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Neal K

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Neal K last won the day on April 13

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About Neal K

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    Guitars are good things
  • Birthday 25/10/1961

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    Kelowna, BC, Canada

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    Lyricist and Composer
  1. Writing Lyrics: Formula or Freefall?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Looks like we have a similar process. It starts with an idea, and there are lots of ideas. I see a ton of ideas in the lyric forum every day. But the majority of them are not nurtured or developed. It seems like the writer was happy with the idea and then thought that getting the idea in words was enough. But it's not. You have to care. You have to re examine every line, every rhyme... or at least I do. I don't believe that I am particularly skilled. I know how to use a few tools, and I use them well. Looking back on all the drivel I wrote tonight, I was surprised to see how much of myself I put into my lyrics. Even if they are not about me, my observations and experiences flavor the story.
  2. Writing Lyrics: Formula or Freefall?

    ...and we're back... August was another first with American Dream. This started as a fun lyric about a Karaoke Queen who had do idea how awful she was. I’m sure you know the type. They are so bad that they don’t know how bad they are. So it started as a goofy story… Caroline was a Karaoke Queen In her bedroom where she wasn’t seen She knew that she could be a star At the open mic in the 12th Street Bar So she worked up the nerve and a repertoire Learned a few chords on her old guitar Got up and sang with all her heart… And she sucked; she really sucked She couldn’t carry a tune in a pickup truck She sucked, she really sucked Wish her well, folks, wish her luck Because she sucked I didn’t really know where to take the story from there. Does she find out how bad she is? Does she suddenly become a good singer? Does she take singing lessons and become famous? All those ideas seemed too obvious, so I sat back and thought about this girl. I had to really examine her character and I realized that she, like so many others, was chasing the fantasy of the American Dream of stardom. So, it wasn’t her story, it was the story of the pursuit of stardom, and how blindly some people chase it even with total, utter and complete lack of talent. So the next verse was about a baseball pitcher who “Couldn’t hit a barn with a hockey puck?” He sucks too. So it’s all fun and games up to the bridge: Growing older day by day Fame and fortune slip away Dreams replaced by reality And the bitter truth of mediocrity I think I’m great, but I am wrong Just like this song….it sucks I guess this lyric is the antithesis of my earlier lyric, “Under the Bed.” I was thinking of a specific person when I wrote this lyric, but I will never tell you… September I had to run the lyric contest because nobody else was available. So that broke my string. It’s ok. I play guitar. I’m used to breaking strings. October I was back on top with a first place finish, Boulevard of Blues. I confess that this is an older lyric of mine that I did not specifically write for the contest. It was inspired by a photograph of James Dean walking hunched over in the rain… downtown New York, with a cigarette in his mouth. The photo is called Boulevard of Broken Dreams. I always liked this picture. Where is he going? Where is he coming from? Why is he waking through puddles? An idea started to formulate in my mind about singer who almost made it, but not quite. Now he’s playing dingy bars, and here he is walking home late one night, alone in the rain after another depressing show: Me and the ivories play this sad refrain I swore I'd never play in this dump again Is this what they mean about paying your dues? Here, on the Boulevard of Blues Boulevard of Blues is where we end up when we lose. The song is about failure, and in hindsight I can see I was writing about my own separation/divorce which was going on at the time. Failing at marriage, and ending up back where I started. November was another first with No Step. This one was straight formula. No thought of music. Cruelly calculated to maximize the emotional manipulation. The whole thing is pure fiction (except for one part). I was thinking about relationship songs. Songs about lovers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters. And I was thinking about niche songs: wedding songs, graduation songs, inspirational songs. I was trying to come up with a relationship/niche song that would appeal to a specific market. So there I was, minding my own business in the line at the grocery store when I hear the guy in front of me say on his phone: “She’s my step daughter but I treat her like my own.” Bingo… lots and lots of step parents out there who might relate to the song. So the song was about the relationship between the father and step daughter… there is no step. Here's the second verse: There were skinned knees and braces, Barbies and bikes Ballet lessons and back country hikes I helped dress her cat and I fixed broken toys And listened to troubles about homework and boys Sometimes I worried; most times I prayed And when people called me her step-dad I said, forget that… I said some of it was real… the stuff about the skinned knees, et al… I went through that with my own daughter. If you can put parts of your real self into a made up story, it can come across as more authentic. Finally came December and my dead last entry, No Reason. Surprisingly, or maybe not, this is one of my all time favorites of my own lyrics, and one of the few that I perform live. It’s a Christmas song and, despite its extremely depressing outlook we get requests for it every year. People come up to me after and tell me how much they are moved by the song. This is another older one that was written long before the contest: Another Christmas card came in the mail I threw it out with the rest of them I'm no longer impressed with them They mean nothing to me Another Christmas song, weary and stale I turn away without listening All this glitter and glistening It no longer moves me It’s in the AABA format (Verse, Verse, Chorus, Bridge) which is one of my favorites to work in. It also uses a trick that I use a lot in this format, which is to open each verse with a similar line: Another Christmas Card…Another Christmas Song… Another Christmas Tree... I feel this helps bind the lyric into a tighter unit. I also liked the tricky rhyme scheme… when you write a first verse like that it becomes a real challenge to match it in subsequent verses. So this lyric is vague as to why this guy is so depressed. He has obviously lost someone, so Christmas has no meaning any more, but who did he lose? I purposely left that vague because I knew who I had lost: it was my first Christmas without my daughter after my divorce. That cut a little too close so I left it open. Anyway, people didn’t like this lyric so what can I say? Apparently quite a lot, looking back over these posts. Sorry to go on like this…
  3. Writing Lyrics: Formula or Freefall?

