News & Rambling

News & Rambling

A new songwriting collaboration with Paisley Fields

Paisley Fields is on the Grammy ballot!
I’m excited to announce that Paisley Fields new album is on the Grammy ballot! A list of the collaborators on the record is above. My story about meeting and working with Paisley Fields follows.
Paisley Fields

When I first met Paisley Fields, he was playing the piano at the Jalopy Tavern. At the time, I was in a bit of a rut as a songwriter. My guitar was providing no inspiration. Witnessing an instrumentalist as effortless as Fields led me back to my first instrument. The piano.

About a year later, Fields proposed that we get together to work on a songwriting collaboration. I was thrilled. Fields’s knowledge of American popular standards, coupled with his enthusiasm for country music made me excited about what we might come up with. Eventually, we were able to get together twice, resulting in two distinct compositions, one of which,”Shuffling Fool” ended up on the new Paisley Fields album, Electric Park Ballroom.

A line dance song about the challenges of line dancing, “Shuffling Fool” tells a story very close to my heart, During our songwriting session, I admitted to Paisley that while I had always been a fan of line-dancing, I was never able to master even the simplest series of steps. Fields agreed that this would be a fun topic to explore. Line by line, we discussed what would make the song the most truthful. We worked hard to make sure our song was a song that everyone would enjoy. Once we had finished the words, Fields said, “What were you thinking for a melody?”

Throughout the writing process, I had been writing to a tune in my head. I walked over to the keyboard where Mr. Fields was sitting and tried to show him what I was thinking of. I was immediately frustrated though. Despite my re-dedication to the piano since I’d met Paisley Fields, I was still in the same melodic rut. “Forget that,” I told Fields. “That’s not what we’re looking for.”

“What ARE we looking for?” Fields asked me.

“Well, you’re Miley.” I told him, “You’re gonna sing it. It’s gotta work for you. But,” I continued, “before you came over, I was hoping we could write a disco song.”

Fields’s eyes lit up. Grabbing the handwritten lyrics and slamming them on top of the keyboard, he began pumping away at my borrowed Fender Rhodes piano like a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and Elton John. Within minutes, Fields had finished a demo recording, while I nervously held my breath in the background, careful not to disturb the flow of his inspiration.

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A few months later, I received an email from Fields in Nashville where he was working on the Electric Park Ballroom recording session. I was very excited with the progress. But when the album came out. I was blown away! I cried tears of joy when I heard what Paisley Fields had done with the song we had written together. I grew up listening to and loving disco. “Shuffling Fool” is every bit the disco masterpiece I had ever dreamed of and so much more. I would like to thank Paisley Fields and all the musicians who worked on the Electric Park Ballroom album from the bottom of my heart for making such a wonderful record.

Electric Park Ballroom is available now on pink splatter vinyl from Don Giovanni Records. It is also available on compact disc, and as a digital download. As it is the season for Grammy nominations, I would like to share some of the press reviews the album has received so far.

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“Paisley Fields brings a roguish cabaret-style sensibility to “The Other Boys,” from his upcoming album Electric Park Ballroom. …describing the often-solitary experience of many gay men with a knowing mixture of humor and sadness.” – Rolling Stone

“Electric Park Ballroom probably won’t be embraced by the Nashville country-pop scene any time soon (the frisky “Ride Me Cowboy” is about exactly what you think), but it’s smart, fun music for folks who want to give new queer country a spin.” – Chicago Reader

“Electric Park Ballroom is a rarity, an album that is perfect from start to finish” – Country Queer

“Fields makes mischievous use of down-home symbolism on his frolicsome tune “Ride Me Cowboy,” upending the conventions of stoic, range-riding masculinity with winking, queer flirtation.” – NPR

“But ultimately the varied sonic palette Fields is exploring here is what makes Electric Park Ballroom an exciting listen, from the theatrical piano bar drive of the near-disco cut “Shuffling Fool” to the fiercely witty murder ballad “Time’s Up, Brad.” Highlights include the triumphant, live-or-die nature of “Thunder Road” (which does the namesake proud) and there is a hooky pop punk stomp to “Winter Night.” There hasn’t been a shortage of fascinating, exciting under-the-radar country artists over the last several years, and Fields should unquestionably be on any list of performers helping to redefine the genre.” – Merry Go Round Magazine

