Honey & Glue | Iron Post | Sunday | 3-6 p.m.
This Sunday, from 3-6pm, the Iron Post in downtown Urbana will host the first-ever “Honey and Glue” show. “Honey and Glue” is a collection of eleven local and nationally based lyricists and composers collaborating to write multiple songs using the same set of lyrics. I had the opportunity to speak with project founder, Steve Davenport. Here’s what he had to say.
Smile Politely: What inspired the creation of the Honey and Glue project?
Steve Davenport: A couple of years ago I sat down a couple of times at Espresso with a couple of Music professors, Julie Gunn (Performance) and Stephen Taylor (Composition), to talk about a song-writing class they were going to teach. They were looking for a poet to join them. I was unable to find someone to join them in any official capacity, but the song-writing collaboration seed was planted.
A year or so later, John Griswold (Senior Lecturer, Creative Writing, AKA Inside Higher Ed blogger Oronte Churm) asked me to do a podcast about writing for a project he was organizing. I agreed to do one about song-writing if I could get musician Bruce Bruiser Rummenie to talk to me about it. I didn’t know him, but I knew of the bands he plays in now (Bruiser and the Virtues, Impalas, Freak Brothers) and you couldn’t miss him back in the late 1980s when he played guitar in a band called The Mudhens. I knew him also as Dr. Rummenie, my then seventh-grade daughter’s English teacher at Urbana Middle School. Long story short, he agreed to talk to me. One podcast led to three. Here’s a link to those.
When another local musician, Kevin Matz, heard that Bruiser and I had written a song together (“Once I Had a Sorrow,” available at that link), Kevin asked me to send him some lyrics for his band Birdhouse Echo, which featured a female singer. Psychedelic blues, he said. I imagined the singer to be Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and wrote the lyrics for “Honey and Glue.” By then Bruiser and I were moving on to a second song, “This Noise in My Blood” (also available at that link). Kevin surprised me when he said he was going to sing the song. Then Bruiser surprised me when Kevin didn’t turn “Honey and Glue” around as quickly as Bruiser might have. Bruiser wanted to sing the lyrics and he knew the music he wanted to put the lyrics to. I stalled. He chomped at the bit. Kevin didn’t seem to be in a hurry. When Kevin told me he was about done, I let Bruiser go. Kevin’s “Honey and Glue” came in as an Indy-Rock-Meets- Barry-White slow jam. Bruiser’s bluesy “Honey and Glue” stomped and yelled. I didn’t know how to break the news to Kevin. I was a two-timer. The way out, I thought, was three-timing. Or maybe Bruiser suggested it. I asked Elizabeth Majerus, who used to play in the local 1990s’ punk band Beezus, if she was interested. She was and is and will be at the show with her new band Motes, which includes Matt Mitchell (her husband) on guitar and Matt Cohn on drums. My two-timing has become serial behavior, and so far no one’s shot me.
Smile Politely: How/why did you choose the set of lyrics that you did?
Steve Davenport: Both of the songs I’d written with Bruiser featured liquor. The lyrics for “Once I Had a Sorrow” imagined a guy who, once upon a time, drank destructively and now doesn’t. The second, “This Noise in My Blood,” takes place at a bar. “Honey and Glue” takes place out back of the bar along a river. Two folks together who maybe shouldn’t be together but are finding it difficult to part. As the lyrics unfolded, I wanted to rely on the associative values and material reality of honey and glue, their stickiness and liquidity, to describe the narrative situation. After I made a pass through the lyrics, which came easily to me, I wrote a reduction, kept maybe 40% of the original lyrics, handed both versions to the songwriters we were inviting to the project. So far there are nine “Honey and Glues.” If you can’t make it to the Iron Post show, you can listen to the versions and read the lyrics for each version here. You can also download the songs you like at a nominal cost. http://www.reverbnation.com/artboxcollective. And if anyone out there would like to write and perform a “Honey and Glue,” let us know.
Smile Politely: Do group members meet to discuss songwriting, or is each member left to do what they want lyrically and musically without outside influence?
Steve Davenport: So far the only rule was to be faithful to the “Honey and Glue” lyric I distributed, either the original lyric or the reduction. I invited variation in the lyrics. Elizabeth Majerus and Kevin Matz, both poets by the way, took me up on it and made small, beautiful sutures. I’ve yet to be in a room with more than one of the performers at a time. Three of the four performers live in Colorado, Florida, and Washington. I tried to attract singer-songwriters from Germany and Spain. I hoped for versions from a wide range of musical styles and traditions.
Smile Politely: What are your future plans for the Honey and Glue project?
Steve Davenport: This is the project. The show at Iron Post. Maybe as a result of this interview or the show we’ll get another “Honey and Glue.” That would be the future, the ongoing-ness of it. As for the next future, maybe I or someone else will write a new lyric and we’ll do something similar but different. Maybe the Collective will put out a “Honey and Glue” CD. Maybe Germany and Spain will come around. Maybe there’s a TV show out there that needs that song. Maybe Jeff Bridges will make Crazy Heart II and feature “Once I Had a Sorrow” and make Bruiser and me some real money. Or maybe Julie Gunn and Stephen Taylor will do something similar in their songwriting class. Ain’t no limit that I’ve chalked on the ground.