Dec 31, 2008
So what happened in my world in the year 2008....let's see, I started some online collaborations, I waited for the feet of snow to melt, quit my job of 3 years, moved 1500 miles from home, struggled to find a job, suffered a long bout of writer's block, started working online, started this blog, flew home twice, celebrated my first Christmas in Kansas....eh, doesn't seem like much. I'm sure I'm forgetting plenty of stuff as well.
But when I look back, what did I really accomplish for myself over the last 12 months? Quite a lot actually, but in retrospect not even close to what I wanted to accomplish. That's the way it always is I guess. Hindsight is always 20/20.
Honestly, out of all the things that I've done or not done, I only regret one thing. And that's not putting the energy toward my music that it really deserves. Creating and playing music has been my release and the creative outlet that I really feel like I can be proud of.
What am I going to do about it? I'm going to make a commitment to work, work, and work on my music. I probably made that same "resolution" last year, so what makes this different? It's different because I'm posting it right here and right now, in front of all my readers that I will honor that commitment. This blog has finally gotten my creative juices flowing and as I sit here typing, cranking the new Shinedown album (Very good by the way), I want to write more than ever and create music that I'm proud of and that people want to listen to.
This new year stuff makes me all sappy. You'd think I was all emo or something. But listen for yourself what I'm striving to create more of in the player on the top right. As 2009 rolls along that list of tunes will only be getting longer.
Dec 28, 2008
Date: April, 2004
Place: University of Maine, Orono, Maine
Ahhh, the college years. Though not as campy and short lived as the "Saved By The Bell" crew's romp through higher education, it was still memorable and well worth the $20,000 I drown under now and for years to come. (Or so I'm told.) My junior year in particular was less about fighting with my former football player R.A. (Mike, played by Bob Golic) and dealing with the shenanigans of an accident prone and perpetually smart, yet dumb best friend (a la Screech), but more about hanging in my apartment which smelled rich of Subway sandwiches from the restaurant below, doing as little school work as I could (text books are overrated), and rockin' with my band Now Transmission as the stunning and oh so talented lead singer that would have made Kelly Kapowski look twice. (It's my blog, you gotta let me exaggerate a little.)
This particular spring was a big one for the band. We were pretty well known across campus, played quite a few shows around the area and in Portland (THE big city of Maine if you're unfamiliar), had a quick tour of New England, and garnered the popular vote to play the school's now defunct big music festival, Bumstock, as the campus band headliner to play two slots before SoCal rockers Eve 6.
It was incredible to be able travel around and play the songs we created with assorted covers to please the drunkards. (Sorry, no Freebird!) It wasn't very glorious, we rarely got paid enough to cover the gas, let alone a meal, but it was really all about the rockin' and having fun.
When we did have that rock star moment, it was definitely memorable. That's where the "rider" comes in. If you don't know what a rider is, it's basically a list of requests by a band of what they want the night of a show for them and their crew. Items will include anything from certain foods to accommodations. You name it, it's probably been on some big bands rider. I actually stumbled on the backstage section of a site called thesmokinggun.com which is an archive of band riders. I recommend starting with Foo Fighters '08, it's hilarious.
But anyway, I digress. In April '04, before the big Bumstock show we were given the opportunity to open for one of my favorite alternative rock bands, Fuel. (This is before Brett, the lead singer left the band.) They were going to play on campus at the Maine Center For The Arts, the big performance hall on campus which seated somewhere around 1,500, give or take. Anyway, it was going to be the biggest crowd we ever played for. (But that's another story for another day.)
For such a big show, and because their budget apparently allowed it, we were offered a rider. This was a lot of pressure. I'm supposed to be a rock star yet I have no idea what I would want for a rider. We were provided a nice dressing room, cool. We were opening for Fuel, incredible. What more could I want?
Of course, their budget for us was probably meant for some drinks and a few snacks, maybe even a towel, so I didn't want to go overboard and look like an idiot. And I certainly wasn't going to go all Van Halen, making sure there were no brown M&M's or demand "real knives, forks, spoons, plates, and napkins" with the only exception being Solo cups like the Foo.
