About the Songs



Finding Natalie, Track #1

“Finding Natalie” is the soundtrack to a short movie about my life. A few years ago, I attended an alumni reunion for The Pilgrim School in Los Angeles. I was a student there from kindergarten through third grade. At the reception, they had a table stacked with old yearbooks and I started flipping through pages looking for Natalie. She was my first crush, or perhaps I should say, my first love.

Sure enough, there Natalie was smiling from those old photos. I started imagining what it would be like to find her again, to tell her after all these years what she meant to me. I was too young and too afraid of my own feelings back then to say anything.

She wasn’t at the reunion, but the phrase “Finding Natalie” stuck with me. It went perfectly with a melody and chord progression I had been working on.

The instrumental section of the song is my favorite. I wanted to capture the tempered, quiet desperation or urgency that can arise when we realize how quickly time is passing. I hope “Finding Natalie” encourages other to be bold and not hesitate in telling the people they love how much they mean to them.

I Have A Crush, Track #2

“I Have A Crush” is my love song to Los Angeles!  L.A. is my hometown and I wanted to pay tribute to the place that shaped me. My dad came the city in 1969 to start a new life attracted by its opportunities, possibilities, and natural beauty.

When I began writing the album, I had a guitar part I just loved and knew would make a great jam. At some point, it occurred to me to write a song that took you on a journey through the neighborhoods and cities in and around L.A. County.

Back during the open mic phase of my career, I covered the song, “I’ve Been Everywhere” that I knew from Canadian country singer Hank Snow’s hit recording. The song, which I loved, incorporated a long list of North American (mostly U.S.) toponyms.

I entered the Cowboy Palace Talent Night contest in Chatsworth, CA with my version of “I’ve Been Everywhere.”  I sang the first three verses as is but wrote a fourth verse about the places in and around Los Angeles/Southern California. I won first place and $35 cash prize. I was pretty excited.

When I started writing “I Have A Crush” I knew I wanted the recitation of places to be fairly fast, similar to “I’ve Been Everywhere.” Many of my songwriting mornings would start with me staring at a Los Angeles County map, sorting different names of places into various rhyming schemes. It probably took me around 6 months to finish.

My favorite part of the song is the jam at the end. This is the type of thing that is in my DNA. For my guitar solo, we put the amp in my closet with the door closed, turned up very loud, and engineer/co-producer Brina Kabler and I wore drummer style isolation recording headphones to protect our hearing from the loud volume of the amp. Then there’s Joe Ginsburg’s awesome bass lines and Reade Pryor’s amazing drumming and drum fills.

What can I say, I still have a crush on LA.

Always, Track #3  

“Always” is about a relationship between two people in the late summer of their lives. This song is a call to love from one lover to his beloved saying that it’s now or never. They’re both aware their time is finite, but there’s the chance to pursue one more dream, to embrace and love each other and spend the rest of their lives together.

In my teenage years, I wrote a song called “Amazon Lauraabout a crush I had on a friend of a friend. The chords from that song, simple as they are, stayed with me. I drew on them for this one while making my first album.

Shining Star, Track #4

The opening verse goes:

You’re my shining star
You’re my favorite, by far
The one for me alright
Your gonna rock my world tonight

In earlier versions, a number of folks thought it was about…well…something that it’s not. In this final version, I give it away at the end. It’s a song about the love affair I have with my favorite guitar.

Most of the lead guitar playing on this track was done on my Jimmy Page Edition Les Paul. She’s a beauty and one of the best gifts I’ve given myself.

Years ago, I was in my Isuzu Trooper at the corner of Griffith Park Blvd. and Los Feliz Blvd. when an idea for a bass line came to me. That doesn’t often happen without a guitar in my hands. I turned it into an instrumental piece, perfect for improv soloing on guitar. We first played it when I was in the band Fred Harvey.  I titled it “The Reckoning.  A few years later I decided to put it on my album as a stand-alone instrumental. The cool accents at the very end of the song are David Madsen’s idea (bass player for Fred Harvey). Later, after recording it, I began to form an idea for lyrics and a title, “Shining Star.”

