For as long as I have had conscious memory, I have heard music in my head and longed to get it into the world in the form of sound.

My mother used to say I sang melodies before I spoke words. And when I was all of about three and a half or four, the man who was teaching my brother guitar heard me picking out on the piano whatever song they were playing for his lesson, and he convinced my parents to give me piano lessons.

They did, so I read music before words, and by the ripe old age of six, had outgrown my first teacher after announcing that I wanted to play “real” music like my cousin Scott, who was three years older than me and playing classical music.

Words, too, were like music to me, with their own rhythm and melody and sound. So by nine, I was writing songs, and by thirteen I started playing and singing them publicly for people.

When you’re young and something comes naturally to you, you don’t question it. You go with it, without doubt or resistance. And that is why, though I have been fraught with many self-doubts in my adult life, I have always known in the core of my being that I can write songs. And for many years, it was the one and only way in which I defined myself.

So one morning, early in the process of making the CD, In Color, I heard a song in my head with both music and lyrics. I should tell you that these moments when something pops into a writer’s head like that can be fleeting. You have to catch them, record them, write them down, whatever you can. I don’t think there is a songwriter around who wouldn’t tell you that, or who doesn’t have the recorder nearby or the scraps of paper scribbled on with titles, or a line, or a fragment of an idea.

Why things speak to us the way they do, I have no idea. And I’m not sure it matters, aside from the absurdity in this instance, frankly…which is why when I sang it acapella for Tanya, my producer, I prefaced it with, “I can’t sing this on my album.”

It’s a gospel song, written by a white Jewish girl from Yonkers. Yes, I have always had an affinity for gospel music and Negro spirituals, in particular. An uncanny affinity for them. They speak to my soul in a way I can’t describe and makes no sense unless past lives really exist.

But here’s the thing – I couldn’t get the song out of my mind, nor could Tanya. It was catchy and stayed with us. And how do you not put a song on a record just because it’s completely out of your comfort zone? For me, the personal growth envelope pusher, that is exactly why I should do something. The more uncomfortable, the better.

So Tanya, whom I’d like to point out is also another white, Jewish girl from New York, heard an arrangement for this song in her head.

Of all the joyous aspects of making this record…and there were many…recording this song and hearing it come to life was a highlight. I was joined by Everett Bradley – the magnificent, Tanya – a genius in far too many arenas to discuss, and Lorraine Ferro, who was, is and will always be one of the greatest voices God put on the planet.

In addition to these people’s immense talent are souls that surpass their talent in beauty. So this recording makes me happy on levels both heard and unheard.

This song is a celebration of life and of joy and of our limitlessness and our propensity to move perpetually forward. I hope you like it!

Thanks for stopping by. And I give you…”Hallelujah Song.”

Welcome to Day 4 of the stories behind the songs on my In Color CD!

Today’s song is “No End to Love.” And it has the distinction of being the oldest of the songs on my record. It was written in 1999, when I was living in Nashville, the twin towers still stood proudly in New York, and I was working an office day job…which is how and why this song got written.

I was working at United Methodist Communications when one of my co-workers, a lovely man named Fred Rowles, wandered to my desk and told me he wrote poetry. He said he had this poem that he thought would make a good song lyric.

I’m not sure if I rolled my eyes before or after he walked away from my desk, but I can tell you that everyone thinks they’ve got a song lyric in them, and generally speaking, that is not the case.

But Fred came back to me, poem in hand, just as I was mulling over how I was going to graciously get out of this.

I took the four line poem and read it. He was right. This would make a great song. I’ll be damned!

A short while later, I wrote the verse and bridge lyrics and the music and played it for Fred.

We had ourselves a song. And we both believed it was a special one, at that.

Almost immediately, the song went on hold for Faith Hill. But Faith didn’t cut it.

Then it went on hold for Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. But my song plugger told me that Dolly loved it and Kenny didn’t. So it did not get cut by either of them, ultimately.

A string of independent artists put it on their CD’s. Session players and singers in town knew the song, because it had been recorded so many times. But minus the major artist, no one outside of Nashville knew “No End to Love.”

