Look, a Wheel!
I said to my wife, “Oh my God, there’s a wheel here!” and it gradually came to me that this thing fell here, something like a hundred years ago, when there were civil war armies encamped and entrenched in these western Maryland woods… What a story it could tell, if this wheel could talk, occurred to me right away, and soon after, I began to hear stories…
Now, as the singer and chief songwriter for the Americana/blues/rock band, Cousin John Band, I am accustomed to story lines bouncing around in my head, but this was the first time I wasn’t even in the story. Most of my songs previous had me as the main character, or the girl I was with at the time, or the girl I wished I was still with… you get the picture. So I scribbled down a few things and didn’t really think, I am gonna do this song. More like, what a cool wheel, I am gonna ask the farmer’s family if they know about this, (they didn’t), and, I’ll probably never be able to find this again… Just a bit of history, the Cousin John Band is a little band that plays bars and parties and the occasional festival in the DC area, and our songs are very bar-centric. As an example, when my Unitarian minister asked me to do a song at church, I looked at her blankly for ten seconds and then said, “they are not very appropriate, unless you are doing a sermon on drunken heart-break and other shenanigans”, or something to that effect.
My little sister was killed by her boyfriend, who had suddenly gone crazy… he was using drugs and acting weird, and we’re all having a real hard time just going on after that. So having a song in my head was a relief to me, it had been a while (maybe a year after she died) and I needed a song in my head right about then. Really needed it. But I couldn’t really write it, didn’t really think I was ready or able to do something larger than myself… Then I saw a thing online about ABigProject, a peace event that was looking for art and song entries, and I sent the bit of lyrics and my thoughts via email. The response I got, from the VP of the organization, Frank Dominguez, convinced me I had to try to do it, so I sat down and let the song write itself, and then I let it play itself on my acoustic guitar. So my first song about other people also became my first acoustic song, became our featured song in the 150-nation peace exhibition, including a video by Emmy/Oscar winning team Leo Eaton/Gary Griffin, and a visit to the UN to sing it in person during their event…thanks to a lot of help from other people too numerous to mention but they know who they are and that I love them. This last thing, the trip to New York city, was the biggest, scariest deal for me, and I was able to bring along a friend and mentor, Patty Reese, and she contributed a song as well. (by this time I’d become a Artist/ambassador for UNArtsforPeace, this small NGO affiliated with the UN, that does peace related stuff all over the world, and was beginning to pester artists from Bob Dylan to Dolly Parton, to help – no I didn’t meet him!)
Anyway, the song… I was afraid it would be boring and/or hard to understand a song made of little snips of lives carried by the wheel, but made the song the best I could, a real and honest glimpse of a long-dead era… it’s up to you to see the big picture, and figure out your own story, possibly from a different perspective.
The thing I would most want to say is that this song is the start of me writing honest songs that are roughly equal to my views of things and/or myself, and that it doesn’t have an extra great plot twist or anything, even though maybe it would be a better song if it did. It just has the actual plot twists of lives lived through a chunk of history, and as seen in the tiny glimpses I got through the wheel. So its just more or less realistic and life-sized, and just as well envisioned as I saw it, without a lot of slickness. And that’s ok, I think, because its not pop. But I guess that’s pretty obvious.