Welcome to the World and Music of Dan Roark

Welcome to the world and music of Dan Roark. I have lived here for a while now and it's not a bad place to live, really. Although on some level, it's probably just as well you're only visiting. But hang around as long as you like.

Here you can listen to my songs - and buy them if you wish - read my thoughts in posts on my blog, see my pictures, and find out when and where I am playing. 

You can also hear live versions of my songs on Reverbnation, as well as see videos of live performances. You can also see my videos on, and subscribe to, my YouTube channel

 

Digital Tip Jar

Southwest Regional Folk Alliance 

Dan at SWRFA ShowcaseWeekend before last I attended the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance (SWRFA) in Austin. As a singer/songwriter, it was a fantastic experience. A weekend with like-minded souls enjoying what they do. Three and a half days of nothing to do but play music, listen to music, and “talk shop.”

An open mic Wednesday night at Threadgill’s began SWRFA. I didn’t get to that event, opting not to spend an extra night in the hotel. Except for the fact that I would have liked to have gone to Threadgill’s, it turned out to be a good decision.

For one thing, I was told that it was completely packed. Come to find out that if I had played in that open mic, I wouldn’t have been able to play at either of the other two open mics. Because there were so many attendees, each act only played one song at the open mics. So I figured I made the right decision. We’ll see about next year.

On Thursday, registration was to begin at 2 p.m. I arrived about 1:30. While we waited on our rooms to be ready, a guitar was passed around the lobby. It wasn’t too long before my room was ready. I made two trips to the room, parked the car and went to register for the conference – which is, and isn’t, the right term for it.

The pool party/open mic began at 5 p.m., with Berkalin Records providing a dinner buffet and drinks. I have some pictures from the open mic that I will post on Facebook when I get a chance. Following the open mic was the official showcase alternates concert. Which would be those acts who didn’t get chosen for the two official showcase concerts on Friday and Saturday. After which, song circles popped up around the hotel. And events were just getting started. More to come.

Peace be with you.

 

 

 


The Hammond Organ 

Hammond Organ

Cyndy and I went over to my Aunt Marie’s house a couple of weeks ago to help Dad take care of her possessions. Dad told us that anything we wanted for sentimental reasons and were going to keep, we could have. There was nothing I could think of that I actually wanted. I knew there were a few types of things I would like to keep just because they were hers. But I knew I would “know it when I see it.”

After my father first told me we were going to have to move Marie to an assisted living facility, I began thinking about the past – see previous post. When I was in junior high (not middle school – just saying) and high school, we would alternate between our house, Marie and Pick’s, or Jack and Juanita’s. When we were at Marie and Pick’s, it wasn’t long before I would start messing with her organ. She would come over and sit by me and help me play something that didn’t sound like zoo animals on the warpath.

But I thought the organ was really cool. The adults would be having a conversation that I was not invited to join. I would just sit at the organ and move the slides around and step on the pedals like I knew what I was doing. When Marie had the chance, she would slide onto the bench beside me and teach me a little something about playing the organ – before having to return to hostess duties.

Cyndy and I arrived at Marie’s where Dad was working to clear things out. We walked around the house. Some of the kitchen stuff we wanted. I spent time putting aside things we can sell online and make money for ourselves and the estate. Marie had so much that it was a little overwhelming.

I walked into another room and was rendered speechless. Against the wall was Marie’s Hammond organ.

“I’ll be damned,” I said out loud to myself, “she still has it.”

The organ is now in our living room. It needs a serious “tune-up,” as it were. I look forward to being able to play the organ (a little). Until then, I look forward to seeing her and playing my songs for her again – even though she may not recognize me.

Peace be with you.


