Welcome to my blog!
Being a folk star isn’t easy. Answering the fan mail, explaining myself, and trying to get to the bottom of the Nature Folk Movement (NFM) is all about. That’s where my blog and newsletter comes in handy — it gives me an outlet to explaining who I am and what my music is all about.
Feel free to contact me with any questions or if you’d like to collaborate.
The easiest thing in the world …
Is picking up the guitar.
Sometimes I’ll play an old song, half to hear it again and most of all to get a practice rep in. That’s the thing about a song: You can write it and sing it once, but it’s only in repetition that you refine it to the finished project it has to be. I’m not saying this is the best practice session I’ve ever had. But why not? And show me the person who presented a perfect rendition of anything without hashing it out one step at a time with up until the moment it’s perfected, it barely being a finished product at all. Long live trial by error and refining in baby steps!
I‘m not saying …
I’ll do anything to make a sale.
Burt Silver’s Campaign Commercial
But sometimes you’ve gotta be willing to go out on a limb, especially when you’re a struggling artist. And by struggling, I mean struggling to find an audience. And don’t get me wrong, I love performing at campfire events. The problem is they’re usually campfires I start, and sometimes I’m the only one there. The last election cycle I was approached by a politician named Burt Silver who asked if I’d write his theme song. At first I was unsure, but being an artist down on my luck, I really didn’t have a choice. And before I feature that song — called New Dawn — I thought to post a campaign commercial by Burt. The thing that really won me over about Burt was his problem solving skills. He may not be your ordinary politician, but when the cards are down and the stakes are high, he’s not afraid to bluff with a pair of twos. I respect that. Burt and I really bonded at the late night diner after a big night of poker earnings and that’s when we struck our deal. It was as big an advance as I’d seen my whole life. To think, it was just another night of gambling earnings for him. It sort of blew me away. “It’s a new dawn with Burt Silver,” is all I could think when we finally left the diner. And I mean literally — a thin sliver of the sun was starting to rise up out of the East. A new dawn alright. A new dawn indeed.
I remembered when I first learned …
To use a typewriter.
Performed to Dylan’s It’s Alright Ma
I was in twelfth grade. Cumbersome at first, and plodding. I didn’t much see the point. And then it clicked — and I was off to the races typing lightspeeds faster than I could write. The irony was in 10th grade, just two years before, my brother typed my American History paper (Topic: Should Eisenhower have crossed the Elbe River Faster?) for me. That makes me laugh because to this day my brother types with two fingers. It’s painful to watch, whereas I mastered using all eight fingers and both thumbs.
Fast forward three decades later I have to remind myself to even pick up a pen. And how quaint even now a typewriter seems in retrospect. Increasingly, I’m too lazy to even thumb out an email, let alone a text with ample impossible to interpret autocorrects — and even resorting to just audio transcribing into my phone to respond to texts and emails. What is the world coming to! Oh, and how the mighty have fallen. If my 18 year old self could see me now, I really wonder what he would say. Instead of reading books and handwriting long letters to distant friends, here I am lost in my thoughts of how things used to be. I’m not saying the typewriter was a slippery slope, but what I am saying is that this song stayed handwritten. It never got typed out or saved into a computer as a Word file.
The topic? My then boss was turning fifty, 2 years younger than I am now. At the time, he seemed so much older, but maybe that’s because everything is relative. What’s that saying: “Better late than never?” Final note: I couldn’t make the big event, but not wanting to be left out or contribute in someway, I wrote this song — and here’s the funny part: I recorded it on a cassette tape. No joke. I wonder if Ron still has that tape now, and if so, and probably the more impossible feat — If he has a tape recorder to play it on?
Sometimes life …
Trips you up.
