All entries filed under Kitchen Sessions

Hello, friends. This is a fairly exhaustive blog on my project, but it’s my way of documenting for myself the creative decisions and thought processes that I made along the way. I beg your patience.

I initiated this project in the very early days of the pandemic. I vowed to put up a song a day on Facebook for one year, and, as it happened I rolled through 500 daily posts. Not all were new posts, but, for the most part, all were fresh. More on that later.

I was inspired by a Teaching Artist gathering at The Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ, one of the many opportunities I have through Young Audiences of NJ to meet up with other TA’s in my field and share philosophies, teaching techniques and basically re-energize ourselves in our craft. Several years ago a photographer did a keynote presentation on his book and project called 365. He outlined his effort to post a piece of art daily on social media, picking out of the blue the subject of skulls. Over the year, he developed a vast international following while gaining a strong skill set, as well.

I figured, since I was going to be locked down for the foreseeable future, now was the time to attempt this process for myself. The mutation of the posts was interesting as I learned new production skills, refined my work habits and expanded my repertoire.

KItchen studio

early session

Initially, I worked in front of my computer in my bedroom, quickly became dissatisfied with the left-handed aspect of the camera, the scenery in my room, but started out with some positive songs from my repertoire to help me and my audience cope with the new situation. I quickly turned to carving out a space in my small kitchen, purchasing a stand for my phone (good ole Amazon), finding a simple desk lamp for lighting and a simple movie-making app to create my videos. It turned out that I really enjoy the creative aspects of designing a video and seeing it posted in the morning.

The production began a process of developing a opening scene Dave Fry Kitchen Sessions (with seasonal flowers), ending credits (with paypal info – hah!), as well as some Google images of old record labels, Godfrey’s photos and other arcania that linked to the subject. I also made deep dives into who wrote the songs, who covered them, and generally found some back stories on the song in order to share them with my audience. I learned a whole lot.

I opened myself up to pulling songs from the ether, often song ideas perculating up from nowhere during the day. I picked out songs I’ve always wanted to do from favorite performers over the years: Flying Burrito Brothers, Utah Phillips, Dylan, Sandy Denny, old hokum songs, The Beatles and more. I would find the lyrics on Google, find a video as well and then sit down and figure out the chords and a key I could sing them in (damn Beatles…). I used my capo constantly. I really developed considerable skills in developing arrangements, interesting guitar parts and working on my singing, still not one of my strengths. I’d put the song in my head to record the next day.

Meet the Beatles


It was now time to record the sucker, with a brief rehearsal in front of the computer. I’d set up my phone in the stand, turn on the lava lamp and desk lamp and try to get a reasonable take on the song. Early on, I sang to the room but found my vocals weren’t as good as I would like. I then set up my small amp to my left, plugged in my guitar and a vocal mike. This turned out to be crucial. I now had a vocal monitor for my voice and could also give my guitar a physical presence in the video. Big difference! I was able to get my instrument collection back into shape and, oh, wardrobe… pick out a hat.

I would set in trying to get a decent version of the song. I would plow through mistake after mistake, occasional street sirens going by, clearing my throat and other stumbling blocks along the was. I got to the point where I would simply stop midstream and begin again, muttering a few epithets along the way. (I’m glad I don’t have a blooper tape,) Eventually, I would make it through a version that I could live with, turn off the phone and head back to the computer for post-production.

epilogue material

Ideally, the best cut would be at the end of the file and I could quickly cut the chaff from the beginning. I would edit the ending, add the ending credits and epilogue, and final script. I found it necessary to log the date and the instrument for posterity. I’d then find a good beginning, snip the dross, add the opening scene, beginning credits (date) and song and songwriter credits, create a photo for You Tube, save and create the movie file. I would then post to You Tube.

I found that simply posting the movie file itself wasn’t enough. I had troubles with Facebook screwing up the file, with a time lag between the audio and video. I also found people were “liking” the video but I had no way if they had actually watched it. I gave up on the immediacy of FB posting for the extra step of linking to You Tube in order to quantify the number of people actually committing to watching the video. This was a good move.

As I was dealing with some sleepless nights, I began a ritual of posting the video at 2, 3 or 4 am, doing my daily exercise, meditate and then read the NY Times on line. I had the sense that I had been productive early on that day and could let the rest of the day unfold, record a new tune and deal with my solitude. This ritual served me well for over a year.

Christmas shenanigans

December proved to be a good time to post my library of Christmas tunes. January gave me the chance to do ‘cold’ songs, Saturday’s became ‘Family Songs’ and a breakup with a good friend became ‘Friendship Week’.

365 Concert at the IceHouse in March

I wanted to do a concert celebrating the 365 Project, and the IceHouse provided me that opportunity. Ara Bartlieb had be producing a series of virtual shows, so we lined up a session for mid March. I enlisted my good friend Craig Thatcher to accompany me. I picked out tunes that helped display the process and Craig covered a few that I had done during the series. It was the first time we had played outside our homes and the electricity was palpable. We came up with a very nice show that was put online and I am particularly proud of.

