Over the last few years, I found myself paying more and more attention to the news and to current events. I was in the know on pretty much everything that was going on in the world from politics, to wars, to he said, she said, etc. I had either heard the story or knew the ins and outs of what went on behind the scenes. I felt that it was important to know what was going on around me, and it gave me a sense of pride to be able to have conversations with nearly anyone, because I was paying so much attention to the news of the day. And it was good…until it wasn’t.
I found that I was getting angry very easily. I was becoming sad. And as I grew more and more despondent, I started to kind of pull away. There is a folksy, indie band that I like called Lowen and Navarro, and they have a lovely song called “The Opposite Of Everything” and this is where I was. I’d gotten caught up in the bullshit of the world and it was having a detrimental effect on me. I didn’t get caught up in silly arguments on social media, but I did have disagreements with family members and over what…a difference of opinion? Ridiculous.
So I stopped. I stopped watching. I stopped reading. I stopped listening. At first, it was kinda hard. I felt disconnected somehow. I had thoughts that I was missing out on valuable information. Turns out I was missing out…I was missing out on the vitriol, the pathetic grasping at straws, and ludicrous leaps in logic in order to prove a point or attempt to “win” an argument. Clarity of thought was gone. Critical thinking was non-existent.
I think my light is slowly but surely returning. I didn’t realize how dim it had become, but I’m glad that I realized it before I’d lost sight of who I was. This isn’t an ostrich with his head buried in the sand kind of thing…it’s self-preservation, and I’m ok with that.
That’s a Harry Potter reference for those who may not know what Nargles are.
Anyway…for some ridiculous reason (unless the Nargles are truly behind it) THREE of my four EP song files have somehow become corrupted. I stared at my studio screen is disbelief as each one tries its hardest to open up in Cubase (my DAW of choice), but eventually crashes the program. Needless to say, I’m pissed…then I’m devastated…then I’m in denial…and whatever the other things that you are supposed to experience during stages of grief.
After my initial wallowing in self-pity, which didn’t last very long BTW, I let my analytical brain take over and start figuring out what the ever loving ‘F’ could’ve happened. I’m a responsible tech guy. I back up files, I scan for viruses, and my studio computer rarely touches the internet except for downloading software updates and the like. Something has made it so that my music files aren’t playing nice and I’m determined to find out.
I set out to it, searching the internet for users who have experienced the same thing that I have. I read forum posts of musicians from all over the world who have shared in my grief of working on something so hard, only to see it act like a little bitch when it’s time to get to work! Technology giveth and technology taketh…this is the mantra of my techy brethren, and yet I shall not be deterred. I tried a few things, but to no avail. Then I tried opening the song on my laptop…huzzah…it actually opened. All is not lost, however I REALLY don’t want to finish this EP on my laptop. I start researching the likeliest candidates for trouble (for my musician buddies, look to your VST plugins if things get wonky) and I take them off of the tracks that I have recorded. I save the song under a new name, throw it on a jump drive and head back out to the studio.
Lo and behold…the song opens up!!! I notice that things are a little out of place, not sure why but this is an easy fix. I start re-arranging tracks, re-sizing windows, and getting things back to normal, re-save, and breathe a sigh of relief. I’ve dodged a bullet and I know it. Tonight I offer thanks to the music gods for not smiting me…I honor you with my songs!
So my goal of releasing my EP this spring has come and gone. And ya know what…I’m ok with it. I kinda had that permission tucked in the back of my head just in case life got in the way…and it did. From sickness, to stress, to slight burnout, to attention being drawn to other musical ideas, life had quite the hand to play in this EP poker game.
I think the lesson here is that it’s ok to allow yourself some grace. Not reaching my goal really only had effect one person…me. If the stakes had been higher, like maybe someone was counting on me, or perhaps my livelihood was on the line, then I would have undoubtedly achieved what I set out to. This was not the case, so I gave myself a break. So spring becomes summer.
By the end of this summer is the new goal, and for this one…I’ll need to be more accountable. I’ve already missed the first goal and we don’t want this to become a pattern, so back to the grind it is. All that’s left is singing (well, then the post production, mixing and mastering) and I’m ready to get to work. No more slacking off, cuz I don’t want this little guy yelling at me…he’s got a bit of a temper!!!
At a routine doctor visit last Tuesday, I casually mentioned that I had a sore throat. Two swabs, a nice, guttural gag sound, and 5 minutes later I’m diagnosed with strep throat…YAY! Ever tried to sing with strep…it doesn’t really work. Another thing came up during my visit…my blood pressure was elevated to a range that I’m just not used to. Sure, being sick and the prescription antibiotics weren’t going to help said blood pressure, but the next couple of days proved to be a little concerning.