    Funny, when you actually take the time to think about your old lyrics, and actually write about them, it gives you insight into yourself. So, for no other reason than to practice my typing, let's continue... In May I came in 3rd with Together Again. This is one of those lyrics that I wrote as a lyric, to formula, specifically for the contest. I’ve never been able to put it to music. This lyric uses a very common trick in country music, which is to use the same chorus, but have it take on different meanings as the song progresses. For example, the song starts with a guy talking about how his dad was always going to fix up this old car, but he was too much of a drunk to ever get it done. Despite his drunkenness the dad promises his son that he’ll: Put it together again Put it together again Fix all the parts and pieces and then I’ll put it together again In the next verse the kid is grown and escapes his drunken old man, gets married, but finds that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. He’s a drunk as well and now he’s talking to his wife about their broken relationship and promising to (put it together again). The bridge is the key to the song: Out of the blue, dad calls me to say How ‘bout we tackle that Mustang today? Me and dad aren’t what you’d call friends But he says in AA they call it making amends I’m not much on religion, but here I stand Alone at the crossroads praying I can…(put it together again) Cool trick, when it works. In the first verse it is the car that's going to be put together again, in the second verse it's the marriage that's going to be put together again, and in the third verse it's his whole life that's going to be put together again. The inspiration came from a friend of mine who told me that when he was a kid his dad would come into his room at night, drunk, and promise him that someday he’d take the family to Disneyland. As he got older he knew there was never going to be any such trip but even as an adult it still hurt him, and he still wished they could go. My friend was not a drunk. I just used his story as a starting off point. In June it was a fourth place finish with First Kiss… another song written to formula that I’ve never been able to set to music. I like love songs, and the idea was to tell a simple love story, but with a twist, a little kicker at the end that make you go… ah! So it starts like this: He saunters down the hall The girls giggle like they do They know that he likes Laura And that Laura likes him too They’ve been flirting in the lunch room With nothing yet to show for it But now he’s going to go for it…the first kiss So the relationship builds and as the song moves along you’re supposed to think it’s a budding romance between two young teens about to share their first kiss. But the bridge gives you the kicker: they are seniors living in an old folks home who are flirting and about to share their first kiss. The idea was a good one. The execution wasn’t. I don’t think anybody got the twist, and that’s why it only came in fourth. July was a 2nd place finish with The Strangest Things. This must’ve been a bad month, because this was not a great lyric. I’ve always enjoyed the deadpan humor of Comedian, Steven Wright, so this lyric was just a string of observations like his comedy routine: Did Shakespeare have a dog that stood against a tree Cocked his leg and pondered “To pee or not to pee?” Did Marcel Marceau’s parrot repeat every word he said? Are baby monsters scared of Stephen Kings under their bed Sometimes I wonder about the strangest things Sometimes I wonder about the strangest things Ha! Ha! I particularly like the image of Stephen King hiding under a monster’s bed.
  4. Writing Lyrics: Formula or Freefall?