The only one who never recorded the song, it turns out, was me. And so, when it was time to record In Color, “No End to Love” finally had the chance to have its day.

My version is different from the other previously recorded versions of this song, largely because this song is an intimate, private conversation between me and God, though I never use the word “God” in the song.

This doesn’t make anyone’s interpretation of it being about a human being wrong. It speaks to you however it speaks to you, and if it does, in fact, speak to you, I am immensely grateful for that.

Fred and I remain in pretty close touch these days, though we’ve had only one other song collaboration from a poem of his in the years since.

I think the journey of this song is one that has taught me to stay open and receptive to all ways songs find us, and to the ongoing journey they may have over the span of many years.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

And I give you “No End to Love”…

I’ve never written a song where the lyrics didn’t become more rich with meaning and poignant to me in subsequent years after writing it. And because of that, I’d like to talk to you today about friendship.

Yeah, friendship can be dinner and lively conversation, laughs and joke telling, a raucous, good time. And it should be that, because that sweetens the journey of life.

But for me, it has also always been about more than that. It’s been about the moments life asks us to show up for people and how we do.

Friendship, at its best, allows us to be vulnerable with one another, to be seen and heard and loved for exactly who we are, in our gloriously perfect imperfection.

And the beautiful thing about friends is that we choose them. We decide who we welcome into our circle, who we trust, who we want to spend time with, and what we value in each other.

We don’t cross paths by accident or happenstance, no matter how random we’d like to tell ourselves this world is. We are brought together, sometimes for the entirety of our lives, and sometimes just for a short while. And the kicker is we never really know which it’s going to be.

So when I sat down to write “Friends Like Me & You” with Anthony Barone and Tanya Leah, it was a chance to celebrate the friendship I have with both of them and with all the people I consider my friends, because I truly don’t use that word lightly.

You never know when you sit down to write with anyone, how it’s going to go. And that has nothing to do with friendship.

Sometimes, ideas flow easily, everything goes smoothly, and you can swiftly move on to, “Where are we eating dinner?”

Other times, the air can be thick with silence, or you can spend five hours searching your brain for a single word or a line, to little or no avail.

Both kinds of sessions can yield wonderful song results, though the former is far more enjoyable than the latter. And such was the case with writing “Friends Like Me & You.”

It was fun. It was fast. It was happy. And it was not initially a duet, though I always thought it should be, somewhere in the back of my mind.

Enter Kenny Loggins.

Kenny and I knew each other about two years when he initially offered to sing something on my record.

If you have been a long time follower of this blog, you know that my first encounter with Kenny did not go particularly well, but it did lead to me writing what is perhaps my favorite blog – about how incredibly humorously it went. (Here’s the link to it: http://ileneangel.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-kenny-loggins-blog.html ). And that, in turn, led to Kenny reading said blog and reaching out to me, because he loved my writing.

As I let his generous offer to sing something on my record sink in, I walked around for a couple of days, saying to Tanya, who was my album’s producer in addition to co-writer on this song, “Did he just…? Did that just…? Does that mean…?”

What did that actually mean?

I decided to send him three songs and let him pick which he wanted to sing on. He chose “Friends like Me & You,” which made the most sense, because a) we were friends, and b) it lent itself perfectly to being a duet. Also, I enjoy talking in outline form and it may happen again, periodically, so heads up.

I hate to burst your bubble with the behind the scenes stuff here, but we were not in the same studio at the same time recording this duet. We were three thousand miles apart. I was in New York, and he, in California.

I believe I sent him some really insightful vocal direction ahead of time like this: “Sing whatever you want.”

It turns out this was excellent guidance, because in addition to the verse, chorus, and bridge, he also sang lush, gorgeous background vocals that are distinctly Kenny Loggins and no one else.

The next night, when Kenny’s engineer sent the files over to Tanya for us to hear, I raced to the studio to listen with her for the first time.

There are some blissful moments in life for which nothing can adequately prepare you. To hear Kenny’s beautiful and familiar voice singing the song I had written with Tanya and Anthony, was one of those moments. It was a lovely and generous thing to do, and one for which I will always be grateful.

