Mike Zito's Letter From America: May 2015

I was told when I was young that all I needed was three chords and the truth to write a real song. That has always stuck with me. I love jamming and playing my guitar and I enjoy improv, but I still seem to enjoy these aspects in the context of a song. As a soloist, a good song gives you purpose, meaning, direction and support.

The blues began as songs and stories, not endless slow-blues guitar jams. When Robert Johnson or Muddy Waters played their instruments, it followed the story, it added to the feel and co-created the vibe.

Willie Dixon is the king of blues songwriters. He helped to bridge genres together and change music forever.

His songs are among the best and most popular written. They are still performed today by musicians and bands all over the world. But along the way, the song became forgotten and the musicianship of the soloists took precedence.

It’s just a set-up for lots of notes and endless jamming that lead to nowhere but machismo. Which only tells me that these musicians, as good as they are, really have nothing to say. They do not have the blues and have no way of conveying a message, because there is no message to convey.

Songs are the most important part of any genre. Even if you have had a privileged upbringing, you can dig deep into your feelings and share something that is real.

I am not concerned with if the music will be too simple, nor will I write a song based on technical prowess or severe musical changes to be cool or impress someone.

I am most concerned with the story, the lyrical content, the passion, the meaning. Even if it is a silly song or light-hearted romp, it requires some emotion.

Anders Osborne, the great Swedish-American songwriter, told me that you have to sing every word in each song and you have to mean it when you sing it, or you’ll never be able to sing with conviction.

The blues is three chords and the truth.

The truth is the most important part.

God bless Willie Dixon./o:p