Songwriter

Songwriter

When I was 14, I wrote my first song.

silver pink honey

silver pink honey

I went out to find the morning

it began.

I walked through crooked feelings

I wrote it on the guitar my father had given me a few months before – a Martin 000-18.

Martin 000-18

Martin 000-18

 

Those numbers meant nothing to me at the time; I didn’t even know what was so great about a Martin guitar, except that my idol, Joan Baez, played one.

I went out to find the morning                                                                 I  walked through tattered dreams

LP

LP

It was 1967. I’d steeped myself in the recordings of not only Joan B, but  The Weavers; the Kingston Trio; Peter, Paul & Maryearly Simon and Garfunkle, early Joni.                                                      

Peter, Paul, & Mary

Peter, Paul, & Mary

But I brought it back                             

A bit of silver pink honey                      

Dripping through my hands

It was a pretty terrible first effort. But the act of engaging lyric and music was utterly engrossing, and as years went by I did more and more of it. When I moved to New York City, after graduating from college and an acting program, and a stint with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (1975), I wasn’t heading east to just be an actor, but also a singer/songwriter.

I’m driving east with the sun sinking low                                                                        

Slept last night with my jeans for a pillow                                                                      

And a moon up above me, harvest full and white                                                  

Shining down, smiling down, telling me it’s right

Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon

I was disappointed to find that my imagined folk scene in the Village had dried up, replaced by the driving beat of disco. But I wrote on, sitting cross-legged on the floor of my five-floor walk-up, tub-in-the-kitchen apartment, bent over my guitar, coming up with chords and the words to go with them. Using the back of the guitar as a writing desk, strings pressing into my calves, I scribbled lyrics on backs of envelopes, on the edges of theatre programs, on pages torn from my journal.

Hold me, baby, hold me                                                                                                        

You send me like a first class letter                                                                                

Many have tried but none can do it better      

                 

All I really want’s some country living                                                                

            Pigs down the lane and a milk cow in the field                                                    

             But you can’t grow a garden in the subway                                                                        

It’s that lonesome time of evening                                                            

                       Time to be gathered in a loving pair of arms                                        

                      Time when I miss that rovin’ man of mine.                                                  

                      It’s that blue hour of love

And a hymn to friendship, inspired by a phrase I’d seen when I was about 14, carved into a mantelpiece: O Joy Divine of Friends. I carried that with me for years and then, one Christmas Eve, it bloomed into song.

 I know that it’s been said before: we are orphans of the storm                                  

Cast adrift and far from shore, orphans of the storm                                                      

But when we know enough to land                                                                                        

To draw our boats high on the sand                                                                                

We’re blessed by God’s true gift to man                                                                            

 The joy divine of friends

8 track

8 track

I used a tape player and recorded a few tunes and imagined an album (it would have been an eight-track).

I even got a few songs transcribed.

A group of fellow New York actors and I created a band:  unusual instrumentation, lots of percussion; we played a few gigs.

 

Way down on Chippewa Street                                                                                      

That’s where the old black men they go to meet                                                 

Bums in the corners are hugging their booze                                                              

There are women in mini-skirts  and high-heeled shoes                                        

 Though they tell me that ain’t no place for a nice girl to walk                                          

 I’ll take my chances                                                                                                              

 I’m walking somewhere

But tragedy struck. My brother, Oak, fell from a bridge and suffered a massive brain injury. And although this was not clear to me at the time, I fled the scene of sorrow, abandoning dear friends as well as the music that wonderful group of musicians and I were creating. I moved all the way across the country, to Los Angeles. I found an apartment not far from the Hollywood sign.

Hollywood

Hollywood

             Leaning into loneliness                                                                                          

             With my elbows on the bar 

There, I fell in with Jamie, a brilliant jazz bass player. He was also a Scientologist. I was bedazzled by both. Almost 30, aswirl in existential vertigo, I thought I’d found True Love. Also True Meaning.    

My steering lost, the rigging gone                                                                                      

The winds of chance the only form                                                                                  

What blew me to your harbor’s peace                                                                            

What a port to come to, after such a storm

Only recently have I examined the ulterior motive I might have had in marrying Jamie: With his astounding musicianship, we’d become a singer/songwriting team! Lyrics: Sands; Music: Jamie: Jamie & Sands!

