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Spring Yard Work

I garden with Mother Naure, with little interference, so my yard is wild. I plant flower seeds and perennial plants. This week I have spent hours cleaning out two large beds. Underneath the grass and leaves, I found lilies, irises, yarrow, poppies, vervain, Sweet Williams, and coreopsis.

In the summer, the now brown beds will be in full bloom. Almost all are perennials which come back each year. I will plant zinnia seeds.

I have been in a weird songwriting space. I had much rather be digging in the dirt (soil). All the photos were made in my yard — Florence, Alabama.

Songwriting – Craft or Art?

All songs are not created equal. I should know. I have been writing songs more years than some of my cowriters are old. I am seventy five. I started writing in my mid-thirties. Do that math! I know the rules well enough to follow them or break them. Like carpenters who can make square boxes after learning to make one square box, songwriters can write songs once they learn the basics of combining words and melodies. According to Harlan Howard, country music’s songwriting legend, three chords and the truth is all you need to write a great song. For a blues song, you need less than that. I cowrite as many as four songs a week in different genres with songwriters much more skilled than I in structure. I regularly write with seven different co-writers: Mark Narmore, Sandy Carroll, CoCo O’Conner, Will McFarlane, ElizaBeth Hill, Taylor Grace, and Mitch Mann in varying combinations. We write many genres, some simple and some complex. I am confident in saying we are not going to write a bad song – unless we want to. That is the only claim I will make. We control craft but not art.

I have songwriting questions for which I have no answers. What makes one song better than another? Why can not all my songs be either beautifully artistic or commercially successful? Why do listeners love one more than another? I wish I had the answers to mine and the ones others ask. The one question I am often asked, I can answer. What happens in a songwriting session? The answer? It depends. There is no typical or normal cowriting session for us. We set appointments. We show up. We write. None of the songs are the same. Some are better than others. I go into every session hoping for a song to come shining through with that intangible magic that comes from somewhere other than the songwriters.

CoCo O’Conner, ElizaBeth Hill, and I had such a session yesterday. We showed up for our 10:00 Zoom session. (All the things said about showing up are true.) CoCo and i have written many songs together with many different cowriters but not with ElizaBeth. I would like to think the combination of the writers gave the song the intangible quality, but from my experience with cowriting I know more than the combination of writers was involved. The song has more than three chords, but it does have the truth. That is true of many of my songs, but not all of them are inspired. Inspiration does not always show up, but when it does we can feel it in the room – even a Zoom one. We began by talking about what was going on in our lives. As professional writers, we try to come into sessons with something, maybe a title, an idea, some lines, a bit of melody. The three of us have lived long enough and have gone through enough to write about and for women. We talked about the ideas and lines we came in with and about what we wanted to say to other women. I can over-dramatically say, the song wrote itself – or maybe inspiration wrote it. Our song, “She Never Got to Memphis” says a lot about women and life.

When we have demoed it, I will share on the Songs page. I hope you feel the intangible. I would love to say this song will surely surface and be heard by the masses. I would love to say all who hear it will love it. Unfortunately, that is unlikely. All I can say is we three women songwriters love the song and are thankful to have written it.

About Time

Will I miss anything about eleven months of self-isolation? I will soon find out. I get my second shot the 16th. Then in another two weeks, being ultra cautious as I have been, I will ease back into “normal” life. I am looking forward to that. I do not want to become a recluse, but the closer late February gets, the more I think about what I am looking forward to and what I will miss once my self-isolation is over.

The last year has been one of introspection and reflection for me. Once I am back to normal or anything close to normal, do I want my life to be different than it was before Covid19? I have had time for things I love that I did not take time for before. I am asking myself what I want to leave in and what I want to leave out. What is important to me and what is not? What do I miss and what do I not?

