In no particular order:
1. Is RPM over? Is it me, or was this the fastest RPM Challenge ever? It seems like we were in mid January just a week or so ago.
2. I have almost finished my review of Uglifruit's record. The only thing slowing me down, other than life, is the fact that I have run out of synonyms for "wicked awesome."
3. This year will be the first RPM Listening Party I haven't attended. This bums me out, but it's for a very good reason; my children have performances Friday and Saturday, and they're more important than me. Have a beer, or G & T, or whatever in my honor. And sneak a song of mine into the rotation. ;)
4. Speaking of songs; I did finish and submit for RPM, but the album's not finished. I have still been powering through and turning this one into the record I envisioned. This is the first time I have ever done that. Yes, I remixed last year's record, but this year I have been doing more work on the songs and recordings themselves.
5. I have done some listening in the jukebox and over at Alonetone, but not as much as I plan on after I finish the record. Hopefully I will call it a wrap in about 2 weeks.
6. Referencing #1, it looks like this year was a very successful one for everyone, so congratulations, etc., etc., etc.
Bleeding H, I Can't Believe Another One Is Done And In The Can Already
Well, I made it. I still need to decide a title, but for now I am calling it Vinyl, because Vinyl.
The mixes are a mess, there's sibilance everywhere, and nothing's balanced properly, but considering how I didn't even think about that stuff even in 2014, let alone 2006, I will call it a victory.
I plan on taking off a week or two and coming back to do proper mixes in mid-March or later.
By the way, I got a 12-String Gretsch last summer. Electric, semi-hollowbody, black...a real inspirational piece of wood to play. It's all over this record, and 9 of the 11 tracks were written on it, and to be honest, inspired by it. All 11 tracks have it somewhere, though not always as the main instrument.
Gary Fox's player:
Look at all the names online! Reminds me of the early days, very nice.
Except I don't have a drink in my hand, it's a guitar because
I'm. Still. Freakin'. Working. On. My. Album.
Happy End of RPM 2017, baby! I technically have until noon, March 1st.
I got started at around 7:30 this morning. It's 10:12 pm as I type this. Two more to go after the current one I am trying wrap up. Third cup of coffee, made around 8pm, is cold. Need to finish it anyway, and then make one more. Rock on, baby.
It's looking like the record will have 11 songs.
I still don't have a title, or artwork. That's pretty lame for me. Ah well.
Ferrara and Gray are keeping my spirits bright.
I think this may be a decent record this year. Can't tell right now, too deep in the weeds on it. After it's done I will ignore it for a week or two and then set about giving it a proper mix.
Kind of like Christmas or my birthday, I can always remember what I have been doing on February 28th, at least for the twelve of them, including today.
It's that time of year when I burn a vacation day so that I can get this record done.
It's that time of year when all the hopes I had for any particular song meet the cold clock of a deadline and decisions must be made and ideas too challenging to implement get tossed aside.
It's the time of year when I wish I was a more facile lyricist, because I am making up lyrics on the microphone, again. (Though I did write more than usual in the last couple of weeks, so there's that.)
It's that time of year when a song or two that I really like won't make the record because I don't have time to finish writing them.
It's that time of year when my usually stable DAW (Sonar) decides to have hissy fights about stuff and I lose time troubleshooting.
It's that time of year when I needed to travel, but at least some of it was for personal and great reasons.
It's that time of year when I wonder if anyone will even get what the record is about.
It's that time of year when I hope no one gets what the record is about.
It's that time of year when I silently curse your name if you're already done.
It's that time of year when I will probably see the sunrise on March 1st, but not because I woke up early.
It's that time of the year that I love, and while I always think this will be my last year, I always find a way to make it work again, because in my heart of hearts, mind of minds, in my purest essence of who I am, I am a musician, and I write and record songs, and if I didn't I don't know what or who I'd be, but it wouldn't be me.
