Archive | March, 2017

A short Song Writing Reflection: Daughter of a Heathen Man by Matt Hicks

This article is not written to be an authority on songwriting. It is merely a reflection and is meant to stimulate thought and dialogue. What works for me may not work for you but even in the process of vehemently disagreeing with me, it may give rise to you finding another “right way”.
One of the biggest hurdles to songwriting is a significant conflict which, I believe, some people never overcome before downing tools and taking up something else.  That conflict lies in the friction caused between existential reflection and existential fatigue. What do I mean by that? Existentialism is the position that we can only know things or form knowledge of something through our own individual experience. Albert Camus once said something like ” the cats universe is not the universe of the ant hill”. That is we cannot understand anything other than through our own eyes and senses.
Now for poets, that often isn’t a problem. In fact they revel in “existentialism”, working their senses into words, images and metaphors that reflect the universe around them. Its a wonderful skill and it is probably that which  separates poets from many songwriters. Many songwriters tend to write directly about their experience about every day things. That is a generalisation, I know, but its a useful one for the picture I’m about to paint.
So that takes us to the second half of our problem. Existential fatigue. That is the boredom, lack of conviction, lack of excitement about our own experience as we begin to express and reflect our experience. I don’t know about you but I have about 30 songs that I have abandoned over the years because I’ve  grown out of them or they no longer reflect my universe or how I feel or experience things or rather; the way they are written no longer reflects my universe (even if I still feel the same things). I remember a couple of times when I was younger, performing a song I had written about unrequited love or whatever, getting to the middle of it and realising that I was completely bored and, worst still, I lost the ability to show conviction about what I was singing.
Maybe that is just me but relaying a relationship or an everyday experience into a song almost word for word and still retaining the interest of both the songwriter and the audience is incredibly hard to do. There are two ways of doing it to my knowledge.
The first is to keep it all really simple and basic in language and theme and keep it really really SHORT!!!!
Sea of heartbreak was released by Don Gibson in 1961 and is the theme song to Clint Eastwoods Heartbreak Ridge. Its a simply worded, simply themed short song about heartbreak. This is a song which is what it is without any poetic pretensions and people are really receptive to that.
However, many people who are sensitive enough to write songs to actually reflect their pain or happiness want to relay more complex emotions and experiences rather than writing to sell a multi million dollar three minute hit. That’s when the conflict between existentialism and fatigue comes in. So how do we get around that one? How do we relay how we feel without boring everyone including ourselves?
Well my approach is very often to write someone else’s story. I choose someone who no longer has their own voice or perhaps never had a voice. My recent anger at the lurch to political populism found its way into a song by writing about the last woman to be hung for witchcraft in the UK at the demands of the baying crowd.
Writing about someone else makes you seem less self absorbed but there’s also an added trick. By virtue of the fact you are telling this story about someone else, the audience will automatically assume its a story worth listening to. Singing about someone else also has its advantages because often the words and themes you use will then be timelessly caught in the moment you’re singing about and you will also fool yourself into carrying on the song with conviction.
22 years ago I left the religious faith of my childhood. It was an enduringly traumatic experience which, over the years, I have slowly made sense of. I have written countless songs on the experience and to date only one of them has survived in my set list. Guess what! It is the one song I wrote about someone else. This song “Daughter of a Preacher Man” is very different to the others. Firstly its not immediately obvious its about me. Secondly, it tells a chronological story. Thirdly it has a very basic theme about finding God in the arms of the one you love. Having spent countless years boring myself with songs about my existential crisis, I woke up one morning and thought Id have a bit of fun. Dusty Springfield’s  “Son of a Preacher Man” is a story told through the eyes of a girl meeting the…er… of a preacher man. Well I wondered what Billy Ray’s (son of a preacher man) side of the story would be. Hence a song about his existential crisis being soothed by meeting the “Daughter of a Heathen Man”.
So there it is. The above reflection is not…er…gospel, but I hope it shows a different way of working. If, like me, you bore yourself very quickly, writing someone else’s story engages yourself and the audience a lot more potently and makes the whole experience of performing your songs a pleasure to all rather than a chore. I hope.
Daughter of a Heathen Man:



I am writing instrumental music on the Ukulele and chanson like music for the Ukulele in german. For me it is an adventure to explore my mothertongue in a genre where most artists are english speaking. I don´t like to publish videos, cause I want the ears to be busy not the eyes.

I originally started writing music on bass guitar, then switched to tenor ukulele. Currently I am working on a song collection of “Wiener Lieder” and have a collection of instrumental compostions for ukulele. In the past I was running a bass duo called “2bass” where I had an evening show called “Mellow Night Grooves” in a local pub in Frankfurt am Main over 1,5 years. The show was based on improvisation. One bass gave the groove the other explored with arpeggio chord playing the horizon of the groove. We mostly focused on fusion in those days. The song Mellow Nights at the bottom of the soundcloud page is giving a sample of that time.

