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.

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.

Back to work in the studio today, but prior to recording I had to program a couple of guitar tones on my Line 6 Helix. I LOVE music tech, and sometimes I suffer from option paralysis which is the inability to decide on something because you have too many things to choose from. #firstworldproblems And with laser focus, cast all options to the side and used some tried and true techniques to get the sound I was looking for. Time to record…

I’ve had trepidation when thinking of musical parts for this song and it stayed with me today. I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, which is quite the opposite of what is normal for me. I feel very fortunate to be able to envision something resembling the ‘final’ version of a song I’m working on, but this one has been proving elusive. I shook off any of those funky thoughts that can cloud the creative process and got to work.

I press play on my computer and the parts I have recorded…drums, bass, synth pads, and acoustic guitar…come to life. I close my eyes and listen. I can hear it…the guitar parts that are waiting to make their way into this song. I play them a couple of times and press record…BOOM! This was pretty easy…why was it so easy? I listen back to the newly recorded part and it works…it sounds great and compliments the song but it feels like something is missing. The pieces that I want are there, but it feels empty. I hadn’t envisioned a piano part in this song, but why not give it a try. I pull up EZ Keys by Toontrack and start programming a piano line. I really can’t play piano very well, but thanks to that music tech I love so much I’ve got something I can work with. I play and listen to the song with the piano part and there it is!

What was missing in this song was a piano part. I hadn’t considered piano playing a role in this song, but when I put it in there it made sense and sounded great. All that trepidation and uncertainty that I’d experienced faded away and I was left with the realization that sometimes you have to be patient and realize that things will work themselves out in due time.

I’m one of those guitar players that doesn’t really go for the ‘reliced’ look (that’s when a guitar looks like it’s been beat to hell but it’s just for show). I like for my instruments to look as pristine as the day I bought them. Well…today, while writing a guitar solo for a song from my upcoming EP, my new PRS bumped into my Strat Elite and gave have her a nice little ding in the finish. I cursed… loudly… very loudly! I wouldn’t have been surprised if the neighbors even heard my anguish through my soundproofed walls. Alas, no police were called so I ass-u-me all is good 🙂

So why write a blog post about a ding in a guitar? As I stared at it, I started thinking about just what that ding would mean for my guitar… and what it would mean to me (kinda deep, right?). I thought about the dings in my armor and how those blemishes affect me as a person and as an artist. I touched the guitar, feeling the damage to the finish and wondered if this change to its appearance would change the way it works somehow…it didn’t. I wondered if my blemished armor would change the way I worked… it DID!

This realization, while good, hurt because I realized that I’ve let words, looks, and lack of acknowledgment of various aspects of my life, damage my armor to such an extent that I wasn’t being protected as well as I should be. Then I thought that there would be people who wouldn’t even notice the new ding on my guitar. Perhaps that was the same with my own dings… maybe people didn’t notice that they were there and those words, looks, and lack of acknowledgement only mattered because I let them matter. I was the one responsible for placing weight and importance on those things. As such, I am the one responsible taking that power away and if those things don’t have power… they can’t hurt me.

So where does that leave the ding in my guitar? I have chosen to not let it hurt/anger me… instead, I’ve embraced it and accepted that it’s just something that makes it more unique… beautiful even… just like my own armor.