Photo: Courtesy Of Kenny White
TIME Travels Intergenerational Songwriting/Storytelling MiniFest
In celebration of Creative Aging Month in Bloomington, Indiana.
Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium
Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 7:00pm
Songwriting From The Neck Up
Kenny White has been in the music business for four decades. He’s worked with everyone from Marc Cohn and Shawn Colvin to Judy Collins and Steve Earle. But when he’s approached by audience members after concerts, people don’t want to talk about that.
“I’ve heard the phrase ‘Where have you been, why don’t I know of you?’ more than I ever want to hear it,” he says
That’s because he spent the majority of his career writing and arranging jingles for commercials. Remember “The Unsinkable Taste of Cheerios” and Chevrolet’s “Heartbeat of America” campaign? That was him.
Twelve years ago, he gave all that up to write his own music for the first time. The creative process was completely different, he says. He didn’t realize how deeply inside himself he had to inspect to write songs that actually meant something to him.
“It was a lot of years of from the neck-up writing,” he says. “They were good and interesting, but they weren’t anything I could sing night after night or that people would come up after a show and say you really touched me.”
Tale As Old As Time
He’ll be sharing the stage with some singer songwriters who have made careers of writing their own tunes and some who have to balance their writing with their schoolwork. That’s the point of the Time Travels Songwriting/Storytelling Minifest — to prove that those two disciplines cross generational lines.
“We separate ourselves so much by our knowledge of things that are culturally relevant to us in the primes of our lives,” says Krista Detor, organizer and host of the event. “Really, we’re all living and telling the same story just from slightly different vantage points down a timeline.”
Along with fellow Bloomington-based singer songwriter Carrie Newcomer, she conducted songwriting workshops with residents of Bell Trace and teens. She noticed the stories everyone was telling were essentially the same. The difference was in brand name, in that the seniors might be talking about a game of jacks while the teens are talking about their first Nintendo.
“But, the things that absolutely crossed the line without fail were favorite foods, early childhood memories of a favorite grandparent or a family pet,” she says. “Those things we found crossed the generational lines so much.”
All Ages Event
At 13 years old, Maria Sarah Lysandrou will be one of the youngest performers of the evening. She started playing guitar and writing songs when she was 8. Lysandrou is home schooled, so she can write music and practice several hours every day.
She collaborated with Nashville, Tennessee musician Mike Marcum for her song “I Just Breathe.” Marcum added words to Lysandrou’s guitar melody, and the song was written in 90 minutes. “It’s pretty amazing how it turns out,” she says.
Starting From Scratch
White, on the other hand, admits he’s lousy at collaboration, and while Lysandrou starts with a musical idea, he starts with the words. He says it’s a reaction against all the commercial writing of his early career. “When I started doing my own records, I was almost writing the music to keep out of the way of the lyrics.”
It’s been a hard road for White trying to make a living with his own music. It’s basically like starting from scratch all over again.
After spending half his life writing music, are there moments when he thinks it’s all been said, so why bother?
“I always think that,” he says. “Bach did it all as far as melody and chord structure. But then something hits you, a different way to turn a phrase or a chord progression that just seems like you haven’t heard it a hundred times.”