But during our short-lived marriage, I learned, among other things, that folk music wasn’t music.

Also, that I couldn’t sing. Not really.

Powerful perspectives, delivered from that jazz-driven place, which blew me off course for a long while.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

There ensued a seven-year voyage battling storms and seas of doubt, during which I grappled with the few good things Scientology has to offer, as well as its terrible tentacles, which grip a practitioner close. I did not write much. I did not sing much. I divorced Jamie and met T—.  A rock’n’roll singer/songwriter, T—was also a Scientologist. I loved him vastly.

Dancin through the heavens

Dancin through the heavens

I believe in distance                                        

But I was afraid of space                              

The ebb and flow, the come and go          

Until I saw your face

A dozen times I tried to leave the Church, but it meant leaving T—, and the many good friends I’d made, all of whom also believed /were persuaded to believe. Again and again I allowed myself to be sucked back into the vortex.

During this time, however, I saved my pennies, and when I had enough, recorded a tune at a friend’s studio, and then another, and another. I dreamed of creating an album (it would have been a cassette).

cassette

cassette

Now and again I journeyed to the Southwest, for what I called my pilgrimages. One night outside of Durango a friend pointed up to a fingernail clipping of moon and told me it was called a Rustler’s Moon:                                                                         

rustler's moon

rustler’s moon

The moon’s a pale sliver in the dark night sky  

A sickle’s edge                                                    

 that gleams against the stars                          

It’s a  rustler’s moon                                          

 He saddles up his pony                                  

Her hand trembles as she holds the light

 Someone’s going to lose something tonight

On I lingered, too long, in the ragged, doubt-and-friend-filled life I had in L.A. Eventually I broke free. Graduate school helped effect it. It was now 1989, and I was in Iowa with my guitar, broken and sad, missing T— and my friends, and certainty.

The wind is sighing through the leaves which are starting to turn                            

 I’ve seen them change so many times, is there something there to learn?                

You and I have said goodbye; now I rake our love in heaps to burn

And just as—sigh—I was on my way back to finding self and song, I took up with yet another brilliant man who thought little of folk music. D— was a classically trained guitarist. I put him on a pedestal. I left my guitar alone.  I moved to be with him deep in the Northeastern Kingdom. When that romantic experiment blew up, I moved again, eventually landing in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada. There I reengaged with theatre and meditated on Monday nights and on Thursdays attended African Dance class.

Every now and again I looked at my Martin. But mostly, it stayed in its case. imgres-6 Then I met TT.  

One thing I can’t get over is this roadmap on my face                                                  

How all the journeys of my soul have left behind their trace                                      

And now you lie beside me, and you look at me so sweet                                          

Have I done all this traveling so our two souls could meet

Through TT I came to know a wonderful group of people, including the musicians Maggie McKaig and her husband, Luke Wilson. Luke and Maggie and their music inspired me to lift the guitar from its bed of blue velveteen. With their help I began, tentatively, to trust my voice and lyrics again. I started to play the old tunes, and little by little to write some new ones.  

Storm Sessions Murray Campbell, Michael Zisman, Sands, Maggie, Luke WIlson

Storm Sessions
Murray Campbell, Michael Zisman, Sands, Maggie, Luke WIlson

You glitter 

and you gleam                                    

calling up the moon

calling up the moon

You’re a coin

and you are horns                                

You wax 

and then you wane                                

You’re gone                                                          

and then you’re here again

Other musicians, too, encouraged me along the way, especially during the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, when there is always music to be made during the annual Follies.

Louis B. Jones, Greg Spatz, Caridwen Spatz, Mark Childress, Sands, Nion McEvoy. I think we're singing Hank Williams's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."

Louis B. Jones, Greg Spatz, Caridwen Spatz, Jason Roberts, Mark Childress, Sands, Nion McEvoy.

Maggie and I went on tour together, The Great Southwestern Water Dragon Tour. You can read all about it elsewhere on this blog.

