Tuesday, April 27, 2010

She is kind and beautiful/I am young and strong

I feel strong. I've spent almost six months recording 11 songs (55 minutes) and the entire process has been overwhelmingly positive and empowering. The past four years have actually been pretty turbulent ones as far as my creative musical life is concerned--in 2006 I started to change the style and approach of my songs. Through the summer of 2007 in the creative shelter of my aunt and uncle's farm my new intended direction began to be realized as a collection of lyrics and compositions that fit my new standard started to grow. I started a recording project at the end of the summer that split some of my more conventional songs with some of my newer, more experimental and complex songs. Unfortunately, the project was never completed before the deadline for my move to Seattle fell--in addition, during the process of recording I developed health issues with my throat and vocal chords (a very long and tedious sob story) that effectively prevented me from singing until some tentative attempts in 2009.

The intervening years have been really difficult for me both as a musician and generally as a person. My intention was to pursue music as soon as I moved to Seattle, and the last few years haven't seen much progress in that direction. At first I made attempts to continue writing and composing despite my inability to sing properly, but eventually the prospect of writing songs I knew I couldn't sing had a debilitating effect on both my work and my spirits. My self confidence hit an all-time low--there I was claiming that songwriting and performing are my ultimate passions, but I was doing next to none of either one. I often felt like a complete sham and doubted any ability in which I may have believed in the first place, and my depression negatively affected all aspects of my life.

After trying multiple marginally helpful solutions for my throat, I made a concerted effort to pit my resolve and so-called passion against my health problems and the subsequent disabling psychological effects of which I'm still embarrassed and ashamed today. I performed at Miro Tea last June for the first time in over two years at my dear friend Courtney Morgan's art opening, and since then my throat issues have mysteriously subsided enough (I may never know why, but I think it's a combination of the steroids the doctor gave me and strength I gained from practicing in safer, more effective ways learned from some speech therapy I took during my many different treatments) that I also performed at a number of other small and unpopulated (except for my generously supportive friends and family) venues before deciding that in order to properly convey the songs that I'd been developing in my head, I needed to fully-realize them in the form of recordings to supplement any live performances I may do.

So, I holed up in the living room end of our apartment in November with the intention of recording a handful of songs to fill up my MySpace and Facebook, promote myself to potential venues, and maybe even send to a record label or two. In truth, I didn't actually even know how many songs I was going to have until putting the finishing touches on the files a couple of weeks ago. Recording has been a long, difficult, but ultimately cathartic and rewarding process. At first I was often haunted by the familiar crippling lack of productivity that plagued my last two years--the limitations of my recording equipment, abilities as an engineer and producer, and often as a guitarist frequently conspired to block my momentum--I remember a few dark days of unsuccessfully playing the same 30 second fingerstyle guitar part over and over, still unsatisfied that the sounds didn't match the ideas that had been bouncing around my head for two years. Things picked up, though, after a visit with some friends in Mexico restored my belief in pursuing what's really important to me--no matter how little free time I have. My time management skills sharpened to an alarming degree and I've obsessively spent as much free time as possible in the last 3 months working toward my goal.

The closer the project has come to completion, the happier I've been with both the results and with my decision to do the whole thing in the first place. I've had the chance to present songs I've performed live in a form that more completely represents the concepts and sounds I've been hearing in my head for the last two years, and I've also had the chance to record a couple songs that I've never played live--hearing completed productions of songs that have only existed as plans and concepts in my head and on paper has been thrilling and intensely fulfilling.

So, at the end of this recording process, I feel strong--not only do I feel that my songwriting, poetry and guitar playing have made immense progress and become more sophisticated and distinctive in the last four years, my damaged throat not only met the challenge of recording, I feel like my singing is the most technically proficient and nuanced it's ever been. My original intentions have been supplemented with a desire to actually produce a CD--I feel that the recording quality is adequate and that the works are fully-realized enough to press onto a physical medium. My current plans are to select a number of these 11 songs as well as record a couple more early this summer and have them professionally mastered (which should make a demonstrable difference in sound quality). I'm so enthusiastic about the accomplishments I've made I'm already thinking forward to a second album, but there's no need to get too far ahead of myself!

Although I feel strong, let's not confuse strong with confident--the progress I feel I've made as a songwriter and musician over the last few years has remained largely an introverted, personal transformation that I feel like I've failed to effectively show (as opposed to tell) to anyone. Though I've eagerly devoured more new music in the last 4 years than all the previous years of my life combined, I've shown precious little evidence of the effect it's had on my approach to songwriting and playing. Now it's time to relax my grip on my music and share it with other people, which is a frightful proposition--I've had very little feedback on my music in a few years and I'm quite nervous, but not enough to keep the fruits of hundreds of hours of work to myself.

Now that the back story is on the table, it's time to start presenting the songs--one per day for 11 days. As I mentioned before, about two-thirds of these songs are intended for an album. The rest either didn't fit with the planned collection of songs or I recorded them just for fun to include with the other, usually more serious compositions as 'palate cleansers.' There are also two songs that were partially recorded in Walla Walla in the summer of 2007; I'll go into more detail about each song as I post the recordings and lyrics. I physically made all of the sounds on the songs, and almost all the instruments are acoustic (only excepting some electric guitar on "Ghost in the Machine," I think). I'm satisfied with the quality of the recording, but when I eventually produce a quality CD, I'm hoping to fund a professional mastering job, which will match the volume levels between each song and smooth out the general sound and balance, hopefully eliminating any of the slight distortion you may hear, especially in the EQ department (Bass/Mid/Treble) department, of which I've only done a poor-man's job for these songs I'll be posting. I sincerely hope you get something out of the songs I've produced, and it's my greatest pleasure to finally share them. Here they come...


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