Stretching Your Creative Life

David W. Berner, The Writer Shed
The Writer Shed
Published in
4 min readAug 3, 2023

And now for a little music.

Album cover art: Jim Olson

I’ve been a musician most of my life. Sometimes a dedicated one. Other times not. When I practice, I’m a solid guitarist who can accompany a singer with rhythm and picking. I’m decent on the piano. Self-taught mostly. But on either of these instruments, I am certainly no virtuoso. What I can do, I think, is write a pretty good song.

That might sound pretentious. But if you write anything—music or prose or poetry—and you don’t own it, who’s going to pay any attention to what you have to say? Plus, for me, music has always run through my creative veins, playing in the jazz band in high school, playing in a rock band that did a bunch of pretty good gigs when I was in my early 20s, performing with other guitarists in bars and coffeehouses many years ago—no, many, many years ago. Still, these were formative musical years that I’ve carried with me for decades.

Since then, I’ve kept my humble performances more private for friends and family at best, but I’ve always written songs. It’s a creative outlet, a place to grow and produce work that is mostly satisfying to me. Rarely shared. However, after a musician friend heard some of my compositions, he thought I ought to pursue trying to, as he said, “properly record them.” With his expertise and dedication, we did just that.

His suggestion turned into a musical project that is coming to fruition after a year of work. Many rehearsals, spec recordings, asking other wonderful musicians to add their talents, and a mixing session at a Chicago studio with a “proper” sound engineer. I now have a selection of original songs. Songs I wrote and performed. Songs I feel good about.

I never thought of myself as a professional performer, but as a writer of published and awarded personal narrative and fiction, I am a professional writer. This, with what I like to call my “songwriter guitar skills,” I have been able to shape eight original songs that I hope have something to say, make a connection both musically and lyrically, and maybe even make those who hear them think, smile, or maybe even cry.

I am not going on the road. Don’t need a band of roadies or a tour manager. That’s not what this project is about. This venture focused on creative stretching, about another venue for emotions and stories I hoped to share. The same thing I do with my writing. This time it’s with music.

The project is not about finding pop or rock stardom, certainly. What a silly goal that would be? This endeavor is the heart seeking a fresh outlet for sharing the world. for sharing the human condition in a new way.

The collection of songs is entitled “Life These Days” and will be available soon on Spotify and other places. What are the songs like? Well. someone said, “think James Taylor, Jason Isbell, and Iron and Wine.” Not that I am in the category of these great songwriters, but if you like their songs you might also like mine. And remember, I see myself as a songwriter, not necessarily a performer, so the project has its musical feet stamped deeply in the singer-songwriter tradition.

None of this would be possible without my friend and musical companion, Jim Olson and his merry band of musical friends who offered their talents to this crazy but wonderful idea.

The official release date is October 1. I’ve included a pre-released track below. As you listen, think about ways you might stretch your creative world—painting, writing, sculpting, singing, dancing. Push yourself a bit. You might be surprised at what you’ll find.

“Life These Days”

Release date: 10/1/2023

All songs written and performed by David W. Berner, Arrangements: Jim Olson. Producer, recording engineer, guitars, bass, percussion, keyboards: Jim Olson. Mandolin, slide guitar, electric guitar, banjo, accordion: Devin Nowakowski. Lead vocals: David W. Berner. Backing vocals: Kelly Donlea, Robin McCartney, Jim Olson

Mastered by Jamie Vanadia at Noisefloor, LTD. Chicago, IL.

LISTEN TO “THE FISHER KING” from the upcoming musical album Life These Days

David W. Berner is the author of several books of personal narrative and fiction. His book THE CONSEQUENCE OF STARS is being re-released in the fall of 2023 with new essays and a new introduction. His personal narrative DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME: THE POWER OF GROWING OLDER is to be released in 2024 by Collective Ink, UK. www.davidwberner.com

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David W. Berner, The Writer Shed
The Writer Shed

Award-winning writer of memoir and fiction. Creator of Medium publication: THE WRITER SHED and author of THE ABUNDANCE on Substack..