    Since Donna used my formula to start, I want to say a few words. Yes, I am guilty of formula writing… I have a few tricks that work and I use them over and over again. But to me the most important part isn’t the formula, it’s coming up with the idea in the first place… the confluence of inspiration and events that leads to a song idea. I highly doubt anyone will care to read what I’m about to post, but it will be fun for me to write, so here goes… how I came up with the ideas that I used for my 2014 experiment of entering every lyric contest: January 2014 I came in second place with a lyric called “Who’s Calling.” The inspiration came from an interview with John Lennon on how he wrote “Please, Please Me.” Lennon said he got the inspiration from a Bing Crosby song, “Please listen to my pleas.” So I was kicking around ideas for a title with the same word twice when I came up with the line, “Baby, who’s calling you Baby?” With a title like that, it had to be a cheatin’ song and the chorus ended up like this: Baby who’s calling you Baby when I’m not home Honey who’s calling you Honey when you’re supposed to be alone Baby who’s calling and hanging up whenever I answer the phone Baby who’s calling you Baby when I’m not home. February 2014 I came in first with a lyric called “Under the Bed.” This is a real life story: both mine and my wife’s. The first verse is literally my wife’s bio: I played flute in the high school band And I loved the feeling of it in my hands As the music soothed me And the secret dream of a lonely girl Was to stand on stage while the world Heard the music move through me The lyric goes on to say how music wasn’t practical so the flute was pushed “Under the bed.” Same thing happened to me with my music. So “Under the Bed” is both a physical place where the instruments went, as well as a metaphorical place where the dreams go when real life creeps in: Under the bed - That’s where dreams go when they’re dying Under the bed - Where you can’t hear them when they’re crying Of course the real story has a happy ending because my wife and I found each other and we brought each other’s musical dreams back to life. In March I came in second with One to Start. I was trying to write songs for my wife to sing and I thought of the story of Rosa Parks, and how it really takes one person to start a revolution. It seemed like a good topic. So I had the title, “One to” start and I saw the words “one” and “two” in there… cool, one to/one two. So I filled the chorus with that trick. Sometimes you have to think about more than what words say, you also have to think about how they sound. One spark to start one fire to light One dream to change one wrong to right. One to start… it takes one to start April was another first with “This Tattoo’s for You.” Joni had a challenge that month that the lyric had to be about a tattoo. This one was easy. My wife has a small tattoo down her spine that spells out “Peace, Love,” and “Soar like and Eagle” in Mandarin. I always wondered if we can really be sure if these tattoos say what we think they do, and that became the joke of the song, where a woman tells her guy that she tattooed his name in Mandarin on her body, but it really says, “Bob Marley Rules.” Yuk! Yuk! The whole thing came to me while I was sitting in the bathtub and I wrote it in about 8 minutes: She said, Baby I’ve lived a life, you know And I got the ink to show Daggers and lace, Jim Morrison’s face Flowers and stars; and electric guitars Yeah, I got a few, it’s true But I’ve given up philanderin’ and this one here in Mandarin, This tattoo’s for you ... to be continued for no other reason than to stroke my own ego!!!
  5. March Lyrics Contest

