Sometimes it goes right over our head.
The opening tune from Danny Shafer's new solo album, One Morning, is a bittersweet little thing called "Letting Summer Go," about the flowers turning brown and the air growing chill and the sweet fruit of summer disappearing to wherever it goes.
"It was another September full of skies/Ending with apple pies/It was another autumn and you took it slow/Under the blankets, letting summer go" It sounds, we thought, like a nicely detailed collection of images and metaphors to suggest the passage of youth, the darkening of skies and the relentless passage of the seasons. Y'know life. Getting old.
So we asked him if we were projecting into that vein of melancholy in the surprisingly wistful opening to his new album. Is that what we heard?
"No," he laughed, "you are reading into it. It's kind of an odd thing. I just don't like winter, at all. I am completely made out of summer. The irresponsibility and everything that summer is, I love. I have a hard time in winter even here."
Nope, nothing like the loss of innocence or the irretrievability of youth; it was as simple as a "rats, fall is coming, where'd I stash the long underwear" type thing. But Shafer cut us some slack.
"There was no question about what song I was going to start the record with. I knew it was going to be 'Letting Summer Go' right away easy first choice. The 'bittersweet' thing for some reason, it's a pretty easy place for me to go and write from I feel like I can just get in there and see so many angles to write about.
"I think that songs should be partly interpreted by the person listening to them. As a songwriter, I hope I'm giving people just enough information to understand what I'm talking about, but not too much information, so that they can make up their mind about the song."
For Shafer, "here" is Gold Hill, where he has made his home for years. A fixture on the Front Range songwriter and acoustic music scene for nearly two decades now, Shafer is a stalwart troubadour, traveling balladeer, bandleader and shockingly prolific songwriter. Heading into Crucible Recording in Eldorado Springs, Shafer brought his songbook in with him, probably carrying it with two hands.
"I walked into the studio with a songbook with about a hundred songs in it. And I sat down and started going through songs and seeing which ones felt right, ended up recording 20 songs and mixing down 15. From that, I picked 12."
"I had some time booked, and I didn't know exactly what I was going to do with it. And so I was going in to kind of 'try out' the studio and see how it felt. And in that morning, I ended up recording the whole thing. I didn't even know I was recording the record. Everything sounded really good. The engineer and I were on the same page about how we wanted it to sound. And I sat down to record a few things, and I just kept on going and kept on going. And before I knew it I was mixing the thing."
Shafer, is, if you couldn't already tell, not exactly a guy who unduly belabors or second-guesses his craft. He bears a pure instinct for song and how it lies across his shoulders and resonates in his ears. The instinct responds first, and the craft follows.
"I'm very chaotic and very automatic about my songwriting. Songs usually come pretty quickly, and over time I think I've learned to let them come quickly and then shine them up a little, clean them a little, make them a little more coherent hopefully without taking away that part that makes them feel natural."
And in between recording, local gigs and traveling (Shafer is on the road basically all year), he tries to leave his Tuesday nights free for his regular gig as emcee for open mic night at Conor O'Neill's in downtown Boulder.
"I've been hosting the songwriter's open stage night at Conor's for eight-and-a-half years now. It's just a night I sincerely love. It's people coming down, playing things their own way The people at Conor O'Neill's have been super-supportive of it and it's just become kind of a tradition. People come to play, but also people come down just to listen.
"We have a whole following for that night, and it's good for me because I can just sit down and listen. Like, the guy who wrote his first two songs. Or hang out with the guitar guys, the guys who come to just play. It's so fun for me, I love it."
On the Bill
Danny Shafer CD Release Party with Robbie Stiefel from Ego Vs Id and Ben Hannah 8:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 20, B-Side Lounge, 2017 13th St., Boulder, 303-473-9463.