Monday, December 20, 2021

Capo Crunch

I only started using a capo on a regular basis about ten years ago, when I lived on a small tropical island that gets among the most rainfall of anywhere on earth. Rarely did a day pass without a tremendous downpour, after which the air became steamy as the equatorial sun pulled the moisture back up to the clouds. Rinse and repeat. 

Most of the time, I couldn't tell if I was sweating or if the air was just sticking to me, but it was probably both. In the afternoon, the temperature would reach 86°F or so, and at night, it got down to about 72°F. Sunrise and sunset were at the same time all year. 

Rats played the roles of squirrels as they scurried along the power lines, while smiling geckos scouted for ants from the living room walls. The steering wheel of my car was on the right side, which is also the side of the road that they drive on. Cheese was virtually nonexistent, but the fresh fish was incredible.

What does this have to do with a capo, you ask?  

The only guitar that I brought to Micronesia was my acoustic/electric. It was all that I could carry on an airplane. I quickly learned that between the heat and the humidity, the climate in this place is not kind to musical instruments. Guitar strings corroded within a day or two, and the fretboard absorbed a lot of moisture from the air. Within a few months, the neck had started to noticeably bow. 

I did not think to bring a truss rod wrench, nor did I really want to make any major adjustments to my guitar in this environment--so to compensate for the intonation being off, I started using a capo. Prior to this, it mostly just took up space in my guitar case, along with an old sock, a string winder and a bottle slide. 

Many of the songs that would later find their way onto my albums, particularly those that use a capo, started as riffs and chord progressions that I played on the back porch during the year that I lived on the island of Pohnpei. Examples include:

    Tunnel Vision (Out of Habit) from Embers (capo on the fourth fret - DADF#BE tuning)
    
    Wake Up! and Signs from Mechanical Bull (capo on the first and sixth frets, respectively)
    
        and
    
   Particle from Weather Patterns (capo on the fourth fret).

I'm sure there were others, but you get the idea. In most cases, it would be another six to ten years before I turned any of these "practice riffs" into fully realized songs. At the time, I wasn't really thinking about writing music. With no cell phones or televisions, where the electricity came by way of enormous diesel generators, playing guitar behind the house was just something to do. I kind of miss it sometimes.

By the time I left Micronesia, the pickguard on my guitar had almost completely slid off. Upon returning to the US, I had to take it off the rest of the way and then glue it back on, as well as make some significant adjustments with the truss rod. That said, I'm happy to report that the guitar still works perfectly fine. It is adventure-seasoned and well-traveled. I still use a capo quite a bit in my songwriting, too.

I guess if there's a point to any of this, it's that when I changed how I approached the instrument in order to adapt to this different environment, I came up with a bunch of stuff that sounded cool to me, which later became songs.
    
Change in Environment-> Learning to Adapt -> Finding Inspiration in the Unfamiliar -> Writing Lyrics to Fit the Music

Thus a song is born.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Greatest Hits

Happy Friday to my fans, casual listeners and random stumblers upon this site.

Today's songs that I would like to share with you are my personal favorites from each of my albums. Click on the song titles to open them in Spotify or click on the embedded links to play them through YouTube. If you use a different streaming service, you should be able to find these songs there as well.

Track one comes from my most recent album, Petrichor (2021). It's called Dandelion Wine (If Only...):


From Embers (2021), here is We Are All That We Need:


Track three of today's selections comes from Better Days (2019). It's called Be Civilized:


From Good Night, Fahrenheit (2017), this next song is called Modern Inconveniences:


Track number five comes from Mechanical Bull (2017) and is called Screen Memories:


Finally, from Weather Patterns (2017), here is a song called Gravel Roads:


Thank you for listening and for supporting independent art. If you like what I'm doing, please share it with others.


Monday, December 6, 2021

The Art of Happiness

On a personal note, this past year and a half or so has been kind of rough. I'm sure that a lot of you can relate to some degree. 

