Feb 28, 2009

The Weather! Honestly!

Once again, not complaining here, just a random observation. Snow! That ground was bare yesterday. I was skating in those streets the day before!

Haven't seen much snow this year so it's weird waking up to a winter wonderland. My Maine instincts are kicking in. Well, maybe not my instincts, I have no desire to start shoveling and driving around town because I know I can. It just feels like winter again for the first time in a month or so. It's totally messing with my head.

And you know what, I really don't feel like going outside so maybe I'll sit in here all day and work on some tunage. You know what, that sounds like more than an idea, that sounds like a plan. A real good one.

Holy crap, a snow blower out my window!

Feb 27, 2009

How about that weather? Off-Topic Rant.

This move from Maine to Kansas has been a little crazy. It's a new place with some significant cultural changes, new people, and most notably a different kind of climate. Especially in the winter. I can't say I can complain considering the weather I left in Maine; the foot or more of snow each storm, 5 months of being buried in that snow and shoveling shoveling shoveling, crappy road conditions, bitter cold, and just plain winter depression. These were some of the major reasons I wanted to get out of there for a little while, even if only for a couple of years.

But at the same time, Sandi over at the "Nothing Off Limits" blog really reminded me of what a tease it is for this Kansas weather. Here in Kansas we get snow, it's pretty cold, and the wind is a bitch, but as I look out the window right now, the only thing to identify the season is the bare trees prettily lined along the road. I do in fact know that it's a little chilly outside, much unlike yesterday and the day before of course.

Yesterday and the day before I got my unemployed butt outside and inline skated for the first time since September in the 70˚ sun. This is unheard of back home in Maine. A tragedy really because I love inline skating, I've done it since I was 10 or 11. And to be honest I've never really been good on ice skates. On top of that, no matter what kind of crappy weather you get in Maine, you can't exactly ice skate down the middle of the road. (Except maybe in January 1998.)

Really, there is nothing much better than strapping on the skates, heading out in shorts and a t-shirt with the tunes pumping in the ears, and cruising down the street. So this weather makes it that much more devastating. Sure, I could lace up the skates right now and brave the 23˚ air, but it's just not going to happen, because that would truly suck.

So, to you Kansas, thank you so much for this ridiculous tease weather that you are now giving us. It has my internal season clock all out of whack that will only be remedied by your 100˚ July. Although, as sarcastic and annoyed as I am right now, I'll take your alternating 70˚/30˚ days over that crap season that Maine calls winter any time.

Sorry for the off-topic rant, I know this had nothing to do with music, but it's bound to happen. By the way, job interview #1 is now officially a bust. On to the next…hopefully soon.

Feb 24, 2009

From The CD Shelf, Our Lady Peace - Spiritual Machines

I like so many things about listening to music. Aside from the sheer joy of listening to tunes I love, I revel in the feeling that a track or a whole album envelopes me in. Especially a tune or album that I haven't heard in quite a while. It really is a great feeling to queue up a song that takes you back to when you first heard the song, or maybe even the point in time you had that album constantly spinning.

So I decided to venture down the stairs to the living room and peruse my cd collection to see what tickled my fancy. My collection is getting quite large, stalled lately with my lack of a job, but there are many albums that haven't seen the inside of cd player for quite a while. My eye caught on "Spiritual Machines" by Our Lady Peace, as I've mentioned before, my favorite band. It was easy for my eye to catch on this one because OLP has their own little section that is separate from the rest of the alphabetized masterpiece that is my collection.

I wanted to get this one spinning more than any other album on my shelf because this album imparticular transports me back in time more than any other. Released in 2000, "Spiritual Machines" came out when I was a senior in high school. This is when I had finally started driving and I really started to develop my passion for music.

The album itself is a concept album based around the book "The Age of Spiritual Machines" by Ray Kurzweil. Between many of the tracks Ray quotes experts from his book. I don't think a lot of people really got the point, but really, I didn't need to, the music and everything with it just spoke to me. As I listen right now, the intro that leads into the song "Right Behind You (Mafia)" transports me directly behind the wheel of my mother's 1990 Pontiac 6000LE on one of my autopilot drives back home from school.

