Category Archives: Music

Music-related posts. my music, other people’s music. Music I like. Music I dislike.

Something New (2017)

Been a while since I posted something new so I present, “Something New.” It’s been a work in progress for a few months but I’m finally happy with the final verse. About a crazy time in work life when things are exciting but ultimately can’t last. I’ve got quite a few other new ones so I look forward to posting those soon as well. Also, I added the lyrics as closed captions and turned it on by default. Seems to go nicely with songs, especially if I’m mumbling a bit.

Lyrics and Chords

Something New
Words and Music, Miles Baltrusaitis 2017

D
In a town outside of Nashville
G D
In the year of O fifteen
D
Was a girl who worked on websites
A
Doing digital marketing

D

And a guy outside Chicago
G
Was doing the same thing
D
And when they worked together
A D
They knew something was happening

D
At first they worked in wordpress
G D
Building pages, posts and blogs
D
Explaining things with jams and jars
A
As symbolic analogs

D
They moved into marketo
G
Working hard as sniffing dogs
D
Closing tasks and shaving yaks
A D
While trying to eat frogs

CHORUS

{STRINGCACHE:MD5:04e26419ebfef9f533e9f27cbf45ea8d}

They earned respect and they learned trust
G A Em A
They caught up every day cause talking is a must
G A Bm
The more they worked, their power grew
A G D
And the more they shifted into something new

SOLO OVER VERSE

D D G D
D D A A7
D D G D
D D A D

D
The team traveled together
G D
To vegas, boston and the coast
D
One was sent to asia
A
to teach the programs that matter most
D
But the work was never ending
G D
And by seventeen, they were toast
D
The guy picked up the pieces
A D
And the girl turned to a ghost

{STRINGCACHE:MD5:1a1b746a37de9f1b0884f4845e26150a}

Well they earned respect and they learned trust
G A Em A
They caught up every day because talking is a must
G A Bm
But the more they worked, her feeling grew
A G D
That the time had come to try out something new

Songwriter Stories – Be Here Now (2010)

Rolling out the oldies again with a sister song to “Standing in Line.” Again, written mostly by Matt Stankiewicz and finished with Gary Zimmer and me at our Jefferson Park HeadQuarters. Not sure exactly what this was about lyrically but I’m sensing a strong theme of ambivalence and, “I can’t make big promises but this is what I can offer you.” The title makes me think of meditation and seeking a presence of mind that discards the past and stops trying to solve for the future.

Thoughts on the music

This was written on piano and it shows in the descending melody line that follows with the slash chords. I particularly like the walkup to D minor after the refrain. Gives it a new neighborhood to go to and a memorable place to sing along. When I play it on guitar, I don’t incorporate all the bass notes from the slash chords. I just imagine a bass player is doing that for me.

Lyrics and Chords


Intro

F / C/E / Bb C F /

F C/E

You look so surprised to see me standing here

Bb/D F/C F

I can see it in your eyes

Bb F/A F D-
I can’t explain the way I CAN’T LET GO

G- G C C7

But I know, yes I know

F C/E

Today I realized, the way I feel is clear

Bb/D F/C F

It’s something I cannot disguise

Bb F/A F#o G-
I can’t explain the way my HEART STANDS STILL

G C C7

But I will, yes I will

F Gm C

BE HERE NOW

F

To sacrifice my pride for you And

Am Bb C

SHOW YOU HOW

F

I will stand and fight for you

‘Cause...

