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.