Dec 31, 2008

New Year, New Goals, New Tunes?

So, somehow it became December 31st, 2008. The last day of the year and as of the writing of this post only 9 hours until 2009. (Central Standard Time, of course.) I'm always of the mind set that the new year is a time to start fresh, to take inventory of what the whole year was about.

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

The Rock Star Rider

*Flashback*
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

Writer's Block - A Building Block to Creativity?

Writer's block plays a crucial role in the career of many writers. I'm one of them, I even made an earlier post about my battles with creative drought called "Blocking Writer's Block". I tend to linger on the subject because it plays a very important role into my writing process lately.

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

These Old Strings

I remember a day when my guitar was the love of my life. I would always wash my hands before playing, I would change the strings consistently, I would even sit and rub "her" with a soft cloth to a glittering shine while my friends all stared and told me I was crazy. I wouldn't even dare to put stickers on the case because I wanted to keep everything in prime condition.

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

Guitar Hero or Guitar Loser?

About a month ago, I couldn't help but run out and hunt down the new Guitar Hero World Tour for my Wii. If you're not aware, this new Guitar Hero comes complete with drums, a mic, and a guitar, allowing you to rock it, full band style like Rock Band introduced.

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

The New Look Is Here.

Got my hands on a new template so I decided to make some changes. Please, bear with me while I get this all figured out. It might look weird for a day or two but it's definitely a change for the better. Keep rockin!
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