(You know what I mean about driving on autopilot, right? It's when you start driving and then basically blank out for a certain amount of time only to realize you're almost home and you don't remember a thing from the last couple of miles. I think that was what a combo of OLP and crappy high school did to me.)

The funniest part was that I couldn't even spin the album in my inherited car because it didn't even have a cd player, just an in-dash cassette player. I did the common thing back then to make my music portable; record my cd over to a cassette tape. I made many a blueberry raking mix for my Sony Walkman this way but this tape was strictly for OLP and my drives to and from school.

I was obsessed with the album that whole year. Out of their 6 studio albums to date, it was their least commercially successful album but it didn't matter to me. In fact, anyone who didn't like the album can bite me. From the first single "In Repair" to "Life", "Middle Of Yesterday", "Made To Heal", and "Everyone's A Junkie" (big green monkey everyone's a junkie), I was hooked. Of course, I'm biased, so I can't blame the critics, I guess. (Bite my tongue.)

I'm sure I was caught in my singing bubble more than once by passing drivers like I mentioned in my post "Cutting Back Costs In Hard Times By...Not Singing". But hey, if I looked like an idiot, I didn't care. This album was truly my age 17 anthem and it will always be remembered for that.

On top of all this, the summer of 2001, a couple of weeks before I graduated from high school I got to see OLP live in concert for the first time (I rummaged out the ticket and it's pictured on the right). This further cemented this album as a turning point in my musical maturation.

(I've seen OLP once more since then and can't wait for their new album "Burn Burn" to drop so I can hopefully see them again. Come to Kansas City OLP!)

As you can tell, there are a lot of memories associated with "Spiritual Machines" and close to every album on my shelf does the same thing. I'm sure to some extent there are tunes out there that do the same thing to you too. Feel free to comment with some songs that take you back in time.

I feel like I'm talking as if I'm much older than 25 and reminiscing about days long gone, maybe I've even over dramatizing it, but I won't be when I stick this album in 30 years from now and remember this all over again.

I just had to include the video for "In Repair" below. It really encompasses the whole concept of the album. Enjoy.

Feb 23, 2009

Destressifying and Digging Out An Oldie - Nowhere To Fall Video

I tend to stress myself out more than I need to when it comes to laying down a song. I love putting stuff together that has tons of layers, multiple guitars, back up vocals, and drums tracks if I can get them. But I always want to get it as perfect as possible and I almost always start pulling my hair out by the time things are through.

That's the way it has been for the stuff I've been working on most recently. I haven't been able to get it sounding like I want (a couple of simple equipment upgrades would go a long way) and take after take just isn't doing it. So to destressify myself a little I decided to take it old school and do it up simple.

The video below is me performing an old song of mine called "Nowhere To Fall". This is definitely an oldie in my book, I'm thinking it's about 7 years old, it's out of one my old tattered Ampads (the first one actually) and it's about as simple as it gets. I actually just remembered the tune existed a couple of days ago and I thought I'd post it up just for the fun of it. The screws could be tightened a little but it does the trick.

Phew, and now I feel a little better, a little less stressed and I can finally move on. Until the stress of tomorrow hits me that is. I have my first job interview tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Check out the video and let me know what you think. Rock on!

Feb 19, 2009

Lyrics, More Than Words

I've written many lyrics in my songwriting days. I have a pile of books and folder upon computer folder to prove it. Not every lyric has turned into a song, and not every song has been completed, but to me that's not the most important part. The most important part for me is getting those words out. I love taking words and putting them together so they form something special. To form something that hasn't been portrayed before or can be viewed in a different way.

But lyrics are so much more than words. Just like a good novel can have a movie playing in your mind, a good lyric should do the same thing. It should get you involved in the story and have images floating in your brain of how all those words come together and make something real.