So you know what I asked for? Nutty Bars and Gatorade. I love Nutty Bars and they sure hit the spot. And how can you wrong with free Gatorade? You can't. The other guys settled for some of their favorite snacks and we enjoyed every ounce of free rock star goodness.
Was it very rock star of us? Maybe not. I'm sure the Zack Attack, the Zack Morris led supergroup would have outdone us, but we rocked the show just the same. We got to meet Fuel, watch their show from the back stage area and pretend like we were a big deal for a whole night. And it was spectacular.
Here's the real question. What would you include in your rock star rider? We're assuming that you're a small, but successful act. You're no U2 but people sing along to your songs that have made it to the airwaves. Let's hear it.
Photos courtesy of Holly Barber: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hbhocusfocus
Dec 26, 2008
I've come to find it as a stepping stone along the path that is the creative process. A building block you might say. An inevitability that just needs to be worked through. I'm always looking for other people's insights on the subject that help me conquer creative blocks in different ways.
My girlfriend pointed me to a great article that I wanted to share with you. I find it very intuitive and helpful. I hope it will help with your struggles. And if you don't have any, pass it along to someone else that does.
"Five Ways To Overcome Creative Blocks"
Dec 23, 2008
But as the years passed the routine became less and less important. The dust started to build, fingerprints became more prevalent, and the strings were almost always dirty and dull sounding with every pick stroke. The case was even covered with a myriad of stickers, tasteful, yet there none the less.
Though, I pick her up most every day, she rarely gets the treatment she deserves. I can't even remember the last time I changed the strings. It has to have been at least 6 months and 1,500 miles in the past. So sad. But despite the dings and the old strings, she still plays on. Maybe not as bright as she did at my high school graduation party when I first set eyes on her, but she puts up with my fumbling fingers anyway.
The more I write, the more I'm thinking of my old '77 Sigma acoustic as a person. And the more I feel like I need to wash my hands, grab a new set of strings, and that soft yellow cloth and treat her like she should be treated.
Being around the holidays, this little story has to do with a lot more than an old guitar. It has to do with taking so many other things for granted. A cheesy moral of the story, I guess so. But true. It's so easy to take things for granted when you have them. But when you don't, you realize too late how important they were.
So go change your metaphorical guitar strings. And Happy Holidays to everyone.
Dec 22, 2008
Also, from my previous post "Rock Out Or Get Out", you'll realize my obsession with Guitar Hero in the first place. I take my music very seriously, so when it comes to my music based video games, you don't even have to ask. But, as far as GH World Tour is concerned, I was insanely excited about getting the chance to rock the drums.
In the past couple of years I've acquired this desire to learn to play the drums. It never even crossed my mind while I was in a band for 4 years, but I was always intrigued by how intricate a skill playing a full drum kit really was. Back in the day, it was hard enough for me to control my fingers on the fret board of my guitar while I strummed and sang along. I still have that problem sometimes. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to be doing so many things at one time, all while keeping the beat.
So, almost 3 years after the band broke up and a couple of years of wanting to learn the drums, I was getting my chance to be a drumming rock star with GH World Tour. I've read that playing on the most difficult level would be like the playing the song on a real kit, so I was pumped when I ripped open the box and started playing along.
I got a decent start, but easy was just too easy. It didn't feel like I was playing the drums at all. But then came medium. I started hitting multiple pads at the same time, adding in the bass drum. I could feel the rhythm, I could see the crowd in front of me as I slammed away to "Everlong" by Foo Fighters. At that moment, I couldn't wait to progress to the next difficulty because I knew I was on my way to becoming the next Neil Peart, right there in my living room.
But I didn't have a chance to get that far. It was 2 days ago when my dreams of becoming a master drummer by playing Guitar Hero were dashed. I stumbled across the video posted below on YouTube. It humbled me as quick as a double bass smack to the gut and knocked me from the clouds that my mind was swimming in. At that moment I became a Guitar Loser. I knew no matter how good I became on those Guitar Hero drums, nothing could replace the real deal.
