Rob Birdwell | Letters to Myself

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Folk: Folk-Jazz Blues: Folk-Blues Moods: Solo Male Artist
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Letters to Myself

by Rob Birdwell

Known by many as a "horn" guy (Trumpet and some Sax, arranger/composer), he showcases a bit of his songwriting craft. It's an intimate portrait of a songwriter at work, writing tunes that explore an array of comical and introspective themes.
Genre: Folk: Folk-Jazz
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Another Name For It
4:46 $0.99
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2. Something About This Town
3:47 $0.99
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3. That's Not the Way To Love Me
3:02 $0.99
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4. Old Mountain
4:02 $0.99
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5. We Did It
5:14 $0.99
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6. Danny Wore a Fisherman's Cap
3:21 $0.99
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7. Things Can Only Get Worse
4:59 $0.99
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8. End of the World Party
2:42 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Letters to Myself - Liner Notes

Another Name For It - Contains all the first chords I learned on Mandolin and some I’m not sure I know yet! The lyric to this one came out nice I thought - hardly any sign of a struggle.

Something About This Town - Don’t be fooled by the sometimes pleasing sounds. This is a dark and scary town I’m singing about. It was partially inspired by a Stephen King short story in which a young couple get lost on a logging road in the Pacific Northwest, only to discover a very strange little town. My version is very much distorted from King’s vision, but like King there’s a bit of humor mixed into the macabre. With lyrics like “the girls are a little bit hairier / but I don’t think they’re any scarier than other city girls” I probably just signed my ticket to obscurity forever - well, that’s just the way it goes.

That’s Not The Way To Love Me - A tip of the hat to one of my favorite singer songwriters, Elvis Costello, with a bit of Roy Orbison in there too. I especially think this tune could work well performed by a female - I might even prefer it that way, but the male version is the way it leaves the gate. Despite the somewhat maudlin title, I actually came up with it as a joke - it just sounded funny to me. As of July 2010, I couldn’t find a single song title matching this when I searched google. Could this be a true classic song, one that generations of writers simply neglected to write?

We Did It - This is a 100% true story, probably the only one in the batch! Happy anniversary Christel, my splendiferous wife of all these years. It still seems like yesterday to me. Our son, Frey Birdwell, plays guitar!

Danny Wore A Fisherman’s Cap - There really was (and hopefully still is) a guy named Danny. He was a building maintenance guy where I worked and he was a very nice man. Danny always went out of his way to do a good job and took an interest in everyone’s life - I found his stories to be interesting, although I was too young to grasp the gravity of his life situation and the challenges he certainly must have faced. I can’t say for sure if he wore a fisherman’s cap though; probably more like an L.A. Dodger’s baseball cap. Grant me some poetic license here.

Things Can Only Get Worse - They say every song needs an angle and I thought this one played out pretty well. My youngest daughter, Maja Birdwell, sings the improvised vocal fills! “Fortune has a tendancy to favor the unplanned / Fortune needs no pilot / She flies unmanned” is one of my favorite lines - worth the struggle!

End of the World Party - I woke up one morning completely enveloped with an incredibly vivid dream of being lost in Los Angeles: I was alone, amongst strangers who all seemed very busy with their party plans and relationships. I must have left before the fun started, because I was soon wandering the streets of L.A., lost, trying to get home. When I awoke I wondered, for hours, what it all meant, so I wrote a song about it. My youngest daughter, Maja Birdwell, sings with me on this one!

Honey Bee - Not originally conceived as part of this collection, this track was unfinished from my summer of 2009 “Cheap Sensations” sessions, which never materialized into a CD release. I was losing interest in most of the material and the burdensome production I seemed to be venturing into was sucking all my creative energies and crashing my computer. So I created a CD called “Sweet Surrender” instead, which was almost completely improvised and had very little in the way of “producing” other than performing and mixing two tracks together. So in the summer of 2010 I re-opened this particular track only to discover it had “bonus track” written all over it. It’s really just a simple little blues tune. I produced it with my Steely Dan hat on, but when I channel Elvis (Presley) and play it on Mandolin, it’s got a really cool vibe to it too.

Futher Reading - Back-Story Behind Some of the Songs

The songs in this collection started out as rough demos (and one might argue they still are!) as I was learning to play Mandolin. Why not just stick to the dang horn you might say? We’ll, I’m musically restless. I walk into a music store and wish I owned the whole place so I could spend all my time dabbling.
On a whim, Viking (from The Svens) loaned me his Mandolin in January of 2010 and I fell in love with the sound and musical possibilities it offered. I'm very rough around the edges on it, but without that little 8-string wonder most of these songs would never have been written or recorded! And I haven't played this much Bass since my Bird From Mars days, so that was pretty interesting...and humbling. I had a nice lesson with Joe Sikich who showed me how to navigate the Mandolin a bit better. Naturally, this was long after I’d committed a number of tracks. Ah, ignorance is bliss (until you have to mix it all later!).

With Mandolin in hand and some ideas/lyrics for songs, the end results were coming out parsed down to the bare essentials. Little fills, melodies and musical “icing” began to overlay my usual tracks. Some songs that I’d had sitting around for a summer or two were re-evaluated with the new possibilities of strum and hints of twang. Eventually, my “just for me” demos seemed like they might be worthy of sharing. Well, here they are!

In general I simply enjoyed the process of getting lost writing these songs. Once the lyrics took form they almost sounded like they were were messages intended for some other "me" in a different place and time. And that’s not unique to my work and I see it all the time in other writers’ work. Still it’s always a interesting to step back from the passion that compelled the writing of a song and wonder: “Where is this stuff coming from?!”

The line between writing something for orchestra, a jazz group or a simple song has always been a fuzzy one for me since I enjoy each so much and they all seem like they're cut from the same cloth anyhow. I like to imagine there's some sort of convergence coming at some point. That's why I've never stopped writing and producing my little songs or 'bon-bons' as I call them. I may not produce or release all the songs I write (I have a lot of them!) but I get a lot of pleasure out of the simple things and this particular set of songs formed into what I thought was a pretty cohesive collection - they are a glimpse into some of my experiences and dreams. My hope is that others, especially other musicians, will realize that these songs are intended for them too and hopefully I'll get to hear their interpretations someday since I can never be completely satisfied with my own renditions, despite my best efforts.

Enjoy!

Rob Birdwell

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