I've been very proud of some of the lyrics that have come from my hand by the way they portray something that I was trying get across. I can feel it by being overcome by the emotions that were taking control of me to write the song in the first place as well as the images that I connect with those emotions as I listen to or perform a song.

Out of all of the songs I've written, one stands out in my mind as one of the songs I am most happy with and has continued to motivate me to carry on. And not because of something I did with it but what someone else did with the words, making it so much more than words.

The song "Nothing" came about probably sometime in 2002 while I was in college. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it was the first complete song I ever created. It was also one of the first songs of mine that I introduced to my now former band Now Transmission. It's a serious song, maybe a little bit of a downer, but it has an uplifting message about not being alone in the world. Me and the guys from Now Transmission turned it into a decent ballad type rock song that is still one of my favorites of ours. We included the tune on two of your EPs, the second version a much needed update. (You can listen to "Nothing" and other tunes from NT by clicking here.)

But anyway, I'm losing track of my point here. What excites me about looking back at this song is the picture below that was created out of the words that I wrote.
The picture was created by my wonderful girlfriend Kallie, who at the time was a friend that I had met at school and worked with. I was blown away when she first showed me her creation. Though it may not portray the emotion that the song does, the image of her face rising from the words that I wrote was inspiration for me to continue and prove that lyrics can literally become more than words. I don't think she realized how much that piece of art meant to me at the time and how it motivated me to continue writing. Though the picture literally showed a face, the piece became an example of what I wanted to be able to do with my lyrics from then on; create pictures in people's minds from my words.

So thank you Kallie for inspiring me way back then as well as now. And I'm sure you don't mind the plug at all. (*wink wink*) Check out some examples of Kallie's amazing art work at her site by visiting kalliemehuren.com.

Feb 17, 2009


I'm sitting here waiting
Wind in my hair
Blowing the pages
And I don't remember
What I was waiting for

It seemed so important
This bench that I found
All the people walking
But my mind is slip sliding
And passing me by
Just like the time

Sitting here waiting
Taking its toll
Like a marathon race
I'm out of shape for
When my wait's over
It'll just start again
If I knew where I was looking
I might find the end

Eric Frye
Stream of consciousness poem, 2002?

Feb 16, 2009

Cutting Back Costs in Hard Times By...Not Singing?

With the economy the way it is these days, you're probably trying to find all kinds of ways to cut costs and make your hard earned dollar stretch a little further. Like me, you may be clipping coupons, buying generic brands, not eating out, only driving when necessary, turning down the heat, not indulging in impulse shopping, or maybe even selling your plasma. ($25 for laying down and watching t.v. for an hour, you can't beat it.)

You may also be looking at all your bills and seeing where you can cut back. In doing this, again, like me, you might have noticed some ridiculous spikes in spending on certain bills. In my case my gas and water bills. In my little town home we have a gas powered furnace and hot water heater and we are supplied water by the great city of Lawrence, Kansas.

So, I say to myself, "These bills have been inconsistent. There must be a reason for it and there must be some way I can save a significant amount of money every month by figuring it out." I thought, have we been running the dishwasher too much? Have we been washing our clothes in too much hot water? Could we turn down the heat a little more or turn off the fireplace pilot and could it make that much of a difference? Could it be a combo of all of this? I couldn't figure it out. After a month of paying attention to all these factors, nothing seemed to be out of the norm. That is when I thought about the shower.

One morning I was taking a normal shower, basking in the hot water and singing away with the poppy radio single that I currently had stuck in my head. I finished up the song, turned off the shower, got out and realized how long my concert/shower actually had been; almost a half hour!

I'm a guy, I have short hair and I didn't even so much as sweat in 3 days, a rinse was basically all I needed yet I ran that steaming water for the length of one of my favorite Monday sitcoms! If this wasn't my gas and water problem, the mystery might as well be in the ranks of Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance and Area 51.