Dm C Bb F

Iiiiiiiiiiii can’t know how you feel but

Dm C Bb F

Iiiiiiiiiiii know what I feel is real

Gm C Bb Am F

I’m making my vow to BE HERE NOW

F C/E

I hope you understand, what I came to say

Bb/D F/C F

Your eyes tell me that it’s true

Bb F/A F D-
It’s not a choice to make, to LET YOU KNOW

G- G C C7

I can’t let go, no I can’t let go

F C/E

Whatever you demand, there are no games to play

Bb/D F/C F

I will give it all to you

Bb F/A F#o G-
My heart is yours to take, IF YOU WILL

Cause I still, yes I still

Will... [CHORUS]

I Saw a Stranger with Your Hair (a John Gorka cover)

Having dropped quite a few old originals in here lately, I figured it was time to do another “no rehearsal, no excuses” cover. Last night, I recorded a song by John Gorka called “I Saw a Stranger with your Hair.” He’s recently been added to the inner circle of my list of favorite singer-songwriters along with Richard Thompson and Loudon Wainwright III. Other great tracks by him include “Love is our Cross to Bear,” “Down in the Milltown” and “Geza’s Wailing Ways.”

Why I chose “I Saw a Stranger with your Hair”

For me though, the height of poetry and symbol comes from “I Saw a Stranger with your Hair.” It’s a beautiful and haunting song from his early days, originally recorded back in 1987. The lyrics paint the picture of an ended relationship with the narrator seeing traces of his past lover in his present life. I think it captures the heartache that comes with losing someone but not being ready to move on yet. The line that particularly hits me hard (and I’m jealous that I didn’t think of) is, “by the way, how is my heart?” It’s so casual but so vulnerable. Reminds me of “She Thinks He Still Cares” and how that character tries to play it cool about a relationship ending but is really emotionally hurt by it.

There are lots of great versions of him singing the song in his low baritone voice with his acoustic guitar playing on Youtube. I decided I wanted to do it on piano because I’d never heard the song played on a piano and I’ve been doing a lot of guitar lately so it was a nice change up.

Lyrics & Chords

Capo 2nd fret

G C
I saw a stranger with your hair
Am
Tried to make her give it back
G C
So I could send it off to you
Am D
Maybe Federal Express cause I know you'd miss it

G C
I saw another with your eyes
Am
The flash just turned my head
G C
I went to try them on for size
Am D
But they looked the other way and wouldn't listen

CHORUS:
A Em
But you're never hard to find in a crowd
A Em
The people around you smiling out loud
Bm Em
Their feet don't touch the ground
D Em
Their feet don't touch the ground
D A
No their feet don't touch the ground

G C
I heard a stranger with your voice
Am
It took me by surprise
G C
Again I found it wasn't you
Am
Just an angel in disguise
D
In for a visit

G C
By the way how is my heart
Am
I haven't seen it since you left
G C
I'm almost sure it followed you
Am
Could you sometime send it back
D
I'll buy the ticket

CHORUS:
A Em
But you're never hard to find in a crowd
A Em
The people around you smiling out loud
Bm Em
Their feet don't touch the ground
D Em
Their feet don't touch the ground
D A
No their feet don't touch the ground

G C
I saw a stranger with your hair
G C
I saw another with your eyes
G C
I heard an angel with your voice
G C
By the way how is my heart
G C
By the way how is my heart

Songwriting Stories: Standing in Line (2009)

Standing in Line is yet another oldie that I wanted to get out there for the sake of documenting some of my musical history. It’s a song mostly written by Matt Stankiewicz, that I believe he brought to Gary Zimmer and me after he had the chords and a title. We wrote this at our band’s headquarters/rehearsal space on Milwaukee Ave in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Lyrics considered

The story is about a guy who is with a girl that would rather be with someone else but is afraid of making the move. He senses it and pulls the trigger before she gets the chance. I like a lot of the rhymes here (“when I’m gone, will you see what you did wrong?” and “make you see… he’ll do to you what you’ve done to me”) so that part holds up to me.

The one thing that bugs me about it is the line “dreaming of his bed while you’re sleeping in mine.” I wish that had been a bit less explicit because that kind of locks in the meaning of the song. At the time, I think I liked the idea of it being applicable to any situation where you’re in cahoots with someone but they’re looking around for something better. I thought a similar situation that came up at the time was being in a band. I thought about changing that line to “being in his band instead of playing in mine.”

