijou about returning to open for Shelby Lynn (this Friday, July 27), which I happily agreed to.

I’m honored that they felt strongly enough about my last set to have me and am so very thankful for their support!

I have a couple of full band shows coming up and I’m sure I’ll be adding things like these Bijou shows as they come along, but I’m still writing and finding my path to this full length album. I’m taking these wonderful opportunities as they present themselves, one at a time, and deciding if it’s going to fulfill me? Is this going to be a connective experience that leads me forward on my journey? It’s all about a full heart and a full life!!

Thank you for taking this journey with me and thank you Witt for taking your own journey and inspiring so many others to just be. Much love, TGB

Thank you TGB.  I love your spirit… your heart and soul.  I hope you find and take the path you feel is truly yours.  Find out more about Trisha at her website.

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