Had the story ended with that night, or that moment, or how well the song came out when all was said and done, this would be a happy tale, indeed.

Oh, how I wish that were the case. Oh, how I wish I could say that Kenny and I are the kind of friends we sang about in that duet. But the truth is that if we ever really were, we are not now. And that breaks my heart.

So to be honest, this song is bittersweet for me. But the thing about songs is that they have their own lives once they are out in the world. And the thing about life is that we always have a choice about how we look at anything.

So I hope this song celebrates friendship and blesses listeners in a way that makes us all cherish the people in our lives – no matter when they came or how long they stayed.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Here is “Friends Like Me & You”…

It’s Day 2 of the back story of each song on my album, In Color, and this one is about the title song on the record.

We begin our story with a lady named Barbara who lived a few blocks away from me.

Barbara always had a twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her face. She was in her eighties when I met her, because she volunteered, along with my father, to do tax returns for the AARP.

My interactions with her were brief, but her joy left a lasting impression in the best way possible, but it wasn’t until her death that she truly changed my life.

It’s weird to go to the funeral of someone you didn’t really know all that well. But I went with my father, and there, greeted her children, whom I had never met.

Her daughter was wearing yellow – a decidedly happy color, if you ask me. And though I sit in judgment of no one, I wondered where the traditional black garb of mourning was.

When she eulogized her mother, she told a story. It was the story of her mother, the twinkle-in-her-eyes Barbara, coming to visit her for a while.

Once she was all settled in, she perused her side of the closet approvingly and called her daughter over to look. On one side of the closet were her daughter’s clothes, and on the other side, Barbara’s.

Barbara asked her daughter if she noticed anything. Her daughter didn’t. Barbara told her to look again. Still nothing.

Then Barbara pointed out that on her daughter’s side of the closet, the clothes were largely black, and on Barbara’s side they were every color in the rainbow. And she relished this with glee.

Barbara made her daughter promise, then and there, that when she died, her daughter would not wear black and mourn her in that way, but rather would wear a bright color and celebrate her. And that’s why she was wearing yellow to a funeral.

I went home that day thinking about life and knowing that despite my own overwhelmingly black wardrobe, I wanted to live my life in color and that I wanted that to be the title of my album.

When I sat down to write the song with my friend and producer, Tanya Leah, it was a moment of true vulnerability, of assessing where I was, where I am, and where I’d like to be.

There are many things that happen throughout the course of our lives that are not by choice. But the way we choose to look at them and live our days is most definitely up to us.

“In Color” is not just a song. It’s the blueprint for how I want to live my life.

How do you want to live your life? What would be your message about that to the world?

Every day we get to choose anew

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

And here’s the song…

Welcome to Day 1 of tales from the CD, In Color.

If you’re new to the party, (or didn’t read yesterday’s blog), I’ve decided to write each day for the next thirteen of them about each song on my album.

So first up is “Coming Home to Myself” – one of the songs with a more colorful history.

Sometimes, professional songwriters hear that an artist has an upcoming project, and we take a stab at writing specifically for it, in the hopes that we will capture what the artist wants to say and where they are in their life at the moment.

Such was the case with “Coming Home to Myself,” which was originally written for Wynonna.

I heard that she was writing a memoir and that the title of that memoir was going to be Coming Home to Myself. And I thought that was a fantastic title for a song, as well as a book. I heard that she was also recording a CD, and I thought that would be the perfect tie-in for both. So I wrote my little heart out and demo’d the song.

There are things I’ve never discussed publicly about my adventures in the music business, even in my memoir, In Search of George Stephanopoulos, because I made the conscious decision not to speak ill of anyone or paint anyone in a bad light. I don’t know if that was the right decision or not, to tell you the truth, because my journey is my own story and who I am now is the amalgam of experiences I have had, both good and bad, and what I learned from each.

I could have fictionalized my experiences, i suppose, but to me, that diminished the fact that they were true as much as omitting them did.

To know me now is to know that my days of chasing cuts like I did with this one are over. Oh, my manager at the time did all the right things – approached Wynonna’s management company and producer (who by the by was drunk midday when we paid our visit, so who really knows if he remembered that he spoke to us).

