But it's not to be. My song All Things Being Equal from Raised In Vain was just awarded a "Judges Merit" in the Clonmel Song Contest. The winning ten songwriters get to go to Clonmel to perform live - and to determine the final winner.
Maybe one of my new songs will get me there next year.
A thought has been kicking around in my head for some time now. Actually it's the collision of a couple of thoughts linked by one word - words.
As anyone who has ever tried to write anything will confirm, the question you always ask yourself is, "Is this original?" And, of course, it's impossible to know the answer because nobody, however well read, can know everything that has already been written!
So you press on in the hope that what you are writing will have some merit, some value to someone other than yourself. I know many writers say they write only for themselves. But what they mean, I think, is that they set their standards so high that, if they meet them, they already know it's worth someone else's time to read what they've written. They just don't always admit to this way of thinking. They prefer to believe they gained their audiences by accident!
This concern about the originality of words then linked in my mind with the current Presidential campaign, which has very much focused on words. First there were the accusations that Obama's campaign was "only words" - which always sounded ludicrous to me, after all what else does someone running for office have other than their words? Now we have the McCain campaign throwing around incendiary words like 'terrorist' and "He doesn't see America the way we see America." Truly despicable.
It hit me that Obama, as a communicator, faces the same issue I face as a writer - are his words original?
No matter how well he delivers them the truth is they are not. We have heard the same promises - help the middle class, fix health care, create jobs - many, many times before. So it's not the words that matter so much as our faith in the speaker to live up to those words. And that's where politicians part company with songwriters.
Anyway, all of this led to Just Because. And don't take the final verse in the wrong way, I remain an ardent supporter of Obama. I was just examining his challenge from a different angle.
Ashley Bernard. She has no idea but she is part of the reason I started openDmusic. When I created my publishing/recording company it was never just to put my music out there. I always had the dream of helping new, young singer-songwriters.
I found her by accident. Isn't it amazing how often life works that way? My wife, Fandy, and I took a long road trip this summer. We visited the depressingly touristy Maine Coast. Then struck north, headed for Quebec, which took us through New Brunswick. We needed an overnight stopping point and with no more thought than sticking a pin in a map we decided on Grand Falls. After all, at least it had "the falls" to fill a day.
Little did we know.
As we pulled up to the B&B where we were to spend two nights I saw Danny's Music Shop. And thought to myself, "Well, at least I can go browse the guitars if it rains" - which it looked like it might.
It didn't. But I dropped by anyway and immediately struck up a conversation with Danny himself. The definition of a cool guy, Danny and I were soon swapping stories and I was equally soon hiking back up the little hill to get my guitar and a copy of my CD. After discussing my CA Guitars all-carbon-fiber instrument and it's suitability for road trips we got into deeper territory.
I learned how those "falls" had taken one of his daughters not so long ago. It was a devastating story for which I was simply unprepared, being in the middle of a vacation. I was speechless. And I think Danny could tell. So he started telling me that what kept him and his wife going were their other daughters.
It was then he proudly played me a song by Ashley on his computer. He apologized constantly for the bad quality of the speakers. But he didn't need to. I stood there and felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention as these amazing words filled the room, delivered in a voice that - well what can I say? - just startled me.
It startled me for two reasons. First, it was so good. But second, I vaguely remembered Danny telling me a few moments earlier that his daughter was just 19 - and had written some of these songs several years ago! I found that almost impossible to believe. But then the haunting combination of intelligence and youthful bravado, the carelessness of the talent, began to make sense.
And this is how I "met" Ashley Bernard. Everything since has confirmed my first thoughts. From the fact that she will spell her name different ways on different days - depending on her moods. Sometimes it's Ashley, sometimes Ashleigh...and sometimes just Ash. When I asked her for a photo for this piece she sent me a choice of three. The one you see above, plus one of her sitting at the kitchen table drinking milk with curlers in her hair (hardly someone worried about some manufactured image!) and finally one with her head shaved! She's growing her hair back right now but seeing her like that did not surprise me, surprisingly. I already knew Ashley is a woman who dances to a different drummer. Or to her own guitar.
So, now we are in discussions for her to be the first artist signed to openDmusic. While we work out the details of that arrangement I wanted to share with you - and invite your comments on - two of the songs that have come out of this wondrous spirit from Grand Falls, New Brunswick, Canada.
The first is called The Molecule Song...which if it doesn't capture the sentiment that anything is possible in this life, I have no idea what could.
The second is Funky Vice...and, yes, like me, you'll have to keep reminding yourself that this voice is that of a 19 year-old.
I hope you enjoy them. They were recorded under very basic circumstances so forgive the background hiss and noises - if the songs hit you the way they hit me you'll forget the technical stuff almost immediately. And, again, please comment on what you hear...I know what I think, but for Ashley to have an audience out there will take a lot of people agreeing with me!