The Jalapeno Saga 

Uncle Pick, Aunt Marie, Mom, Aunt Juanita, and Uncle Jack

Uncle Pick, Aunt Marie, Mom, Aunt Juanita, and Uncle Jack

My dad recently had to move my Aunt Marie from her home to an assisted living facility. We don’t know if she is just losing some of her memory due to old age or if she has Alzheimer’s. She has not been officially diagnosed, but she shows a lot of the symptoms. Marie will be on the Alzheimers floor of the facility. She lived in Arlington, but she will be living at a facility on Preston Rd. in Dallas. I will be able to visit her there. I didn’t visit her in Arlington because my visit might disturb her routine. Marie’s doing better now and I can start visiting again.

Dad told me earlier because he is the executor of her estate, and I am second on the list. I naturally began to recall events with Marie – and my father’s family – over the years. Which mostly included Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her husband, Pick, and my Aunt Juanita’s husband, Jack, would sneak around behind my brother, Dennis, and I while we were distracted. One would tie my shoelaces together and the other one would tie Dennis’ shoelaces together.

Everyone thought it was hilarious, except us. It was mildly funny the first time, but it got old quick. Dennis and I soon learned to watch each other’s back. We would catch them before they had time to tie the shoelaces. The year I got loafers was a good year. I was able to proudly walk into the living room of whichever house we were in that year and dare them to “tie my shoelaces.” That year, I got the laugh.

Then there were the jalapenos – you knew I was going to get there, didn’t you? Pick would just pick a pepper out of the jar and eat them like candy. As a joke, our family gave him a small, six ounce can of jalapenos for Christmas. By the time we finished exchanging gifts, the can was empty.

The next year, we gave him a jar that was bigger than the can. Again, they were gone before we left to go home. The next year, a bigger jar or can. The ongoing joke came to an end the year we bought him a #10 can of jalapenos (the restaurant/industrial size). No larger size existed, so the joke was over. But the memory and the story lives on.

Pick died a number of years ago. I thought about putting a jar of jalapenos in the casket, but it was just a passing thought. For one thing, it would be relatively tacky – yes, like that. Over the years, I have developed a taste for jalapenos. Nothing near Pick’s level. But I think of him every time I eat jalapenos.

Peace be with you.


Texas Songwriters Conference 

asglogo    I attended the Texas Songwriters Conference in Austin a couple of weeks ago. I’m just now getting caught up enough to post about it. The conference is put on by the Austin Songwriters Group (ASG), of which I am a member. I am also a member of Dallas Songwriters Association (DSA), where I am on the board as the lyric contest director and the showcase director. The two organizations have not, as of yet, had a joint event, but they support each others organization and mission in various ways.

I spend a lot of my time talking to people in one form or another (in person, on the phone, email), promoting myself or either organization. When I am promoting DSA, for example, I can “brag” a little more openly since I am referring to a group of people. When promoting myself, it’s necessary to be a little more subtle to straddle the fine line between promotion and braggadocio. As a result, some people don’t understand what I’m trying to say and have blank looks on their faces. Then there are the condescending “of course you’re a songwriter” looks.

So it was nice to – not only get out of town – but to spend a weekend with people who know what I’m talking about. People who are like-minded, accepting, and non-judgmental. At music and songwriting conferences there are always things I already know – since the conference is for all levels of experience. However, since things are changing constantly, it’s nice to know what has changed. As to the things that haven’t changed, I enjoy being assured that what I’m doing is what I should be doing.

I like hearing other songwriters, publishers, and other music industry people tell their stories, making me think “thank God I’m not alone.” That, I think, is the main purpose of any conference – making the attendees realize they are not alone. And the ASG did that. They are an accepting and supportive group (as is the DSA – just saying). It was all about the songs and careers of the songwriters. A few of the events and conversations I would like to share with you – and will – in upcoming posts.

Peace be with you.


Route 66 – The End of the Road 

Dan at Santa Monica Pier signThe morning after the show at Pig ‘n’ Whistle, Cameron and I rode the Hop-On, Hop-Off double decker bus to Santa Monica. After walking around the pier, we ate at Pier Burger. There is a sign on the pier that says “Santa Monica 66 End of the road.” It signals, of course, the end of Route 66.