A favorite section is the ethereal vocals sung and arranged by Brina Kabler, an outstanding singer and engineer who was also a co-producer of the track.

Women Make The World Go ‘Round, Track #5   

When I wrote the first incarnation of “Women Make The World Go ‘Round” back in 2010, the song celebrated women and their influence from the standpoint of romantic partnerships.

The basic tracks for this song were recorded in the very first recording session I held for the album in August 2011 at Sunset Sound in Hollywood. I worked on the song on and off through 2014 and thought it was complete. Still, when I asked my trusted team of collaborators what they thought, it wasn’t getting the high marks I’d hoped. It sat there mixed and mastered for a long time while I was working on other material for the album.

In the fall of 2016 I started working with the director Red Phosphorus who suggested making the song a broader celebration of women in every facet of life. I took that idea and went to work.

A few days before the Women’s March on January 21, 2017, I played the re-worked version of “Women Make The World Go ‘Round” for my friend and musical colleague Bess Harrison. Bess and I were both planning to attend, so she suggested I shoot the song’s video at the march. I thought that was a great idea, and ran it by Red Phosphorus, who jumped into action. We only had 3 or 4 days to prepare.

The day of the Women’s March was truly historic. Around 750,000 people gathered in downtown Los Angeles. I went with my partner Erica Koesler and our friend Marlene Nichols. It was a truly great experience in my life, being part of something bigger and greater than yourself. I felt like I was standing up for what I believe in, being counted, supporting women and the rights they should have and never be at risk of losing. I would also add that I experienced a wonderful feeling of togetherness, comradery, harmony, solidarity and, significantly, a great feeling of mutual support. Everyone had each other’s back.

The video team of director Red Phosphorus, cinematographer Stephen Paar and associate producer Shira Korn were out shooting the entire day. Cell service was overwhelmed with the hundreds of thousands of people in attendance, and my hopes dimmed for ever being able to find them.

After unsuccessfully attempting to locate them by walking through the crowds, I was finally able to get a call through to Red and ended up assisting them for the remainder of the day. I saw firsthand how well received they were by those they invited to take part in the video.

I ended up writing a custom verse in tribute to the march itself. The song evolved into a duet with Bess Harrison singing on it with me.  I have always loved her singing and her tone since she played with me in the band Fred Harvey.

I’m grateful for the contributions of Red, Bess, Erica and Marlene in the final few days of production, which helped make the song what it is today.

In my book women really do make the world go ‘round.

Tell Your Story, Track #6

I think one of the most powerful ways we can help one another is by sharing our story. As the 12-step programs say, share your experience, strength and hope.  Talking about our own struggles and what worked for us can be invaluable to another person who’s suffering through a situation. That’s where meaningful human connection happens.

I have a fairly bright outlook on life. I experience a lot of joy and happiness. But I have suffered in my own way, emotionally and mentally. In this song, I drew from my own journey of recovery from the effects of others’ alcoholism, which runs in my family, and my personal struggles with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

I have been touched so many times by the honesty of others. Hearing about their trials, tribulations and journeys of self-discovery makes me feel I’m not alone.

It’s our shared vulnerability that can both connect us with, and serve, others.

Tell Your Story is my attempt to convey this.

The Stranger, Track #7

The Stranger is a song of intimacy between two lovers.  It’s a beautiful thing, two romantic partners trusting and confiding in each other about their desires.  Revealing ourselves to a trustworthy partner can be truly rewarding and fulfilling.  No one really knows what someone else is thinking, or what they want, unless they tell us.

Do You Know Surrender? Track #8

I think this song is an invitation to question our old ways and see how they may be preventing us from living a fuller, happier life.

Surrender often happens when we hit our lowest point. We’re exhausted from being afraid of not getting what we want or anxious about losing what we have. Perhaps we’ve begun to realize that what we thought would make us happy doesn’t.

The song is about what leads us to a state of surrender, a place where we let go of our self-will and stop insisting that certain conditions outside of us have to be met before we can be happy.  A place where we call on a wisdom greater than our own.