Chords and Melody

As far as the music goes, I’ve long been impressed by what matt came up with. The leading tone walkdown through the augmented A and the diminished F# just give this a real smooth journey. Then, you get a walk back up from the F, through the F#dim and back into the G and finally hang on that G7 until another smooth resolution to the tonic with the C on the chorus.

The verse chords don’t exactly wow me but they provide a stable structure and a break from the relentlessness of the chord changes in the chorus.

I did notice in re-recording this that I end up kind of shout singing most of it. When Matt sang it, he didn’t strain as much. I guess it just seemed like it needed to be shouted to me.

Words and Chords


Intro: C – C7 – Am – A+
G – F#o – F – Fm - C

Am G
I don't think we can make it better
C E7
I don't think we can work it out
Am D
There's no hope left for us together
C E7
I had my questions now there's little doubt
F
cause you got here
F#o Gsus G
wishing that I could be someone better than me

C C7
excuse me please
Am Ab+
It's time for me to leave
G F#o
I'll save the both of us time
Am Ab+
it hurts me inside
G F#o
but I'm leaving with pride
F Fm C
and that's better than standing in line

I can see where this is going, you're
dreaming of his bed while you're sleeping in mine
but in this life there is no knowing
what you've got until it's passed you in time
cause you got here
wishing I could be someone better than me

C C7
excuse me please
Am Ab+
I'm down on my knees
G F#o
I'll stop wasting my time
Am Ab+
you with your pride
G F#o
and what's left of mine
F Fm C – C C/B C/A
is better than standing in line

F
when I'm gone
C
Will you see what you did wrong
F
When you're free to
C
Have him instead of me, will
F C C/B C/A
He be there, to make you see
G G7
he'll do to you what you've done to me

solo over intro chords

C C7
excuse me please
Am Ab+
I'm down on my knees
G F#o
I'll stop wasting my time
Am Ab+
you with your pride
G F#o
and what's left of mine
F Fm Am
is better than standing in line

Songwriting Stories – A Simple Life (2002)

A Simple Life is another old sad song that I wrote a while back. This one was written on acoustic guitar and features a lot of heavy hammers and chord arpeggios. I wrote the chords with the verse lyrics and had the chorus chords but couldn’t do anything with the chorus words. I brought it to my co-writer Tari Follett who helped me by writing the chorus words. Thanks, Tari!

Musically, I felt really strong about this chord progression. It’s in the key of C but has enough curve balls (D major substitute and the Bb in the prechorus) to keep it interesting. I also enjoyed the F major – F minor device to end the chorus and get back to the dark and minor verse.

Chords and Lyrics

A Simple Life
Miles Maxwell ©2002

Capo fifth fret

Am/D - F – C – G
All I ever wanted was a simple life
Am/D - F – C – D
Never asked for nothing more
Am/D - F – C
Don’t want no money, nice things or diamond rings
G
Just the simple things
Bb/D F
With a mind clear and free
C G7
But you took that away from me

Hey you, yeah you
Life will never be easy again, old friend
You took what you could and left me complicated
Well, now I never forgive and I never forget
I never forget

But that’s the one thing you taught me, isn’t it dear

C – G – Em – F
There’s nothing, there’s no one
It’s too late to save me
I’m tired, I’m broken
Look what you have made me
Hope you got what you wanted
I hope you forgot me
I tried to forget you
C – G – Em – F Fm
Look what it has got me

Some people build walls to simplify their future lives
Some build walls to hide what remains
But me, I’m tired of my walls
And I’m tired of feeling so ashamed

All I ever wanted was a simple life
Never asked for nothing more
Don’t want no money, nice things or diamond rings
Just a simple life
With my mind clear and free
But you took that away from me

Chorus

Solo

Chorus

A Simple Life decoded

Now that I’ve introduced this song, I want to clarify from a writers perspective what I was trying to do. It’s actually about two things: First, it’s about child abuse. That probably sounds a bit like a stretch and I intentionally kept things vague enough to be applied to multiple situations but the wrongdoing at the hands of a parent was the first thought here. I heard a tough childhood story from someone I cared about and this was my attempt to get inside what that experience might have felt like. I definitely did not have this kind of childhood but I wanted to memorialize that empathy in something that I could sing about with passion.