So until I can go out and buy my nice shiny new 18 piece set, with a glorious midnight blue finish and my name printed on the bass head with flames surrounding the print, then spend 8 years perfecting my master stick work, I'll settle for rocking out in my living room and pretending that John Bonham is looking down at me from heaven, holding up a set of rock horns with his left hand.
Dec 10, 2008
Nov 14, 2008
I started writing the song on a trip back to Maine from Florida, quite literally a climate change. And really, that's how the idea started, that harsh reality of having to leave the sunny, sandy beaches for the still snow covered hills of home. But the trip also had another meaning for me. It came in a point in time that felt like a last stand, a last chance to get out and do something before the responsibility of life took over, the reality of the "real" world.
I had been out of college for a year at that point but I still hadn't hooked onto a full-time job and that college mind set was still there. I still felt I could stay up late, go on road trips, hang out with friends every day of the week, be a kid. Things had to change.
A year later, I had a full-time job and my own place with my girlfriend. Another huge change was about to occur. Maybe minuscule in the mind of another but huge in mine. We were planning on moving, away from the area I had spent the last 12 years of my life, away from family, to a larger city and a new job. This song immediately came to mind and I finally had the motivation to finish it and lay it down. It really wraps up all the insecurities and worries of how this change would effect me. But also, that the change had to happen and I had to deal with it.
Hopefully someday I'll have a better chance at giving this song a decent recording and a bit more justice. Let me know what you think and take your own meaning from it, that's usually why I don't divulge. That's one of things I love about music the most, grabbing my own meaning out of songs that may never have been intended by the artist. In a way, making every song my own.
So make this one your own and I'll see you soon. In the meantime, keep rockin'!
Oct 27, 2008
Though it becomes difficult sometimes, collaborating with people over the Internet is an exciting endeavor. Recently, I was turned onto a site called TuneRooms.com that allows you to post songs or ideas to your own personal "tune room", share it with other people, and allow them to collaborate with you by them adding their own tracks. You can also browse the site looking for people in your genre, or search the want ads for musicians looking for expertise in a certain instrument. If you're worried about copyright issues, you can even choose the license agreement by which your tune will be governed by.
Even with the help of sites like TuneRooms, sometimes it's hard to convey opinions and ideas over the Web because it tends to be so impersonal. That alone is enough to put a strain on a collaborating relationship. But being patient and going with the flow can lead to great music and before you know it you're busting out a jam with someone that's rockin' out in front of their computer in Australia (or somewhere that's crazy-foreign to you).
I've actually worked with a guy from Australia. We worked a couple of rockin' tunes together. I've also worked with a number of musicians across the United States. For the past year or so I've been working with a singer/songwriter out of Florida named Katyln Lowe. (As an aspiring musician I'm sure she won't mind the plug at all.)
We've never actually "met", but we've collaborated on 6 tunes so far and hopefully many more in the future; Katlyn writing most of the lyrics and providing the vocals, me providing the musical arrangements. With Katlyn's heartfelt lyrics and ever-growing vocal talent, she has a great shot at becoming heard by the masses.
Minus the lack of proper recording and mixing equipment, our collaborations have produced some music that you would never imagine came from two people living more than a thousand miles away from each other. Check out the player below for a taste of our collaboration.
For anyone looking for a collaborator, feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether you need someone to sing your lyrics, to back up your lead vocal, add a musical backing to your lyrics, or even write lyrics for a piece of music, I'm game. I'll rock out with anyone, anywhere in the world if you give me the chance.
Keep rockin' everyone and make sure to check out Katlyn in the player above and at her Myspace page by clicking here. Also, take advantage of sites like Tunerooms, you'll find me on there as well.
