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Songwriting duo touches on the lighter side of life

Juneau Jazz & Classics

Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2005

As the creative minds behind the two-piece Arkansas-based duo Trout Fishing in America, guitarist Keith Grimwood and bass player Ezra Idlet have been writing songs together for almost 30 years.

That's long enough to know more than a little about the science behind songwriting, from the initial brainstorm to the last bridge. And that's why they've been teaching songwriting workshops at schools all over the country for the last decade.

Trout Fishing writes some adult songs about relationships, but mostly light, goofy songs for kids. At one of their recent workshops, in Bethesda, Md., their young crowd worked on a song called, "My Pants Fell Down."

"The words turned into 'My pants fell down / Down to the ground,' and it worked in context, but we tried to do more than that," Idlet said. "More than just talking about how your pants fell down, you want to develop a story and a location. Look around you. What's going on? We try to find music and situations that match the mood of the song."

Trout Fishing will host a songwriting workshop at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, at the Juneau Senior Center, then play a 90-minute family concert at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 26, at the ANB Hall. For both shows, tickets are $15 for general admission, $5 for kids 12 and under.

"It's amazing how many people enjoy the idea of writing a song," Idlet said. "We try to give an example of how our songs are written. Reasons why we wrote them and kind of discuss song structure.

"At that point, we ask people what they think would be a good topic to write about. And they sort of come up with different things. We usually try to come up with two or three things to get everybody involved."

"It's very much the same way that Keith and I write," he said. "If it's a good idea, why is it a good idea? If it's a bad idea, why is it a bad idea?"

One song, "There's an Alien in My Nose," started in Van Buren, Ark., with a class of 300 students. The song was completed at a later workshop in Rochester, Minn. Three or four workshop songs have popped up on Trout Fishing albums, and for those, the band always pays third-person writing royalties to the arts organization responsible for organizing the workshop.

Eventually, the band would like to release an entire album of workshop tunes.

"It makes perfect sense for us to do that," Grimwood said. "Not every workshop song is going to make an album, but not every song that we sit and write is going to make an album."

Grimwood and Idlet grew up in Houston in the 1960s, when the music scene was equal parts rock, blues, tejano, psychedelic, bubble gum and classical. Lightning Hopkins was big in Houston at the time. The Winter Brothers and Janis Joplin were making noise in Beaumont and Port Arthur, and the whole New Orleans scene wasn't far away.

Grimwood and Idlet met in 1976, in their 20s, and found they shared an appreciation for all genres of music. They now have 12 records. Their latest, the Christmas album "Merry Fishes to All," earned their second Grammy nomination.

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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