People were going nuts, taking each other’s picture by the sign. Which I told Cameron I thought was pretty silly. If you had traveled from quite a distance actually following Route 66, then it would make sense. But just to take your picture in front of the end of line sign means nothing – it just proves you were on the pier.

Dan at Santa Monica with Namba Bag

Had my Namba Gear bag with me, of course.

That and you saw the Forest Gump movie. Then again, I saw a lot of people take pictures of some strange things that week. Like big bushes, weird trees, odd people, buildings that have no significance, and other various oddities.

Then I looked up from my burger, and another group was gathering to have their picture taken in front of the sign. I turned to Cameron and nodded at the crowd.

“Now that’s a group that has a legitimate reason for taking their picture under the sign!”

It was a group of older veterans, each carrying a large flag. The flagpoles were wrapped for a comfortable hand hold and they had braces of sorts on their shoulders. If I read what there was to read correctly, they had actually traveled the length of Route 66.

Cameron at Santa Monica Pier SignObviously, chances are they had not walked all the way, but that is an insignificant fact. Just the fact that they had traveled the distance, supporting fellow veterans and their country, earned them the right to take a picture under the sign signaling, literally, the end of the road. I said a quiet prayer for them as they congratulated each other and took pictures in celebration.

Some of the most memorable moments on a trip happen when you’re not really looking.

Peace be with you.


Playing at Pig ‘n’ Whistle on Hollywood Blvd. 

Dan at Pig 'n' WhistleBefore I went to the ASCAP conference, I wanted to line up a place to play while I was in LA. While I was checking,  I found that it so happened that  the Pig ‘n’ Whistle on Hollywood Blvd., a block from the hotel, had an open mic on Tuesday night.  Not having any kind of following in LA – other than fans on Reverbnation and Facebook – setting up a solo gig would have proved difficult. So an open mic was my best bet.

But it was good fortune that it was an open mic in a historical building. The Pig ‘n’ Whistle was founded in 1927, next to the Egyptian Theatre where the premiers of movies were shown.  You can imagine the movie stars and celebrities that ate there.  The restaurant  has been restored to its original glory. What is called Backstage or the Back Room is down a hall to the back of the restaurant. There was a bar, but it was only used for parties and special events.

Backstage is a funky little room with an even funkier stage. Which is a good thing. Again, you can imagine the private parties held back there over the years. Cameron and I got there before they had everything set up. I was one of the first people on the list. I prefer to go on after a couple of people or acts to get a feel for the crowd. I shouldn’t have been concerned.

When it came time to start, everyone in the room had to pay $3. Which was new for me. If Dan Roark at Pig'n' Whistle 2there is any charge at an open mic in the Dallas area, it is a request for a drink minimum. But it was also Hollywood  Blvd. – you don’t want just anybody wandering in and hanging out.  The McDonald’s has a security guard and police patrols drop around regularly.

The crowd was made up of mostly performers, although there were a few people there to listen. When the show began, the MC asked for the hands of those who wanted to play. I hesitated, to see how  it went. About three people raised their hands. They were the first three to play – with the order corresponding to the raising of hands. The next time around I raised my hand and played in the second batch of performers.

Dan at Pig 'n' Whistle 3It was an eclectic group of people and performers, to say the least. A man who sang cover tunes a capella – in stops and starts at times.  A girl playing her songs on a ukulele, and not too shabbily. A comedian who apparently calls into the Howard Stern show and had jokes that I’m surprised Stern would appreciate. One of those there to listen was a guy made up like Will Farrell in Semi-Pro. He had been out on Hollywood Blvd. near Grauman’s Chinese Theater, posing for pictures for tips.

When I played my songs, I told them I was from Dallas out for the ASCAP conference, and introduced the songs as I always do. I felt like the veteran of the group. I received a good reception from the audience. We listened to a few more performers after I played – including a blues player with an interesting style – before we headed back to the hotel.

