It’s time to break out the Red Binder, and just what IS the Red Binder? This is the binder that contains all the lyrics to the songs I’ve written and it typically stays tucked away until A) I’ve written a new song or B) it’s time to sing some of those songs I’ve written. Today’s answer on Tales From The Studio is B !

I’ve been working on this EP for a while now and the time has come to start laying down some vocals. Admittedly, this is THE most challenging part of the whole process for me and the part that scares me the most. I can play guitar in front of eleventy billion people and not bat an eye, but put me in front of a microphone in a studio and those little voices of self doubt, that are typically held at bay, start SCREAMING at the top of their lungs! My vocal chords, which for the most part are fairly open and free flowing, start to get tight and then the negative internal dialogue starts. It’s a real bitch dealing with this and takes a concerted effort for me to overcome it.

My saving grace in all of this is to remind myself that art is subjective. Some people may love my voice and some people may hate it…and that’s ok! That’s just the way music, writing, painting, etc. is. Beauty is truly within the eye of the beholder, and just like I love some music and can’t stand others…so goes with my art. It’s this understanding that helps to throw cold water on those screaming voices of self doubt.

So…I’ve dug out the Red Binder, grabbed my acoustic guitar, and started singing the songs that I will soon present to the world for judgement. And love them or hate them, the world is a better place because another creation has been birthed.

There’s an old school country song by Kenny Rogers called The Gambler. The song has some famous lyrics that describes the actions of a card player based on the hand he’s dealt. Here’s part of chorus lyrics:

You got to know when to hold ’em,
Know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run

Well, I had to fold on a song that was almost completely recorded. It wasn’t an easy decision. I’d done so much work on it already that I hated to let it go, but I did. It just wasn’t working for some reason. It didn’t feel right, and despite concerted effort to MAKE it feel right…it just didn’t. I’ve learned that when it comes to creativity, and life for that matter, you just can’t force things to happen. For me, the best outcomes have always happened when I’m open and willing to bend to the will of the moment.

So I pored over my book of songs that I’ve written, looking for something that will fill the void that was left in this EP line up. I found one. It’s an older song, but I’ve never recorded it and it takes me a little out of my vocal comfort zone. That’s a good thing! I often write songs that are easy for me to sing which is fine, but it doesn’t allow me the opportunity to spread my vocal wings. This one will, and these wings are ready.

It almost always starts with an acoustic guitar…my songwriting that is. I haven’t been playing much acoustic lately, as I’ve finished recording those parts for my upcoming EP, and have moved on to tracking other instruments. That said, I’ve been playing a LOT of electric guitar lately…writing parts, writing solos, and exploring music theory. Loving it!

Today, I upgraded the tuners in one of my Breedlove acoustic guitars, cleaned her up real nice, and changed the strings. I stretched said strings, tuned her up, grabbed a pick, and got to strumming. Wow, had I missed playing like this. There’s something cool about not needing an amplifier to play out loud, and as I played…music started flowing. And that’s great, right!? Not really! I’ve gotta stay focused on the music that I’m working on and try not to write new songs. I’m a good multitasker, except when it comes to music. My musical attention is drawn to the newest idea like a light crazed moth to a raging campfire…and before I know it, I wind up not finishing anything. Not good.

I couldn’t let those new ideas just float away into the ether, so I grabbed my trusty recorder (actually an app on my phone) and got my ideas down. Once I’ve finished with the EP, I can start sifting through all those ideas, grab an acoustic guitar, and get back to writing.

I’ve been working really hard on my current project…the 4 (maybe 5) song EP that will be released in just a few weeks now. And it feels good. It feels good creating. It feels good writing and recording parts. It feels good putting all these musical pieces and ideas together to make these simple songs, written on acoustic guitar, come to life. It’s hard work, but it’s good work.

I’m not really sure what triggered it, but I got really sad today. I was thinking about all the creative people out there, the musicians, the writers, and the artists who don’t get the opportunity to share their creations with the world. Or maybe they do, but they don’t get to realize how valuable and precious their expression is. Often times, art is taken without a moment’s pause or thought as to what kind of effort went into making something out of nothing. Only the few get the opportunity to make a living producing beautiful things for others to consume.

Right now, I am both grateful and melancholy. Grateful because I am able to make my music…my contribution to the beauty that is art. Melancholy because of those who aren’t able to bring forth the spark of their imagination for the rest of us to see. Tonight, my thoughts are with those who long to share a piece of their soul…to add to the infinite splendor that is creation.