One of my better live performances
The only known antidote: Get up and brush it off. And I don’t speak from experience. I’m only saying it as a last resort. These past few months I’ve been going through a song-writing lull. The good news: I’ve seriously gone through my archive and put my songs to memory. I am now capable of playing any number of song sets. The problem is: I’ve left a lot of half-baked songs languish on the window sill. I’m not saying I’m not going to eventually get back up on the horse and gallop full speed ahead. But there are times I wish I was a full time nature-folk balladeer instead of doing the balancing act of being a hydrologist, every night campfire host, performing late night campfire concerts, maintaining a podcast and also trying to put the finishing touches on a fourth installment of a major literary work. Bogged down? Only to the uninitiated. There’s an old saying: If you want something done, ask a busy person. The corollary is: being bogged down is just a momentary state of finally breaking through to the promised land.
I remember writing this song.
It came to me in a rush.
I wrote it, I sang it and I quickly moved on. It was the final song of my first album, twenty years in the making. It also re-inspired my song-writing chops. Every other song on the first album were from the deep archive of farewell songs I’d written over the years. It paved the way for most of my second album – The Green Album – being newly written songs. At the time of this post, I am going through a little bit of a song-writing lull. But after completing three albums of original songs and interviews, maybe I needed a break. Time off is always well spent
There’s a saying that …
The darkest hour is just before the dawn.
Well, sometimes you don’t even have to wait that long. That’s where campfires come in. There have been a lot of major inventions over the eons. The toaster. The comb. Just as seen on TV products. The list goes on. But has there ever been as good an invention as the campfire? Maybe the wheel. But that’s splitting hairs. The truth is that the there’s really no other antidote out there for what ails the soul than spending some quality time around a campfire. At least for my money. And campfire’s are usually free. That’s the best part.
Behind every great song …
Is the after-song interview.
Bobby angel explains why in this in-depth interview.
No song delves deeper into my heart than the Lusitania. Why? Maybe because my grandfather could have easily served in the war. He didn’t. But he was almost of the age that he could have if he were only born a year or two before. To me, the song also challenges the myth of the Titanic. It also begs the question, will Celine Dion and I ever collaborate. All I can say is that it would be a great, maybe the greatest, highlight of my career. Celine – if you’re listening – I already have the campfire venue picked out. Or alternatively, we could meet up in Las Vegas too at one of your shows. I’m good either way.
This song may seem simple …
But it’s tightly constructed, too.
Stay on afterwards to hear the interview
Why the Lusitania has always loomed large in my imagination, for what reason I am not sure. In part was that it wasn’t the Titanic. How many ships have sank since the Titanic went down? Probably thousands. Yet we don’t know any of their names, and here’s the bigger point: The Titanic is somehow still making front page news. The more immediate backstory on the song: Somebody posted a cartoon featuring the Titanic on Facebook. Call it the straw that broke the camel’s back, a week later I’d written this song. I’ve since been told by a history buff that some of my facts are a little off. For example, Captain Turner wasn’t on the take. It turns out he didn’t know about the munitions in the cargo bay. Well, my take: Maybe he should have. The buck stops with the captain in my book. In its finality, by both way of its tone and its subtle yet strongly anti-war refrain, this song could be one of my best. I think it coveys a closeness and intense longing for a time gone by. I hope you enjoy.
This song has a special place …
In my heart.
I finally worked out the chords in this session
The reason? For one, I think it’s upbeat. And it also tells a good story. Most of all is that is the first farewell song that I performed live at a party. In the run-up to singing the song, it’s also how I got my stage name Bobby Angel. Other details: At the end of the song I discuss a little history behind the song and how after twenty years I managed to remember and reconstruct the way I sang it on that fateful night. I’m not proud. But I did need the practice. But the end of the session I was wide awake and alert. In total I rehearsed about five songs. It’s all about getting your reps in.
The secret of life …
Is finding the right venue.