It was a great way to end the first day in LA. It’s a more authentic trip when you get to mingle with local people as a traveler and performer. And the journey had just begun.

Peace be with you.


Flying to LA for ASCAP Conference 

Loews Hollywood Hotel

I had the pleasure of attending the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) conference in LA last week at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. Things are just now getting back to normal enough that I can post about the trip and the conference. Our middle son, Cameron, went with me. The conference began on Wednesday evening with badge pick-up and opening networking reception. Cameron and I flew out on American Airlines from DFW Tuesday morning so I could show him a few things and see some sights.

We were all in our seats and ready to go at the departure time of 9:05. I was enjoying the fact that I had walked my guitar on without any problem and it was safely resting in the overhead bin. The plane had been started. We’re all thinking “here we go” and getting ready, when the pilot comes on the speakers.

“ Ladies and gentlemen, we have some liquid on the side of the plane. It’s probably just fluid that leaked when it was filled up, but we called the mechanics and they’re here to check on it so hopefully we’ll be taking off shortly.”

After a very pregnant pause, he came back on to tell us we would be changing planes. After we had all left the plane, we were sent to another gate. After we got there – some of us anyway – it was not long before they found us another plane. However, this was a considerably smaller plane. Cameron and I thought that some people would not be able to get on the plane, but there were empty seats on the plane when we took off. Some people, I’m sure, made other arrangements if they had connecting flights in LA.

The flight left without any further delays or problems. When we arrived in LA, we were just about to come in on the runway when the pilot suddenly jerked the nose up and hit the gas. We shot up and then headed out over the ocean. It wasn’t my first flight there so I was pretty sure I knew what he was doing.

Then he made a hard banking left. People were beginning to wonder if he was going to take us into the water. But he finally got turned around and told us that the air traffic controllers had switched runways on us at the last minute and we were circling around to try to land again. Which we actually did, thank God. We arrived at LAX almost exactly two hours late.

Cameron and I had a reservation for our GO Shuttle two hours earlier, so it didn’t take long to get on a shuttle. After the obligatory run back around through the airport to check for more passengers, we were on our way to the hotel. We checked in at the hotel and put our stuff in the room. Then we went to get something to eat before I played at Pig ‘n’ Whistle on Hollywood Blvd….

Peace be with you.

 


Stupid Legal Matters and Stretches 

There was a story the other day about a man that sued a Pizza Hut in Tennessee for serving an excessively hard crouton. Let’s take this step by step. You walk into a Pizza Hut and place your order, which, evidently, includes a salad – with croutons. You are eating the salad and at some point you have a crouton in your mouth.

Okay, you begin to bite down the crouton and your teeth feel distinct resistance. If you are above the age of say, five, you give up and throw the crouton away. And the man had dentures so he had some history in the matter. Some people  like to make a point of squeezing the most money possible out of an event that was, in part, their doing.

I shared that story concerning legal stretches to tell you this one. I don’t remember what car or truck I was driving, but regardless, it seems I over-filled the oil. Don’t ask me how – I’ve slept a few times since then. But whatever I had done caused smoke, quite forcefully, to come out of the exhaust pipe. If you are old enough to remember the DDT trucks spraying neighborhoods, it wasn’t quite that bad. Yet that didn’t keep me from feeling conspicuous as all hell.

My fears were not unfounded. A cop pulled me over and wrote me a ticket for – get this – excessive smoke. To make matters worse, I was going through Highland Park when I got the ticket. I worried about it until the court date finally came. I had no idea how much the fine could be for “excessive smoke.”

I arrived on the court date and found my way to the end of the line. This was not, I’m sorry to say, my first encounter with the court system. But it was my first encounter in Highland Park and I had long hair. So I had no idea what to expect.

I finally reached the head of the line. I walked up in front of the judge and stood waiting. He confirmed my name and so forth. Then he got to the charge. He asked if the arresting officer was present and was told no. “Excessive smoke,” he read from his sheet. He looked at me and asked, “what the hell is excessive smoke?”