Cheap shades

After the passing of one year – 365 – I decided to post earlier videos in order to cut back on my workload, especially since a few gigs started coming back in the late spring and summer. I usually would record at least three or four new ones a week, and I found that the old ones held up over time, and the audience didn’t seem to mind. I’ve kept a log of all the tunes and dates, and, as I was approaching 490 or so, I gave thought to wrapping the series up. I had developed a group of loyal followers, but, with more and more gigs, I decided to end the streak and post occasional new videos just to maintain a presence online.

I decided early on that online shows didn’t work for me. I had trouble with the technology and prefered being able to have a well-produced, clean and short post, under my control and post on a daily basis rather than longer sets in a live situation. Others have done it differently.

What did I learn? Personally, I kept my sanity by staying creatively active inspite of living a solitary life on the Southside of Bethlehem. I could quickly learn a song, arrange it and perform it in 24 hours. My performance skills became adept in front of that little white light on the camera, and was comfortable in projecting my persona onto tape. I became appreciative of the songwriting skills of many artists, especially The Beatles (at such a young age, too.) I was able to pick out the essence of tunes for the brief introductions, find something interesting to say and then deliver the song and a crisp ending.

I found I had tremendous support from a small group of daily listeners as I was able to guage interactions on You Tube and Facebook. I found some satisfaction in that I was part of many people’s morning ritual as we all dealt with these strange times. I was part of a community.

I finished up the series with Hank Snow’s I’m Moving On. It seemed to be an appropriate way to wrap things up. Here’s some feedback from the 500th post:

“Thanks for brightening my mornings – I will miss you!”

“Good morning Brother Dave!! Thanks for sharing your Music my friend!! Yeah Buddy, it’s been a Great run!!”

“Thank YOU for helping us get through the pandemic with your daily ray of musical sunshine!!”

“Thank you, Dave, for lifting our spirits and reinforcing for us the power of music.”

“I enjoyed and learned a lot, and you inspired me to play more. Thank you!”

“Thank you for the morning cheer!”

“You got me through the pandemic.”

“I’ve enjoyed every single one of them.  Thank you so much !!”

“Thank you, Dave, for the best music to start the day with. I’ve learned a lot and have enjoyed them all.”

For me, I come away knowing I am a better artist and person for the experience, and I have a library of songs to show for it. And, I’m not done yet.

Here’s the 365 link:

Dave Fry’s Campfire link:


It’s a pretty rainy day today with at chance of frost tonight. Jeesh.

I did a little prep for today. I wanted to do Blue Mule so I linked that up with the legend of Paul Bunyan and Blue Ox Babe. I opened with Shortening Bread, one I’ve been waiting to do for a while. It dawned on me to follow that with Five Little Monkeys, very much along the same lines of kids in bed. I went with it.

I introduce Paul Bunyan and Babe, and midway through I found a good spot to do Blue Mule. I then went back to the tall tale and finished it up. I think the storytelling can help diversify the half hour, though I could do a whole lot better with my theatrics. But, I’m animated enough and can make it engaging on the fly. Just needs work.

I reprised Peanut Butter and Jelly, knowing that it’s not bad thing to play some of the favorites. It’s a good thing, especially for the younger kids. Recognition and refresh movement skills.

I finished out with Splish Splash, introduced the tambourine. It was a pretty comfortable session and I was able to start on time and with no hitches. I’m glad to share it with Tagger,though he’s a camera hog sometimes.

I picked up $35 in tips, which was something good, for a change. There are some regular guests, both kids and adults.

I’ve been quite lucky to be part of this Teaching Artist movement over the last thirty years. Thanks to my involvement with Young Audiences of NJ and the CT Council on the Arts, I’ve been able to take in some great professional development courses and mini-sessions that have shaped what I do as an artist. I even came to recognize myself as a “artist”, beyond just a “musician”.

Often, we get to hear a keynote speaker that has changed system of thought. Eric Booth, author of the Teaching Artist “bible”, challenged me to take home some of what we learn and apply it to our own home town. Out of that, I began our own Teaching Artists of the Lehigh Valley and that has become a template for more local artist meet-ups.

One year, a photographer gave an opening speech called Three Sixty Five. He challenged himself to creating art every day for a year. He randomly selected the theme “Skull” for no apparent reason. But, he began a year-long project to find, create, share something with in that parameter, with the caveat that he had to post it online every day. He had to publish it, and that was a factor that made sure he stayed on course. Eventually, he formed a following of others who started sending him their images, even troops stationed in Afghanistan. What he found out that, not only did he have a book at the end of the period, he found himself to be a much stronger artist.

Thanks to the pandemic, I now have the rare opportunity to attempt such an extended work of art. Once I began to post a song a day online, it dawned on me that I could adopt his process to my music. So, hear I am, posting a song at 4:30 am or so, spending time in my kitchen recording tunes, learning new ones, revamping old songs from repertoires past and playing my guitar every day. I’m also finding that I’m extending my art into performance for the camera, design and production of the videos on my computer and working on promotion, too.

After six weeks, I already feel stronger as a player and performer and I’m finding friends enjoying waking up with one of my songs and a cup of coffee. That’s pretty cool.