Oct 22, 2008
Right then a melody floats from the darkness. Soft and steady; smooth and simple. Behind it comes a chord progression on an acoustic guitar; tuned down a half step it's dark, yet it moves steadily forward. Should I get up? Should I fumble with my cell phone to cast the little light I need to scribble incomprehensibly in the song book on the floor? Nah, I'll remember in the morning.
This tune plays over and over, piece by piece tumbling into place. Sleep waits through the first chorus then overwhelms.
7:35am: Awoken with a blank mind. What was that song I was playing in my head last night? Melody, chord progression, the whole dark, sweet, chill jam....gone. Figures.
8:17: Stomach now full of store brand wheat flakes and milk it's time for a long, hot shower to awaken my senses and hopefully my mind. As the steam fogs up the mirror I soothe away in the hot water.
As I soap up my hair and drum beat, steady and strong builds in my brain. Slowly but surely the whole song starts to fall together. Faster paced and more high energy than my semi-conscious diddy, I'm sure it's not the same. Before I know it I'm belting out the melody with nonsense words as if I'm singing a Nirvana tune that I've known for 10 years. Though my washing is done I linger until I remember that I do pay for water, and I jab at the handle as if it's a stop button on a boombox.
Since the mirror is too fogged for shaving, I hastily dress and run to my make-shift studio. I don't know where to start. The melody escapes me and the oh so perfect drum line beats no more.
I might be exagerating a bit, but this is basically the story of my life. All the right ideas popping into my head at the wrong times, in every wrong place. It could be around noon while walking the dog, 1:30 while eating out for lunch, or 5:43 while wrist deep in a bowl of raw ground beef getting dinner ready.
It happens everywhere and without warning. But of course that everywhere doesn't include while sitting in front of my computer, guitar in lap, mind on high alert. You might think that carrying a voice recorder or a notebook would be the solution. Sometimes, yes. But it's always those situations where I'm the least prepared and most apt to crack under the pressure of a great idea, that that seemingly great idea rears it's melodic head.
The ideas don't all disappear into oblivion, but most are never heard again. Some survive in pieces, never to be completed, left in a pile of the junk heap that is my head. I see it as my curse as a young songwriter. Maybe even a step toward that first big hit. But until then I'll still be humming a melody in my sleep, belting out a chorus in the shower, and running up the stairs, hands covered in raw meat, in search for the next great idea at the wrong time and in all the wrong places.
Oct 18, 2008
Read up and let me know what you think. I'm always looking to get better so I love feedback. I'd also love to talk to any songwriters out there to see how you tick.
I'm also looking to get some new songs finished, recorded, and posted via my ReverbNation widget. The songwriting process has been tedious lately so that'll probably be a bit further in future beyond my next post.
Let me know what you think of my blog and my music. And feel free to contact me, I love meeting new songwriters, music lovers and internet freaks! Rock on!
Sep 22, 2008
I've read articles where people claim that writer's block doesn't exist, it's a state of mind or it's only what you make of it. And there are always those people that insist that they've never gotten writer's block, they always have a healthy flow of ideas and never struggle to put a word on the page. Well, good for them. But I think it's a load of crap.
At some point in every writer's life, whether their a lyricist, novelist, columnist, or copywriter, I feel that everyone has had at least of moment of insecurity, self doubt. A feeling of blankness where no words exist for every stinkin' thought that floats around in their brain. It's how they deal with that feeling that makes the difference. It's how they block writer's block that makes them the writers that they are.
For me, blocking writer's block can be a struggle. No, it IS a struggle. Right this moment. In fact, that is the reason that my hands are resting on this keyboard right now. Why every word is coming...slowly. Why if I were, talking, you'd be, confused, why I was, pausing, so much. But ultimately that is the reason why I'm typing this post in first place. An attempt at a block. Keeping the words flowing, the mind working.
It doesn't matter that I'm a lyricist writing a blog post. It's the fact that I'm writing. Putting words together to form sentences that make sense. Somewhat. I may not deal well with my mind not wanting to cooperate but this is how I fight myself. This is how I force myself into thinking and how I dig myself out of the hole that is the resting place of my songwriting career.
