Videos by American Songwriter
My name is Ed Hamell, and I’ve been writing a song a day for 333 days. I know this because I number them and post them along with a video on my website (www.hamelltv.com). Daily. The impetus to this creative puking was two fold: The movie Julie and Julia, ( in which a lead character blogs daily), and the end of my 21 year marriage. Needless to say that shit was the worst thing I had ever experienced. The break-up of the marriage was tough too. I felt that it was imperative that I keep busy because idle hands are the devil’s playground. If left to my own devices I could turn into one of the two most hideous threats to civilization today: narcotics or Facebook. (I’m serious about at least one of them.)
So with no other goal than the complete freedom and fun of songwriting I began what has turned into an incredible journey. And it may be just the beginning. I don’t know, and that’s the beauty. There are absolutely no parameters. Each day offers a new fresh opportunity, depending on my mood or what inspires me. If I hear something on the news, if it’s a friend’s birthday, checking out an artist that I love who’s style is so different than mine, (and I’ve never would have attempted to cop his/her vibe), children’s songs, dirty songs, love songs, songs to cheer my own ass up, (there’s a boatload of them), noisy songs, quiet songs, exhausted songs, futile songs and maybe a song or two that, edited and crafted lovingly or wrung through the wringer with tears and frustration, will find their way into my permanent repertoire. But that isn’t the goal.
See what I found was that saying “This draft isn’t good enough for the album,” or “This is too silly or romantic for my image” was taking the child like fun out of the process. Now nobody is scrutinizing the results, namely My Self. How liberating! Creativity for the sheer sake of creating, given away free on YouTube and viewed by who? I feel like Banksy sometimes just wailing my graffiti up in the universe and seeing where it flies. So far the most hits? A song I wrote in 5 minutes before giving my kid a bath titled “CLEAN” and yep, it’s a standard part of the set now. I like hanging with the kid and the guitar and getting results. How cool is that?
When my marriage ended I sold everything I had with the exception of my guitar. I had a large library of music-related books which was devoted primarily to songwriters and their craft. I had everything from Cole Porter and Hank Williams to Leonard Cohen, Dee Dee Ramone and Mark E. Smith. Thousands of books, literally in a house all their own I had collected since I was smitten by The British Invasion as a child. I was pulled in two very strong directions (Libra that I am) as I gazed at them while a collector/buyer was on his way to pick them up. One side was dying that I had to part with what had been a consuming passion. I’m a road dog and scouring bookstores was a gloriously obsessive past-time. But the other side of me, (and fuck knows we can rationalize ANYTHING huh?), was very inspired. As if it was time to put all this knowledge to use. At the time I didn’t know how, but maybe this is it. Selling the textbooks of college and getting on with applying The Education.
These 333 days have provided therapy and purpose. I’ve toned the creative muscles, hopefully provided some artistic entertainment for some onlookers, added some cool stuff to my show, all the while challenging myself daily. My Manager and friend Kristoffer Carter sifted through the first 100, and we recorded and edited the best 15, (15 Of 100 that is available on http://hamelltv.com). So, Ka-Ching — it’s manifested cash, but once again that wasn’t the goal. Not fucking killing myself was the goal. And it worked! Beats the shit out of Lexapro!
Tomorrow I leave with my 8-year old son Detroit for a cross country tour: 13 gigs in 16 days, from NYC to Hollywood and back. He sells merchandise at the end of the show. Think: Paper Moon, and yes I’m Ryan and he’s Tatum. What kind of songs do you think I’ll dig up out there in America?
It gives me shivers just thinking of the possibilities. Songwriting shouldn’t only be about the album, the setlist, or the cash. It has to be rooted in the possibilities, and the fascination of doing it.
Ed Hamell performs as the award-winning one-man rock show “Hamell On Trial”, touring and performing hundreds of shows each year. He releases albums on good friend (and label boss) Ani Difranco’s Righteous Babe Records. For more information, please visit: http://www.hamellontrial.com