“One of the mainstays of the Queer Country Quarterly is Paisley Fields, whose first album Not Gonna Be Friends debuted to critical acclaim in 2014, and latest album is this year’s Ride Me Cowboy. Paisley, who grew up in the Midwest where he was a church pianist as a teenager, remembers country music, and specifically line dancing, as a means of expressing (if covertly) his sexuality in a conservative setting. “When I was line dancing I could just dance around and be a little gay boy and no one would judge me for it,” he recalls. Along with touring with his own band, Paisley is also a member of the reactivated Lavender Country.” – BBC

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Theme song to One Magical Hour, A Matthew & Shafer Podcast Spectacular

Listening to the One Magical Hour Podcast on SpotifyBefore production began on his new Austin, Texas based podcast, Shafer Hall, one of the two hosts of One Magical Hour: A Matthew & Shafer Podcast Spectacular asked me to provide him with a theme song. As I turned the title over in my head, Matthew & Shafer set sail on their podcasting adventure.

By the time I was ready to work on the theme, Matthew and Shafer had just released Episode 19. It was clear that I had work to do. I donned my headphones, opened Garage Band, and put my favorite Harold Lloyd movie on the television with the sound turned down.

I started with the beat, then added some whistling, synthesizers, and vocals. My first version clocked in at over six minutes. Over the next two days, I was able to edit this down to a three minute version, which makes its debut at the end of Episode 21.

One Magical Hour Episode 21

A shorter version of theme opens and closes Episode 22. And then opens all subsequent episodes beginning with Episode 25.

Episode 22 of One Magical Hour, A Matthew & Shafer Podcast Spectacular

You can catch up on all the adventures of Matthew & Shafer over at onemagicalhour.com

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Jim Peterik, riffing across decades

Jim Peterik (born November 11, 1950 Berwyn, Illinois) is an American musician and songwriter, best known as the keyboard player of the band Survivor and as vocalist & songwriter of the hit song “Vehicle” by The Ides of March. (Jim Peterik myspace)


“Vehicle” performed by The Ides of March
Words and Music by Jim Peterik


“Eye of the Tiger” performed by Survivor
Words and Music by Jim Peterik & Frankie Sullivan

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Sonny Curtis wrote songs for Mary Tyler Moore and The Clash

Sonny Curtis (born May 9, 1937, Meadow, Texas) is an American singer and songwriter. He was a teenage pal and band member with Buddy Holly in Lubbock, Texas. Curtis joined The Crickets after Holly’s death in 1959, and soon took over the lead vocalist role in addition to lead guitar. Curtis is the author of 189 registered works on BMI.com including five BMI award winners. He is a member of the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of the Crickets).


“Love Is All Around”
Composed and Performed by Sonny Curtis


“I Fought The Law”
Composed by Sonny Curtis
Performed by the Clash


“Walk Right Back”
Composed by Sonny Curtis
Performed by the Everly Brothers

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Books.

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Otessa Moshfegh – My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Bernard Cornwell – (The Warlord Chronicles) – The Winter King, Enemy of God, Excalibur

Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai – The Teachings of Buddha

I read some excellent books in 2019 as well.

Above these thoughts are a few photos from my phone.

(Updated October 5, 2020)

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I can make the runner stumble. I can make the final block.

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The last time I can remember being ahead of the times was in 1976, when I became a vehement Jimmy Carter supporter at age 4. The next step off the cliff of the present was in 1985 or so, when I turned from the pop radio station to the oldies station. Within a few years, I had a copy of Joel Whitburn’s Top 40 Hits, a book listing every song that had been on the charts from 1955 to the present.

As I write this, I’m listening to Making Love Out of Nothing at All, written by Jim Steinman, recorded by Air Supply. To this day, I think I’d rate Air Supply in my most memorable shows of all time. For the sake of honesty, let’s see if I’m correct.

  • Ray Charles
  • Frank Sinatra
  • James Brown
  • They Might Be Giants
  • Battershell
  • Blossom Dearie
  • Willie Nelson
  • Air Supply
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Billy Joel
  • Eagles of Death Metal
  • Violent Femmes

I’m sure I’m missing something, but that’s about right for now.

