Ellis Paul

Nov 5 2009 - The Dragonfly Races!

Nov 5 2009  The Dragonfly Races

Sept. 26, 2007
8:45 AM
delta flight
headed to Colorado

At last, The Dragonfly Races is finished!
Flynn is putting the final touches on the mastering and I am listening through to proof the order of songs and watching the artwork go to the designer Jan Lindy Boyce.

This is my first recording project focusing on children and families. After the birth of my daughter Sofi and a six week stay at home helping with her arrival, I realized my oldest daughter, Ella, closing in on three at the time, was spending hours listening to the music of a strange cast of characters, right beneath my nose. The likes of Barney, Elmo, Dan Zanes, Robbie Schaefer, Billy Jonas, and others had snuck into our house and stolen her ears with the clang of their joyful music. My music was lost somehow as an after thought.

And so, I began writing these tunes, gathering ideas with my wife and friends, songs I could add to Ella's (and soon, Sofi's) already wonderful knowledge of music, but with the ideas and notions that I wanted her to hear coming straight from me, her Mom, and the gifted community of friends I have gathered around me.

Suddenly, Ella was singing my songs around the house again. Her voice was carrying our words, and what a joy that was to hear. Collaborating with Flynn, Antje, Billy Jonas, and Vance Gilbert brought even a greater sense of community into the process.

I've also been a visual artist for most of my life, and was thrilled to finally have an opportunity to join my music with my illustrations. We hope to further this project with actual books of many of the songs. To see the fulfillment of such a complete concept coming to fruition has been the most thrilling album birth for me since Stories came out some fifteen years ago.

Since it's my first attempt at a children's/family CD, I am hoping that the broad sweep of songs, stories, and characters will manage to entertain a very broad age group including
parents and grandparents. I know one three year old who loves the songs already, and she was the target audience.

I've always considered myself a folk singer, despite the fact that I am clearly
not putting out folk albums. They have always been singer-songwriter records
with pop, rock, country, jazz, folk-rock over tones, but many of them include folk themes, social commentary, story songs of people struggling with the day to day issues of being a human being.

I am in love with great songwriting. Cole Porter, Willie Nelson, Cash, Dylan, Mozart, the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, John Prine. I love a good jingle. I'm serious. If it captures its intention, and was written with any kind of Zen clarity and thoughtfulness, then I am a fan. I love listening to School House Rock, and some of the brilliant writing on Sesame Street and the Muppets.

But in my work, I've always written for myself, and taken my perspective, using my writing as a personal process to understand my world better, my friends experiences, etc. I've never written purely for a target audience as a goal, I've really only written for myself with the hopes that people would enjoy it. The result with this CD is that the songs waste no time meandering through my arguments of what, and where and why. They were written to hook the person listening and entertain them, not to explain myself, not present an argument, or the song to someone as my adult work has been over the years.

These songs are for my kids. What does Ella like? So I wrote a song about swinging.
What themes should this generation of kids grow up with? Peace is all over the album.

This is also an independent recording. The best way to spread this music is through you, and your friends and family. Please spread the gift of this music! Please sample some of the songs and a sneak peak of some of my artwork on the new Dragonfly Races Myspace (Click here to go to the Dragonfly Races Myspace!) Keep a look out for pre-ordering the album in the next week or two!

The order may change here, but consider this a working order for now... Check out the myspace site below as well! To hear some of the cd...
Many thanks to you all,

Here are some brief song descriptions:

1) Wabi-Sabi
Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese concept of beauty and fragility. I have an adult song regarding this as well. Sharon spent a year in Japan and studied Japanese culture, and has always been pushing me to write about this concept. We shared in the writing of this song, with Mary Lu Toren out in Big Sur, California who helped me finish the last verse on her kitchen table beneath the giant red woods. It's about taking care of things that bring soul to your life, despite the fact that they've lost the shiny luster of newness.

2) Because It's There
I think it was the famous Everest explorer Edwin Mallory who was credited with saying this when asked why he climbed Everest. I always thought that comment summed up the brilliance and the stupidity of exploration of any kind. Every hero must combine courage, faith, fearlessness, and a nearly perilous amount of recklessness to take on the kind of adventures that lead us to the fringes. I admire them. I like the simplicity of the concept.

