31 March 2008

And the next time I see you - a new kind of hello


all the other girls here are stars—you are the Northern Lights
they try to shine in through your curtains—you’re too close and too bright
they try and they try but everything that they do
is the ghost of a trace of a pale imitation of you
I’ll be the one to drive you back home Kathleen

this party is made with the night air and the chance that a smile
will wind its way from your face to one of the boys in your line
you act like you’re hip to their tricks and you’re strong
but a virgin Wurlitzer heart never once had a song
I’ll be the one to drive you back home Kathleen

and I’ll have you back by break of day
I’m going your way anyway
and if you’d like to come along
I’ll be yours for a song

I know you are waiting and I know that it is not for me
but I’m here and I’m ready and I’ve saved you the passenger seat
I won’t be your last dance just your last goodnight
every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied
I’ll be the one to drive you back home Kathleen

so crawl up your trellis and quietly back into your room
and I’ll coast down the length of your drive by the light of the moon
and the next time I see you—a new kind of hello
both our hearts have a secret only both of us know
‘bout the night that I drove you back home Kathleen

www.joshritter.com....check him out!

Too tired from a long weekend of much needed Theatre work to write much.

Thanks for tuning in...Until next week....CHEERS!!!

24 March 2008

I’m in love with an Angel, I can look but I can’t touch….

I’ve been on an interesting journey this past week that actually started a few weeks ago. As many of you know, if you read this blog even semi regularly, I’ve had a hard time finding another job since my last one ended in October. The lack of work here has led me to look elsewhere – New York, Chicago, Boston and sometimes that search involves craigslist where I found myself a few weeks ago in the Western Massachusetts section. I always look in the same place for each location and while there isn’t much out there beyond the usual locals this time I spied an ad I couldn’t stop myself from looking at. It was an ad asking for music for an online television show – or would that be a ‘netshow? Hmmm….anyway…I answered, the writer/director/producer, Dave, of Mad Z Productions, checked out my myspace page and liked what he heard. We agreed on terms and I sent him a cd of twelve songs that after reading the first two scripts of “Without You” I thought might be relevant – or shall we say – I sent him most of the love songs I’ve ever recorded.

Fast forward to last week – I get an email (along with a signed contract) that tells me that he loves two of my songs right away and can see using them in the first episodes. WOW! While one song came as no surprise, “Dying Without You” from NUMB – a song I thought would be relevant, the other was a shocker. It was a song I sort of sent for shits and giggles. Now who’s laughing? Me I guess. The other as you can imagine is “Angel” today’s title tune. It’s an old song about another conversation I had in Harvard Square too many years ago. I was walking with my friend Marisa and she was asking me about my recent ex - needless to say the conversation leaned towards existential quandaries and later that evening a song emerged. A couple of years later after playing the song at the end of every damn gig I played I recorded it for Amanda’s Floor. All acoustic, one guitar, one voice and it’s the last song on the CD. My voice crackles, my guitar playing is decent at best and in some ways I think it’s too simplistic a song to have any real meaning. But what do I know? I’m only the writer who had a broken heart when paper and pen came together.

After getting over my shock of Dave’s email my wheels started turning. How could he possibly want to use a song, maybe even as the theme song, that’s only guitar and voice? Something needs to be done and quick. So I picked up my guitar and realized VERY quickly that even though I’d played the song hundreds of times it has been a few years since I did a gig that lasted more that 15 minutes and I hadn’t a clue as to how to play it – never mind how to write other parts for it. I looked through every piece of paper and every journal I could find that might have the chords and did my best to figure it out whilst having several listens to it hoping my fingers would remember. Eventually I found the chords scratched out somewhere between this page and that and got a good grip on the basic idea of how I used to play it. Slowly it has come back to me. Not bad for a song I haven’t even listened to in years.

As an artist you always look forward – forward to the next great song you’re in the process of writing – and rarely do we look back on the songs from another time. Another life. Another love. Another lost moment. When you write so many songs its easy to forget something you wrote years ago because you think every new song is an improvement over the last one. You think – I’m growing – I’m changing – life moves – and with it hopefully comes more understanding of the process and the world that influences the musical path you’re on. It’s easy to forget and to dismiss the “old works of art” that once were the best you’ve ever written.

