Well, well, well…has it been half a year? Doesn’t seem like it. Honestly, it’s been a bit of a blur. At the same time though, it’s been an enormous amount of work. More than I ever could have imagined. As I reflected on the significance of hitting the half year mark, I thought it might be a good point from which to look back a bit at how things are going, the surprises and the disappointments, etc. I’ll try to keep it simple but forgive me if it gets a little TMI…
Let’s start with the songwriting. First I should clear up any misconceptions. These are all 2013 creations. Some folks I’ve spoken to over the first six months have assumed I was drawing from a stockpile of songs I had already written and that this year’s effort was all about getting those written song recorded and released. That’s not the case. The challenge I set for myself was to write 52 original songs this year and that’s what it’s been.
As for the writing itself, the songs have been coming. (Knock wood.) As a songwriter, I haven’t had too many bad experiences with writer’s block. However, I’ve never before written at this pace so I was prepared for the worst. So far so good. Let’s hope it continues. That said, I haven’t loved every song I’ve released. In fact, there have been more than a few I never would have finished were it not for the pressure of each week’s deadline. And as it turns out, some of those wound up to be songs I really liked. So go figure. I suppose that says something about perseverance, a lesson I can afford to learn again and again.
One pattern I’ve noticed this year is a three part cycle that seems to repeat with each week’s song. First, there’s the initial excitement over the new song idea and hearing a fuzzy version in my head of what it might sound like completed. Of course, the lyrics and music aren’t final, so it’s almost like hearing a song playing inside a club while you’re standing outside on the curb. Next, there’s that point I hit sometime during the week after working with the idea for a while – it’s come as early as Tuesday morning and as late as Saturday morning – where I’m convinced it absolutely sucks and that I will embarrass myself by releasing it. In those moments, I usually consider scrapping the week’s progress, starting from scratch and hoping for one of those ‘gift’ songs that come in a fifteen minute flash of inspiration. In the end, I generally convince myself that I’m going to release a few embarrassing songs over the course of the year, it’s just part of the process and that this might have to be one of them. And lastly, I do my best to address the ‘embarrassing’ parts the song and get it to a point where it doesn’t seem to suck (to me. Of course, all of this is so subjective.) And without fail, it’s during this final stage of addressing my concerns, trying new approaches, and racking my brain over what’s bothering me that that I learn the most.
As for the production or recording side of this process, I’ve followed a fairly consistent pattern. I while away the early sessions with the guitar and iPhone voice recorder, Microsoft Word open on the laptop in front of me. At some point during the week – generally determined by how complicated a production it’s going to be - I make the shift from ‘writing’ mode to ‘recording’ mode and I start working with my recording software (Pro Tools). Of course, I continue tweaking lyrics right up until I record them, hoping like heck that I don’t end up needing to shift tempos, keys or structure. That’s really hurt my progress on a few of the songs.
One last ‘halfway’ refection would be on my initial plan (or hope?) to get a few songs ahead. By that I mean I thought I’d take some time off from work early in 2013 and get a few songs written and recorded, building a reserve of sorts for those weeks later in the year when I got sick, was traveling, etc. It hasn’t happened. Every week’s release has been hot off the presses, literally finished an hour or so before it was uploaded. I haven’t lost hope of banking some songs. And I will be away later this summer. Let’s hope I’m not writing lyrics on the beach and recording and uploading from a cottage. It sounds like an interesting challenge (Lord help me) but it just wouldn’t be fair to my family, which has been so supportive and generous with my crazy endeavor to this point.
And you have too with this blog entry. I think this has been more than enough looking back. Now, how about some comments about Time Moves On? I’ll try to keep it brief which might be necessary because I’ve since written Week 27 which essentially pushed everything about Week 26 out of my brain.
This was a fun song to write although it took some time figuring out what it was about. It was driven early on by chords and melody and the challenge became finding words that felt right. I played with a lot of ideas but it wasn’t until the last line of the chorus fell into place - ‘Time moves on, so I did too’ – that the song started to gel for me, giving me what I needed to go back and finalize the verse and bridge lyrics. Some say you need to know what your song’s about before doing anything else. I haven’t always had that luxury and that was the case with this one. In the end, I’m happy with it although I’m still not sure about the title. It came down to needing something, so I went with it.
The puzzle of this song was getting the chorus thing to work. By ‘thing’ I mean, the quick lines ‘out into the night, into the black’ and then ‘time just won’t wait for you, sad but it’s true.’ I had the melody idea for it early on but needed to find words and phrases that would work with it. It took some trial and effort but I’m happy with the result.
Finally, Time Moves On is a fun song to sing. It’s one of those cathartic ones where you feel better after belting it out. That said, I’m not thrilled with my production of it. Granted my shoulder and arm have been hurting and that’s put a damper on my recording abilities these last few weeks, but more than that, something seemed to get lost in the process this week. Some of the early iPhone recordings I made while writing it seemed to capture a spirit that’s missing from the more polished version I released. I know there’s a lesson in there, and maybe with more experience, I’ll develop the ability to see that coming and adjust accordingly.
That’s it for now as we cross the great divide and begin our six month journey home. Believe it or not, you’ve all been such a big part of getting me to this point. With no email list waiting every week, I’d be lucky to have completed three or four songs this year. So thanks for following and have a great week!