3) Abiola
Sue Ellen, a fan of mine who frequently posts to the discussion board, started a one woman lobbying campaign to turn Dusty from the Dragonfly Races into a girl. "There are no female heroines in children's music!" She said, "They are always damsels in distress!"
and she insisted in repeated e-mails that I should castrate poor Dusty and have the new female Dusty win the race, save the day, and promote the woman's movement in the same three minute song.

I have some identity ties to Dusty, though I don't literally picture him as me, he is enough of a part of me and gets involved in the kind of racing I used to do that I felt the sex change to be a challenge for me conceptually. Castration was denied.
Sue Ellen would not stop lobbying, heckling from the crowd.

Then, one day Antje Duvekot brought a wonderful new song idea to me about a girl and a monster, it had great potential, and she invited me to help her finish it, and that we did, as we were driving along the coast of Florida on tour together.

Suddenly, the album had its female heroine! And we named her Abiola after Sue Ellen's daughter, as a surprise to Sue Ellen and a gift for Abiola and for my girls as well. And fortunately Abiola is a beautiful name for a song and a protagonist.
And I would like to thank Sue Ellen for not naming her daughter Gertrude.

The song has some very present political over tones. Flynn really came to the rescue production-wise, as this is a quick but rambling story song with no chorus or bridge, other than a LA, LA, LA here or there. It was my first LA, LA, LA chorus,
It was also my first chance to write with Antje, and sing with her on a recording.

4) Road Trip
I wrote this with Sharon, and Flynn added a bridge to a very fun buddy road trip song of landmark stops across the United States. I really enjoyed Flynn's production here, especially the drum beat, and the visual bell tones that sound like wind on the bridge.
This song sounds outrageously catchy to me, much to my chagrin, and sticks in my head at the most inconvenient of times. I couldn't shake it this morning at 5am driving to the airport, and had to throw on some news to clear my head.

5) Dragonfly Races
The Challenge of Dragonfly Races was to make it believable. It is so clearly a fantasy piece that we wanted the listener to feel like he's there in the crowd in the forest with the creatures and the Great horned Owl watching the race unfold. Dusty, the hero of the race, is a major theme in the artwork and the title track, so it was important to me that the song has special magic cast upon it. Flynn and I were throwing ideas and horn parts and sha-la-la's all over this one to try and create a real three dimensional scene for people listening.

6) The Bed Song
This was the first song I wrote of this batch for Ella and Sofi, and it convinced me to do a whole album. It's my first whistling solo.

7) The Little Red Rose
My Dad is in Barber Shop quartet, and I decided to honor him with this one. It's got three of me and one extra me trying to be Barry White. It's a metaphorical argument
for nurturing peace. Though Ella thinks it's about Sofi, who we often call by her middle name Rosie.

8) Pinwheel
I tried writing two versions of this, one an up tempo story song tale of a boy blown across
the world with a pinwheel, and the other more of a dream state lullaby. The lullaby won out.

9) The Star Inside the Apple
This is a brief poem, about the universe inside an apple when you cut it side to side.

10) I Like to Swing
This is a song I wrote for Ella, whose favorite children's artist is the wonderful Billy Jonas. Billy was kind enough to play his recycled percussion kit on this for us, and Ella was thrilled to have him playing on one of her Daddy's songs. Thanks Billy!

11) The Million Chameleon March
Consider this your kid's first protest song. Vance Gilbert sings with me on this song about a Million Chameleons Marching on Washington, demanding change.

12) 9 Months to fix this World
This is clearly a song for parents, my manager lobbied hard to include it here, and hopefully it will be a centerpiece in discussions between parents and kids. I wrote this when Sharon told me Ella was coming, and it gets requested frequently at shows. I didn't know what CD would be right to record it for, but this seemed like a good opportunity to share it with people who need to hear it-- parents. Hopefully the kids will hang in there for it as well!

13) I Lost a Day to the Rain
While I was in Colorado I recorded a version of this song which I wrote with Darryl Purpose a few years back, it is a nice addition to the songs, and has a great live feel.

14) a hidden track--
Ella takes a solo here, and argues with me while doing so; And wins the argument. You will have a new appreciation for the word "blue" after hearing this one.

updated: 6 years ago