AVT: 2.5h (Tot. 99.5h)
ADT: 220 km (Tot. 7, 513 km)
"It doesn't have to be loud to be good. It has to be good to be loud."
Well, Johnny Guitar made his European debut last night.
Straight up: I’m not a guitar player and certainly not much of a songwriter, but I pretended to be both at a songwriting workshop that Sarah hosted in Ee, Netherlands. We’ve done this workshop before at the studio owned by our friends Klaske and Auka Ferwerda (the queen and king of Ferwerda snert). What happens is people come to the event, the Sarah band does a few songs, Sarah talks about song structure and writing, and then the attendees break into groups to write and eventually perform a song.
Sometimes you have enough willing guitar players, sometimes you don’t.
When you don’t, Johnny Guitar steps up and does his best.
I wound up working with a fun group. We wrote a sad but uplifting tune about getting through the rough times and anticipating a brighter future. My group decided to write in English, which is tricky for them but gave me a chance to offer what I could in terms of advice about lyrics. It’s all very subjective, of course. Personal lyrics are personal because they’re personal. We talked about writing in images, weaving in a little nuance, trying to be poetic. That works when it works, but there are times when, “F*ck you I won’t do what you tell me!” works too.
We didn’t have a willing guitar player in the group, so I cobbled together a few of the chords I can play semi-competently and the group took it from there in terms of melodies. It’s a fun process to watch a song blossom right before your eyes. It’s also interesting to see where things could go. You have a chord progression and one person feels a certain melody. Another person feels another melody that’s utterly different but still fits. Songwriting can be a fun game if you can look at it that way. I have trouble with that, but we’re all a work in progress.
Three groups performed songs and they were all cool. It takes a lot of courage to stand up and do that, so I give all of the workshoppers credit for taking on that vulnerability. I forget sometimes that it can be scary on stage. You become desensitized after a while, though there are still circumstances where I get antsy. The thing you come to realize, though, is that it’s okay to screw up. In fact, sometimes screwing up and acknowledging it endears you to an audience more than anything else.
We love coming to this part of The Netherlands. The low, rolling fields. The quaint little villages and people who wave when you walk by. Cows and horses and canals. We drove here yesterday from Winterswijk, stopping in the magnificent little village of Dokkum for lunch. Apparently we had eaten at the restaurant before but I have no memory of it. Tour blog or no tour blog, sometimes the memories get shuffled out.
Two days ago we had a day off in Winterswijk. I won’t say much about it. Charming town, lovely people. Deni and I looked around a bit while Sarah took Lesley to the airport in Amsterdam. Later fair Helena of Erle came to town for a casual afternoon coffee. Her boyfriend Franco joined us at dinner time for a fabulous four-course gourmet menu provided by our pal Joost at his hotel. It was a fun and very welcome day.
And what else do I say, really? At this moment I’m lounging in my room at the great Sietske of Fryslan’s house. Deni and I have billeted here on all of the European tours and we love it. Sietske’s one of our favourite people. As ever, we shared conversation and vodka last night. She has so many stories of her travels and life and family. Last night she told us about her father escaping Nazi custody in World War 2 by jumping off a train. He was being sent to work presumably at a munitions factory in Germany and he refused to work for the enemy. Thus, when the opportunity arose, he leapt off a train and ran for it, with half of the German army chasing him. He went into hiding, leaving his wife and new baby (Sietske’s sister) behind, but survived the war.
This is the real stuff, kids. This is your history books come to life.
Speaking of history, in an hour or so we’re making a sojourn into Amsterdam (God’s country). I feel like I wrote eloquently about Amsterdam last time around: “It’s a postcard come to life (a faded postcard with curled up corners, found behind a display case in an old cigar shop, dropped by a man with dirty hands and dirtier thoughts, reaching for a bag of coins won in a knife fight or card game).”
Amsterdam is such a cool city. We’re looking forward to being back there and taking in that bizarre, tawdry, ancient, beautiful vibe.
More tomorrow, either here or on the news ….
Short on content, today, so here's the video for Johnny Guitar by Ty Tabor of King's X - my favourite musician on the planet.
*Workshop photo by Jolanda Neef.