STORY SONGS WITH ERNIE HILL
While thinking about events for the 2015 John Hartford Memorial Festival, I came up with this concept purely out of curiosity. What if I selected three or so songwriters who specialize in story songs, and host a presentation/panel discussion consisting of original story songs and individual processes?
I presented the idea to the committee and got the green light. They decided to call it a Story Songs Workshop. I explain in the program that is not a "hands on" workshop. The first year was a hit and each year since has grown in popularity as folks who love stories are given a look inside the heads of folks who "make them up".
I start the set with an original story song and then open up a discussion. We pass it on down the line and in the time allotted we each perform original story songs with enlightening discussion. The first year included Ryan Spearman, a great old time musician and instructor at the St. Louis Folk School, and Cody Diekoff, better known as Chicago Farmer, from Chicago, an incredible songwriter in the Pete Seeger/Arlo Guthrie/John Prine vein. The second year included a line up of great songwriters too presenting Wil Maring from Cobden, IL, Colin O'Brien from Nashville TN and Old Man Luedecke from Nova Scotia. This year I broke the session into two 45 minute segments with 16 year old JHMF Songwriting champ Micahlan Boney from Claxton GA, 10 year old Uma Peters and 12 year old brother, Giri, from Nashville TN, out of this world youngsters, musicians and songwriters! I followed that with Bluegrass legend Ginger Boatwright, and Bawn in the Mash front man, Nathan Blake Lynn. I'm out of breath now. I'm shopping it around a few other festivals.
Aren't all songs Story Songs? Well, no. A large percentage of top 40 mainstream songs are "feeling" songs. Songs that express love or the opposite. A story song is just that. It tells a story, sometimes taking you to a different environment. It's that simple, but where do they come from? How does a songwriter "get" their story? That's what these sets are all about. It really is different with each songwriter. I've written a book, a short introspective look inside my own mind, the minds of a few others, and some research opinions. It's called "The Cosmic Path to Melody and Lyric". Click here to read more about it. This little mind journey is illustrated by the artist Jon Griffin. Please ck it out and consider talking with me about presenting this concept at your event.
I was thrilled to present Story Songs at the 46th Annual Walnut Valley Festival, Winfield KS, on Stage 3. I've attended this festival with my soulmate/wife, Patti, and son Matthew, for 34 years or so. Who's counting now? I was a late addition but I'm still flattered to have been in the lineup, app and all! With such short time to prepare, I was excited to be joined by Juni Fisher and Kenny Cornell, two great and very different songwriter/musicians. We played some original songs and talked about the process and how it works for us. The intimacy of that stage lends itself well to workshops and question sessions. The Muse flowed freely. I wish we had hours to present this but we only had 50 minutes to pry out all I could, and reveal all I could, about our approach to songwriting, and perform our songs as well. Juni and Kenny were a pure joy to share this concept with. Each of these two were right at home opening up to an interested and appreciative early morning crowd. I was surprised so many folks either got up or never went to bed, and turned out to be a part of this set. I hope the Walnut Valley Festival lets this happen again.
Juni Fisher -Juni Fisher's name is synonymous with the kind of songwriting that, according to one promoter "Plumbs the depth of your soul…". Living now in Franklin, TN, Juni was born in the San Joaquin Valley of California, Juni grew up in a farming family. Juni's first Western release,"Tumbleweed Letters" (1999) reached Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival director Gary Brown in late 2003. He shared Juni's music with other promoters and soon Juni would shift to music full time as her profession.
Juni Fisher performs at major festivals, and concert venues of all sizes across the US, and spends saddle time on her cutting horse, keeping her tuned up for competition. More than a Singer, more than a Songwriter, Juni is a horsewoman with a message. Click Juni's name above to read more about her (and her new book!) and connect with Juni on FB.
Kenny Cornell should have some sort of coronation as "The Most Awarded Songwriter in Walnut Valley Songwriting Contest and Showcase" history. In over 30 years of WVfest contests and showcases, Kenny has 32 awards. Kenny lives in Tulsa, but he calls Tahlequah home, and has been a graphic artist for most of his life. He’s been to every WVfest since 1972! I met Kenny in the first songwriting contest, yep, over 30 years ago. I still remember that song! “they checked my Pepsi at the gate today, he put his hairy nose in my can, I looked inside, they left me a surprise, I guess they consider that contraband” Kenny went on to Nashville for six years where he wrote for famed publisher Tom Collins and landed a song on George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s last album. He won several songwriting contests while there and took 2nd at the highly acclaimed Merlefest. Kenny is quoted in my book, "The Cosmic Path to Melody and Lyric".
Left to right- Ernie Hill, Ryan Spearman, Cody Diekoff a.k.a. Chicago Farmer