Good luck and best wishes to those of you still struggling to get this thing finished. You are not alone. I just hope I'm not either. ;)
See you on the other side.
I was supposed to be in the city (New York) for the next three days. But, everything was cancelled due the impending nor'easter we are getting. I get to stay home. So...
I get to do some writing tonight. Lyrics specifically, and maybe some musical parts here and there.
I will also try to do some tracking of a few gtr and bass bits. Make the most of the found time.
And hone the theme down of this year's record.
Trying to make it creamy...and colorful...and spacious...
The Milky Way Galaxy Is Being Pushed Across The Universe
No joke, that's a headline from this evening. Is it clichéd to call that really freakin' cosmic? Yes? No?
Anyway, I think I'll make something cosmic-sounding at midnight in honor of this news. Probably a little psychedelic, too, just for fun.
With regards to the overall record this year; I hope to make something creamy.
Best wishes, babies!
See you on the other side of February.
There's a forum thread about the first record you may have made for RPM that's a fun read-through. It was started by Keith Landry.
It made me think about the various years and the "favorite" songs we pick each year as our preferred track for the various listening parties that occur around the country, or countries as the case may be.
I put together a playlist of my preferred tracks from each year's RPM submission that was played at that year's listening party. It's in chronological order and gave me some interesting perspective on my writing, recording, performing as it morphed through the periods. Each one triggers it's own memories of that year.
I invite you to do the same and share it.
Here's mine to start:
Good luck with 2017...
I have been writing songs for a long, long time. 30 years to be precise, and every year still feels like my first time out of the gate. When I finished RPM last year, I thought it would probably be my last one. This wasn’t because I was tired of it, or thought I had nothing more to offer, or RPM to offer me. It was because I was on the verge of a career shift (real life always interrupts) and figured I would not be able to make the time to do this anymore. I made the 2016 record with this in mind, wanting it to be a good final act, in case it was.
Throughout 2016 though, my brain and whatever greater force there is for creativity had other plans. While the new work-life realities were what I thought they would be, I found that I would still make time to grab a guitar, even if for just a minute or two to mess around. I continued to get new ideas, even having dreams about new songs. I fought this to a certain extent, thinking I needed to be focused on ‘important things’ and not get distracted.
Clearly, that’s not who I am though. None of us are really. We’re all multifaceted individuals, capable of great accomplishments, diverse accomplishments, and to deny a piece of ourselves, I re-learned, risks diminishing the entire person. In short, I needed to re-learn that I am best when I do everything that I seem to be made to do. I also needed to become very disciplined about my time so that I could balance all of the things I either want or need to do. So I got out of my own way and let it flow. And, as I think about it, every success I have experienced in life can be tied back to my creativity and perseverance.
Long story longer, I have some song ideas for RPM 2017. And while I submerge myself in them, I thought I would write this little blurb about songs and songwriting. And, rather than pontificate about it all (any more than I already have, see above) I thought I would just post some random quotes from other songwriters. These quotes are ones that instantly grabbed me. When I read them I thought “Yes, I totally get that.” Maybe you will too.
Enjoy. And good luck with your record…
It's true when they say songwriting is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. In truth, what happens is... songs come through you.
For a songwriter, you don't really go to songwriting school; you learn by listening to tunes. And you try to understand them and take them apart and see what they're made of, and wonder if you can make one, too.
My style of songwriting is influenced by cinema. I'm a frustrated filmmaker. A fan once said to me, 'Girl, you make me see pictures in my head!' and I took that as a great compliment. That's exactly my intention.
Songwriting is my gift from God.
What I've learned over the years is that the craft of songwriting is trying to take the personal and make it universal - or in the case of telling a story, taking the universal and making it personal.
Songwriting is too mysterious and uncontrolled a process for me to direct it towards any one thing.
When you have kids, you see life through different eyes. You feel love more deeply and are maybe a little more compassionate. It's inevitable that that would make its way into your songwriting.