This past week I started reexamining and rediscovering this old tune. In some ways it takes me back to that time, that walk, that wondering that inspired the song, that love long lost. Geez, did I really feel that way for someone? Someone I’m not even in touch with who doesn’t want me in touch? What was I thinking? Does any of that stuff really happen? Was any of it real? I’m guessing at the time it was, though it may not be now, and at the very least I got a song or two out of us. Though I think I’m the sort of person that always loves someone once I’ve loved them – irrespective of what comes between us - and yes, somewhere inside of me I do still love “Angel” - it doesn’t mean we should be together and nor would I want to be. These days I’m pretty blessed and pretty happy with what I have. But you know what? The song aint half bad! I think I actually like it – something that doesn’t always come easy for me – I rarely like what I’ve written – but time and distance and rediscovery have made me see some light where this tune is concerned. It might not be the best song I’ve ever written – that may be yet to come - but it’s not the worst song, either.

My project this week? Not only learning to like “Angel” even more – but learning to play the bass (thanks for the loaner, Julie) and maybe some piano to fill it out some more. That’s not to say that Dave will like the new version better than the original, or even use it – but I’m grateful for the opportunity and inspiration to have a look back – maybe make something old new again – and maybe give it some new breath – some new energy. Who knows? I might learn to love the song as much as I loved the Angel that inspired it. Or maybe I’ll love the Angel that’s in front of me even more – either way I’m glad for this journey. If you want to check it out you can go to my myspace page….www.myspace.com/laraschuler

Thanks for tuning it….Until next week…CHEERS!!

17 March 2008

Everywhere you go always take the weather with you…

Crowded House and the Finn Brothers are admittedly two of my favourite bands/gathering of great musicians. Separately and together both Neil and Tim Finn are amazing and adroit writers. Their careers are too long and their albums too numerous to discuss – but suffice it to say – they are incredible and each offers up their own view of the world that I really connect to. They are exemplary players and complete musicians. I bow down to them daily and aspire to be as good as they are at expressing my view of the happenings around me. Oh that I were 1/3 of what they are or that ANYONE was 1/3 of what they are – if they were the state of the music industry would be in a better place – full of talent and not just image and one hit wonders. www.crowdedhouse.com

Perhaps even the weather of the times would be different as well and people would be paying attention and noticing the rhetoric that is blinding so many. In fact, I wonder sometimes if anyone but the people around me are noticing the conflicting statements of a certain Male Presidential candidate who happens to be a Democrat. How can people buy this crap? Don’t they pay attention to his actual words? Doesn’t anyone take ANYTHING at face value anymore? If they did they might notice that some people don’t do as they say, but merely ‘say’ and then do something else entirely. How can you buy a nearly $800,000 house and then claim not to be privileged or rich, but be among the commoners? How do you not know how much a corrupt business partner of yours has donated to your campaign so much so that your initial statement is nearly $100k off what you NOW say is the ‘correct’ amount? Am I not wrong in thinking that there’s a HUGE difference between $150k and $250k? If you don’t know this than I question how in touch you actually are and I also wonder what else you are conveniently forgetting. Clearly you are forgetting the sermons your trusted pastor has given over the course of 20 plus years. Or maybe you weren’t paying attention – which begs so many other questions. Selective memory anyone?

Needless to say my hands are up in the air in frustration over the many discrepancies that have come to light in recent weeks. I know – Hillary isn’t perfect either and I know she’s made her mistakes – but at least she’s been consistent in maintaining her position in recent months. For instance, why is it ok for you to play the race card and use it to your advantage yet criticize Hillary for appealing to woman? Use what you’ve got – isn’t that part of politicking? What was wrong with Geraldine Ferraro pointing that out? All she said was essentially that if it weren’t for the black voters you wouldn’t be where you are. Well – she’s got a point. You’ve inspired so many to get out and vote and for that I’m grateful – you have opened some doors to democracy that many have been fearful to walk through – and now they are walking. But why is it a crime for that to be pointed out? Why attack someone for applauding you and stating what so many others are thinking? My head is spinning from your indecisions and your waffling Mr. Obama. I’m guessing you are a very nice man, intelligent, well read, you are certainly well spoken, you adore your family, and you’d be a great guy to have a beer with but c’mon – get a grip and stop bullshitting people. Say it, do it, be it and get your weather report straight – stop telling people it’s sunny when the rain of shit is pouring on your head.

