Songs like family

01:49, Dec 30 2013

Right around this time two years ago I was hurriedly - increasingly frantically - putting together what would be my first book, On Song. I say first with no real optimism that there will be a second, but simply because there wasn't a book with my name on the spine before I wrote On Song.

This time last year I was very much in the promo/publicity wheel - I was being interviewed left, right and centre, including TV and radio as well as print and online. And the book was serialised on National Radio's summer morning show. I sat in a studio in Auckland with Noelle McCarthy for some three hours one Saturday morning. We talked about the book chapter by chapter, song by song, and then that rambling conversation was cut up into five minute chunks and played daily.

So that's been my last two summers - different versions of being caught up, wrapped up tight, with New Zealand music. Different parts of the book process. No glory either way, just different parts of the process.

I was in Hawke's Bay for Christmas (as I mentioned) and I couldn't not think back to the last two years - when I was there in 2011 trying to write On Song, and at that point in the process it was very trying, I had a newborn son. Now you know him as Oscar, some of you actually know him; many of you tell me you see the Facebook photos. I've written about him a few times here because, well, what parent doesn't think they've got the most special little guy or girl (or guys and girls) in the world living under their roof. There's something wrong with any parent who doesn't think that, they shouldn't be doing that job.

In 2011 life was a blur - for many reasons.

Life isn't a blur right now.

So there was I was last week thinking about how beyond playing the odd song or album here and there I wasn't really under the spell of New Zealand music this summer. It wasn't filling my days and nights the way it did across last two years.

And then, Saturday night just been, I played some records at the San Fran Bath House, all Kiwi music, all night. Started at 8pm, played until about 2am. Six hours of Kiwi tunes. And it was easy. So easy. There wasn't a moment where I panicked about not having enough music. There wasn't a concern that I would run out of things to play, in fact I had enough for (easily) another night of the same length, another six hour set. Or two more.

And so I'm playing these songs - here's the full set, if you're interested - and I had, at various times in the evening, a feeling that these songs were such a huge part of my life. So much more than any other time when I've played records in a bar (which for the last couple of months has been a weekly occurrence, sometimes twice weekly). I'm always playing a few of my personal favourites, often finding new favourites then and there, and sometimes playing songs I don't care all that much for but I know (hope) they'll be the right song for that right time.

But Saturday night was different. Pretty much every single song meant something to me - for a start there were plenty of the songs from my book. That book is now nearly three years old to me, and just over a year old to you. You can find it in the bargain bin now. I will not ever make any money from it - so there's no big plug going on here, certainly not one where I'll stand to make money. Someone, recently, told my Facebook page that I only did the book for the money. I've realised, over the course of six years of blogging, that I've ended up telling you all far too much about my life - so let me be clear that I made no money writing that book. And didn't do it for that. I wouldn't have donated the cash if there was some - it would have been nice to have a runaway success and to be loaded as a result, but that didn't happen.

But these songs - they sit with me. I'm sure glad I got to write some of them down, or rather write them up, talk them up, talk about them. Share stories from them and about them.

And in a way I was doing the same thing on Saturday night - sharing stories simply by playing the tunes. I snuck  in a song that some friends of mine recorded onto vinyl over a decade ago - there are only a handful of copies of that single. I played Scribe and OMC and all sorts of obvious things as well as something from the recent Skeptics vinyl reissues and 3Ds and Verlaines and Ghost Wave and, well, all sorts. The something-for-everyone kind of approach.

It was fun. A real heap of fun.

I realised - something I kinda knew at the time, anyway - that Maxine by Sharon O'Neill really deserved to be part of the On Song book. But hey, only 30 songs, something had to give, several songs, nearly another 30, were at one time or other placed at number 31 on my working list.

But thanks to those who came along on Saturday night, it was, at times, quite emotional. So many songs that have stories of attachment, songs that have emotional hooks, reasons to resonate that stretch beyond the chords, the melody, the words, the rhythm, but almost always start because of those (distinguishing) features.

The songs feel, in so many ways, like family. Which is probably why once a year, over summer, I'm all nostalgic for them. Can't live with them a lot of the time, can't ever really live without them. 

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