Entropy, from Better Days (2019):


    In this state of entropy
    Empathy is everything
    In someone else's shoes
    Would you choose the same...?

Back in July of 2020, my dad died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Not long after that, my mom got sick with covid. By the time she recovered, due to the pandemic, my job teaching English and tutoring students in the writing center at a community college had essentially dissolved. This, in turn, may have contributed to my marriage of sixteen years falling apart, which left me little choice but to move back to the place where I grew up and have spent most of my adult life trying to get away from. I now live over two hundred miles away from my two kids, whom I miss dearly. 


   

    Wherever you are, I hope you hear me
    Wherever you are, I want you near me
    I'm sending you a life preserver
    Put it on, kid. You deserve it... 

Haunted, from Petrichor (2021):


    Is it everything you wanted?
    Is it everything you hoped it would be?
    Because this old house is feeling haunted
    By the ghosts of memory...

Music and writing are what gets me through it. While I generally try to not conflate art with therapy, sometimes these things do overlap. 

Quicksand, from Embers (2021):


    I don't expect you to understand
    How it feels to be swimming in quicksand...



    Don't forget who you are
    Is unforgettable to me
    Your eyes are lit up like the stars
    And only you know what they see
   
     Share your mind, share your heart
    And let yourself be free
    Because only you know who you are
    And all the possibilities...
    
Since the pandemic began, I finished and fully revised the novel that I had started writing back in January of 2020. Coincidentally, it's about an event that disrupts and transforms the lives of all Americans, causing a sudden reevaluation of our priorites. Sometimes life only makes sense when you step back and look at the big picture, and sometimes it takes years for this to happen.



    I know you wonder what might have been
    If you had taken the other road instead
    But you know it's only in your head
    
    It takes a lifetime to get it right
    And only sometimes do we recognize
    It takes a lifetime, takes a lifetime...

I also recorded two albums this year, the first of which I began writing back in late autumn of 2020. Embers is essentially about trying to save my marriage and find meaning in existence, while Petrichor is largely about accepting what I can and cannot control. 

Original Miles, from Embers (2021):
 

    Take me as I come
    Because this is who I am
    I'm not fooling anyone
    I don't even think that I can...

Wasted, from Petrichor (2021):


    It's not what you anticipated
    I know it's always complicated
    But everyone would be so devistated
    Another day, another night, another life is wasted...

As I mentioned in a previous post, I haven't played an actual show since before the pandemic began. Now that I'm back to living in the very small town where I grew up, I don't even know where I would perform if I wanted to. I still practice, and I've toyed with the idea of writing another album, but my priority right now is in finding a viable way forward from my present situation. I certainly never expected to be here now. 

Holiday, from Petrichor (2021):


    Restless again at two a.m.
    Trying to dream
    Myself away to another place
    Where everything is as it seems...  



    Where do we go from here?
    It could be anywhere
    We don't know where we're going
    Until we get there...

That said, my mom appreciates the help around the farm, and I am thankful for the time that I get to spend with her, especially since it's time that I never really got with my dad. Besides, who knows where I'll be living after this? Being here is also kind of therapeutic in its own way, an opportunity to recharge for whatever comes next. Life is precious, and it's easy to take the things we have for granted. Right now, I'm just trying to make the most of what I've got, one day at a time, while trying to create and pursue new opportunities to look forward to.



    Got my life, and it's ok
    It will be brighter another day
    Can't blame the rain or curse the night
    It will change again by morning light...
 
It's also nice to be reminded that I have friends who care about me. When I lived in Ohio, most of my friends were in the graduate program with me and have since moved on to better things. I had expected to be there for five years and ended up staying for about nine, in what was unquestionably my least favorite place that I have ever lived. In the end, it got kind of lonely, while being quarantined and unemployed certainly didn't help. 



    You and I are drifting by like contrails
    Parallel lines through the sky, don't know where
    Don't know why, that's just life and all it entails...

