For Craig Mecham, trying to get a good night’s sleep isn’t just routine, it’s part of the process of songwriting.
In the wee hours of the night, the North Logan marketing consultant will suddenly wake up and crawl out of bed with an idea. As he does “the thumb thing” with his iPhone to write down the lyrics, he almost always inadvertently wakes his wife.
“’I just have an idea,’” Mecham will say to her.
His wife, still in bed, responds, “’Oh my goodness, another one? What are you writing about?’”
“’I’m not going to tell you,’” Mecham tells her.
One time, he kept it a secret because he was trying to write a song about their 43rd wedding anniversary. Mecham said he can finally sing it without choking up in the middle.
Mecham started strumming his acoustic guitar and writing songs in college. But it’s only been recently that he’s picked up the craft again. His talents were on full display this past Wednesday during the Cache Community Connections’ Summer Concert Series.
The songs Mecham sang at the Tabernacle were based on his own life experiences. Whether it’s driving through Montana, his wedding anniversary or even where he gets his song ideas, it seems like there’s nothing Mecham hasn’t written about.
“Sometimes, my experiences are not serious,” he told The Herald Journal, noting he wrote a song about mosquitoes before singing a few bars.
“I don’t mind mosquitoes when they’re buzzing in my ear.
“But I really hate it when they bite me in the rear.
“If I’m camping in the woods and feeling nature’s call,
“Sometimes it gets serious and I have to bear it all.
“So I swat left and I swat right — and run in circles, too.
“I’m just doing a mosquito dance.
“What else can I do?”
It is songs like “Doing the Mosquito Dance” that remind Mecham of the importance of writing down his song ideas almost immediately.
“Otherwise, they go away,” Mecham told The Herald Journal. “When you have an idea and something is forming inside your brain and inside your heart, you think, ‘oh my,’ and pretty soon, you’ve been working on it for two hours and it feels like 10 minutes.”
Two pews in the tabernacle were removed to make way for a massive raised stage for Mecham, but his setup was relatively small.
Sitting on a stool, Mecham had around him two amps, a mic and three acoustic guitars — including a baritone he said he recently purchased from KSM Music in Logan.
“Hear that? That is so low, that’s, like, way down in the basin,” he told the audience.
After a few instrumental numbers, Mecham explained how he figured out harmony, his “favorite theory in music.” It was when he was a child in California singing with the church choir and he discovered “the lady behind me was not singing the same note I was singing — and it sounded amazing!”
So one of Mecham’s first songs during his hourlong set featured his voice put through a TC Helicon Harmony Singer 2, which allowed the audience to hear his harmonies.
Mecham’s performance was filled with both humorous and bitter moments. Early on, he sang a song about the time his mother “tried to poison me” when he was a child.
“She had a word for it. She called it broccoli,” said Mecham, leading the audience to laugh. “Well, even a 5-year-old can tell that something as slimy and smelly and ugly as broccoli is not good for you.”
After “years and years of therapy,” Mecham wrote a song about it.
“Some people say it looks like trees,
“Some people smother it with cheese,
“To me it’s like a deadly disease,
“I’m talking ‘bout broccoli, killer broccoli.”
Toward the end of the hour, Mecham sang another song about his mom, who near the end of her life was living at an assisted living facility and could not recognize anyone.
Mecham told the audience about how he sat her down next to a piano at the facility and played her some songs he thought she would recognize.
“After a few minutes of playing, her eyes got really wide,” Mecham said. “She leaned forward and she looked at me. She said, ‘Craig?’”
Mecham paused, choking on his emotions, and said he told her, “‘Yes, Mom. It’s me.”
He didn’t get any other indication during that interaction that his mom knew who he was, but Mecham realized something about that moment that had a profound effect on him.
“For just that one brief second, the music penetrated that thought that was there,” Mecham said.
Much later, during the 2 a.m. hour, Mecham would feel the urge to get out of bed and do what he typically does: write another song. And this time, it would be about a woman so close to his heart, the mother who raised him.
PERFECTING HIS CRAFTING AND ENJOYING IT
Mecham was born in Boise at the time his dad was studying civil engineering at the University of Idaho.
Mecham’s father wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, but the junior Mecham confessed, “I have the heart of an artist” — which might explain why he later started his own marketing group, The Mecham Company.
It wasn’t until Mecham’s younger brother got a guitar for Christmas when they were kids that he became interested in music.
His brother “never really did anything with it, so I taught myself to play,” said Mecham, who says he has an “acoustic heart,” preferring that type of instrument over an electric one.
“It felt like I had arrived at some point where I was supposed to have been. It felt like a part of me was home,” he said.
Years later, as a student at Brigham Young University, Mecham decided he would write songs and “see what happens.” They were all terrible, he thought.
Then, Mecham got married and he pushed the pause button on the songwriting and guitar-playing efforts.
“When you’re married and you have a job and you have a bunch of kids, you just don’t have time,” he said. “For 30 years or so, I really didn’t do much of anything.”
After the kids had grown up and went off on their own, Mecham found the notebook from college which contained his original songs once he moved from Spokane, Washington, to Cache Valley.
“I thumbed through that notebook and pulled out a couple of the songs that I thought were worth saving and worked them up and I decided that I would start writing songs again,” Mecham said.
Since finding the notebook, he estimates he has composed close to 30 songs.
Not only has Mecham recorded his songs and uploaded them to iTunes, he’s also performed his songs live. Before this past week’s performance at the Logan tabernacle, he was an invited performer at Summerfest.
Mecham is a finalist in this weekend’s Red Lodge Songwriter Festival in Montana, where he’ll be singing — you guessed it — “Driving Through Montana.”