On that note – some random thoughts for the week:

a) Why do people in LA say ‘now that the weather is getting better I’m going to get out more’? When has it been bad? When has it been below 60 degrees during the day? OY!

b) It seems my Uncle Stretch, my Aunt’s husband of many years – is not doing well with his lung cancer – if you’re reading this – send your good vibes, your prayers, your well wishes – anything you can muster – down to Arkansas – he needs them and so does my Aunt. It’s been a long road and it may not get any better….

c) My dear friend Julie is playing an important gig this Friday – she’s in the finals for a ‘battle of the bands’ competition – if you’re in LA – check it and her out: www.julieneumark.com

d) Don’t get the flu that’s going around – it sucks.

e) I know we are nation of ‘overbese’ people (I made that up – overweight + obese) but it’s not a crime to eat that mac and cheese every once in awhile. There’s a lot to be said for ‘comfort food’ as long as you don’t comfort yourself too much.

f) If you’d like to help build a new EMS station somewhere you’ve probably never been go to:

And finally….as my Dad says: ‘the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude’. So don’t loose your cookies (that you shouldn’t be eating anyway) the next time you’re on a road trip and you get lost – think of it as having an unforeseen opportunity to see a whole other part of the world you wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

Thanks for tuning in….Until next week…CHEERS!!

10 March 2008

And through it all she offers me protection, a lot of love and affection whether I’m right or wrong…

I was a camp counselor in Maine in 1999 when Robbie Williams’ CD The Ego Has Landed landed in my consciousness. I had tossed him aside because of his boy band image (he was in Take That) and had dismissed his music as anything but relevant to me. But there I was at Camp surrounded by what felt like 100’s of miles of woods, lakes, 30 counselors, most of whom were European, and about 120 teenage girls. Somehow amongst all that solitude, JFK Jr’s death, a Great Dane named Bailey, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team making headlines, and no way to escape camp Williams’ song “Millennium” struck a chord, freed us all and became the anthem of the summer. It was on everyone’s mixed tape, everyone knew all the words and through some of the language barriers and different cultures colliding we all cemented our bond through this and several other songs of that Summer.

“We've got stars directing our fate
And we're praying it's not too late
Some say that we are players
Some say that we are pawns
But we've been making money
Since the day that we were born
Got to slow down
'Coz we're low down
Run around in circles
Live a life of solitude
'Till we find ourselves a partner
Someone to relate to
Then we'll slow down
Before we fall down
We've got stars directing our fate
And we're praying it's not too late
'Coz we know we're falling from grace

It was, in so many ways, a magical summer. I met some people, especially my ‘sister’ Suzanne, who would have profound affects on my life. There was an intimacy to being ‘stranded’ as it were on 100 acres of a Camp – no cell phones – no accessible internet – no T.V. and nary a newspaper to be found. There was a sense of community that we rarely encounter in real life. How often do you get to eat all your meals with 150 other people at a time on a daily basis? How often are you huddled on a stormy afternoon under one roof with nowhere to go without getting soaked? How often do you have time to really connect and talk to people at length? How often are all of our problems shared with so many others who actually give a shit? Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t love everyone I met that summer nor did everyone love me – but the experience was a powerful one that is so undeniably rare.

With no car at my disposal, and one day off each week if I wanted to get off the property I took a run or a long walk to the neighbourhood store, or I snagged a sail boat and went for a sail. It was a very fun summer even though I worked hard in the theatre every night building and painting sets, redoing the light plot or fixing some old piece of equipment. The work was hard, I was underpaid, and I rarely got to speak to anyone in my family since there was only one pay phone for the counselors on which to be reached. Messages were hard to get – and time was scarce but somehow we all muddled through and learned to care about each other despite our differences. When Annette’s mother fell unexpectedly ill we all came together and camped out in the woods her last night before leaving early to get back to London. All of us sent her off and all of us cried for her. That’s what camp was about – we learned – we grew – we ended up appreciating each other and the endless Maine stars.