Signs, from Mechanical Bull (2017):


    Home is a house in the dark
    The rough stone that makes you sharp
    Don't let it fall apart
    Don't want to go back to the start...

I am sharing all of this with you not only as a means of self-therapy, but with the hope that you might get something from it as well. Fundamentally, I think the most important thing we can do is to see to it that the world is better off because we're in it, whatever that means. Our contributions do not need to be gradiose in order to be significant. 

Better Days, from Better Days (2019):


    So make today a better day any way that you can
    Make today a better day like only you can
    And we'll keep making our own better days
    Isn't it just like fate to change...?

To everyone who is reading this, I wish you the best. I believe in the beauty of the soul, and that art and love are its greatest forms of expression. That in mind, I hope you will find the beauty within yourself and share it with others, whether through a song, some other work of art, or a simple act of kindness. 



    It seems to me
    That life could be
    So simple....

Love. Create. Find happiness wherever you can, and try not to take it for granted.

If you like what I'm doing, please share it, add my music to your playlists and follow me wherever you listen. This is how it spreads, and I can't do it without you. 

As always, thank you for supporting independent art. 

*******************************************

[Here are all fifteen of today's songs in a Spotify playlist:]



  

Monday, November 22, 2021

Blog-jamming

Other than the time a couple of months ago that I played a few songs for my friend and his two kids, I have not played a live show since before the pandemic. In an effort to help rectify this, I played a set of original music in the back room of my mom's house the other day. These are all stripped-down acoustic versions of fifteen songs spanning all six of my self-produced albums that I have released in the past five years:


I hope you like it. If you do, please share it. Thanks for listening. 

[Note: I am not left-handed, nor does South America look like that. I thought that I could correct the mirror effect on my phone's front-facing lens after I uploaded it to YouTube, but this was not the case.]

Friday, November 19, 2021

Wordsmithing

Happy Friday. 

I just spent most of the afternoon entering all of my lyrics and metadata into genius.com, which is supposed to make it available to link with Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services. I think it takes a little while before it connects the lyrics with my songs, but hopefully at some point in the near future, when streaming my music on various platforms, you should be able to make the lyrics appear with whatever song you are listening to. That's the idea, anyway. 

In the meantime, here are a few songs for which I am particularly proud of the lyrics.

First is Imperfect Creatures, from my 2019 album Better Days:

(Sorry for the shitty lighting on this one.)

And so much wasted time
Trying to turn a dollar on a dime

Next, we have Gravel Roads, from my 2017 album Weather Patterns. The rhyme scheme of the first part of the second to last verse is actually identical to that of the first verse:


Got a photograph, a worn out map, a compass on the dash...

Finally, here is Rat Race, from my most recent album, Petrichor (2021):


If you find your way out of here, it meant
There's no controlling the experiment

Thanks for listening. If you like what I'm doing, please share it. 



Friday, November 12, 2021

Make the Most of What You've Got

In today's songs that I'd like to share with you, the album recordings were all played primarily on my kid's $250 Casio keyboard:



Original Miles is by far my most played song to date on Spotify, with over fifty thousand streams and counting. It comes from Embers (2021), the album that I released in January. Both the main electric piano part, as well as the bassline, were both played on the aforementioned keyboard, pictured above.


Next is Holiday, from Petrichor (2021), which I released in June. Same story in terms of how it came into being. In case you were wondering, petrichor is the word for the smell of fresh rain. It's kind of an ugly word for what it is, but it seemed an appropriate name for this album. If Embers is about destructive endings and nebulous beginnings (which it is), then Petrichor is nature washing away the dirt to expose the intrinsic beauty within. 


Finally, here is Haunted (2021), also from Petrichor, and also played almost entirely on that same keyboard. 


Art is what you make of it. As an added bonus to support this idea, here's the no-budget feature-length documentary that I made about fifteen years ago:



(Special thanks to Ryan Walker for carrying a lot of the weight in editing this thing.)

