As I continued to write songs, my lack of knowledge of songwriting was my best refuge. My memory of the early years makes me feel like I was a young lad taking his first journey on a sailing ship. It was an adventure that can only come with discovery and learning how to follow one’s dreams. It was during my very early 20s with time to explore this journey of merging words with music. I had no directive as to what I needed to write about, I had no rules dictating how to write it. It was a gift that came naturally and flowed from me as I was writing my Journal in a form that was untested and completely honest.
Growing up in the Cajun part of South Louisiana felt so safe and full of culture. Safe is the watchword here. I boarded my ship with no fear. I don’t know how I was so lucky and so blessed to sail this sea of enrichment. I found myself spending more time alone with my craft and less time socializing. I spent full days deep in thought of lyrics to go with music that flowed from my mind. As I didn’t have a piano yet I would go to the practice rooms at the local college to find solitude to write undisturbed.
During the early 70s it seemed easy to rent a small home for about $40 a month. I would live in Thibodaux, the town that I grew up in. Then I would move to New Orleans to feel its culture. Baton Rouge was another wonderful city to call home. I had friends in all three towns and knew many musicians. In Baton Rouge and New Orleans I found myself working in the Recording Studios.
But life changed when one day I walked in to Werleins Music on Canal Street in New Orleans. There was this beautiful small upright piano called a Diapason manufactured by Kawai. It lacked an octave on the low end and an octave on the upper end, had single strings in the bass and double strings in the treble. Every piano has its own sound and this one, even though it was small, had a most gorgeous sound. Priced at $400 but on sale for $300 I purchased it with an agreement to make payments of about $24 a month.
Soon I had a couple of mics and already owned a Fender Showman amp (not an ideal PA but it made me work harder to get a pleasant sound). I borrowed a small trailer from a friend in Thibodaux and put a trailer hitch on my VW beetle. Little by little I played small coffee house gigs performing mostly original songs. I then started to add cover songs to my repertoire and concentrated on being more upbeat. It was a natural progression and soon I was playing clubs and happy hour and as my song lists grew was handling whole evenings.
The center of this story is that all of this happened at a natural pace. You can’t speed it up. You can’t be good before you are. It’s what we called “Going To The Wood Shed”. You can’t create a following. You can’t sell an attraction before you have something worthy to share.
Song by song, venue by venue, you learn what connects with your audience and that is the most important part of the formula. As I always say, “a gift is not a gift until you give it away”. So you have to have something that is worth sharing before you have an arena to share it in. And thus it is done performance to performance.
My first few years of songwriting (songs with lyrics) grew naturally and I found myself changing locations, going from Thibodaux to Baton Rouge to New Orleans and finding small houses to live in. One wonderful gift that came my way was getting to know Lynn Ourso of Deep South Recording who through his kindness and generosity let me record my songs (piano/vocals) at the studio. These recordings were done to 2 track tape and I kept them in great shape all these years. After not hearing them for probably 30 years I transferred these tapes to the digital domain. I soon realized that these tapes represented probably the best renditions and in many cases the only renditions of these early songs.
While many of the songs and their performances touch me deeply and bring me back to the times they were created one of my favorites is “You Are The Music”. Written in a little house in Baton Rouge in December during a cold rain the solitude that it represents is a treasure that I can remember like it was yesterday.