IMG_1543

Into my life came more fine musicians. Inspired by the sounds of sax, accordion, banjo, fiddle, bass twining about the lyrics, infusing the tunes, I began to dream, again, of recording a few of my songs.     

       It’s been a pilgrimage season

pilgrimage season

pilgrimage season

I have been lost on my way        

Now I’ve found my way back  to the place I started

 It all looks so different        

 It all looks familiar

 

I imagined making an album with these friends. It would be a CD.

And then I did.

It arrived yesterday.

Box2

It’s called RUSTLER’S MOON.

Tree and Crescent, Sierra  Foothills www.garyhartphotography.com

Tree and Crescent, Sierra Foothills
http://www.garyhartphotography.com

The front cover is part of a photograph taken by the ultra-talented Gary Hart.

A detail is on the CD itself: photo

The back cover is the rest of Gary’s photograph, and lists the songs and the stellar musicians, which include: Maggie McKaig, Luke Wilson, Randy McKean, Murray Campbell, Louis B. Jones, Pat Jacobsen, Tree, and Saul and Elena Rayo. Most of it was recorded at the lovely Ancient Wave Studios, in Nevada City. I’ll be writing more about that.

photoThe CD is made of all recycled materials! Thanks to Oasis for offering that option.

You can buy it here:

Sands Hall: Rustler

I’ll be writing various posts about recording the album, bits of history about how the lyrics and/or the music came about, about the sustaining and amazing joy divine of friends, and any other adventures that may unfold.

I hope you’ll come along, under the moon, for the ride.

 

This entry was posted in Rustler's Moon. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Songwriter

  1. tom taylor says:

    some bio. nice pics.
    graphic novella
    con musica
    TT

  2. Beth says:

    Thank you Sands! I can’t wait to get your CD…. You will tell me where I can buy it?

    • Sands says:

      Thank YOU, Beth! I’d love you to buy a CD. I’m just now working with CDBaby, and as soon as I have that link set up, I’ll send it along. xox!!

    • Sands says:

      Dear Beth. I’m now set to go with CDBaby! YOu can buy the album and/or download the songs. I’ve inserted a “buy here” button towards the bottom of the above post, and I think this is a direct link to the website: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/sandshall

      Thank you so much! Let me know what you think!

  3. Debbie Boucher says:

    Congratulations, Sands! Love, Debbie and Mike Boucher

  4. Laurie OBrien says:

    Who knew!? I knew. Back there, behind our red door, watching, listening, loving. It was obvious that music was your element. Getting beyond Dad who thought natural talent trumped it all, journeying past and through, diving deep, going under, and doing it and doing it and doing it. – Just look what you found – The place where you started, where you have always been.

    Congratulations for coming back around, sweetheart. Never a doubt in my mind. Don¹t you ever doubt it again.

    Please let me know when, where, and how I can buy it. I¹ll be spreading the good news! You amaze and delight me – Laurie

    • Sands says:

      Dear Lo — thank you again for your thoughtful and knowing response to the post. I appreciate it so much. Since you asked: I’ve inserted a link near the bottom of the post, and I also think that this link will get you there: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/sandshall

      All new to me! Hope it works! Let me know how it goes! and thank you again. Much much love.

  5. Sands says:

    Thank you, Lo. Love you.

  6. so excited for you sands!!!! can’t wait to buy your c.d.!!!! what are you and fan doing for thanksgiving???? hugs and more hugs, dana

    • Sands says:

      Thank you, Daner!!!! I love you. Thank you for pointing out, so long ago, a Rustler’s Moon!

      I’ll be back east this semester again — still teaching at Franklin & Marshall. Where will you be for T’sgiving. I’m sending you a CD– of course! Is the PO box in Telluride still good? If not, email the correct address. Love you, so much!

  7. Susoyev says:

    Ahh, a lovely meditation that I will carry with me all day.

    The CDBaby site has confirmed my order. It’s working!

    I love you, Sands, and continue to be inspired by you.

  8. Sands says:

    Thank you, dear Steve! You are an inspiration to me as well. Much much love.

  9. edgar boyles says:

    What a superb bioblog (?) Looking forward to the music! Gran Abrazos, Edgar

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s