As always, thank you for supporting independent art. If you like what I'm doing, please share it. Then go make your own art with whatever you've got. Everyone has something to contribute to the discourse of what it means to be human, and I tend to believe that we're all better off because of it. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Quicksand

Today's song that I would like to share with you is called Quicksand, from the album Embers (2021). It's about depression, and how it's something that we all fundamentally experience alone, which only makes it more difficult to endure.

    I don't expect you to understand
    How it feels to be swimming in quicksand

The underlying message is this: no matter how bad things may seem at a particular moment, whatever it is, eventually it will get better. Everybody's life sucks at one point or another, but then, before you know it, things aren't quite so shitty anymore. Sometimes you have to be patient with yourself, though, as to struggle against the quicksand can prove to be self-defeating. You also have to be careful not to pull other people in there with you.

This was the first song that I ever wrote on baritone guitar. To be perfectly honest, I'm not thrilled with the way that the vocals came out on this one, but I think it's about the best I could do with what I've got. Part of it was not knowing how to mix the various tracks properly, as it's got a lot more low end on here than I do on most of my songs and not much to fill in the upper part of the sound spectrum. One of the pros and cons of DIY recording is that I tend to learn by doing.

Continuing with a certain theme, today's B-track is called Don't Forget Who You Are, from my 2017 album Good Night, Fahrenheit. It's about the things we wish we could say to the people that we'll probably never see again, and about how old friends are always with us, because they helped shape the people that we become. This also happens to be one of my favorite songs to perform live.

    Don't forget who you are... is unforgettable to me

Enjoy. Share. Love. Smile. Be free. 

    Share your mind, share your heart
    And let yourself be free
    Because only you know who you are
    And all the possibilities...



Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Art > Ego

I'm going to let you in on a secret. My songs aren't about me. Not really. I mean, they all draw from my own experiences, but the songs come from somewhere else. It's kind of like a broadcast signal, where my role might be compared to an antenna or a satellite dish with the ambition to be a lightning rod.

To me, music is one of the many forms that creative writing can take. Some ideas are better suited to screenplays, books or recipes, etc., but it all comes from the same place, and that place is a hell of a lot bigger than me. I can only take so much of the credit for anything that I create. When I'm in writing mode, the ideas seem to flow through me. It is a meditative state, where riffs, lyrics, and ideas materialize as if out of the ether. I just record them and scribble a lot of notes to myself. On some level, I just have to trust myself to know what I am doing.

Practice builds skill, which builds confidence. Paradoxically, superceding one's ego requires a certain degree of belief in yourself. If there is a trick to tightrope walking, that would probably be it. That and balance, which is the thing that binds the universe.



That isn't to say that there isn't conscious work involved in the writing process, but this usually comes before and after as opposed to during. Assembling riffs and chord progressions into a song requires a little bit of math. I know the basic shape and feel of the song before I start writing the lyrics, but then I try to let the song essentially tell me what it's about. 

The first line that pops into my head is seldom the first lyric of the song, and there is often a lot of rearranging and polishing that take place after a song has begun to reveal itself to me. I do not want to underemphasize the importance of revision. However, in the actual moment of writing, I find that I work best if I don't overthink it. That's what editing is for.


  

It took a long time before I could separate myself from my writing. By that, I mean that it took many years of calling myself a writer before I could take criticism of my work without taking it personally. In the eyes of my insecure ego, where my identity was wrapped up in this thing that I made, the screenplay or song or whatever was my baby, and I didn't want to hear anybody tell me that it was ugly, even if it was in fact a hideous beast. 

The thing is, I have come to recognize that creativity is not so much an intellectual endeavor as it is a basic receptivity to good ideas. Wherever they come from is almost beside the point, but those that truly resonate seem to come from something much bigger than the self, which is precisely how they can connect with so many people. Work out the basic idea, then shut off the compulsive editor and see what happens. If it sucks, don't worry about it, because it just means you recognize that you still have a lot more to learn. The biggest fools are those who think they know everything.



