After a valiant effort to make it as a singer-songwriter, Vincent Poag put music on hold to focus on family. Decades later, he picked up the beat, releasing an album in 2011 called Circling Back. With the help of some winsome videos and support from lesser-known radio stations, a few of his songs caught on, including "This Christmas (Let's Be Friends)" and "Stress" - the latter based on a song by a Bahamian artist Vincent had to track down for permission.
Here, he tells the stories behind some of these songs.
Carl Wiser (Songfacts): Please tell us about writing "This Christmas (Let's Be Friends)."
Vincent Poag: I love many of the Christmas standards but felt there was a void in terms of contemporary Christmas songs. I've always been moved by the Christmas season as it seems to bring out the best in people. My thoughts were, Wouldn't it be something if this frame of mind and spirit could be bottled to last all year?
We have to get the scientists and drug companies on this but in the meantime, we can sing about it.
Songfacts: How did that song become so popular on YouTube?
Vincent: Beats me. Hopefully the song and video were heartfelt. There are a lot of good people out there and there's good in everybody. The best Christmas present would be for people to be accepting of each other's differences. Songs and music have the power to help bring people together.
Songfacts: That was your first single. How did it feel when it connected, and how did that change your life?
Vincent: That song never got much airplay. It's extremely difficult for an unknown artist with a new Christmas song to breakthrough the establishment. Nobody wants to be the pioneer. My "Stress" song actually made it into the top ten of the FMQB radio charts. These are generally smaller radio stations not tracked by ASCAP or BMI. It didn't change my life one bit but it's certainly nice to feel your work is appreciated.
Songfacts: "Stress" talks about the daily grind. What led you to write that song?
Vincent: This is a long story. I first heard a rendition of this song played on Long Island by a Bahamian artist. I fell in love with the chorus and would sing it playfully with friends and family. Ten years before I did any recording of my own, I rewrote the "Stress" song for my own birthday party. When I did my first record I wanted to include this song.
I had thought the "Stress" song was an anonymous Bahamian folk song. I learned you can record any song providing you give the proper credit but you can't alter another artist's work without permission. To avoid and legal issues, I did some research. It turns out the original "Stress" song was written by Philip Stubbs, one of the most beloved and popular Bahamian singer-songwriters. I was able to track Phil Stubbs down. After several months of phone calls and a meeting in the Bahamas we worked out a deal. Philip Stubbs' music and songs are a treasured one-man public relations welcome mat to the Bahamas. We come from different worlds but are now very much connected.
Songfacts: How did devoting yourself to music affect your stress level?
Vincent: Stress is a part of human nature. Life deals some to everyone but I believe most of it is attitude and self-induced. Music has that mysterious inexplicable magic to calm you and take you away from it all for a while. It works for me but I've got a stable of de-stressors.
Songfacts: Was "For The Girls" inspired by any specific person?
Vincent: Not at all. Women are different than men and men don't understand women. This song has been in the back of my mind forever. Its inspiration is man's never-ending tendency to get in trouble with women. It's happened throughout history and happening every minute of the day everywhere.
Songfacts: What's your songwriting process?
Vincent: For the most part I usually start with an idea for a song like "For The Girls" then expand upon it lyrically and musically. Sometimes I hear the melody simultaneously with the words which is pretty cool and makes the process much easier.
Occasionally the melody comes first and I hear words along with it. It's never the same. Sometimes it just flows and other times it's a struggle. In general, I spend more time wrestling with lyrics. The whole thing is pretty amazing in that we don't know where creativity comes from, like right out of the air, something from nothing. I have hundreds of ideas for unfinished and unwritten songs.
Songfacts: What song by another artist had the most influence on you?
Vincent: I think "Blowin' In The Wind" is one of the greatest songs ever written. The lyrics and melody are simple yet profound and timeless. This song applied 1,000 years ago and will apply 1,000 years from now unless we don't figure out what's blowin' in the wind.
Songfacts: Please tell us about a song not mentioned above that has special meaning to you.
Vincent: All my songs have a special meaning to me. I guess among the most personal would be "Little One" and "Momma."
"Little One" I started writing about my nephew but didn't get very far. I finished writing it about my daughter. "Momma" I guess you can figure out. I was blessed with a great one. Some of my favorites by other artists are Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed," Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" and "She's Always A Woman To Me," Randy Newman's "Marie" and Gus Kahn and Isham Jones' "It Had To Be You".
December 18, 2017
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