Our problem had been solved and it came down to a case of shower singing. That overwhelming urge to belt out any tune, for however long, like no in the world even exists but in your mind. This is on par with the singing/nose picking habit that most people can't help but take part in on a long drive home in an empty car thinking no one can see them through the 6 windows surrounding them. (Oh, come on, you know you've done it.)

When it comes to singing in the shower it seems like it's insanely easy to get carried away, lose track of time, and before you know it you've sung half a full album of tunes and you haven't even washed your hair.

So, what is it about the shower that turns even the most non-musical person into a rock star? Is it the hot water and steam opening up the airways and letting you belt out ranges you normally wouldn't be able to hit? Is it the amazing reverb and echo that makes your voice sound better than it ever could? Or is it simply the feeling of privacy that you can't get anywhere else?

For me, being the rock star that I am out of the shower, (I'm exaggerating a bit here) singing while washing away is great for the sound, but also because I can close my eyes and hash out ideas that might not come otherwise. This can tend to be a problem like I mentioned in my earlier post "Right Idea; Wrong Time, Wrong Place". Like any other situation, apparently I get carried away and that quick rinse turns into time I could have used to perfect one of Rachael Ray's famous meals.

So, if you're trying to ease back on the spending like I am, pay attention when you hop in the shower. It's perfectly normal to float away to the lyrics of "I Kissed A Girl" while soaking up the hot water but make sure to multitask and limit it to just that, put down your microphone/bottle of shampoo, and dry off before the bills go through the roof and you're stuck singing in the rain instead of the shower.

Feb 11, 2009

Fingerpickin' Good

More like fingerpickin' ok if you're talking about me. When it comes to playing guitar, fingerpicking is one those skills that I never really mastered. Not only does it take quite a bit of practice to coordinate all that finger movement on both hands while usually singing at the same time, it requires long finger nails to really do it justice, and I'm not a fan. Honestly, dudes with long nails kind of gross me out. (Sorry Esteban, you're incredible but those finger nails are creepy.) Not only that, they are constantly in the way of any other task in the other 14 hours of the day that I'm not playing my guitar. (Ladies, I don't know how you do it.) It's especially weird looking because the nails on your fretting hand always have to be kept as short as possible.

I've always had people suggest fingerpicks as the alternative to letting my finger nails get all Crypt Keeper, but the concept always annoyed me. I never really gave them a shot I suppose, but I have enough of a problem hanging on to a normal pick for more than a week, let alone 3 pointy plectrums (you normally only use 3 at a time, one on the thumb, index finger and middle finger) that I can't exactly keep in my pocket for that impromtu jam session.

But, you know, I've never complained about the annoyance of fingerpicking, and I'm not here, I'm simply very open to my flaws as a musician. I actually started thinking about this while working on another song in my list of tunes to get done asap. This tune is actually a cover. (We won't talk about how terrible I am at learning other people's songs. Let's stick with what I'm good at after this post. Sound good? Good.)

This cover song has a lot to do with living up to my promises like I wrote in my post "New Tune, In Spite of Stanley Steamer" which introduced my song "Only Apart". I promised you, my readers, and myself, that I would spend this year putting more of focus on my music. So far, I think I've done a decent job at that with two songs about a month into 2009.

The story of this cover song goes back much further than my promise about 2009. I promised a good college friend, a new friend at the time, that I would learn a tune for her from one of her favorite artists. Easy enough a task you would think. But this my first year in college and I had been playing guitar for less than a year. All the songs I was looking to learn involved quite a bit of fingerpicking and we know that I've never been that great at learning other people's tunes. (Lots of excuses, I know.) So years passed, 8 of them in fact, college is over, my friend is living half way across the country, and my promise is still left hanging there, unfulfilled.

