A New Song by Bob McKillop: “Surrender to the Sea”

Inspiration comes from many sources, as all of you songwriters know. Often, a song is the product of more than one source of inspiration.  That is the case with my most recent song, “Surrender to the Sea”.  This song will be revised – I don’t consider it finished – but you can hear a work track on my ReverbNation page (see the widget at the bottom of this page).

I’ve always had a very romantic notion about the seagoing life, especially regarding the days of the great sailing ships.  I’ve had a song percolating inside of me for a long time, about a young man leaving home to spend his life at sea.

A recent maritime disaster, the El Faro, reminded me that a life at sea has its risks, as well as its romance.  That disaster touched me deeply.  Having been a merchant marine officer as a young man, I have a small inkling of what it must have been like on that doomed ship, and naturally, I had the urge to write a song about that.

These two sources of inspiration combined to bring this one song into being, which I entitled “Surrender to the Sea”.  I imagined a young officer on a sailing ship in the early years of the last century, declaring that he has no regrets about his decision to go to sea. He surrenders to what he feels was his destiny: to live and die aboard his ship at sea.

I wrote the first two verses to sound, to the listener, as though they were letters sent home  by the young mariner, in which he attempts to reconcile his life choices to his loved ones who are left behind.

The final verse to take the song in an entirely different direction.  This ship’s officer reveals that he is writing in the log of a doomed ship, and he describes the peril he is in and the destruction happening around him. In the light of this new information, the first two verses and the chorus take on a new meaning and a new mood.  This young mariner knows he is going to experience a cruel death; he is saying goodbye, and his declaration that he has no regrets begins to sound a little less convincing.

There are some problems that remain to be solved.  The transition to the last verse seems a bit to0 abrupt to me.  One songwriter friend suggested that I could indicate earlier in the song, either in the chorus or in the first verse, that the sailor is on board the doomed ship, writing to his family.  Another songwriter’s thought was to change the order of the verses, and put the final verse first.

I’m not sure how I’m going to solve this problem, but I know it will be probably take several more rewrites.  That is the path to success in songwriting (however one defines success): keep rewriting the song until there isn’t any part of it that bothers you.

Thanks for listening to my thoughts on my new song!

Bob McKillop


Miranda Mastera, “Better Dig Two” and “Burning House” (Covers)

Reviewing recordings of hit Country songs by artists who did not make them famous comes down to two factors.

First, can they handle the song and do it justice, when compared to the hit version?

Second, do they add something new, something about themselves, that makes the track their own, and not just an attempt to mimic the hit?

Miranda Mastera scores well on both of these criteria for her covers of “Better Dig Two” by Band Perry, and “Burning House” by Cam (songwriting credits appear below.)

The confidence she displays in her execution of the lyric and the melody suggest long hours in studying and rehearsing the song. Miranda knows these tunes, knows what makes them hits, and she pays tribute to Kimberly Perry, and to Cam, in her delivery. Fans of these songs want to hear the hit, so if she’s going to attempt these songs, she needs to deliver that.

But if that’s all she did, why would anyone want to hear her sing these tunes, when they could pull the hit song up on Spotify or YouTube?

Miranda lays her own interpretation on top of the expected vocal delivery. She’s not just mimicking the chart topping performance. For example, the way she hits the meter of the lyric, the vocal inflections she uses, and her dynamics, bring a softer, more introspective feel to “Better Dig Two”.   It’s not a copy, it’s an interpretation.

She has a note on her ReverbNation page that an EP album is due this spring (2017). I’m looking forward to hearing it, and I hope that Miranda will bring her considerable vocal talent to some original material. I’m betting she’s going to make those new songs shine.

“Better Dig Two” was written by Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Trevor Rosen.

“Burning House” was written by Cam (Cameron Marvel Ochs), Tyler Johnson, and Jeff Bhasker.

Robbie Simpson, “Crush This Town”

OK, I’ll admit, I don’t know what Robbie Simpson’s tune “Crush This Town” is about (and I’m not sure Robbie would be able to tell me anyway), but I don’t really care. What I care about is that the song makes me want to learn how to get tone from an electric guitar and write this kind of music.

This is the kind of folk rock I grew up with. It’s a mash-up of Elvis Costello, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and the Kinks.

The track opens with a jangly acoustic strum and the first verse lyric. Then a melodic bass line, and finally a classic rock drum backbeat. By the time Robbie is into the trippy chorus, the electric is adding some atmosphere. Sounds like some lap steel in there too.

There’s some great imagery here, and it’s in service to something only Robbie was experiencing when he wrote the tune. Hoof beats, burning rain, freight trains, floods, ponies, pigeons, flaming wagons, tequila, and drugs. This song has it all.

I think it’s about trying to leave a toxic relationship. But what’s important is what you think it’s about. I’d highly recommend you listen and make your best guess.

I loved listening to this tune, and there are several others on Robbie’s ReverbNation page that deserve a listen as well. Spend some time there, you won’t regret it.