Second, it’s about a friend who was raped. Similar to the first theme, I have not been in that position but I was moved by my friend’s story and I felt a need to try to understand that story in my own imagination.

Part of me feels like talking about it openly cheapens the song and makes it seem like I intended to co-opt someone else’s experience for my own creativity. I don’t see it that way but it occurred to me in hindsight so I figured it could probably have occurred to others. I see it as kind of a tribute to their pain and perseverance. Even if feelings and trauma don’t get resolved in the song, the character singing it is fighting instead of surrendering to the pain of the situation and that means they have hope.

In any event, it’s a song I’m still proud to play because the music ain’t too bad, the message is a real one and it makes me feel something. Hopefully, it makes the listener feel something too.

Songwriting Stories – Bitter Jealousy (song from 2001)

Bitter Jealousy is another oldie I’m pulling from the vault. I co-wrote the words and music on this one, again in California. This time though, I co-wrote was with friend Dan Divanian. If memory serves, this was his first attempt at writing a song. Not bad for starters.

Musically, it has a fixed minor verse form, a pre-chorus and delayed but extended chorus. It plays kinda long and, since the focus was on telling an entire story with a beginning, middle and end, it might feel a bit repetitive by its conclusion. I’m proud of how it makes you wait for the major chorus until 2 and a half minutes in. It’s like a reward for putting up with a lot of story exposition.

The story was one Dan told me that I translated into lyrics. It was a specific situation he went through but I could tell right away that the situation is a common one. It takes a lot to make a love connection between two people. Sometimes, it’s the right time and the wrong place. For the two teenagers in this song, it’s the right people but the wrong time. In hindsight, I feel like the song is also about realizing you are about to miss out on something you took for granted.

I should add that the stuff about drugs was legit all made up. The song kind of had a brooding Sacramento vibe to it and the Weezer song “Hashpipe” had recently been released so I threw it in there. It wasn’t something I actually did. If you listen to the demo recording I did from way back in 2001, you’ll hear a sweet melodic intro riff that I don’t bother with in the video and you’ll hear me talk about freebasing coke or something else equally unbelievable.

Lastly, here are the words and chords to the song so you can all sing along.


Bm A F#m
Maybe it was the way you looked that night
Bm A F#m
Your hair tied high and your eyes burning bright
G A Bm
I never saw you that way before

Bm A F#m
Maybe it was the way I felt that night
Bm A F#m
I had a beer, a few rum and cokes and a puff of my hashpipe
G A Bm A F#m
I never saw you that way before
G A F#m G-F#m-Em
But I saw you that night and I saw more
G A Bm
I saw you that night and I saw more

For two years I owned a piece of your heart
In all that time, I never allowed it to start
Because I never saw you that way before

I don’t know what it is now
That’s got me turned around somehow
I’d never seen you that way before
But I saw you that night and I saw more
G A D
I saw you that night and I saw more

D A
So you say you’ve got a new boyfriend
D A
What’s his name? Does he treat you well?
D A
God, I wish I were him tonight
D A
God, I wish I were him tonight
D A
Tonight
D A
Tonight
D A
Tonight

G-F#m-Em G A

That’s okay. I’m better off without you
Strange to say, you’re probably better off without me too
Because we never saw each other that way

If we’d agreed we could have seen the best of me
But all I’m left with is my bitter jealousy
Because we never saw each other that way
But I saw you that night and I wanted to stay
I saw you that night and wanted to stay

So you say you’ve got a new boyfriend
What’s his name? Does he treat you well?
God, I wish I were him tonight
God, I wish I were him tonight

Songwriting Stories – Intentional (2001)

Here’s an old song called “Intentional” that I co-wrote with Trey Krueger back in 2001. This was written during my time living in northern California.

