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Steve Key: Songs/Lyrics

The Investment

(Steve Key)
May 18, 2012
Steve Key
Originally released on "New Hope" (Local Folkel Records 1990)
Recorded and mixed at Splice of Life, Brighton MA, June '89 to January '90
Produced by Darleen Wilson, engineered by Coleman Rogers
Drums: David Patt
Bass: Richard Gates
Dobro: Martin Grosswendt

The guitar I bought on two weeks' pay was a Gallagher. Cost $450, which was my two-week paycheck from Howmark Publications. I was the editor of Pet Dealer, a monthly trade magazine for the retail pet industry. I lived in Elizabeth NJ, rented a room upstairs, had a hot plate but wasn't supposed to cook in there. I could walk to work at Howmark, could also walk to the train station, and be in Greenwich Village twenty minutes later. The "school for me" was the Monday hoot nights at Folk City and The Speakeasy, and the Fast Folk Musical Magazine, which evolved from the Speakeasy Musicians Cooperative. Fast Folk founder Jack Hardy would go to the hoot nights, and invite musicians to his apartment on Houston Street for the Tuesday night pasta dinner and a song swap. After I played there once, Jack invited me to record for Fast Folk, which meant hopping the D train to Brooklyn and record in Mark Dann's home studio. Mark sold me the Gallagher guitar. I recorded "Somebody Still Cares" with Mark playing bass and operating the mixing board with his bare feet; a singer I met at the Monday hoots, Bonnie Burns, played flute and sang harmony. The song was released on the June 1985 Fast Folk with a cover photo of Willie Nininger singing the national anthem at a Mets game. My song was Side One, Track One. I later recorded "Portland Rain" for Fast Folk, and played "Record Time" in Fast Folk's 10th anniversary show at the Bottom Line, where Kathy Mattea would discover the song (she heard it on the second night of Fast Folk's three-night run; on that night, Josh Joffen sang the lead). I think of "The Investment" as my mission statement for those times -- I was going to leave behind my day job and my bar gigs, heading out for the folk circuit to write songs and find my audience. It's just my guitar and me.
I didn't have a car or a place to stay
But I bought a guitar on two weeks' pay
And you've gotta make the investment
Each song I write takes a piece of my heart
Lose a love and I've got a start
And you've gotta make the investment

It takes long hard nights, your money and time
And a burning, driving belief inside
Work and devotion must be shown
Songs must have lives of their own

When I'm alone in my empty room
I swear I'm gonna go somewhere soon
'Cause you've gotta make the investment
When I'm told I have to decide
It's music over money every time
And you've gotta make the investment

You can pay your dues 'til you're deep in debt
Let somebody work you like a marionette
You can sell your soul to the powers that be
Or curse them and say it's just my guitar and me

I'm bound for New York on the morning train
People ask why but I can't explain
Just you've gotta make the investment
I may be one in a million fish in the sea
But there in the city is a school for me
And you've gotta make the investment