Nowadays I focus on simple setups. Voice and Ukulele. Just me, a rythm, my voice a simple grooving song structure. I am highly influenced by jazz and dancing swing notes.


Harry Parker (Balboaguy)

Harry worked out his first original songs at the age of 15 and got around to writing them down and learning to play them on the ukulele 50 years later (2 years ago). In the meantime he’s been slowly learning his craft from Dylan, The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Jeff Lynne and Randy Newman. His long evolved and not particularly awaited first album “Private Salt’s Sociable Hearts Club Solos” is expected (along with his first public performance) in April 2020 on his 70th birthday. Harry is unique as an artist in that there’s nothing to look back on, it’s all to look forward to. Don’t be deceived by the self-deprecating dark humor though, this is an artist of some significant potential.



An accomplished musician whose career has wound its way from jazz to experimental by way of heavy metal, Lionel discovered the ukulele during a 2006 trip to Hawaii and immediately fell under its spell.
Upon returning home to France, he was impressed by the possibilities of his little 4-string. He came to call it his “creativity booster” – precisely what he needed to break free from 25 years of guitarist
clichés. But Lionel couldn’t be satisfied with traditional ways of playing the instrument. He decided to take the ukulele in other directions.
Lionel met Antoine in a tabla class and asked him to participate in a
power trio: bass, drums, and uke. Intrigued by this unlikely combination, Antoine accepted and the first U.K.E was born. Antoine, originally a rock drummer, took a growing interest in other percussion instruments. Today he plays the tabla, udu and other noise making objects – all, of course, while continuing to bang out crazy jungle rhythms on his cajon.
The juxtaposition of solid rhythms with new ukulele sounds is what makes U.K.E so original. Eventually the trio became a duo and started adding electronic parts and real-time loops to their repertoire.
The band has played in a variety of concerts and festivals around the world: USA, Australia, Canada and various European countries.
U.K.E a unique musical experience: Ukulele Nu Sound!


Sean Hunt

I am a retired late-starter living in Windermere, U.K. the ‘Lakes District’. I play with a group of similar retired characters in a Ukulele Band called ‘Untethered’
Leonard Cohen has been my main model as a poet, as a songwriter, and also as a human being. I am a big fan of his I am delighted to be occasionally told by people that I remind them of Leonard Chen but I know it is mostly because I wear a Fedora 🙂 Leonard humbly referred to himself as a “Minor poet”; I therefore must refer to myself as a barely perceptible poet.


Mark Baker

This is an original based on an unsupported 2810 mi. Cross Country bicycle ride from Phoenix,Az to St Augustine, Fl Sept 2013. Our son joined me in Tallahassee to ride with me for the last 400 miles with my wife Peggy meeting us at the sea.


Flea Bitten Dawgs

The Flea Bitten Dawgs came together as a group after a recording that was a video promotion for a benefit for KDHX 88.1 Community Radio in St. Louis, MO in February 2010. The rendition we performed of Irving Berlin’s Russian Lullaby was done with a couple of day’s rehearsal and David playing a ukulele he borrowed from Thom! The video has had over 11,000 hits on Youtube! Since the band came together, we have played in 10 states, and three countries. We have radio airplay on 7 stations including one on the big island in Hawaii, released three CD’s and have had over 50,000 views on videos we, and fan’s, have on youtube and Facebook. There was a mini-documentary filmed by KETC Channel Nine; Living St. Louis, a PBS station, on Thom’s involvement with the ukulele in St. Louis, plus featured in the documentary “UWC V: A Field Guide” about the Ukulele World Congress. In 2015 Michael “Supe” Granda of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils recorded “My Dog Bob, one of Thom’s original songs, for his CD, ”Chickens in the Yard”. The Flea Bitten Dawgs were one of the headliners at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in 2016. While there, we played live on BBC Radio. We have shared the stage with Gerald Ross, Victoria Vox, Brook Adams, Cali Rose, Donna Frost, Peter Moss, Stuart Fuch. We have played together with Michael “Supe” Granda, Gerald Ross, Brook Adams, and David Gans from The Grateful Dead Hour. When opening for Melvin Seals of the Jerry Garcia Band Thom was asked to play with them for part of their set. Thom is also the founder and music director of the Whole Earth Nuclear Ukulele Orchestra , a 25 piece ukulele orchestra, which has played annual benefits since 2010.


Katy Vernon

Singer of sad songs on a happy instrument
Katy Vernon is a London born singer songwriter now living in the States. She combines folk, pop, and Americana sounds with her ever present Ukulele. This summer she returns to the U.K. For her first tour.