It was the last summer where everything was normal in my life. It had been 9 years since my grandfather passed away – life had gotten back to ‘normal’ in the family as we had learned to move around his absence. Then it wasn’t. The next January my mother passed away unexpectedly and four months later to the day – Annette’s mother succumbed to her Cancer. The months spent at camp both Annette and I would come to realize turned out to be a reverse salvation – the memories of the summer helped us both to carry through. In addition, a trip up and down the West Coast of California we had planned to take when camp ended had been, understandably, postponed. We would take that trip August of 2000 – doing what both of our mothers had encouraged us to do together. We camped, I drove, we played Robbie Williams, we met some very cool people over the course of the two week trip and we both got to spend time with someone who understood. None of that would have been possible if we hadn’t ended up at camp together.

When camp ended I headed back to Los Angeles and very difficultly tried to assimilate back to City life. The first thing I did was buy Robbie Williams CD. I listened to it nonstop and discovered the rest of what I would come to feel was an amazing album! With “Angels” (today’s title and possibly the most moving song on the CD), “Win Some, Loose Some” (“she touched my face and she called me her lover I never thought I’d need another…”), “Jesus In A Camper Van” (“Jesus in a camper van he said sorry to leave you I’ve done all I can…”), “Strong” (“Every morning when I wake up I feel like Kiss but without the makeup, and that’s a good line to take it to the bridge...”) and the exquisite cover of World Party’s “She’s The One” this is a CD of truly incredible, diverse, sometimes dance-worthy music and well worth another long overdue listen as I am doing today. Or discover it for the first time if you haven’t already. www.robbiewilliams.com

Here’s “Angels”:


This is my friend Joe. He passed away last Tuesday. He was my friend Holly’s dog. Not mine. I don’t have a dog. I won’t ever have a dog until I have a house – but especially since my cat got sick. I wont do that to him. But I had Joe. I walked Joe when Holly went out of town or when she was running late. He loved me. I loved him. Whenever he saw me on the street he would come running. He was 10 and still he ran to me. He was very special. Smart. Sweet. Big Bark. Big Dog. Protective. When he slept over I felt safer. When he kissed me I felt loved. When he smiled at me I felt special. He loved our walks. I loved our walks. I loved the security of hearing his leash jingle as he walked by my apartment every day. I miss that jingle. I miss our walks. I miss ‘the man’ as we called him. Now ‘the man’ is my cat, ‘’Dude’ we call him. He’s also special and I think in his own way he misses Joe, too. We all do. All those that knew him had a sad week last week. He touched everyone he knew and just like with kids – if he liked you – you must have been cool. But he was the cool one. He was unforgettable and now there is one more Angel looking over us all.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next week….CHEERS!! To Joe and all those that will miss him….

03 March 2008

They told me this was crazy, they told me expect the worst, they told me this is going to haunt you someday….

To me there is something so quintessentially Bostonian about Patty Larkin, this despite the fact that she grew up in Milwaukee. I think it’s because not only has she lived in Beantown forever but it was when I was living there that a friend turned me on to her. Most of my memories in Boston can somehow be threaded through her silky voice, meaningful lyrics and her sweet melodies. Not to be confused with that other Patty (Griffin – another great Boston artist who actually grew up just north of the city) this Patty has a jazz vibe to her – a uniquely smart approach to her songs that while most qualify her as a folk artist (understandably so since much of her early work is as such) – this latest release, Watch The Sky, is harder to nail down; unlike her previous work this CD is rife with unexpected sounds and interesting turns.

