Week 4 Challenge, Close to the Edge

Here’s my answer to the Week 4 challenge:

The Song: When Johnny Goes Off to War, rough mix.

This week’s challenge – issued by Ron Irving – write an edgy song for a 21 year old male country artist. With the following caveat(s).

“Target: Male artist, early 20s. No mention of marriage or kids. No references to “partying at the lake”, “trucks and tailgates” and no “bro country” vibe.”

My god! What’s left! It seems that every country song these days has at least one of those elements. At least Ron didn’t take away my Bud and my dog. But I digress.

A tremendously brief history of edgy

johnny_400wEdgy in country huh? In the 50’s it was Elvis, Jerry Lee, and Sun Studios. In the 60’s Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and the Birds. The seventies was the age of country revisionism (The Eagles) and Outlaw Country: Willie, Waylon, Rusty Weir. The 80’s? Hands down it was Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam. The 90’s? The Americana movement. 21st century? The first decade of the 21st century? Hard do distinguish between all the stetson guys. Was it Zac Brown? He stood out because he wore a toque. And in the past few years we’ve actually seen a dance producer try to combine country and techno beats. 2013 Avicii! A Swedish dance DJ mixing beats and country.

Edgy ain’t what it use to be

Look up “edgy” on Google. First result is Sam Hunt. I’m okay with Sam Hunt but he has the same effect on me as Robin Thicke has (although because he is six foot four, I wouldn’t say it to his face.) Here’s an opinion on edgy from the Urban Dictionary:

“As far as I can make out, edgy occurs when middlebrow, middle-aged profiteers are looking to suck the energy — not to mention the spending money — out of the “youth culture.” So they come up with this fake concept of seeming to be dangerous when every move they make is the result of market research and a corporate master plan.”

Kinda negative, but it is Urban Dictionary. Opinions run rampant.

Edgy is…

Edgy for me has always been about the lyrics and the song. I’ve always been drawn to country and folk because you can infuse social commentary into your lyrics.

Overcoming stasis

Okay, I’ve been procrastinating over this one, only because I’ve been working on another piece with fellow SAC member Jennifer Noble about the Lac Megantic disaster. When the muse calls, you gotta answer. It’s been an interesting journey, and after being disappointed by my first attempt is one that I recommend for people considering a co-write. Let’s just say it’s the way I prefer to work – in a feedback cycle. Jennifer and I started out with a Skype session, threw around a few ideas, and agreed to keep the ball rolling. Jennifer did a stream of consciousness piece on Thursday based on our discussion (part prose, part lyric) and forwarded it to me. I had a go at it on Friday and Saturday. It obsessed me really, it became a piece by piece construction. It also set me back a day or so on this assignment.

You want edgy? I’ll give you edgy

After fooling around with a couple of ironic tunes, a social conscious dirge, and deciding against recycling one of the tunes I have in the drawer. I decided to explore the idea of the returning soldier. Not exactly original but, how about  a psychotic former soldier bent on revenge? Edgy enough for you? I didn’t decide on writing it till yesterday, so I was working against the clock.

One of the things this challenge has taught me is to put down the guitar and just write, so I took to my writing chair and started with this title ‘When Johnny Goes Off To War”. I wanted to (as many have) explore the idea of the returning soldier, and despite American Sniper’s jingoistic tripe, not really being accepted in his home town. It’s a combination of protest and a revenge song plain and simple. I’ve tried in the first part anyways to make it generic (so it can be either a Canadian or an American soldier).

Why Ron should pick my song

I also think it would be perfect for a younger singer who wants to, I assume, move away from the bros an beers mantra to a more mature, socially conscious outlook. It can be played either acoustically or electrically, applied to the American or Canadian situation, and with a little tweaking can become the showcase (or at least the mid-point) of a live set.

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