White Space

Anyone who knew me as a teenager or young adult is likely to remember that music was a big part of my life back then. I was constantly joining or forming bands, writing songs, and playing in front of people as often as I could manage to find gigs.

This was never something that I did with any idea of earning anything. The only times I can remember getting paid at all were two occasions where one of my bands played a show at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. Each time, the band received a whopping $20, which probably didn’t even cover the cost of gas to the gig and back from Austin, MN. My friends and I did this sort of thing simply because we loved it and had a good time doing it. Performing on stage really is its own reward, especially if you have the good fortune of finding an audience who likes what you’re doing.

For a variety of reasons, beyond the scope of this post, in my mid-20s all of that ground to a halt. I wasn’t playing in any bands, wasn’t writing songs, seldom even pulled out a guitar to play on. This went on so long that eventually I realized I couldn’t any longer describe myself as a guitarist without wincing internally. I had become a guy who used to play guitar, and the realization of that was profound and painful.

Gradually things have turned around though. Years ago I created my own hypothetical band, Band of None, with some friends, and while the creative output is really mine alone, and we don’t really do anything as a band, the germ of an idea was sowed. Later I spent a few years playing first guitar and then drums in a local punk band with some other middle-aged dudes, which was fun but fizzled out. This summer/fall, I had a crazy creative burst and quickly wrote at least a half-dozen songs, most of which I’m pretty happy with, and some of which can be heard as rough works-in-progress on SoundCloud. And for the first time, in a long time, I’ve had occasion to sing and play (on ukulele) songs for a crowd of 1000 software developers at the Øredev conference. Each time, I’ve written a parody of a popular song, come up with a uke/guitar-friendly arrangement, and performed it with the help of Jimmy Bogard and Rob Ashton, and it’s all been a lot of fun. Here’s the latest, recorded live at Øredev in November 2015, for your amusement:

The better parts from Øredev Conference on Vimeo.

The song is called “White Space”, and it’s a parody of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” It’s sung from the perspective of a jaded developer encouraging a new programmer to come join the company he works for, offering to take that programmer under his wing, only to later throw the noob under the bus. Let it be known that this is a work of fiction!

Doing this has been a huge amount of fun, and has seriously got me wanting to do more of this. There’s something really fun about the constraint of writing lyrics to fit within the confines of an existing song structure, and the constraint of on playing with a somewhat limited instrument such as the ukulele, that really just gets me going. And frankly, I love hamming it up on stage in front of a thousand people.