Ever true to her lyrical voice – there is no mistaking that this is Patty Larkin as evidenced from today’s title lyric from “Hallelujuh” – she musically weaves in and out of her words as if she were on a Bunny Slope at Wildcat Mountain in New Hampshire. Gliding on ice as is typical of New England skiing – you know she’d headed down the mountain – but you don’t know where she will come to a stop. Not only did she, according to her website, write and produce this CD she also engineered and edited it as the ideas came to her – writing – then recording immediately following. I think this allows for less reflection – less time to criticize your own work and just put it out there as the inspiration ‘dictates’. Too often as a writer I know I’m prone to over analyzing my words (if you only knew how long it actually takes me to write these blogs you’d probably tell me just to give up) and thusly I’m not always as true to my voice as I should be – not always as fearless as I could be. The freedom she allows herself to purge her written voice and create sounds such as the ‘slapsteel’ guitar – a pedal steel guitar detuned and played with drumsticks – works so well for her songs that you would think she’s always worked this way.

If you’re looking to hear something akin to her Live In Harvard Square CD you’re barking up the wrong tree. This is a piece of work that could very well be in a Wim Wenders film or part of the soundtrack to any number of films such as Tumbleweeds, Sweet Land, or basically any indie film that has to do with hardscrabble living, dusty roads and quirky people in love. My favourite songs are “Waterside”, “Phone Message”, “Cover Me”, “Hallelejuh”, “Dear Heart” and “Traveling Alone”. Each song is different with it’s own spirit and one wonders – was a song written in the morning and thusly the day shaped around it? Or was it the other way around? We’ll never know – but it sure is fun imagining her process. No matter what, this is music worth listening to and getting to know – do it with a cup of coffee or a shot of whiskey on a sunday afternoon and if you’re really lucky there will be a gentle snow falling. www.pattylarkin.com or www.myspace.com/pattylarkinofficial

One thing you should never do on a Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles is go to the grocery store. Now that the writers strike is over and more people are working Monday through Friday – the weekend has once again become about running errands – especially Sunday afternoon. The last gasp of freedom is at our tongue tip – every so tasteful and soon to be sliding down our throats. I was itchy to get out and do something after damn near ruining my flat screen t.v. by pausing on a McDonalds logo for too long. I thought the imprint would last forever and that I would, ironically since I don’t eat fast food, be subjected to this imprint until the end of time – or at least until I’m forced to buy a new high def T.V. As the crisis loomed in my head I walked to Trader Joe’s to stock up on some bare necessities. BIG MISTAKE.

Of late I have tried to go to a store and be zen about it. The more crowded this city becomes the more difficult even the smallest of tasks can be. Driving 5 miles can take an hour; watching a movie in public can cause one to want to support the N.R.A. and apparently buying cereal has become hazardous as well. After patiently waiting behind some old guy to decide not to buy eggs – then politely excusing myself to get by so I could buy eggs only to be given a dirty look – I headed for the cereal aisle.

What was I thinking? Cereal? It seems simple enough a task – walk up to the boxes – try and remember what I buy – and pick up a box. Uh. Nope. Another old guy decided that his buying cereal was far more important than my need to buy it all the while attempting to use his cart to nudge me out of the way whilst muttering something about his oh-so important needs. Damn it! I got there first!! I’m slightly colour blind and can’t just pick out any old box based on what it looks like – I have to actually read the god damn label to make sure I’m not buying some sugar laden crap that’s going to give me diabetes later on in life or make me fall asleep after I eat it. Unbelievable!

Next up was to wind my way up to the cheese and meat aisle. Hard to do with all the excessively large baby carriages in my path. What should have taken half a minute took closer to two minutes because of the several detours I had to take to get where I wanted to go. Then of course after I checked out I was nearly run over by another baby carriage as I attempted to exit the store. GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!

As I walked out of the store I saw to my right a table and these cute little handwritten signs asking to ‘help our troops’. How can I resist? So in order to assuage my guilt over being so annoyed by all these ridiculous people and being less than zen - I bought Girl Scout cookies that I really didn’t need to buy. Oh well. I’m sure it will come back to haunt me in some way but I figured ‘why not? they’re kids and lets keep them off these mean streets of Los Angeles’. Though come to think of it - I think they were from the Beverly Hills troop. Oh well. I felt better anyway. No more Sunday shopping for me.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next week….CHEERS!! & GO HILLARY!!!