Meet Trey Krueger

I got to know Trey while hanging out at the Streets of London pub. We would sit outside on the picnic benches when the weather allowed, chatting about music and sports while lamenting our luck with the ladies as gents are wont to do. He also had a wealth of knowledge about American history and politics but I had limited interest in those topics.

At some point, this stranger at the bar turned into someone I looked forward to meeting as we talked about our developing musical goals and exchanged talk of musical heroes.

I don’t remember for sure but I’m vaguely recalling his interest in the Smiths, Morrissey and Joy Division-type stuff. He also hipped me to John Wesley Harding‘s music, which I still love.

He was a singer with a dramatic and emotive delivery, true to his influences. He also had a book full of lyrics, heavy on symbols and suffering. Since I tend to write pretty straightforward lyrics and I was big into comedy music at the time, I found his sincerity appealing. We sat down one night at my place to put some of those lyrics to music.

The Lyrics

The lyrics came entirely from Trey. All I can recall asking for was some repetition to ground the song with a refrain.

I don’t recall Trey’s story for the lyric but the words suggest to me a volatile exchange as a relationship comes to an end. I enjoy the lyric to this day because I can identify with the feeling of confusion and sadness. You’re trying to do the right thing but you’re not sure you can or will. Then, things get messy and it gets worse.

The Music

As I recall, I wrote the chords. It’s basically a Cmaj7 – Fmaj7 vamp for the verses and a little 8 – 7 – 6 walk down for the refrain with a big ending on the 5.

Originally written on an acoustic guitar, I had a very simple strum thing at first. As I moved back to Chicago and kept playing it, I made it a pretty intricate arpeggio thing with a pull off the high C to hit that maj7 note and the same thing on the F to hit that E. I think I felt self conscious about the simplicity of the chords so I wanted to make it seem more impressive with some fancy fingerpicking.

The melody was kind of there from Trey singing it a Capella but I remember guiding some of the rising for the second and third verses. I do have a mp3 version of him singing it somewhere but I can’t find it.

The Result

The reaction when I’ve performed this is usually lukewarm. It’s pretty long, the lyrics are a bit vague and don’t advance a narrative. By the end, I can feel the audience looking for a payoff or an ending, which makes me want to speed up to get through it.

It could have been a time and place situation, though. There may be an audience waiting for this song that I didn’t get in front of. I still like it, even if I’m not exactly sure what it’s about.

The Tab

Making small important talk
as the even tide rolled in
Splayed across the sidewalk
makes us see how long it’s been

cast iron smiles and bits of humor
can’t remove the thorny rumor
making small important talk
as the even tide rolled in…

And they say it’s not intentional
But things never really are
Pushing luck at people
F F/E Dm7
Makes me wonder just how far
F F/E Dm7
Makes me wonder just how far
F F/E G
Makes me wonder just how far

Now the chatter starts to wonder
Conspicuously from you and I
The heart has not grown fonder
So we both refuse to try
To pinpoint what it is we’ve lost
And by losing it, incurred what cost
Can either of us pay it?
Do we even want to try?

And they say it’s not intentional
But things never really are
Pushing luck at people
Makes me wonder just how far
Makes me wonder just how far
Makes me wonder just how far

Solo

I’m told speaking with candor
is the style that’s preferred
but our slippage into slander
makes candor seem absurd

And friends pile on the saccharine
In huge and leaping mounds
But still they are not large enough
To muffle hurtful sounds

And they say it’s not intentional
But things never really are
Pushing luck at people
Makes me wonder just how far
Makes me wonder just how far
Makes me wonder just how far