From surrender we can still act boldly in the world but with peace in our hearts.

Play It Like The Record, Track #9

I was at a dress rehearsal for Van Halen at the Forum in Inglewood. Pre-show I was talking with a colleague, and I told him that I hoped Eddie Van Halen, one of my guitar heroes, would play his solos the way he “played them on the record.” As soon as I said it I knew that was the title of my new song.

I had been kicking around a funk riff in the key of G that I really liked, but I was missing the lyrics. I was intrigued by the idea that songs of our youth get imprinted in our minds and we really want to hear our musical heroes play them that way live.

One of my favorite parts of the song: the bass and drum breakdown followed by the clavinet solo by Carson Cohen.

A few years later the friend who invited me to the Van Halen show said the song was one of her favorites off my album. She thought “Play It Like The Record” had a nice expanded meaning:  do it like it is supposed to be done, do it the right way, the tried and true way, by the book, etc. I got a kick out of that.

Glendale, Track #10

Did you know the City of Glendale is known as the “Jewel of The Verdugos”? Back in the ‘70’s my family would go to dinner or the movies in Glendale. It had the Alex Theatre, Dupar’s restaurant, the Hollander cafeteria. Remember cafeterias?  As a kid it’s all about what color Jello-O you’re going to get.  We took my grandparents to the Hollander when they visited from Tennessee.

Glendale seemed old fashioned to me, not as cool or gritty as Hollywood. But it was home to my first girlfriend, Carolyn.  She lived on Ard Eevin Street. When I was pursuing Carolyn in the 7th grade, did a “ride by” on her street on my bike. She was outside playing handball and I made up a grand lie, “Oh hey. I was just riding around. Happened to be in the area.” I wonder if she bought it?

I love returning to places that are part of my personal history. I find it rejuvenating to revive old memories and savor the many good things that have taken place in my life. Glendale holds a lot of great memories for me.

The Tone That Got Away, Track #11

The backing track for this song is from a piece called “Prelude to Play It Like The Record(which does not appear on the album). A great piece of music to improvise to on guitar.  We looped it, got a great tone from my Nash “telecaster style guitar” on the neck pickup by using my late 1970’s Fender Deluxe Reverb amplifier and Full Tone’s Full Drive 2 pedal. We recorded multiple takes and over time engineer Jose Salazar masterfully edited the piece together. He and I take very detailed notes on guitar tones and what we did to get them.

Months down the road I wanted to do some additional takes and overdubs, but we could not for the life of us get that tone again. We tried everything. We went ahead and did an overdub or two but limited it to parts where we didn’t notice the tone difference. The ending of the song, which has a sitar like feel, was done without the matched tone and it is one of my favorite parts.  That’s why I call this “The Tone That Got Away.”

The Tracer, Track #12

My partner Erica uses the term “tracer” when referring to a person who copies others in their work. “They’re just a tracer.” I liked the phrase so much I had to use it. “The Tracer” is about a person who has an awakening, mid-life, and is struck by the need to create something original they can call their own. I had my own mid-life awakening when I realized I wanted to make music in a serious way. I wanted to create a meaningful body of work.

This song has a guitar solo which we kept extending and extending. We were having so much fun with it! Long guitar solos are not for everyone, but it is one of my favorites and it represents my style. It’s the best I can play at this time in my life. I did lots of takes and Jose Salazar edited it all together.  Thank you, Jose, for the great editing!

Everything I Ever Wanted, Track #13 

This recording is special because it could only have happened with all the musicians (in this case five) being in the studio at the same time riffing off each other.

This composition is based off of the chords of “Finding Natalie.” One change is that the bass is centered on and playing around E much of the time with the guitar chords changing over that. It gives the song a much different feel, along with its tempo. Once again, Jose gets credit for editing together multiple takes in the studio and really shaping the piece into what it is on the record. I went back and did a small amount of lead guitar overdubbing, but this recording was created almost entirely from the several in studio group performances we did.