I finally got back out there and played another show. Nestled in the business circle of Elmwood Park, Illinois is the new 18 West Food & Drink restaurant, bar and now music venue. I played there in early October with my friends and new bandmates Matt and Dan Stankiewicz. Acoustic guitar, bass and keys for this gig. I played about 10 originals solo to start before the guys joined in. The next gig will likely have a similar lineup but I expect we will move to a full time drummer four piece by the end of the year.

I had some video recording happening in case we caught any magic during the set. Wanted to share this little video clip of one of the songs to give you a sense of what you might hear at one of these gigs.

Song Background

It’s a cover song originally recorded by The Gourds out of Austin, Texas. I’ve been a fan of their music since college and got deep into their catalog when the I found the Blood of the Ram album. Kind of a backyard barbecue sound, heavy on accordion and mandolin with some occasional fiddle mixed in. This song exemplifies the kind of music that I revel in so I thought it would be a good one to cover and to share here.

I also especially dig the chorus chords, with some funky diminished passing chords that keep it interesting. Here’s the I Want It So Bad chart we used to learn it if anyone else wants to give it a try.

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]

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.