There's a lot of personal stuff that can go into songwriting but there's also a lot of dramatization and fictionalization. You have to do that to make a good song.
Songwriting is something I really need to work on. I don't have very many songs but I really love it. I would love to be a great song writer someday.
I ended up writing songs and growing up in public with my songwriting. And it's a good thing for me back then: in the early '70s, there was a thing called artist development, where an artist could find his feet, find himself, find his voice. I think I made five or six albums before I sold five or six albums.
When you tune your guitar in a different way, it lends itself to a new way of looking at your songwriting.
I draw the line at letting people into my songwriting cave. To me, that's where the alchemy happens and where the mystery is.
What we hear now is great-sounding records with great-sounding grooves and loops. And the sound of these records is irresistible, but the craft of songwriting is just about over. That's why, whenever I get an opportunity to do an album full of standards, I jump at it because I miss it.
I never sit down to write. When I’m moved, I do it. I just wait for it to come. You just hear it. I can’t really describe writing. It’s in my head. I don’t think about the styles. I write whatever comes out and I use whatever kind of instrumentation works for those songs.
If you like someone’s work, the important thing is to be exposed to everything that person has been exposed to.
You’ve got to write a bad song to get the good ones out!
— Lizzy Ward, Ward Thomas
My advice for songwriters? Sit down and work at it! The more songs you write, the more good songs you’ll have.
— Roger McGuinn
I let the music decide what the words are gonna be. But I have spent a lot of time and effort on the lyrics, because I’m not good at it.
— Ben Folds
It’s the ability to recognize valuable accidents that’s the key part of songwriting.
— Dean Friedman
When you make tunes and songs, they’re like little people, almost.
— Rob Birch, Stereo MCs
I’m always trying to write something new, and that’s a massive challenge.
— Mark Chadwick, The Levellers
Beware the lollipop of mediocrity; lick it once and you’ll suck forever.
― Brian Wilson
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
― Scott Adams
Now that this year's efforts are done and in the can, I am getting to the point of self-analysis and perspective. I assume you do it too; it's helpful, it's fun, it can be illuminating, and frustrating. Overall it's worthwhile.
Now that it's up in the player, I can listen to hear if I pulled off the theme/concept I intended. Let’s elaborate more on that now. The record this year was meant to be a collection of songs that covered three arcs. I called it Sonder, which isn't really a word; it’s sort of a word. Sonder means the realization that everyone's life is as rich, nuanced, and full of meaning and events as yours. Everyone has the sameness of ups, downs, whatever. Some experience more intensely than others, and the variations are infinite. The implications of this idea, Sonder, hit me very deeply recently on the subway in Manhattan. I forget exactly where I was, probably around 42nd St. Station, and I was walking through a long hallway amidst what was an endless parade of people. I wouldn't be surprised if I passed in excess of 1000 people. If you have never taken the train in the city, you need to do this. Anyway, most people just look down, or have that 1000-yard stare in the subways, but I couldn't help but study everyone's faces as I walked. I'll never see most of them again, and some I will, but won't recognize them, or them, me.
Coupled with that is what drives and informs them, you, and me. Do they/we have any deeply held convictions, beliefs, faith, anything? How much or how often do they/we think about those things? I have friends who are devout atheists. I have friends who are devout Christians. I have friends who are devout Jews. I have friends who are Humanists. I have friends who are casually agnostic and think there's something but have no idea what. How do you come to those beliefs? And how do they creep in to how your conduct your life, whatever they may be?
The opening number came to me as a riff, and the title with it. That was about it. I just kind of knew instinctively it would make a good opener. Or I am very repetitive and just like driving opening songs. Anyway, it sets the opening up by asking the questions I was wondering about above. The next song is about that fear that you may be missing the point of it all. I have my own strongly held beliefs, but I think the theme applies to any of us. This is the theme; no matter who you are, what you believe or don’t, no matter what you do, are you doing the right thing? Thinking about things the right way? Focused on the right things in life? Then the rest of the album goes into it in three separate ways.