But I’m not doing this just for the social value I get out of compliments and a number of daily hits (though I do get a warm feeling), I am doing this so I remain engaged as an artist and, therefore, continue to grow. I do believe it’s the publishing that makes this exercise so important. You can’t hide it under a bushel, as the song goes.

So, there ya go. A song a day. I think I can, I think I can……

I’m still not satisfied with the production values (sound) of these online broadcasts but getting more comfortable with the content. At least, I pushed the red button this time and went on air promptly at 10:30.

I opened with Nursery Rhyme Rock, one I haven’t rally featured at all, though it’s on my I Like Peanut Butter CD.

I introduced the rainstick and followed it with Tropical Vacation. It turned out to be a good exploration, linking the instrument and the song. I did Woody Guthrie’s Finger in the Air  a Capella, and it was light and fun. I did some new verses to The Cat Came Back.

I’ve had to chose between using a mike into a small amp to my right (as in my daily Kitchen Sessions posts) and having the freedom to move (mike-less) for the performance values for kids show. The computer’s mike system is not working well, with sudden drop-outs and I tend to sing flat without the monitor. I’m hoping that my new camera (lost in Fed Ex land for several weeks) will improve both visual and audio issues. We’ll see next week.

Next up, Magic Penny and This Little Light of Mine, both on the mandolin. Both were good choices and it was nice to work up Light for the first time.

I’m having fun in the post-concert production, using the movie maker program to edit, add script to the proceedings and generally creating a more professional and education show. I’m getting better at that as I go along.

Generally, I’m pleased with where this is taking me. Still, no tips but valuable experience. Tagger’s having a great time.

We’ll see what happens on next Tuesday’s show.


Tuesday’s Family Kitchen Session was another learning experience and I’m grappling with the “live” part of the show. Again, I pressed the wrong “go live” button, only to find, six minutes in, it was only live to me. There’s the BIG RED one at the bottom. Hopefully, the second goof will be the charm.

I started with my Watermelon set: Watermelon on the Vine and the Watermelon Slurp tune. That set up nicely. I asked for some dance moves for an up-coming song but the chat box didn’t seem especially active except for John and Wendy. So glad to have their feedback, so to speak.

I followed with I’m Gonna Tell which went well. I’ve been doing this one a long time.

Next up, a dance tune Jimalong Joe. I went online and found two extra verses that are wonderful and give the tune some historical perspective about minstrel show/riverboat dancer Jimalong Joe. I put those up front with the two I know already. With no suggestions from the chat room, I went with hop, skip, twist and through in floss. It’s a much stronger song now that I’ve revisited it and will do it again, hopefully with more response.

I introduced Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear as a poem from my past. Again, its a very playful and short piece that ties in with my being a kid. Again, I went on line and found some extra verses, some of which border on adult themes, but that’s fine. It worked well as a performance piece and the vocal play is rich. This is another one that can be explored further.

“Fuzzy Wuzzy felt so loosey, Sat Fuzzy Wuzzy in Jacuzzi, Fuzzy Wuzzy had two doozies, with Lucy and Suzy in Jacuzzi.”

I then did my Sally set: Sally Go Round the Sun and Little Sally Walker. The first one is a one-verser with opportunity to vocalize the ‘Whooooops!” while tossing scarves in the air. I then spent some time with Little Sally Walker and got to explain how a playsong works. It seemed to work fine but, as it is with these virtual broadcasts, hard to gauge its effectiveness. Just have to trust it.

John Christie’s son Nathan at home.

I finished with a short version of We Gave Names to the Animals and asked for animal suggestions in future posts. It was a strong way to finish off, with a good dance beat.

I finished up in 31 minutes and reached 312 people but only engaged 117. It’s interesting but humbling to check the stats on these shows.

I come away thinking that the presentation quality isn’t up to professional snuff, but, by writing this blog, I find myself realizing that the material is okay and delivered in my own style. There was some new additions to the material that I can keep on using. I shall persevere.

There was a better lift off with Friday’s Kitchen Session. I was able to start at 10:30 on the dot. I played directly into the computer’s camera and mike, so I think the overall productions was crisper, though I look forward to the new camera I getting in the mail shortly.

I started out with I Like Peanut Butter, and knowing that John Christie was playing along at home, I gave him a lead. He texted me that he was playing his Gibson 335 with an old ’69 Fender Champ Amp! That was a funny “real time” thing to read while playing.

I followed with Skip to My Lou and Down By the Bay with fresh lyrics from Samantha and Jessica. I like the immediacy of these sessions, with feedback from listeners. I still haven’t found a way to scroll down to read later posts since I’m somewhat resigned to keeping my attention on the music and the camera “eye”. But, that’s what I’ve got to do.

I followed with Branching Out and Where are You Going, Rosalie – both turned out nicely. I ended up with I Wanna Be a Dog, coming in at around 31 minutes, something I was shooting for.

Some of the stats on the site are interesting: 203 views and couple of shares. It’s still building but I haven’t figured out the system yet. It seems my DF and DFM Face Book pages can’t, for some reason, be connected so promotion is still some what scattered. But I think I’m getting some good production that I may be able to split the songs into individual cuts for some Face Book entries and other potential uses down the line.