I've been pretty lucky - more than most - to have had a series of mentors adopt me over the years and give me the tools and the confidence to do more with whatever raw materials I've had at my disposal than I would have squeezed out on my own. For a couple years in the late '90s, Ralph Covert was one of those people.
Surely, Ralph was an acquired taste for some, and I've run into to more than one of his former songwriting students who ached for unvarnished criticism but got unbridled accentuation of the positive instead. I soaked it all up. Ralph had a way of making you feel like you were in on the joke, and that the biggest difference between your musical career and his was his head start. One night at Fitzgerald's, Ralph noticed that I was on a date and had me come up to play a song for 500 people before a set break (I chose Baltimore Sun). Another night in Old Town, Ralph silently mouthed "the one true secret of songwriting" to a group of songwriting students hanging out after class just as the Brown Line El noisily rolled into its stop at Argyle.
It's no wonder that so many of those moments get relived in my own songs nowadays - the "terrible examples" in I Will Rule Your World, the "as he spoke, a train went rattling by" line in I Don't Watch The News, the "jeune fille in a white sundress" reference in Cupid (below) - all those little song-children of mine are lucky to have a pretty neat musical godfather. Thanks, Ralph!