Recently some neighborhood friends who had heard we were doing this “music thing” asked me, “What kind of music is it?” I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t have an “elevator speech”* ready. I fished around, but the best I could give them was a little musical tour of the U.S. “Well, when you listen to it, you might think you’re on Bourbon St. or Broadway (Nashville and Manhattan), or in Motown or the Mississippi Delta or even Laurel Canyon.” That’s a pretty lame attention-grabber from a guy who has opened songs with lines like “I got legs I love to kick ‘em” and “grandfather lost his right arm just shy of seventeen.”
A few weeks later another friend got a preview of one of the songs and said, “I’ve never heard anything like it. What kind of music is that?” (I’m pretty sure it was a compliment.)
This time I had an answer. I told him, “It’s a Twenty First Century Folk Song.” I didn’t mean Joan Baez—Bob Dylan—Peter Seeger sixties’ folk “revival” sort of stuff. Our songs sound nothing like those. What I meant was that we’re writing songs the same way the folks did who wrote the songs on which the sixties’ stuff was based. The songwriters who wrote John Henry, Scarborough Fair, Barbara Ellen and Froggy Went a Courtin’ were telling stories about their lives and the world they lived in, using language that ordinary people could understand, with the instruments and music traditions that they had available to them at the time. Their songs were about queens and princes, magic cambric shirts with no seams, and a man using his hands to beat a steam-powered hammer. Our songs are about squabbling teenage girls, gluten free linguini, university “safe spaces”, blind dates and family vacations. They’re recorded with real 21st century instruments, and they reflect the fact that Bryan, Lexi and I have over 100+ years of combined experience with just about every kind of American popular music there is.
That’s my "elevator speech." Feel free to use it the next time someone asks you about Harrison Country!
*If you’re not familiar with the term, according to the University of California at Davis, “elevator speech” is a “clear, brief message or commercial about you. It’s typically about 30 seconds, the time it takes people to ride from the top to the bottom of a building in an elevator.” It is de rigueur in current business practice.