What critics are dubbing “a campfire to remember,” singer/songwriter Bobby Angel is sweeping the country on a whirlwind campfire concert tour. Did I say country? I meant county. Actually country sounded better, we should stick with that. Folks: In all seriousness, it’s not neither the journey or the destination — it’s your imagination. Here’s the backstory: Somebody asked me to bring my guitar to an event. Have a month to prepare I dutifully worked on a campfire song set. I also rehearsed it in front of a campfire to warm reception. Granted, it was a friendly crowd. But they had the power to throw my guitar into the canal if they wanted. They didn’t. Then came the actual event. It never materialized. I played one song, and only to one person. A week later I randomly stopped by a place on the way home from work and they booked me on the spot — for Friday (2 days away), and better yet a $100 event. I’m not saying I planned it that way. But I’m going in prepared with a Playbill. And that’s not just being fancy. My goal is Broadway by the end of the year, or maybe a campfire around Yellowstone. I know somebody who used to work there. It’s not how good you are or even who you know, but getting the reps in for something that never goes as planned.
The thing about a song …
You gotta strike when the iron’s hot.
Or is it about reaching back far in time? The truth is, whenever and wherever the muse strikes, you’ve gotta be ready to go with the flow but also be a finisher, too. I’m not saying this is my next smash hit. Or is it an old song I resurrected from the crypt? Song writing is more alchemy than exact exact science. More present than future or past.
All artists get their start somewhere …
For Bobby Angel it was campfire events.
Placard announcing the event
After years of obscurity at small campfires, Bobby Angel is moving up in the world and scheduled to perform LIVE “within walking distance” (granted, it’s a long walk) from the very same arena where Bob Dylan and many other luminaries played. Next step: Getting inside the arena. Bobby Angel’s 4-song set near the coffee shop of Florida Gulf Coast University will feature (1) Ballad of a Florida Panther, (2) Ugliest Forest, (3) Preserved and (4) Higher Moral Ground, and who knows – maybe a surprise song … and lots of storytelling in between. Or at least that’s the plan. First lets see if I can remember the songs, and how well I can pull off the campfire vibe at a daytime event.
Have you ever set off for a place …
Only to later discover you never arrived?
Such was the case with Bobby Angel at this campfire podcast. He thought he was setting up camp at the Barron River only to find out, or start to develop a hunch, that he was actually along the banks of the modern-day canal. Not that it stopped the singer/songwriter from having a quality campfire. His 2-song set includes (1) One More Melaleuca for the Road and (2) David Moody Blues, plus campfire deep dive into the history and many mysteries of the road, the river, the old railroad grade and the canal.
I‘ll say this:
I never set out to be a folk star.
Bobby Angel sits down for an interview
Not that I’m a folk star yet (although I can play one on the internet). A singer/songwriter? Maybe. Or I would say definitely so. After twenty years of on-and-off playing, and really only showing up unpaid gigs, why and how I ended up putting together a pretty decent website is anyone’s guess. Stranger still: I’m not even halfway through recording the songs I’ve written and performed over the years. Way back when, when I first got my start, there was a coworker who was enthusiastic as he was adamant: “We have to get all your songs on CD.” That CD never happened, but 15 years later the website just might. What I love about the website is it makes me be a finisher. After I record a song I add in an interview, the lyrics and other tidbits. All the songs were of course farewells, written for people moving on the greener pastures of a new job or retirement. Since them I’ve written a range of other songs, too. My best? Ballad of a Florida Panther seems to be a fan favorite.
As for the Bobby Angel effect, and what it is? I think I noticed it on the first song I played in front of anybody, or at least at a farewell party. It was Marsha. After the song I turned to her and she was sobbing in tears, and not because my song was bad. They were tears of joy. In a song Bobby Angel could touch someone in a way I could never approach in work-a-day real life. And so the Bobby Angel effect was born. Over twenty years later I’m still trying to figure it out.
Have you ever heard the story …
Of the cowboy that tries to ride off in all directions?
