more backstory

It may seem a big strange for a “music tutor” and their student to be separated by 9,000 miles – I’m living in Thailand, Ronan is in Texas – so perhaps it is important to explain that my role is not as a traditional “instrument” teacher, but more of a creative coach.

[He also has a violin tutor as part of his homeschool curriculum.]

We first started working together five years ago (Ronan was 9 years old), in weekly face-to-face sessions. As he was not quite yet tablet- or typing-friendly, I was taking notes and making phone recordings of the ideas and lyrics generated during our sessions. In fact, at our first meeting he said that he wanted to write a song called “Snakes vs. The Earth,” and by the way, it would be a trilogy – three songs. And so it is. Here’s a sample lyric:

Rattler caught a skunk

Bit it on the leg

Then a big fat python

Wrapped around my leg

Snakes versus the Earth

A few more songs emerged – “Elliot Brand (Order of the Time)” and “Fake Tornado” – which we gamely performed at the music school’s monthly student showcases.

Then I moved to Thailand to start on a different kind of adventure. One of my first activities was recording song demos for a young Thai man named Pluk Fire. We’ve since lost touch, but I like to think I would always find time to share music with young people.

When the pandemic and lockdown conditions emerged early in 2021, Ronan’s parents wondered if we might not resume our music sessions via Zoom. I was certainly willing to give it a try, and there was little downside. We picked right back up in May 2020, talking about songwriting as a craft, the parts of a song, things to write songs about.

He even sent me a little essay called, “How To Write A Song,” which plainly summarized his understanding of our discussions.

In early July, a set of lyrics arrived via email. It was “Out of Tune.” (This is the original demo recording.)

And then another, “Reusable Money.” A few more.

When “Cost Time” arrived a few weeks later, I saw he was taking the songwriting seriously, so decided to try and make an actual “song” out of his words, so he could “hear” how his lyrics might be set against music.

My musical aspirations always have exceeded my talent, but I do my best. The idea for “Cost Time” was to keep it simple, to give him an opportunity to learn and perform the song himself. It has only one major chord (E), with an (A) chord accent, and would be very easy to play with a guitar tuned to open E.

I soon found melodies and chord arrangements for the other two songs, and another called “High In The Sky.” After each song was more or less completed, I made a demo recording on my laptop, singing and playing guitar. I sent each demo to Ronan, who responded by sending even more song lyrics.

At some point, I shared my primitive recordings with Ian Nice, an ex-pat from England who recently had opened, and was seeking clients for, Rocky Head Studios (a literal translation of the Thai resort town we live in, Hua Hin). He offered the services of himself and his 17-year-old son, Ronnie, to record the songs and give them a little polish.

We had no idea just yet where the music was headed.

Published by billpaige

Interested parties are first directed to my memoir, “Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars” (Eckhartz Press). While I have taken music therapy classes and read extensively about music’s effect on the brain, I am NOT professionally trained -- just a music lover who recognizes that everyone benefits from music. Giving that gift to special needs youth is highly rewarding, but again, my process is intuitive, not academic. I draw largely on personal experience. I’ve spent most of my 67 years observing a wide world of music, from working as a music critic professionally for 20 years, and holding positions in music companies in the 1970s and 1990s. Since 1990, however, I have focused on learning more about music and improving as a singer, guitarist, and performer, both solo and in ensemble settings.

6 thoughts on “more backstory

  1. Such an inspirational story. Ronan’s words are amongst the most interesting and thought provoking I have ever known. Bill’s music happens to compliment those words perfectly too. A match made in Heaven as the saying goes.

  2. I have been touched and inspired by the musical relationship between Ronan and Bill that I know Bill personally as expatriate and friend living in the same town and I a “try of guitar player and singer …” in Hua Hin TL…For me, music is imagination and anyone can try to make it in his/her own style…I take back this love of music after more than 40 years of absence (work work..till now..haha..). Although English is not my mother tongue but imagination allows me to do whatever I feel haha..I even wrote some lyric: When and if I die, Let the worms eat my bones, When and if I die, Let the ocean pushes me, I ll be on my own and depart my own way…Ain’t no plan but it’s alright! I ll be awaken up from this bad dream..oh.oh…Black hole is where our souls should be…

    Maybe as in touch with Bill, my personal inspiration would be kept going on…

    1. wow, thank you for this comment Viem — it means a lot as you have a great love of music. let’s face it — music is the one thing that won’t let you down, only lift you up.

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