I reached out to the writer who was actually penning the memoir for Wynonna, Patsi Bale Cox, and because life is what it is, we became writing friends and she was a huge proponent of this blog up until her death in 2011.

The highlight of my pitching attempts was meeting Wynonna’s husband at the time, D.R. Roach, whom she subsequently divorced after he was arrested for sexually assaulting a minor under the age of 13. No, I am not making this up.

I asked him politely if he would give my little CD of this one song I had written specifically for her to her, and his response was to take it from me, throw it on the ground and stomp his heel on it.

If you don’t think that kind of interaction will forever make an impact on you, you’ve got thicker skin than I do…and I thought I had seen it all. (I told you some of these stories of my songs were real dillies.)

Needless to say, Wynonna did not cut this song. And I hold zero grudges about that since she never actually heard the damn thing. Do I have serious doubts about the kind of people she chooses to surround herself with? You betcha. But it’s none of my business and I wish her all good things.

As for how that impacted me personally, imagine this story multiplied by all the stories I didn’t tell you, and you’ll begin to understand the kind of fortitude you’ve got to have to pick this road and stay on it. (Or maybe it’s the kind of stupidity – potato/po-tah-to.)

But this story has a happy ending, ultimately, because I put the song in a drawer for years and didn’t give it a second thought. When it resurfaced, I was recording my own album, back in New York, where the lyrics uncannily expressed exactly where my life was – as if I had just sat down to tell you something about myself and what led up to this moment of me recording this album.

So I am grateful that this song didn’t have the journey I initially intended. It serves as a fine example to me that no effort is ever truly wasted, and that even though we often don’t see it in the present moment, everything is ultimately used for our good.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. Oh, and here’s the song…

I’m not the kind of person lacking in things to do. I am never bored. I always have projects, and goals, and dreams. I like to start and finish things, even if those things take me years. I see the big picture, the long range, the five year plan.

So imagine, if you will, this kind of driven person feeling stopped, and stuck, and just plain sad. “What the fuck is going on with me?” I’ve been asking myself lately.

Sure, it’s true that I never felt this way while Barack Obama was president. But be that as it may, I cannot blame everything on Trump – only the start of World War III, the total demise of human decency. and complete and blatant disregard for the laws of the land. You know, little stuff.

So I’ve decided to talk about it, because if I’m feeling this way, then I’m sure others are, too.

I used to write a lot more freely and openly, and maybe that’s part of the problem. When you’re trying to make “the little blog that could” into a marketing tool, you begin to weigh your words and contemplate audience reactions. And no good can come of that. So whatever I write about from here on out, I need to reclaim the honesty I started with, though the world and my life looked a lot different when I started. Maybe I can hit the reset button.

Lately I’ve been wondering why Jane Fonda looks better pushing 80 than I have at any age other than 25. (That was a very good year for me.) Does she do her own exercise tapes? I think she was just blessed with both good bone structure and willpower of steel.

I’ve officially watched season 1 of Grace and Frankie. Shhh, I know I’m behind. Just seeing those four actors onscreen together makes me happy, although I keep hoping the writing will turn into an Aaron Sorkin script, which it never does. And I really want to help Sam Waterston with the Jewish dialect. Someone, please help him with that. Maybe in season 2.

Last night I discovered that my album, In Color is on Pandora. It was a total surprise, and it got me thinking – will anyone find it on there? Maybe someone in some distant corner of the world will hear a song of mine and feel understood and less alone. That’s why I became a songwriter. Songs that resonated with me made me feel understood and less alone in the world and that became my heart’s desire – to do that for other people.

So I was thinking that I might write a blog a day for 13 days about each of the songs on my album and tell some heretofore unknown story, either about its creation or its journey. Some of them are dillies, I tell ya.

I seldom talk about that stuff, because I like the listener to form his or her own relationship with the song and story for where it fits in their own life. But what the heck, it’s a way to open up and give some insight.

So that’s the plan for both my blog and my funk – to open up, give some insight, and find my way back to joy. Here’s wishing that for everyone.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.