Project M 2016: Philly Slim

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5/23/16: As we head into our last show at Funk’s Pub, I want to take the chance to say thank you to all the people who have made Project M possible.  A lot of people have put in a lot of hard work and they deserve the highest praise for their efforts.  I’d also like to say how honored I am to be counted among the fantastic musicians who have taken part this year.  The talent on show has been spectacular and, despite the high stakes, everyone has been positive and supportive throughout.  Hats off to all of you.

For my “place” song, I pulled out an old piece that I wrote shortly after spending time in Morocco.  While I was there, I had two rather deep conversations with two young Moroccan men about the role that religion and spirituality played in their worldviews.  One was a devout Muslim and the other was an avowed atheist.  What struck me, however, wasn’t the differences in their perspectives.  It was that their wildly differing beliefs seemed based on the same core principle: love each other.  This song, Mist on the Mountain, reflects on what I learned from Nasir and Simo.

For my “signature” song, I thought I would bring everything full circle and play another piece I wrote reflecting on the nature of creative pursuits, specifically my relationship to songwriting.  Rather than the somewhat self-deprecating, futile tone I took on in “False Modern Prophets”, however, this song seeks to highlight the overwhelming good that artistic endeavors can do for a person.  We humans are flawed creatures, prone to mistakes and constantly stressing out about our place in the world around us.  But in our creations, we can find a bit of the grace that we all possess.  “Salvation” is a celebration of the redeeming power of art and music.   

5/16/16: After my wild ride last week, being eliminated and then saved at the last, I wanted to grab my opportunity this week with both hands.  I’ll admit I was initially stumped by my given emotion.  Anger is not a feeling that lends itself well to the nuance or subtlety that I like to explore in my song writing.  So rather than get super deep or introspective with my song, I tried to paint a vivid metaphor for how we experience anger.  It stews and builds up, gathering steam, and then sweeps through us with the potential for sheer devastation.  The song, fittingly, follows a cursed old coal train as it rolls in from the distance and then blows through town on a wave of classic fire-and-brimstone Old-Testament rage.  Lord have mercy.

5/9/16: I was honestly very excited about this week’s challenge, some of my best work (I think) has been born out of the kind of loose inspiration that comes from working off another artistic medium.  Taking the complex thoughts and feelings that run riot in our heads and turning them into a coherent song can be extremely challenging, so using the photo as a kind of emotional template helped give my final product some focus.  I ended up drawing on a major idea from one of my favorite movies, The Tree of Life, to give the song its underlying theme and title: “Nature & Grace”.  I thought that the clear, vivid image of the woman in red juxtaposed against the swirling mist reflected the contrast between the often overwhelming complexity of nature and the pure, simple feeling of grace that we all seek out, in some form or another, throughout our lives.  What I came up with is a patchwork of orphaned lyrics written months (or even years) ago and some new lines produced in a marathon writing session Wednesday night after I had just watched Nahko and Medicine for the People hold their Rock n Roll, hippy church service at the Majestic.  It’s a song that tells plainly where we live our lives: caught somewhere between nature and grace.                

5/2/16: When I saw the word “Firecracker” written on the slip of paper handed to me on Monday, I was immediately taken back to my younger days on the soccer field down the street from my house.  My friends and I would lace up our boots and kick around for hours in the muggy Wisconsin summer air.  Whenever someone scored a particularly spectacular goal, we would all shout (in bad English accents) “I say, what a FIRECRACKER” and sprint around the field like we’d just won the World Cup.  For a 12-year-old in Ripon, Wisconsin, hitting a bona fide firecracker was about as good as life got.  As we’ve gotten older, we’ve found other means of reaching those sorts of adrenaline fueled highs.  Some are constructive, others are decidedly destructive, but I believe our pursuits of these genuinely pure feelings and emotions come to define who we are and how we have changed over the years.  I based my song this week on these questions: What makes you feel alive? What’s your firecracker?  

4/25/16: Hello Everyone! To begin, I'd like to say how honored I am to be counted among the incredibly talented artists taking part in this wonderful event. I am extremely excited to hear what everyone has created and to hit the stage at Funk's Pub for what should be a few fantastic Monday nights! Since my initial excitement at being selected for Project M, I've been feeling rather reflective and my song for this week, "Another Modern Prophet," mirrors that mood. I wrote it as a bit of a meditation on what it means to create songs, or really artistic works in general. As is often the case when dealing with these lofty topics, I found many more questions than answers. Do we do this for ourselves or for the benefit of others? Is the end goal to make a career out of our creative pursuits or is it to dig for some deeper truth? Or is there some grey area in between? Though I haven't found any good answers yet, I believe that if you keep asking questions, you will keep learning and growing. So let me ask you my friends, what are my words worth to you?