    Wow! Lots going on in this thread. I can only speak to my formula. There are many other formulas and ways to write. Donna's winning lyric obviously fits in a different category than mine. When you and I speak of conversational lyrics, I don't think we're talking about the same thing. Conversational does not mean literal. Let me give you an example. Below are two versions of first verse of one of my lyrics that won a monthly contest. They both say the same thing, but one is conversation/literal and the other is conversation/storytelling. Tell me which is the better verse: Version 1: I'm playing a sad song on the piano In a dingy old run down bar My career hasn't taken me very far How did I end up in this dump? Version 2: Me and the ivories play a sad refrain I swore I'd never play in this bar again Is this what they mean about paying your dues? Here on the Boulevard of Blues I sure hope you picked version 2. There is nothing flowery or poetic about it. In fact, it's not all that spectacular, but it's far superior to version 1. It has more story appeal, it's somewhat more engaging than version 1, and it sets up the central metaphor: The Boulevard of Blues, which is not so much a place as it is a state of mind. I see a ton of version 1 type lyrics in the contests. Literal. They are easy to spot because they are the bottom dwellers. It's not that there's anything wrong with them, there's just not much right with them. The version 1 lyrics to me seem to be thrown together without much care, afterthought, or editing. There are two things I look for in a winning lyric: what is it about, and what does it mean? Boulevard of Blues is about a down on his luck singer, but it's means bitterness can lead to depression. Version 1 lyrics don't seem to have that much depth. That's what makes Donna's lyric a winner, even though it is vastly different than anything I would ever write. It's about something, and it means something. Neal
  6. How can we improve the site?

    Sounds like fun. I'm a little hesitant to talk about how I do things because 1) it might sound like boasting; and 2) I'm not entirely sure how I do things. But it could be interesting.
  7. March Lyrics Contest

    Nope, not true. I'm not going to go back to all my entries to prove it, but trust me, none of those lyrics were poetic or flowery. I don't have that in me. Here's the formula I followed in my 2014 experiment to win/place in the lyric contest: 1) Each lyric was story driven; 2) the story was easy to understand and to relate to; 3) they used imagery (show, don't tell); 4) there were no wasted words or forced rhymes; 5) they contained sympathetic characters that people could relate to and that I cared about; 6) each and every line had to work on its own; 6) each story had a resolution that was designed to elicit an emotion, be that happiness, sadness, joy, depression, etc. That, my friend, is the formula. I'm so confident that this works that I bet you I could coach you into placing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in a future lyric contest. Neal
  8. March Lyrics Contest

    I lied. I went back to check my actual results. The year was 2014 and I entered 11 of the 12 contests. I came in first five times, second four times, fourth one time, and dead last one time. I'm not saying this to boast. Goodness knows I'm hardly a great lyric writer. The point is, it's not that hard to win this contest if you a) can identify the formula; and b ) can write to the formula without worrying if the words will ever be set to music.
  9. March Lyrics Contest

    Having run a few of these contests over the years, I started to wonder just how easy it would be to win. So four or five years ago I decided to enter each monthly contest with a lyric I wrote specifically for the contest. That meant, lyrics without writing music at the same time. That also meant writing to the formula that appeared to win all the time. My little experiment worked: I won, like, 7 of the 12 monthly contests, and came in 2nd or 3rd for the rest except for one where I came in dead last. None of those lyrics ever became songs... except for the one that came in dead last.
  10. Either way it is a great old song. I’ve heard many barbershop quartets sing it.
  11. Gig stories

    Playing in a bar in some small town, and there was a bachelor party going on. Too many guys, not enough women. A fight was bound to break out and it eventually did... between the groom and his best man (who was also his brother). The entire wedding party got into it and it was a classic bar brawl, with chairs flying and bottles breaking and fists swinging. Mrs. K looked at me as if to ask, "What do we do?" and I said, "Keep on playing." Turns out that the wedding party were all brothers and cousins, smashing each other and beating each other up. The song we kept playing? We Are Family!
  12. February Lyric Contest