“I don’t know, sir,” I said as I shrugged my shoulders, “ I think I overfilled my oil so the car was blowing smoke out of the exhaust pipe. I was going over to a friend’s house to try to fix it when I was pulled over and given a ticket for excessive smoke.”

“Pay the ten dollar court fee and we’ll call it even. Next case!”

To this day, I still don’t know what excessive smoke is – at least in regards to a traffic fine. Or what the fine would possibly be.

Peace be with you.


Hello Out There 

Dan at CUMC 3At my one man show at Christ UMC a couple of weeks ago, I played my newest song, Hello Out There, for the first time in public. Introducing the song, I explained that there were various members of church families that were on the autistic spectrum. I was not personally familiar with autism untill a few years ago. I noticed the symptoms in a few of the children, but did not know it was autism.

A college student at church was helping with the Autism center at UNT in Denton and facilitated a program at church with a director of an autism program who had autistic children. After that I began to realize how varied the autism spectrum is. If you do not know, the autistic spectrum stretches from those who are highly functioning to those who are low functioning. Those who are highly functioning need steady, but only slight, intervention by others. Those who are low functioning, on the other hand, need almost constant attention.

I have witnessed incidents at church over the years with some of the children. A few days after one particularly violent episode, I had a conversation with the child’s father. I asked him how the child was and he told me that he wished he could get inside the child’s head to know what the child was thinking. I kept thinking about that because, as a songwriter and author, that’s what I do – think about things.

I do not have any insight into an autistic person’s state of mind. But, having stuttered all my life, I know what it’s like to live in one’s own head. And that’s what led me to write the song, Hello Out There. It can be found here.

Peace be with you.

 

 

 

 

 


Thoughts on Entering a Lyric Contest 

20131103_132007I recently joined the Board of the Dallas Songwriters Association (DSA) after having been a member for several years. I am now the Lyric Contest Director, as well as helping out in other areas. I was given the entries to the recently completed contest (it is run quarterly). My job is to read all the lyrics and pass along to another member of the board the songs I think are worthy to be considered in the final judging. After reading the lyric contest entries, I have a few thoughts to pass along to those planning to enter a lyric/songwriting contest.

If you are just writing lyrics, find someone to write or play the melody. Make sure that it is a song, not just a poem. Granted, sometimes the line between the two is blurred. But even in those instances, one can tell the difference between a poem and song. Read it out loud.

If it sounds good to you, then have a few other people read your song. It is your choice to accept or reject suggestions or criticism. But if more than one person says the same thing, it would be prudent to follow their advice. If you read your song out loud and it sounds “sing-song-y,” you might want to work on it a little more.

At the very least – and I mean the very least – read your song several times before you submit your entry. Use spell checker and check the grammar. When I’m reading the song entries, I can forgive a misspelled word or single grammatical error. But if you misspell the same word in the chorus each time you type out the chorus, the song instantly goes in the rejection pile. It’s the same with the gramatical errors. If you are using slang purposely, or  are misspelling words to imitate an accent, use quotation marks. But make sure  it fits the song.

If you are going to take the time, make the effort, and spend the money, you might as well make it worth it. Present yourself and your song in as professional a manner as possible. A song should fit on one page, maybe one and a half. Certainly not more than two pages. You do not need to type out the chorus each time it occurs, if it is the same each time. Using 12 pt. type is quite sufficient – anything larger is unnecessary.

The first thing you should consider before submitting an entry is whether or not you have written an actual song. I do not have time to tell you how to write a song. There is so much already written on the subject, I do not need to. If you’re in the Dallas area, you could join the DSA and attend meetings. Every major city should have a songwriting association. Keep writing and learning as you go along.

Along the journey, when you decide to submit to a lyric or songwriting contest, you need to do four things. Make sure it is actually a decent song. Present yourself and your song professionally. Read it over carefully a couple of times before sending it. And follow the entry rules  to the letter.

Peace be with you.


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