Arc 1: So each song, save for the opener, is about any given person and how they live their life. Multiple people, multiple points; up, down, young, old, dying, it's somewhat chronological. But, all of them share a theme; their mid-sections. The mid-section of every song takes the motif from the second song on the record and applies it to that song. Each person has the realization of something else in a different way, so there are variations of that theme, some strong, some weaker, some soft, some hard. You get the point. So various people, various points in life, various concerns about who they are. Sonder.
Arc 2: The album is also meant to be about any one person's life from youth to death, and the various stages of ego, focus, beliefs, concerns. This person is strong, then falls, then recovers, then falls again, then recovers, then realizes the inevitably of the cycle and how it may not always be actions, but heart and mind that make a difference. But the concerns, the wonder, the hope, the faith…they all have that head and heart at odds or sometimes in tandem thread. We could all be that one person; we could all be that random person in the train station. Sonder.
Arc 3: The songs also portray how any one person could be experiencing any of these stages on any given day of their life, let alone Arc 2. Some days you feel like you are brand new person, or you’re making a brand new start; a new chapter, etc. Some days you just feel dead, like there is no more to give, to do, to be. Some days you are strong, some days you fake it. Sometimes these emotions or perspectives can hit on any day at various moments. Each face in that hallway may tell you the exact state of faith, hope, blindness, despondency, resignation at that moment, and could change in the next. Maybe your face would right now. Go look in the mirror and check. Sonder.
I also was very mindful of the fact that I didn’t want to make some sort of ponderous piece of pretentious unlistenable horse-hockey. I wanted each song to be as catchy as possible, not some boring old piece of overly clever lyrics and thoughtful, overwrought baleful mourning over the human condition. At the same time, I had to avoid them becoming formulaic as well. The songs should be fun or interesting, preferably both. If every life is as rich and nuanced as yours, then each songs needs points of color. Sonder.
Giving every song the same midsection was courting disaster in many ways. I wisely decided to use the same motif, but not always the same exact words or chords. That also helped to illustrate that we can all experience the same thing in different ways. Of course, it meant that I had no midsection for the second song, but I was able to address the theme of the album in the mid of song 2, so I think it worked overall. Each midsection is about thinking, about reconsidering and wonder. Sonder.
The larger issue is that I am not a writer by trade, and I am not always a fan of writing (I find it painful), so my goal to write lyrics beforehand was pretty much a failure. Like I usually do, I ended up crafting, fixing, adjusting, and making it up as I went along. And, as usual, I ended up doing a significant amount of work on the record in the final days of RPM. The time constraints meant that I had to kill two songs since I couldn’t do them justice in the short period. One of those songs I am very bummed out about dropping, since it was the pivot point of the record. I may finish it anyway and put it out with the rest of the record once I go back and revisit all the mixes, performances, etc., and figure out what I may want to polish. Then it will enable me to complete the fourth arc. Oh yeah, there was a potential fourth arc, about faith, discovery, failure, rebirth, failure, discovery, failure, etc. But without that song, the arc makes no sense, much like our own lives sometimes. Sonder.
Anyway, there you have it. Overall I like the songs; the performances are ok, even if I did forget a lot of my learnings from previous years’ work. 14 songs, 1 hour of music. It’s about me, it’s about you, it’s about no one, it’s about everyone. Sonder.
Gary Fox's player:
by Jim Anderson
by angie fights crime
Ways to improving writing skills
by sam berry
by Smooth Around The Bend
by Matt Ferrara
by angie fights crime
Big Thanks-- Until Next Year!
by Strange Dream
Songs up on Alonetone
by Terri Ellen
Moderate Rebels 2.0 on Alonetone
Partying alone. With a cup of tea.
by Porter Harris
by A Beautiful Scene
by angie fights crime
Various and Sundry
by Gary Fox
One Fine Day
by Chloe Radcliffe