In the past, I’ve found that learning how to play a song, getting it inside you, so that you can play it again to yourself, or for a friend, that’s the best way to get rid of what they call “an earworm.” Should I be working harder on my Air Supply covers? That’s a good question. The answer is: probably. At least this one. I don’t think I’ll ever be manic enough to do another birthday tribute show again, or at least another new one. So far, I’ve done several tributes to Johnny Cash and one each for Katy Perry and Frank Sinatra. I was really stoked about doing a BeeGees show for awhile, but that idea faded away.

Damn, that Jim Steinman can write a song. I’d love to see him in concert someday.

Above these thoughts are a few photos from my phone.

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Songwriters on the “Hilltop”, or, when a jingle hits the charts.

In 1971, Coca Cola released their iconic “Hilltop” TV commercial. The underlying jingle “I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing” proved so popular that radio station listeners started requesting it. Two separate versions of the song reached the Billboard Top 20 in 1972. (Hillside Singers, #13; The New Seekers, #7)


“I’d Like to Teach The World to Sing”
(Spot name: “Hilltop”, McCann-Erickson, 1971)
Music by Bill Backer, Billy Davis, Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook
Performed by The New Seekers

“I’d Like to Teach The World To Sing” was written by four interesting characters, Bill Backer, Billy Davis, Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook.

Bill Backer (1926- ) was an executive at the McCann-Erickson advertising agency, the Charleston, S.C., native created some of the most successful ad campaigns in history. Backer contributed his songwriting skills to the jingles on more than one of the spots he created.


“Here’s to Good Friends”
Words and Music by Bill Backer
Performed by Arthur Prysock


Roquel Billy Davis
(July 11, 1932 – September 2, 2004) of Detroit was an American songwriter, record producer, and singer.


“Reet Petite”
Words and Music by Billy Davis & Berry Gordy, Jr.
Performed by Jackie Wilson


“Lonely Teardrops”
Words and Music by Billy Davis, Gwen Fuqua & Berry Gordy, Jr.
Performed by Jackie Wilson


Roger Frederick Cook
(born 19 August 1940, in Fishponds, Bristol, England) is a well-known songwriter who has written many hits for other recording artists. He has also had a successful recording career in his own right. Most of the hits he has written have been in collaboration with Roger Greenaway, whom he originally met while they were members of a close harmony group, The Kestrels.

Roger Greenaway (born Roger John Greenaway, 23 August 1938, [1] Fishponds, Bristol), is a popular English songwriter, best remembered for his collaborations with Roger Cook.


“Talking In Your Sleep”
Words & Music by Roger Cook & Bobby Wood
Performed by Crystal Gayle


“Long, Cool Woman in a Black Dress”
Words & Music by Roger Cook & Roger Greenaway
Performed by The Hollies


“You’ve Got Your Troubles”
Words & Music by Roger Cook & Roger Greenaway
Performed by The Fortunes

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The Nightlife – Episodes 1-20

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The Nightlife was originally conceived as a template for a midnight, three hour radio show. I tried to envision myself at a radio station on a Saturday night, pulling records off of the infinite shelves of Spotify. But because I wasn’t talking between the songs, at times I felt like I was back at the old tape deck, making a mix tape for a friend. Now I’ve got this box of mix tapes, and I wish I’d labeled them better. But if you’re going somewhere, or cleaning the house, and you wanted to hear a few of my favorite tunes and artists, The Nightlife is here for you.

Episode 20 / Episode 19

Episode 18 / Episode 17

Episode 16 / Episode 15

Episode 14 / Episode 13

Episode 12 / Episode 11

Episode 10 / Episode 9

Episode 8 / Episode 7

Episode 6 / Episode 5

Episode 4 / Episode 3

Episode 2 / Episode 1

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Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, hit songwriters

Nickolas Ashford (born May 4, 1942, in Fairfield, South Carolina) and Valerie Simpson (born August 26, 1946 in The Bronx, New York) are a successful husband and wife songwriting/production team, as well as being recording artists in their own right. This performing and songwriting team met in the choir of Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church.


“Lets Go Get Stoned”
Words & Music by Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson, & Josephine Armstead
Performed by Joe Cocker


“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
Words & Music by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson
Performed by Diana Ross


“Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”
Words & Music by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson
Performed by The Jackson 5


“Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”
Words & Music by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson
Performed by Aretha Franklin


“You’re All I Need/I’ll Be There for You”
Words & Music by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson
Performed by Mary J. Blige & Method Man


“Solid”
Words & Music by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson
Performed by Ashford & Simpson

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Copyright 2014 Alex Battles.