You know what, those people that say writer's block is a state of mind and only what you make of it aren't that far off base. It may not be as easy as me telling myself that I don't have it and writing the next #1 hit. It'll probably take time, pain, and a little more frustration. And most importantly I know it's going to take a little extra effort toward realizing that something has to be done about it.
Yes, there are those rare moments when a lyric comes and you have that moment of genius where you feel like an unstoppable, rhyming force. But for the most part writing that special line is work. Like putting together a puzzle that the dog got into and chewed to crap. But if it's what you want to do, write and be good at it, the work is worth it and to be expected. Sometimes you have to your hands covered in dog saliva and get out the Scotch tape. But it's worth it in the end.
It's so worth it.
Aug 13, 2008
- Imagine yourself waiting in line along a busy street in the freezing January weather of a small Maine city. Posters advertising a rock show plaster the cold brick wall to your right: Foo Fighters, one night only!
The snow is gently floating down amongst you and the crowd of anxious and die-hard fans. Jackets are few, hats and gloves mostly forgotten, the warmth of a packed arena floor only an excruciating memory of rock show past. People with significant others stand wrapped in each others arms, rubbing and consoling, keeping minds at ease with the anticipation of the opening doors. Loners blow in their hands and hop up and down in the impatient dance of frostbitten toes.
Thoughts of death from the harsh Maine winter's breath start creeping into your mind only moments before the doors finally open, letting the warm indoor air sweep across the few lucky enough to be close to the doors. Hurriedly, frozen feet carry people across the threshold into the arena as you shake the icicles out of your hair and feel the twitch of life flow back into your nose. The 4 hour wait is over.
You feel like the floor in front of the stage couldn't be any more packed with people. You lift your feet only to be held up by the shoulders of your fellow rockers. The three opening bands have come and gone and you've rocked through all three, bobbing your head and singing along where you could. Everyone's frozen bodies have not only recovered from the cold but are so hot that the sweat from yourself and all the exhausted fans around you soak your body and clothes. The heat that's emanating off the crowd creates a fine mist floating toward the ceiling creating a cloud of perspiration and spent screams. Impatience creeps in. The chant "Foo, Foo, Foo" echoes and deafens. The moment is coming, the lights go out, the time has come.
A drum beat, steady and hard swallows you. The bass beating on your already tortured eardrums keeps punching you in the gut with each heavy beat. Then there is beam of light that streaks from the scaffolding above.
Illuminated at the center of the stage is burgundy, swede couch. The cushions have seen better days, stains streak the right arm rest, tears criss cross the left cushion. But your attention is drawn to the center of the couch. Behind a boom stand with its microphone positioned downward is Dave Grohl: the icon, the living rock legend, the front man of Foo Fighters. He sits reclined with his axe in his lap and his head back. The memorable opening notes of "My Hero" come flowing out of his fingers. You stand motionless as the crowd around you is paralyzed with shock, bewilderment and outrage. Your rock star dreams are destroyed like skinny and overexcited kid in a mosh pit.
You're probably thinking, "This wouldn't happen." You're right, it wouldn't.
But this same thing is happening in living rooms all across the nation without the second thought that it deserves. This needs to be stopped. Its an affliction I call GHOLS. Short for Guitar Hero Obsessive Laziness Syndrome. You may notice your friend or loved one playing "Slow Ride" by Foghat while sitting on the couch, the floor, in a recliner, with their feet up, or completely lying down. It is a common misconception that these are acceptable methods of which to play Guitar Hero. In truth they are not and can lead to a very serious case of GHOLS. In some cases this condition could be seriously life threatening.
You may wonder why I went through this whole story just to inform you of this condition. My point is if Dave Grohl wouldn't do it on stage you shouldn't be doing it in your living room while playing Guitar Hero. The motto in my living room is: Rock out or get out, stand up or step down! Common behaviors for a healthy Guitar Hero player in my home include: jumping on furniture, flashing of the horns, power stance, crazy eye, and head banging.