Bobby Angel’s ode to moving one
The short answer is he fall is his rear end. And maybe the moral of the story is you can only get somewhere one place at a time. On the other hand I get it — if you’re a cowboy like me you have a lot of things to do and people to see. And the truth is sometimes you don’t know what direction to go first. The secret to my success, if you can call it that, is that I do one thing at a time. The caveat is that I don’t always do them as well as they should be.
Take for example my contact form for this website. If anybody out there has been trying to contact me, you’re inquiry has been getting lost in outer space somewhere, or wherever the internet sends things that aren’t correctly addressed. I’m assuming that’s Jupiter, or maybe a distant star. Whatever the case and wherever those messages have gone, I’ve officially gone in and fixed it so your inquiry goes to me. So don’t lose faith if I haven’t replied back — Please feel free to reach out and contact me again. This time, I promise, I’ll respond back. And yes, I can already guess at your question: How do you get tickets for my next campfire event? Someday I’ll get a manager and an event coordinator and a bunch of other staff. But in the meanwhile look for me to handle all the tasks. That includes writing the songs, maintaining the website, and answering fan mail.
Who knew being a folk star required wearing so many hats?
Let’s Pretend It Never Happened
Lyrics and Music by Bobby Angel, his pre-drainage Everglades Song, Spring 2021
Let’s pretend it never happened x3 We’ll go there in our dreams The Lake is bursting at its seams Going south in a skiff with Hugh Willoughby Through a wall of sawgrass thick as can be Until at the edge finally we break free Into a maze of braids an unending freshwater sea On my face the good feel of a sunny breeze And in the distance tiny islands of trees Below pumping up a subterranean freshet Teeming with fish, alligators and flocks of egrets And then we get swept west into the Big Cypress Towering trees all around like looking up at a cliff An ivorybilled woodpecker landing on a branch Underneath the shaded grove with many orchids And finally to the mangroves where saltwater I sniff When around turns Hugh to suddenly interrupt To say nothing is real it’s time to wake up
Let’s pretend it never happened x3 We’ll go there in our dreams A wanted poster on the wall offering a big reward Wanted dead or alive, the new outlaw An scourge to paradise, it’s only flaw And so began the hunt for water Disston with his dredge he blew up the falls And tore into her marsh with his iron claws To drain it away at any cost With no concern or care for what might be lost Or anything other than greed might be served Turn the Garden of Eden into a trucking farm Nature would succumb and soon enough learn Draining it so hard it all started to burn The flame and the smoke filling sky at every turn Until we came to a ghostly face filling the air It was Disston saying welcome to my nightmare
Listen to the song and interview (after song)
Let’s pretend it never happened x3 We’ll go there in our dreams First came the waves and then came the storm Awakening the Lake and causing it to roar Sending its water over the levee in a big waterfall Flooding many people across the southern shore A nation aimed at settling the score By defeating water and declaring war And so they sent in the the Army Corp To box it in this time for sure Control the water with concrete doors So when it rains it no longer pours Pave over the coast with more and more Until there’s nothing left to do just stay indoors Nature left hanging on life support As tourists click their drinks in a big beach resort That’s when I close my eyes and I hear a shout It’s Hugh on his skiff telling me its time to go back out
Let’s pretend it never happened x3 We’ll go there in our dreams First thing we did was rip out the gates And let the water flow back to its natural state And slowly start to fill back the lake And overflow back into glades Forming new channels in the shape of a maze With all the animals returning as if to give praise After losing every battle turning a new page Welcoming in a new geologic age The clouds formed up in the sky Sending new water down from up high New springs forming down below So many new places for the water to go How did we even do it, we didn’t know Other than it was an incredible show We sat and watched content as could be Nature completely restored a sanctuary When something startled me and I opened my eyes A dim light in the distance a new sunrise
Pretend It Never Happened is the opening song (on Side A) of Bobby Angel’s album Listen to Big Cypress Bound (2022)
When do we know it’s the darkest hour?