I'm sure she's not exactly thinking about it everyday, or ever at all, but it still bugs me now and then. Partially because I made a promise, and partially because it bothers me that I just never could take the time to learn a simple song. She was always so supportive of me and my music back when I was just starting out and I needed that support the most, I at least wanted to have the chance to return some of that favor. So I've picked a song and I've spent the last week picking my fingers to the bone to finally get this right so I can surprise my friend with a song that's been 8 years in the learning. (That is unless she is reading this and realizes it's her I'm talking about.)

So that's my songwriting task for this week. Unfortunately, I'm not going to be posting it up for all to hear because I'm keeping my music player to originals only. Honestly, I really don't want to mess with copyright issues. I don't mean to tease but I have a fingerpicking song of my own creation that I'm working on for the near future that I will definitely be sharing.

So until next time, thanks for reading. Keep pickin'.....I mean rockin'!

UPDATE - I just remembered something in regards to fingerpicking. Check out Now Transmission's song "One To Blame" at their MySpace by clicking here. I wrote the majority of the music originally, but the fingerpicking part in the intro and first verse is my one musical performance contribution to the EP. I guess that's a little proof that I'm not totally useless when it comes to the skill.

Feb 3, 2009

College, Solos, Blisters and New Songs

I have another "new" tune for you. I thought I'd keep the ball rolling. Heck, why not? That was my goal, to work on more songs.

After wrapping up "Only Apart" I went perusing through some old songs that never got the justice they deserved. I stumbled upon a straight forward rock tune called "Done With This". Some people on my inner circle may remember this one. I made a semi-decent recording of it what seems like ages ago. (Listen to the new recording in the player on the top right of the screen. And yes, you'll hear me cuss. I just couldn't find a way to take the s-bomb out, it just worked too well.)

This song came into existence before the black, hard cover Moleskine days, back when I used these simple 80 sheet, Ampad, 1 subject notebooks with the 12x6 pages, wired binding and flimsy cardboard covers that don't do much covering now-a-days. (Made in the good 'ol USA unlike it's Italian, Moleskine counterpart.) I'd pick them up cheap at the campus bookstore and they did the job.

I had a bad habit of forgetting to jot down a date back then but this one happened to be dated 12/16/04, the last day of the fall semester. It was common in those days to bust out a song or at least a simple idea while sitting in my achingly boring classes, most usually the very large ones so I could fly under the radar. But even in the small ones, the lyric jotting was most likely seen as note taking and I liked it that way; killing two birds with one stone, writing lyrics and getting on the professors good side. The only major issue was if I was in a good zone and a question came flying at me from the front of the room. Luckily that wasn't a common occurance.

This tune came about on a particularly exruciating night. It was finals and we were forced to sit through every groups presentation regarding a specific market research study that took most of the semester to complete. With my groups presentation out of the way, it was made especially frustrating as it was past 8:00pm and this was the only thing in my way between this class, winter break and my final semester of college. With my emotions boiling, the song came out like a hurricane. I rushed home after the presentation and recorded it down, guitar and all, start to finish. It was probably the quickest song I ever wrote.

The recording that I finished up today is more or less the same basic form as it was when it flew out of my head that day. Of course, I updated it a bit with some extra guitar pieces and back up vocals. Even the blistering solo is basically the same. And when I say blistering, I mean it.

To round out this already too long story, you must know that I'm terrible with guitar solos. I've never been the lead guitarist type and solos are definitely not my forte. But I can stay in key and bust out a simple one like any other guy. You can witness my work in Now Transmission's song, "Drained Down". Ray rock-tweaked it a bit but my original idea is still there.

The solo in "Done With This" took quite a few takes. I lost count so we won't go there. My fingers are proof enough. I know it's not a good picture to the left but the blisters are there and annoying, believe me. I can feel the tiny bastards as I type this. Surprisingly, these are my first guitar blisters in the 8 years I've been playing, that I can remember anyway. By busting out this solo, I broke my golden rule: if the fingers are hurting, give 'em a break. But the rock couldn't wait.

I hope you enjoy the tune, killer solo, college angst and all. Sans drums as usual. Your feedback is definitely appreciated. Rock on....next.
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