There will be a day when the world can live without GHOLS but it all starts with recognizing the symptoms. I will never let a case of GHOLS afflict anyone I care for and neither should you. Remember, if Dave Grohl wouldn't do it then neither should you. Show the same courtesy your rock hero would show to you and keep it rockin'!
Also see: Chronic Axe Neglect Disorder for Rock Band (CANDRB)
Aug 10, 2008
It's easy to get frustrated when things aren't working no matter what you write, but I write both lyrics and music so I tend to get myself that much extra fired up and frustrated when I'm stuck toiling on a song for who knows how long with no idea what to do and no motivation to figure it out. But out of all the toil there's nothing better than getting that grand moment of inspiration, that great idea where I say to myself, "Hell yeah, this one's going to be good!" What the ever wise Tenacious D would call "inspirado."
So...inspiration, where the hell does that come from? No, really, I'm asking you, I really want to know. Totally not a rhetorical question. I'm always trying to grasp the concept, especially when I'm a little dried up for ideas. I mean, what is inspiration anyway?
In-spi-ra-tion n : the act or power of moving the intellect or emotions Merriam-Webster Dictionary 1997
Ok, took myself literally on that one. So now what does that mean and where the hell does that act or power of moving emotions come from? Let's see, example: I'm flicking through the tv channels looking to watch the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. I love my sports and only every 4 years can you see beach volleyball played by scantily clad, athletic, and superbly tanned women from all over the world on network television. In the middle of the day no less. So here we go, time to pick an event on the 3 or 4 channels broadcasting. I pick my first channel...commercial. Visa I believe. Ok, that's cool, pick another channel...commercial. Might have been Coke. Ok, not so cool, I don't like Coke. But I stay calm, pick another channel...commercial. By this point I'm losing my cool and my desire to even watch scantily clad, athletic, and superbly tanned men playing beach volleyball. I decide to put down the remote and settle for channel choice #3 and wait out what seems like 5 minutes of commercial. (McDonalds: Chicken for breakfast?!, UPS: Yes, I know brown can do that!, Visa: Again! I know, it's everywhere I wanna friggin' be!) Getting a little testy at this point if you can't tell. I'm a happy person, I swear.
So finally comes the action, which happens to be women's handball, Russia vs. Korea. Being from the U.S. where it's a basically unknown sport I'm a bit skeptical of the entertainment value and it's legitimacy as an Olympic sport but I remain, wary of building frustration of my game of commercial roulette. Surprisingly I'm entranced by this game, similar to many other sports, the whole point being to throw a small ball past the goalie into the opposing team's net. Right away I'm on the edge of my seat watching the back and forth action. Goal here, save there, whistle here (for what I have no idea), then there's a breakout by team Korea. The Korean player fakes out the Russian defender, leaps, cocks her arm and...commercial. Yes, that's right.
I sit back dumbfounded, enraged, all of a sudden broken from my glory filled, sweat coated, handball trance. I might have whispered a choice expletive, which is not all that uncommon for me. Immediately my mind jumbles around the feelings of hate, rage, sadness, and disappointment. I'm sickened by the raging commercialism that I, as a resident of the planet Earth has to deal with on a daily basis. And then....inspiration. Didn't see that coming did you? But you know this story had to have a point. Immediately I was jotting down ideas and humming out melodies, letting that emotion flow.
That's the kicker when it comes to inspiration. You don't know where to find it, it's hard as hell to look for it, and it comes to you in the weirdest places, such as, a women's handball match. Does that mean as songwriters that the world is our inspiration? Maybe. Does that mean we just need to be observant and critical of our feelings and thoughts. Absolutely.
The way I see it is that when it comes down to it and you're struggling for that killer lyric, or that grinding riff you just need to put on your Adidas sandals, grab your Bic pen and your Mead notebook (that you bought at Staples of course), walk out among the Toyotas and VWs, look through your Ray-Ban sunglasses and make your own inspiration by letting it find you.
Aug 9, 2008
Listening to Guano Apes right now...man, do I miss them.