Answer: See the title of this post.
If you can hang in there through the night, a new dawn is headed your way
We only know in retrospect. Let’s face it. The darkness can overwhelm us, and creep in slowly, to the point that we not only lose track of how dark it is, but that light — a new dawn — is possible at all. That’s when off on the distant horizon you catch a glimpse of a new ray of sun, or maybe a dull glow, ever so faint at first, but slowly starting to overtake the night sky. Or in other words, morning.
More about this song: I wrote it as an anthem to Candidate Burt Silver, almost on lark. Who is Burt Silver? He’s a politician in a book I co-wrote and a character I gave a second life (i.e. outside of the book) on the Campfire Park website. All politicians have mottos, and Burt Silver’s is this: “It’s a new dawn with Burt Silver … because he stayed up all night to see it.” That’s perhaps the most interesting — and paradoxical — aspect of this song. On the one hand, it is written as a personal triumph over darkness when it’s least expected. On the other hand, I wrote it on a humorous note to capture the essence of a fictitious politician who stays up all night. Or maybe the most incredible thing is that I wrote the song at all.
Moral of the story: Whenever and wherever inspiration strikes, go with it. In the end its the only thing that delivers us from the darkness closing in.
What’s the secret …
Behind a good campfire shanty?
Bobby Angel talks Nature Folk Movement (NFM)
Answer: It all starts with the night sky, a campfire and a guitar. Oh, and you’ll need a good singer/songwriter, too. That’s where Bobby Angel fits in. Not that there aren’t other equally qualified campfire composers out there. There’s lots, actually. That’s the beautiful thing. My point is this: You probably won’t see me fill up a stadium arena anytime soon, or be invited to the Philharmonic to perform with a quartet of virtuoso violinists. (Actually, that sounds fun.) But really the place I fit best is around the campfire. A few chords, the crackle and my songs and story telling. I’m not saying I’m the perfect campfire troubadour, but the campfire is probably the place that I find my best fit.
The best thing about the campfire? Probably the copious crackling, as it goes a long way to covering up my many mistakes. Campfires are very forgiving in that way. It’s a lesson I’ve learned one campfire at a time.
The thing about being a folk star …
It doesn’t pay the bills.
Bobby Angel practicing before the campfire
For that I’ll have to rely on hydrology for the time being, if not the indefinitely into the future. But early on I also knew: It’s impossible to be a folk star first and then turn into a hydrologist later in life. And really, to be a nature-folk artist of any acclaim, I knew I needed to spend a solid twenty to thirty years (possibly forty to fifty) immersed in understanding all the ins and out of water before I could ever dare to write a song about about the watery stuff, let alone all the other societal ills that only a well-rendered folk song has any chance of making heal.
Am I serious? Probably not. Or maybe a little. The backstory on this song: I wrote it about 15 years ago, almost as an afterthought, and with barely any time to prepare. The protagonist of the song Krista gave us all of a week’s notice that she’d gotten a new job. One day after the next I put the song off until the hour before I scribbled a bunch of notes on the page with just as many cross outs as there was anything legible to read. To my shock, everyone loved it. The only problem was I couldn’t give Krista the lyrics because even I could barely read them myself. And so I typed them up and gave them to her before she left. As I said that was fifteen years ago, probably more with it not being until the last year that I found the lyrics and finally sang it again. And not just sing it, I recorded it and made a musical video. It wasn’t actually until the video that the song “really popped.”
As much as Krista was surprised by the song at the time (and happy to get a copy of the lyrics to hang on her wall), you can image her response when fifteen years later I sent her the video, plus a 15-minute follow up exclusive Bobby Angel interview about the song. Ballad of a Florida Panther would go on to be featured as the first song on Side B of my first album, New Pangaea, released on my website in 2000.
Morale of the story: Try to not wait 15 years before playing a song for a second time. On the other hand, in this case, it worked pretty good.