Work, that thing that pays for all the goodies that allow me to make music has been really stressful lately. Crazy deadlines and tons of stuff to get done. I even worked a 10 hour shift with a fever after my diagnosis. That’s was a REALLY stupid thing to do and I think it exacerbated every, especially the blood pressure thing. At one point, it got so high that my spousal unit, Kels, suggested that we go to the ER. I didn’t want to be hasty so we put some calming essential oils in the diffuser and started working on getting those numbers down. They eventually returned to and elevated, but not emergent state.
So what’s the take away here? Chill the eff out!!! Slow down!!! The 9-5 grind just isn’t worth getting sick over. I oftentimes forget this, cuz you know…I’m 10 for tall and bulletproof!!! *whispers…no I’m not* So music update this week, just a reminder that there are more important things in life than the 9-5, and I need to just slow the hell down!
I’m at that point with the EP…all that’s left, except for post production, mixing, and mastering, is to sing the songs I’ve recorded. I thought I had one in the can a few weeks ago, but it turned out I’d set up a compressor incorrectly and I was clipping my vocal…a BIG no, no. Scrapping nearly the entire take was painful to say the least, but it was necessary. If you write a song with a vocal, that IS the focus and it really should sound its very best…thus the scrapping.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a guitar player first and a singer second. I can play a guitar solo in front of eleventy billion people and not bat an eye. As for singing…I certainly can do it, but I’m a little less comfortable do so. I really let my head play games with me when it comes to my voice. I’ve lived a relatively clean life, no smoking, no heavy drinking, and I like to get my beauty sleep 🙂 With all that in mind, my voice is squeaky clean…which given the right context is ok, but if you think of successful rock or pop singers, there is typically some kind of ‘texture’ to their singing voice. I have to ‘try’ to add texture to mine and I worry that it might sound like I’m faking it. Then of course if I let my clean pipes shine, then I worry that it’s too clean and thus not very interesting. Like I said, I let my head get in the way. :-\
So we land on the lesson that I have told several creative people over and over. And sadly, I don’t seem to listen to myself when it comes to this advice. What is this advice? Art is subjective…some people will love you and what you do while some people will hate it. That’s just the nature of the beast. Beauty truly lies within the eye of the beholder. With that in mind, I need to just sing my songs and let the chips fall where they may. I’m an artist and as such I NEED to do art, and I need to realize that while it would be amazing if one of my songs touched someone in a profound way, or maybe lifted their spirits when they were blue. But I’m not actually writing songs for someone else. I’m writing songs for myself as this is a part of me that I need to express.
And there it is. I’ve gotta get over myself and just do what I do. I’m off…off to have some face to face time with a mirror and drill this ‘art is subjective’ thing into my head once and for all…wish me luck! 😀
The reason for this blog is to not only chronicle the things that happen in the studio as I work on this EP, but it also serves as a space for me to get some of that inner dialogue out so it doesn’t fester. With that said, I’ve mentioned my recent lack of motivation to do any work on the music that I’ve recorded. For whatever reason I just couldn’t/didn’t get anything done. It’s left me both a little concerned about actually finishing by the end of spring (probably ain’t gonna happen now) and curious as to why I’ve been feeling this way. Honestly, I still haven’t figured it out but rather than waste more time (for now anyways), I put on my big boy panties and fired up the studio today. And guess what…
Something clicked! Before I knew it, I’d finished recording an outro guitar solo to one song and the main guitar solo for another…and I was happy. I’m lucky that the deadlines I’ve set for myself don’t have some big record company behind them (well…actually that might not be so bad…hehe) adding pressure not only from myself, but from the corporate machine as well. I’m a bit of a hypocrite. When I’m supporting other creatives who may be struggling, I insist that they don’t force their art and that things will come when the time is right. For whatever reason, I struggle to allow myself the same amount of grace and I wind up beating myself up sometimes.
Today I stopped trying to force it and just allowed things to happen…and they did. Those guitar parts came when they were supposed to and not one second earlier. I’m hoping that I can look at what happened today, internalize it, cut myself some slack, and let the music flow when it’s supposed to.
I LOVE playing guitar and I LOVE making music…like, obviously. Recently I’ve been feeling the pull of a new musical direction…new sounds and ideas that I want to explore. But you know, I’ve got this EP that is really close to being done and if I lose focus, I’ll move on to that new musical direction I’ve been thinking of. So what do I do to strike some kind of balance? Get a new guitar, that’s what 🙂 I’ll keep plugging away at the EP and when I’m not working on it, I can explore all seven strings of this new instrument…everybody wins!
