I've been a songwriter for more than 20 years, and I still can't really explain how songs get written. There's no pattern, no template, no tried-and-true method that works for me every time. Sometimes the words come first, sometimes a couple of chords on my guitar, sometimes a little piece of a melody. I once wrote a song using those little poetry magnets that you stick on your refrigerator. (I’ve tried many times since then but haven't been able to write another one using them.) I've attended numerous songwriting schools and workshops. I've read a dozen books on the craft, and I've tried many of the tricks and methods outlined there. The bottom line for me is this: The act of songwriting is still kind of a mystery to me, and I’m ok with that. To quote Iris Dement, a great songwriter, “I think I’ll just let the mystery be.”
The inspiration for the songs that I write is much easier to define – they're all about my life. My wife, my family, my friends, my career, my experiences – they're all in there somewhere. If you want to know something about me, listen to my songs. Sometimes it takes years for lyrics about a specific person or event to take shape. Other times it is much more immediate. “Son of a Daughter” was written in 2012, inspired by our amazing grandson, Max, and his mother, Katie, our eldest daughter, who is pretty amazing herself.
Max just turned 5 this past month. He's a brilliant, happy, much-loved child who has an incredible, intuitive affinity for electronic devices. His mother has to keep an eye on her cell phone bill because he figured out how to download the latest “Angry Birds” game when he was 3. He knows how to navigate my phone much better than I do. Max was diagnosed with autism in 2012, at the age of 4. Children with autism don't perceive and relate to the world around them in the same way neuro-typical kids do. In Max's case, his speech development and communication are delayed. We were aware of the term "autism spectrum," but didn't know very much beyond that.
Since Max's diagnosis, my wife, Kristy, and my daughter have read everything they could get their hands on, and they have learned so much about autism and how to create an environment in which a child with autism can thrive. One of the most important things we have learned is that there is so much more to discover about autism in general.
Our family is fortunate to have found help here in Amarillo at Specialized Therapy Services and their affiliated school, Hands On Achievement Academy, with nationally recognized behavior analyst Maria Bird-West Wheeler. Max's development and progress has been wondrous to watch. In fact, Kristy mentioned to me recently that his progress is so striking that some lines in my song almost don't apply anymore just in the span of a year since it was written. We don't know what the future holds for Max and other children with autism, but I do know that this is only the first song he has inspired. There will be many more to come.
Sometimes you're with us, Sometimes you're not. It doesn't matter where you are; Wherever it is, it's a joyful place. I can tell by the smile on your face. Would that I could shield you both from the world And the struggles yet to come. So I say a prayer for the son of a daughter And the daughter of a son. The light in your eyes Bright as a beacon But there's no tools to control. Your heart is pure and your spirit free Wish we could see what you see. Would that I could shield you both from the world And the struggles yet to come. So I say a little prayer for the son of a daughter And the daughter of a son.
Mike is the music director for High Plains Public Radio, and the host of High Plains Morning, heard Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon on KJJP FM 105.7. As a musician, he plays roughly 100 dates a year around the Texas Panhandle.