As an English teacher and a student of life, I have to remind everyone that whatever it is that you are writing, it does usually help to plan it first, if only to give yourself a map to where you're going. I can say from experience that my first novel wandered off into something completely different about a hundred pages in, such that the beginning would have needed major revision just to make sense out of where it was going, which I still wasn't sure about. I have also written some terrible screenplays using the seat-of-my-pants method. I find that it's far more suited to shorter forms, like blog posts, poems, and occasionally songs.



I also believe that revision is one of the things that makes writing a far more effective means of communication than speaking. When writing, you have the chance to do it over and polish it until it's exactly what you want to say (or you hit the deadline, whichever comes first). In conversation, we are not so fortunate. We all say stupid things sometimes. There is a reason why speeches are written and not improvised, and improv theatre is more about a quickness of wit rather than the quality of the material. I think that even my friends who do improv would attest to that. Then again, as I writer, perhaps I always took improv personally. There's that ego again.

No matter what I write, that is all it is. It is a thing that exists separately from me. You don't have to like it. I hope you do, because the whole point of communication is to convey meaning to others, plus I've probably spent a considerable amount of time editing it--but hey, if it's not your thing, I don't take it personally. Maybe it's for somebody else. I say this as someone who has told jokes in stand-up comedy sets that fell flat and performed music on stage while a contingent of the bar patrons only cheered when their team scored a point on the muted televisions. It also took me a while before I had control over my stagefright instead of the other way around. The key is in separating art from ego. A little bit of punk rock won't hurt you, either.



Don't get me wrong. I like to take credit for the work that I put into a project, as well as the countless other projects that preceded it, through which I gained the skill necessary to complete the task at hand. I know how hard I work, and I am proud of that. I also recognize that perfection is an unrealistic ideal, so I just do the best I can, which gets better the more I do it. This is true with any form of writing, as well as most things, really. No matter what it is, if you do the same thing every day, chances are that you're probably going to get better at it.   

This is what it means to fashion oneself into a receptive antenna. It takes practice and dedication to one's craft, and the broadcast signals will probably never come through a hundred percent, but I tend to think that the best artists are those who can see beyond the inherently limited perspective of their own egos. It is something to aspire to, anyway.  



It is your ego that compares you with others. It is your ego that takes it personally if someone doesn't like your work. It is who you allow yourself to become that determines how receptive you are to big ideas, as well as what you can do with them. I tend to believe that everyone is capable of genius, because it is not something to possess so much as it is something to channel. If the signal isn't coming through as we'd like it to, perhaps we need to dial in a different frequency.


Friday, September 3, 2021

Book-Smart

This is the only kind of advertisement that you'll ever see on this site. 

I just noticed that the paperback edition of my book happens to be on sale right now on everybody's favorite internet retail monopoly. Part of the proceeds will help an absurdly wealthy supervillain take joyrides in space. 



In any case, if you ever thought about checking it out, this is the cheapest I've ever seen any version of my book sell for--and it's about $150 cheaper than the hardcover edition, which works out to almost a dollar per page. In contrast, the paperback version is currently selling for about $11.

UPDATE: It's not on sale anymore. It's back to the regular price of about fifty bucks. 

I have absolutely no control over any of that stuff, nor do I earn much of anything from each sale. I simply want people to appreciate my work and share it with others. Besides, this is some grade-A knowledge here, going for the bargain price of about two sandwiches.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Scientific Pitch

If there is a secret to my sound as a musician, it's that I tune my instruments to A=432 hz. Even my piano is tuned this way, which was quite an undertaking. Mostly, I think that 432 hz (sometimes referred to as "scientific pitch") just sounds better. I also find that it's easier to sing along with, plus it seems to align better with the ambient noises all around me: birds, crickets, rain, passing cars, etc. Considering that most of the time when I play music, I am not plugged in, these ambient sounds tend to come through more than perhaps they would otherwise. 