    The Winners ARE 1st Place I Want to Smell Roses lyriCAL 2nd Place Silver Queen greybeard Here are the rest of the scores: I Want to Smell Roses lyriCAL 1.5 2.5 2.0 3.0 1.5 3.0 2.5 3.0 4.0 3.0 3.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 2.5 2.0 4.0 1.5 3.0 51.0 Silver Queen graybeard 2.5 2.5 2.5 3.0 1.5 3.5 1.5 3.0 3.0 3.5 3.0 3.5 3.0 3.0 2.5 3.0 2.0 2.5 3.5 52.5 Poor John Druit SongWolfe 3.0 3.5 2.5 3.5 3.0 2.0 3.0 2.5 3.0 2.5 3.5 1.5 2.5 4.0 2.0 3.0 2.5 2.5 3.5 53.5 The Cross County Fair Song Duck 3.5 2.0 3.0 3.5 1.5 2.5 2.5 3.5 3.5 2.5 2.0 4.0 3.5 2.5 2.0 3.0 3.0 2.5 3.5 54.0 Straight Up Whiskey JOEINJAX 2.5 3.0 3.0 3.5 3.0 2.0 2.0 3.0 3.5 2.5 3.0 3.0 4.0 3.0 1.5 3.0 2.5 2.5 4.0 54.5 You Will Never Know Her Art1108 3.0 2.0 3.5 3.5 3.5 2.5 2.5 3.5 3.0 4.0 2.0 3.0 1.0 2.5 3.0 4.0 3.5 1.5 3.5 55.0 Nigel "NoMates: Andy LeF 3.5 3.0 3.0 4.0 2.0 4.0 2.5 3.5 3.0 3.5 3.0 2.5 1.0 3.0 2.5 2.0 4.0 2.5 3.0 55.5 Subway Girls FrankLeeFabian 3.0 3.0 3.0 4.0 2.0 3.0 1.5 3.0 3.0 3.5 3.5 2.5 3.5 2.5 2.0 3.0 2.0 4.5 3.5 56.0 Your counterfeit heart Peko 3.5 2.5 2.5 3.5 3.5 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4.0 2.5 1.5 2.0 2.0 2.0 4.0 3.5 2.5 4.0 56.5 I Ain't Drunk Tyler Porter 3.5 3.0 3.0 3.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.0 3.0 3.0 4.5 3.5 1.5 4.0 2.5 3.0 2.5 58.0 Crazy Vhannah 4.0 3.0 3.5 3.5 4.0 3.0 3.0 2.5 3.0 4.0 2.0 2.0 3.0 3.5 2.5 4.0 3.5 3.5 2.5 60.0 I Came into this World Crying Paul Canuck 3.0 2.0 3.0 3.5 4.0 3.0 1.5 3.0 4.0 2.0 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.0 3.0 4.0 3.5 3.0 4.0 60.0 I'm Floating Tracy Somebody 3.0 3.5 3.0 2.5 4.0 3.5 3.5 3.0 3.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 3.5 3.0 2.5 4.0 3.5 3.0 3.5 63.0 Good Morning my Demons Donna Marylin 3.5 3.5 2.0 4.0 2.5 2.5 3.0 2.5 4.0 4.0 3.5 4.0 3.5 5.0 2.5 4.0 4.0 2.0 3.5 63.5 In the Tank Eric Borgos 3.5 3.5 3.0 3.0 3.5 3.0 3.0 3.5 3.5 4.0 3.0 3.0 2.5 4.0 2.5 4.0 3.5 3.0 4.5 63.5 Travelin' Kuya 3.5 3.0 2.5 4.0 3.5 3.0 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4.0 3.0 3.5 3.5 2.5 4.0 3.5 3.5 4.0 64.0 Almost the Same Clemo 4.0 3.5 3.5 4.0 4.0 3.0 1.5 3.0 3.5 3.0 3.5 3.5 3.5 4.0 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.0 4.0 64.0 Broke Hotshelrae 3.5 3.5 3.5 2.5 3.5 3.0 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.0 3.0 4.0 3.0 4.0 3.0 3.0 2.5 4.0 4.5 64.0 Clik Clik Ty Cobb 3.0 3.5 3.0 4.0 3.0 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.0 4.0 2.5 3.5 3.5 2.0 5.0 4.0 2.5 4.5 65.0 Sleeping Around Barneyboy 3.5 3.5 3.0 3.5 3.5 4.0 2.0 3.5 3.5 4.0 3.5 4.0 4.0 3.0 3.0 4.0 4.0 3.0 3.5 66.0
  13. February Lyric Contest

