Category Archives: Music

All The Songs I Can Play (Sort Of)

Pastel drawing of John on sofa

Pretending to have a red sofa and green wall

Update (May 3, 2015): After reviewing this list I’ve noticed there are a few absent entries and I have learned a few new ones since last October. However, to keep some element of surprise for future sets I am not adding them now. 

Let it be known that I am a big fan of lists. For a while I maintained an Excel spreadsheet of every film I’ve ever watched. As I further consider a trip across the country to play some music, I thought I better examine my repertoire. So here is the list of songs I can play. Sort of. It’s 124 covers  and 14 original songs that I have performed in one way or another be it at open mic, at a funeral, at a wedding, or just over the phone for a friend. It’s only the songs that I have done solo and acoustic (because that’s how I’ll be going). If I buckled down one Saturday I could probably add half a dozen more songs that I’ve been slowly working on, and if I just wanted to go for sheer numbers I could probably learn a lot of three chord songs over a couple days. Continue reading

The Danger of Influence

From time to time I’ve included some of my influences here. Whatever your creative outlet, if you get any good at it someone is bound to ask who your influences are. Sometimes the answer is insightful, but it can also be frustrating and embarrassing. And of course the danger of influence is obsession. Continue reading

The Tentative Quest

John playing guitar

February 2011. Apartment in Logan Square. Photo by DCH.

There are two moments in life in which I recall feeling most like anything was possible and both occurred at age 15. The first was during a family vacation in which we drove from Illinois to Colorado. I was listening to my portable cassette player through my headphones and the song playing sent a shiver up my spine. As the guitar swelled to full volume I couldn’t believe the power it had over me and I thought, “I wish I could do that…” immediately followed by “Why can’t I do that?” My parents nurtured my dream with a guitar and lessons and I’ve been playing ever since. Continue reading

Make More Art With Less Fear: What I Learned From The Arctic Monkeys And The Boss

A couple years back I was at my friend’s practice space in the city and we recorded a little acoustic demo of mine called “Love Is A Social Construct, Baby.” You can hear said demo at Soundcloud, but what I want to talk about right now are the words (which you can read in their entirety at Soundcloud as well). In the last verse I have a bit that goes like this:

Wait a minute now here’s the truth, not to put to fine a point on it
But, I’ll buy you flowers, I’ll write you love songs
Here’s a sonnet get that bee out of your bonnet

I like it. It’s not rocket science or mind blowing. As we were listening to the playback, my friend Jared asked me to clarify the words for him. It turns out they are remarkably similar to some words from the chorus of “Birdhouse In Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants:

Not to put too fine a point on it Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet Continue reading