It is all about time. I will be seventy-six in April, so these questions are more important to me than ever before. After almost a year of being isolated with time to think about the past, present, and future, I know I want changes from the past and now. I want to use my time more wisely. (Have you ever thought of the expressions we use with time? We have it. We spend it. We use it. We waste it. We take it. We have it on our hands. We lose track of it. No matter how we try we can not keep it.) Since I have been able to do little of anything, I have thought about all the ways I want to spend my time. I have also thought about a time in my future when I will once again be able to do little- or nothing. That time will come. No one lives forever.

Some of my life I definitely want to be different than it is now. Some of my before Covid life I want back. Some of my life this last eleven months, I do not want to lose. When I have somewhere to go, will I put seeds on my deck every morning and late afternoon? Will I miss the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and the Cedar Waxwings because I am too busy to watch for them? What about those days when I have no commitment and the sun is shining and the ground is just right to plant, to dig bulbs and plants to move them, and to weed. Will I be so busy I do not take to be in tune with my body and nature. Will I forget my time is not unlimited?

Only time will tell.

Speeding the Tempo Up

I do not always write up-tempo songs, but when I do they are good ones. At least I think so. Today I am sharing seven with you. You decide.

All are published by River and Stones Music (ASCAP) and cowriters’ publishing companies.

I Call It Love – writtten by Mitch Mann, Mark Narmore, and Stephanie C Brown
Mercy Mae – written by Sandty Carroll, CoCo O’Conner, and Stephanie C Brown
Me or the Dress -written by Will McFarlane and Stephanie C Brown
Inside Your Crazy – written by Mitch Mann, Mark Narmore, and Stephanie C Brown
Heartbreak Speed – written by Jami Grooms, Mark Narmore, and Stephanie C Brown
Surprise Me – written by Mark Narmore and Stephanie C Brown
Lumber of the Beast – written by Mitch Mann, Mark Narmore, and Stephanie C Brown

And now – one bonus to slow the tempo down a bit

Betty Jean – written by Michael A. Curtis and Stephanie C Brown

A Ballad Kind of Day

Seven ballads for you. All songs written by me with cowriters in various combinations and published by each writer’s publishing company. River and Stones Music has all of my publishing except Love is Everything which is in Golden Ladder publishing company.

Betty Jean – cowriters Michael A. Curtis and Stephanie C Brown
Love Is Everything – this one goes back to my Nashville days. Written with Marc Rossi (Marc My Words – Ascap)
One Moment All Time – written by Mark Narmore and Stephanie C Brown
What About My Heart – written by Will McFarlane and Stephanie C Brown
I Know Where It Ends – written by Sandy Carroll and Stephanie C Brown
This Is My Brave – written by Mark Narmore and Stephanie C Brown (There is a wrong pronoun shift. All choruses should be My Brave not Your Brave)
You’re Breaking My Broken – written by Mark Narmore, Cindy Richardson Walker, and Stephanie C Brown

Quilting

When my mother passed, she left her quilting fabric to me. If you do not come from a quilting family, you may not understand. Leaving a quilting stash (all fabric) to me was more important than leaving any jewelry or anything else, except maybe cookware. Mother sewed for our family and others. She was a quilter. One room in her house was full of fabric to the point of only a pathway through. When she moved into town, she did give a lot of it away. I did not realize how much she still had until she passed and I moved it to my house.

I took the fabric in the house and attic, but the fabric she had in her shop went into storage at my nephew’s. I got all of that this week. The photo collage you can see how much I got and some of what I have washed and folded, which is not nearly half of it and is not counting all I already had. All of it is 100 percent quilting cotton. Some of it is themed like thte Elvis and the pigs. Some of it is outdated. Some of it is beautiful. i love touching it all.

My daughter is a beginning quilter and wants some of it. We laughed and said her grannie would probably come back and haunt us if we did not take care of the fabric. To say we have a fabric obsession is an understatement. When we were cleaning out Mother’s house, my daughter and I would not let my brother who was the boss that day come into the sewing room. I remember him standing in the hall with the most puzzled look.