    TIME TO SCORE! Voting (scorecards) will take place Friday, February 23 through Midnight PST Tuesday, February 27. I won’t get a chance to look at the scores until Tuesday night, so I’m not able to remind anyone who has not submitted their scores. PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING YOUR SCORES: 1. Please title your post, "LYRIC SCORES." 2. When you sent me your scores, put the number to the left of the song title, like this: “1.5 - Song Title.” 3. Also important… leave a blank spot for your song, but keep the title in the list. For example, if your song title is “I Love Goats,” your scores should look like this: 4.5 Song Title 3.0 Song Title ....I Love Goats 1.5 Song Title 4. Please read and rate each lyric using the scoring table below (Scores of 1.0 and 5.0 should be rare). Copy and paste the list at the bottom of this post and insert your score to the left of each title. Then send your scores to me them to me (Neal K) in a Private Message before Midnight PST Tuesday, February 27 - Do not rank the songs, from 5 down to 1; use the criteria below - Do not rank the songs against each other; use the criteria below - Do not score your own lyric If you are a contestant, you must provide scores or your entry will be disqualified Ask yourself how well the lyric flows/rhymes. Does it create emotions? Can you imagine it set to music? 1.0 - Excellent. 1.5 - Almost Excellent 2.0 - Very Good 2.5 - Good 3.0 - Above Average 3.5 - Average 4.0 - Below Average 4.5 - Poor 5.0 - Very Poor Here are the Lyric Titles Clik Clik Travelin' Straight Up Whiskey Sleeping Around Poor John Druit I Want to Smell Roses I'm Floating Silver Queen Your counterfeit heart You Will Never Know Her Nigel "NoMates: I Ain't Drunk Crazy I Came into this World Crying (And I’m Leaving the Same Way) Good Morning my Demons Almost the Same Broke The Cross County Fair In the Tank Subway Girls
  14. February Lyric Contest

    Subway Girls V We are the sub-way girls Riding on the F and E Sub-way girls A stop away from easy street Sub-way girls Rising when the sun goes down Sub-way girls One day we’re gonna own this town PC Head up, eyes lit, we don’t need a fire Strong beat, tattoos, dancing with desire CH But underneath it all Frail and forgotten Feeling lost and small A teardrop in Manhattan Ooh-wa, ooh wa, that is what we are Ooh-wa, ooh wa, that is all we are Sub-way girls V We are the sub-way girls Tweeting out our stories Sub-way girls Imagining our glories Sub-way girls Touching up our faces Sub-way girls Leaving lipstick traces PC Hair down, cheeks red, laughing all together Cursing, drinking, doesn’t get much better CH But underneath it all Frail and forgotten Feeling lost and small A teardrop in Manhattan Ooh-wa, ooh wa, that is what we are Ooh-wa, ooh wa, that is all we are Sub-way girls BR We'll ride these trains forever We have no destination Every stop’s adventure New with rich temptation CH But underneath it all Frail and forgotten Feeling lost and small A teardrop in Manhattan Ooh-wa, ooh wa, that is what we are Ooh-wa, ooh wa, that is all we are Sub-way girls
  15. February Lyric Contest

    In The Tank Verse 1: All alone 'till I found you my tour of duty almost through in desert winds and stormy skies I found the beauty lost in your eyes Pre-Chorus: and I held your hand it was there we made our stand sounds of war both near and far on the streets of Kandahar on those streets of Kandahar Chorus: In the back of my tank we fell in love exploding rockets the heavens above That night time stood still oh, babe, it was not a drill didn't even know your name or rank ya, in the back of my tank oh, babe, in the back of that tank Verse 2: We made it home both safe and sound much was lost but much was found and I still hold your hand without words you understand Pre-Chorus: I came, I conquered to Uncle Sam I do thank life changed forever that night in the tank oh, one night in the tank ya, that night in the tank Chorus: In the back of my tank we fell in love exploding rockets the heavens above That night time stood still oh, babe, it was not a drill didn't even know your name or rank ya, in the back of my tank oh, in the back of that tank ya, in the back of my tank ya, in the back of my tank