I’d planned to get some work done on the EP today, but there were some technical things that were bugging me and I had to get them sorted out. Knowing that things were not functioning the way I’d like or things weren’t configured correctly kinda bugs me. Not to OCD levels mind you, but to the level of a good old fashioned eye twitch if things aren’t just so. That said, I got those things sorted out and the hardware in my studio is operating at 100% (*knock on wood*).
Tomorrow is a new day and I’ll be back on the EP grind, but for now…maybe I’ll go say hello to that new guitar sitting in the corner.
I started off strong with the recording and production process that will lead to the release of the first set of songs for this year. As of late…like, within the last couple of days, my motivation has gone they way of the dodo, deep six’d, vanished…poof…gone! This is the hard part for me. I’m almost done. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m looking forward to the day that I can breathe a sigh of relief because I’ve finished the project and released these children of mine into wild. But I ain’t done just yet…there are a few more things to record. Then comes the mixing. Then comes the mastering. Then comes the release. Then comes the exhale.
I had a physically exhausting day today. Yard work and I are not friends. We aren’t mortal enemies, but I definitely wouldn’t choose to hangout with him on a weekend. Except that I did. Last year, we paid a crew to come take care of the yard every couple of weeks and it was great. This year I thought maybe we could save some cash and do it ourselves. Keep some money in the pocket and get a good workout…win, win. No, no! A good chunk of time was spent doing something that I really didn’t want to do. Like this doesn’t happen to all of us…of course it does. It jeopardized the energy I wanted to spend creating today and couple a tired body with a lack of music motivation and we have a recipe for a day full of napping!
It was really tough doing all that work, getting cleaned up, then heading out to the studio to make music. I know…#firstworldproblems and all. I understand and appreciate the opportunities I have. And that’s why despite being physically spent, I pulled up my big boy panties and got to work. I did a little mixing, a little comping, wrote and recorded a cool bass line for the last song of the bunch, and took stock of where I am in the process. A couple of guitar parts, a couple of solos, and singing…that’s it…that’s all that’s left of the recording process. The light at the end of the tunnel got a little brighter today. And even though I’m gonna be sore tomorrow from all the physical work today, I’ll still sit my butt in that control room chair and shine some more light on my music.
There is something powerful and romantic (no, not the floofy definition of romantic) about the notion of facing a creative endeavor by yourself. All choices, decisions, outcomes, mistakes, successes, and failures are all yours. It may seem like a lot of pressure to put on oneself, but therein lies the challenge…to be solely accountable for EVERYTHING!!! But then there comes the part of knowing your strengths and weaknesses…
I’m one of those singers who doesn’t like the sound of his voice. From what I understand, this is fairly atypical because how can you call yourself a singer and not like your voice? Well…I happen to be quite good at it, for better or worse. It’s the ‘worse’ part that can get in my way sometimes. Now, because I know this, I can address it head on. I can set my ego aside and ask for help, knowing it will only help my art turn out for the better.
So I humbly ask my spousal unit, Kelsey (who, if you don’t know, is a fantabulous singer) to be my vocal producer and part-time audio engineer. She graciously accepts, and today is the day I start singing the first of the four songs that I’ve recorded for this EP. After some preliminary levels are set, she casts me into the loneliest room in the studio…the vocal booth. I’m ready for a long day. I’m warmed up…and Kels pushes the record button.
Three hours and change later, the lead vocal along with all the backing vocals are recorded! This three hour vocal recording session is a personal best for me as it usually takes me quite a bit longer to get everything to ‘tape’…hehe. And I know telling my ego to take a lap and asking Kels to help was the right decision. I truly couldn’t have done it without her.
Let’s talk about deadlines…the self-imposed kind. I set a deadline (aka goal) to release an EP of original music this spring. Well…it is spring. And I’m not ready to release it yet. I’ve been grinding away in the studio, mixing songs as I go, and I’m in a good place. That is until I think of everything else that has to be done in order to meet my deadline.
Sure, I could go easy on myself but I think holding myself accountable is a better play. For me, whenever I have something I want to accomplish, I’m the first person to yell at me and tell me to get back to work. Self-discipline is an invaluable commodity that we all have at our disposal. We just have to be strong enough to face ourselves when lack of motivation sets in. And it does set in. “I’m tired, I don’t wanna work on music today!” Ok, that’s fine…take a break, take a nap, do whatever. But understand that you’d better work extra hard when you’re done. Being accountable to yourself builds strength and resolve…good character qualities.
Tomorrow will be a busy day in the studio. After all, today is May 12th…the first day of summer is June 21st. That means I have just a little over a month to get this thing done…no pressure, right? Yeah…right! 😳