However, my first three albums: Weather Patterns, Mechanical Bull, and Good Night, Fahrenheit (all released in June 2017) each contain multiple tracks that feature a glockenspiel in the background. As I could not tune this instrument to 432 hz, I ended up tuning everything else to the standard 440 ("concert pitch") to match it. Even though the glockenspiel is not in all of the songs, for the sake of continuity, every instrument on these albums is tuned as if it was. 

Conversely, on my three more recent albums: Better Days (2019), Embers (2021), and Petrichor (2021), everything is tuned to A=432 hz. This rendered the pitch correction in GarageBand virtually useless, but I was able to figure out a workaround that I used on some of the backing vocal tracks. Whenever I perform live, even though I often play tracks from my first three albums, my instruments are always in scientific tuning.


There is a lot of debate about whether or not -8 hz really makes a difference. Personally, I think that it's subtle, but to my ear, it does sound better than concert tuning. As a one-man-band, since I don't have to worry about making sure that my bandmates are all in tune with me, I just do what sounds good to me. That more or less describes my general approach to songwriting as well. 


Saturday, August 28, 2021

B-Side Myself

The other day, I went to practice a song of mine that I had not played in a while, and I had to stop for a minute to remember how to form one of the chords in the chorus. In my own defense, it happens to be a chord that I have never used in any context outside of this particular song. For all intents and purposes, I invented the damn thing. Still, this was enough to make me think that maybe it was time to write some of this stuff out, if only so that this doesn't happen again. 

To that end, yesterday, I went through and added a bunch of handwritten notes to my songbook, which comprises about seventeen thousand words in sixty-four songs (not counting the one instrumental track). Remembering how to play all of them without forgetting any of the words or music can be a bit of a challenge, but I also think that it's a good exercise in terms of keeping my brain ninja sharp. 

I wrote, recorded and produced Embers and Petrichor (both 2021) during the pandemic and have never played any of these songs before a live audience. I do practice them, of course, but often, when I am rehearsing, there are only about twenty or so songs that regularly find their way onto my setlists. Basically, I have certain songs that I tend to go back to every other day, whereas the remaining 2/3 of my catalog gets left out by virtue of the fact that I cannot practice for six hours every day. My fingertips and vocal cords would likely not allow it, plus I have other things to do. 

Today, I would like to share with you some of those songs that I tend to forget about. I don't mean to imply that they are bad or anything, just that they rarely find their way onto my setlists, whether I am rehearsing or performing. These are actually some of my favorite songs that I have written, even if I don't play them nearly as much as some of the others. They were also the songs that tripped me up a little when I was going through my full catalog of music yesterday, precisely because I don't practice them as often. Many required that I scribble some additional notes in my songbook.

By notes, I mean descriptions and diagrams of how to play the chords and riffs. I am self-taught. As such, my ability to read and write musical notation is pretty horrible, and my limited knowledge of music theory often functions more as an afterthought. It takes me a minute to figure out what key a song that I wrote is in, because when I wrote it, I wasn't thinking about that. In fact, I wasn't really thinking at all. I was just playing music. 

Three of today's songs happen to be the closing tracks on their respective albums.

First, we have Life/Time, from my 2017 album Good Night Fahrenheit. It's about how sometimes things only make sense years later in retrospect. This is the one with the strange chord that I have only ever played in this song, which I had written down as "Weird D." I have since drawn a picture of the fingering for my own reference. 


    It takes a lifetime to get it right
    And only sometimes do we find out why
    It takes a lifetime, takes a lifetime...

The next song that I would like to share with you today comes from my 2021 album Embers. This one really isn't all that complicated, although it does have some unusual chords whose names I do not know. It's called Mixtape, and it's about expressing yourself through someone else's art. The bassline comes to you by way of a Telecaster that I ran through an octave pedal, as I found that I can play it much faster that way. 

 

    I made a mixtape on my radio
    It can be your soundtrack wherever you go
    I hope these songs will remind you of me
    The good times we've had and those yet to be
    Please take this mixtape when you go...

