November 16

How a dead man taught me about comfort music


Comfort Songs

We all need comfort music. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. You know those times when you’ve had a long day, nothing’s going your way and you finally understand those Bond villains who want to destroy the world, you crawl home and kick off your shoes, one of which breaks your favorite vase and your cat tells you he never liked you and runs off with a raccoon. You know the feeling. At those times you need music. But not just any music. Comfort music. Like comfort food for your ears. Only it’s better because it doesn’t make me fat (at least I don’t think so, although it would explain a lot!).

Comfort songs are a special kind. Sometimes they’re happy, sometimes they’re sad, sometimes they might even be angry. To me, they’re songs that feel like wrapping up in a nice comforter, curling up by the fire on a freezing cold winter’s night, sipping on a nice cup of hot chocolate (or something stronger, if you’re that way inclined), smelling the intoxicating blend of the beverage and the fire, listen to the crackle of the fire mixed with the crackle of a nice vinyl record… You get the picture. 

Sad Songs

I suppose different types of songs bring out those feelings for different people, but if you’re anything like me, sad songs are strong contenders. Not sappy ones, not overly dramatic, but the ones that examine the diamonds in the mud – the ones that show us the beauty of the rose that’s surrounded by thorns. And I’ve always sort of known that, but I don’t know if I totally got it until my friend Dr. Mike died.

But before I tell you about that, I’m going to tell you about a particular sad song I wrote. It was literally written as an experiment into how I could write the biggest bummer of a song imaginable, without it being depressing or sappy. Well, I think I did alright. I’ll let you be the judge:

Lock This Door – From my Live Album

That song was a particular favorite of my friend Dr. Mike. We met at the Melodica acoustic festival in Reykjavik one year. The Melodica Festival is an international singer-songwriter festival that I’ve played every year for a long time, in various cities in the world.

One year at Melodica Reykjavik I got to know a fantastic music fan. His name was Dr. Mike Drake, and he was a particular fan of Lock This Door. He just loved how the song goes from bad to worse to horrible to nuclear bummer. He asked me if it was available on an album, and I had to tell him no, unfortunately. But I told him I was working on it.

A Ghost who loves sad songs
Dr. Mike

Well, it took me years and years to finally get the album finished. Dr. Mike showed up to Melodica Reykjavik every year, and every year he would ask me how the album was coming along. I would always promise to have it done by next year. And of course I’d have to tell him the same thing the year after.

One year I was finally making headway, but I was still a ways off. I braced myself to tell Dr. Mike that he still couldn’t buy the album, but that it was at least under way.

Dr. Mike then sent a message to the Melodica team (I was one of the organizers that year) and told us that he was too busy to make it that year. I was sad I wouldn’t be able to see him, but secretly a little relieved I wouldn’t need to disappoint him once more. I vowed to have the album ready the next time I saw him.

But sadly I never saw Dr. Mike again. The day after Melodica was over we got word from his wife that he had suffered a heart attack and died. He never got to hear my album.

I did keep my promise, though. By the time the next Melodica Reykjavik rolled around, the album was out. And I dedicated it to Dr. Mike, because even though we never got to know each other all that well, he was a huge driving force in my musical career. And he made me realise that unless I make these things happen, I might forever disappoint my friends and followers, and that just sucks.

Once the album was out, with the dedication to Dr. Mike, I of course sent a copy to his family. They were touched and grateful, and I was happy to at least be able to give them this little gift.

A Bottle Full of Dreams CD

Later I heard the most incredible story from Dr. Mike’s wife. She sent me a message and told me she had been listening to the album, just at a low volume in the background. All of a sudden the volume went up. One song played at a much higher volume. Then it went back down again.

Dr. Mike must have turned up the volume. Apparently he really loved the song.

What song was it that he turned back from the grave to folk out to, you ask? It’s this one:

I’m pretty happy with it. And so are the dead.

Dr. Mike’s widow told me that this song is now one of her comfort songs. Which makes me extremely happy. And this experience taught me an important lesson. Life is too short to not follow your dreams. And life is way too short to not enjoy the little things. Like our favorite comfort songs, hot chocolate (or something stronger), a nice fire and each other’s company.

Which is why I try to post as much music as I possibly can on my web site. It’s also why I started a Creative Diary, to stay in touch with my audience all over the world, and why I started a member’s community on my web site. Because while albums are amazing (I’m a total album buy – as I write this I’m listening to one of my favorites on vinyl in my favorite spot in the house), I think a musical community is so much better. It’s a place for us all to enjoy comfort food for our souls together. And none of us need to die for it to be wonderful.

You can find out more about my membership community by clicking here.

Thank you so much for being here, by the way. I really appreciate you.

Folk on.


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