A crazy quilt I made for my sister in 1998 was in with the fabric. I had forgotten it and how much I loved making it.

To see more of my quilting projects go to Stephanie Mae’s Quilting on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/Stephanie-Maes-Quilting-112301187162424

Once again, I am barely making the deadline for my Saturday post. I have barely touched on quilting. Come back. I am sure I will be posting more about quilting in future posts as it seems quilting is calling my name again.

Life Changes

Sometimes you just know your life is going to change even before it does. Mine is. I am seventy-five soon to be seventy-six. Last year I wrote two or three songs most weeks. I do not see myself writing so many songs this year. I am not going through writer’s block or discouraged with myself as a songwriter. This is not just about age. Something else is out there for me.

I welcome whatever is coming. I do not have preconceived ideas about what one should and should not do at any certain age, but I can not see myself at eighty still writing relevant songs. For several years, I have been writing legacy songs, songs to let listeners know my beliefs and emotions. How much more do I have to say that is not already in one of my songs?

I have been in strict self-isolation since last March. I got my vaccination shot this week. By this March I will not be isolated depending on Zoom for human contact. Perhaps that is the shift I am feeling. Still I do not see myself forever focusing on songwriting even when I can once again be in the same room as my cowriters. I can see myself still writing, just not so many songs. I was writing poetry and short stories long before I became a songwriter. I am writing a book and this blog. I can see myself doing both years from now. I have a history of offering guidance to other music people, especially young ones. I can see myself doing that. I also have enjoyed planning and hosting events. I can see myself doing that.

And then, there’s what I call my personal lfe. I want more time for it. I see myself focusing more on family. I see myself spending more time planting and taking care of my flowers and watching birds. Then there are the things I want to do that I have not done. When I retired, I had a list. Life is short at best. I want more than songs in mine.

Welcome to my inner world. I hope what I write in some way touches you.

Down For the Count

…but not to 10 yet.

I have already written about it here. Now I have captured it in a song. When my cowriters have writing sessions, we check in with each other. When we ask, “How are you?” or “What’s going on with you?”, we are not being polite. We care about each other and want to know. Sometimes the song has nothing to do with our answers, but sometimes the honesty of those talks fuels passion into the song. Those songs are different. They are not written around a hook or idea one of us comes in with. They are written from raw emotions. I am not saying they are better songs, but I am saying I love them more.

Two cowriters and I wrote such a song this week. I am not calling names or going into details because those talks are the kind you have with someone you trust. We wrote about struggling with keeping passion and enthusiasm for a dream or an endeavor begun wiith high hopes and energy. With dreams and projects, it is true the bigger they are the harder they fall. We wrote about hearing the count. At that point, we have to make decisions. Is it worth the fight? Will our life be better with it or without it? Do we give up or get up?

In our song, the singer wonders if she has anything left to give. She has searched her heart. She does not know which way to go. As often is in true life, although the answer is within, something from outside gives hope. She knows she will live to fight another day.

The song is not about boxing. It is about living. The song? Red Bird.

Buddy

My Songs

I have updated – Stephanie C Brown Songs – I hope you enjoy some of the songs.

Through it all, I write. Through songs, I process the world as I see it and feel it. I believe in the power of words and that that power is amplified with music. Sometimes I am given words. That is hard to explain. We call it writing the song in the room. My hope is always that we write a song that is true and universal. There does not have to be a lesson or even a comment. If our words and melodies move you in body or soul or both, as songwriters we have done our job. Writing a song that expresses for someone who does not have the words for what they feel is the ultimate for me.

I am still feeling the unrest in my country and have no words about that. For tonight’s post, I took songs off the song page and added more. They are all demos, rough takes, or a simple songwriters’ demos. All are published in River and Stones Music (ASCAP) and my cowriters’ publishing companies.

Please, go to the song page. You can find it on the menu. I hope one or more of the songs moves you in some way.