The third song for today is called Go It Alone, from my 2019 album Better Days. This song is about companionship, and how sharing our experiences can make life's journey far more enjoyable. For whatever reason, I think that I have only played this song in front of an audience once ever. It also contains a chord that is unique to this song, at least as far as my repertoire is concerned. I have no idea what this one is called either, but I drew myself a decent diagram.


    I will take you home, take you home
    So you don't have to go it alone
    I will take you where you want to go
    So we don't have to go it alone...

Finally, I would like to share with you the closing track from Petrichor (2021), called Wasted. This song is about addiction, and the lives that it leaves in ruin. It's one of those songs that is very difficult to recreate as a solo artist on acoustic guitar, as the composition is built upon several different riffs working together (which may be the influence of The Cure shining through). In other words, to play this one live, I almost need a band of supporting musicians to help with the instrumentation. I may indeed pursue such a thing at some point, but at the moment, pretty much the only way to hear any of these songs is by listening to the self-produced studio version. This might be my favorite ending to a song/album that I have produced. 


    It's not what you anticipated
    I know it's always complicated
    But everyone would be so devastated
    Another day, another night, another life is wasted...

Thanks for listening to my music and checking out my blog. If you like what I'm doing, please share it. As always, thank you for supporting independent art. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Friday is My Day

[Happy Friday. Here are a couple more reposted articles. Enjoy.]

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When I was a graduate student, the only way that I could make sure that I got everything done was to compartmentalize my time. Monday through Thursday, on two of those days, I taught during the day, and on the other two, I was in a graduate seminar, just as I was for one or two evenings every week during the school year. For about seven years, this was more or less my life.

Throughout both my MA and PhD program, I had to read a book per week for just about every one of my classes. This wasn't usually fun reading, either. It was dense academic prose, where I had to translate everything into common parlance, writing in the margins of the book with a mechanical pencil just to make sense of it. You might be amazed at how much can be reduced to three or four words on the side the page and still make the same exact point.

As you may have gathered, most days of the week, I was pretty busy. In addition to the reading, almost every one of these courses required that I write two thirty-page papers each, which involved research, outlining, thinking through, revising, etc. They also had to be good. One time, my computer died about a week before one of these papers was due, and that one week probably aged me by a year or two. I have since learned to back up my work on a regular basis.  

I kept Saturdays and Sundays reserved for writing lesson plans and grading papers. Not all day, necessarily, but at least part of it. Sometimes, I also had some reading to catch up on, more words to scribble in the margins. I was paying for this education, so I wasn't going to not read the books. Six days a week, whenever the house was reasonably quiet, I was either reading or writing. That left me with Fridays. 

Every major religion has a day of rest, so I figured that even grad students deserve that. Friday was my recharge day, which I did by playing music. See? You were thinking that I was accidentally posting this to the wrong blog, didn't you? Nope. It's about music, after all. 

As referenced in another autobiographical article that I recently reposted, it was on these Fridays that I wrote music with a friend and jammed with him on the porch or in the dining room. After he moved to California, I continued the tradition, and pretty soon, these were my songwriting days. I'd throw riffs together that I had come up with years apart and on opposite sides of the planet, and I would craft them into songs, one at a time. Plus I kept coming up with more. Once I got into it, it became a lot of fun.  

A musician has to practice, so I figured that I might as well practice songs that I wrote. Before I knew it, I had a shitload of songs. I'm not sure what that converts to in metric.

My Friday tradition led to the creation of all three of the albums that I released in 2017:


Over the course of about two years, I wrote thirty-three songs (plus a couple of throwaways that may resurface someday). I also wrote a dissertation, which later became a book... and they say that if you play my music backwards, you can even hear me typing. 

I recognize that a lot of these songs could probably be re-done by other artists and sound a hell of a lot better, but I was just learning how to make an album as I went along. I still do, in fact. Either way, prior to my Friday sessions, these songs did not exist, and one is infinitely more than zero. Always remember that.

Thanks for listening. Happy Friday. Enjoy it. It's yours. 


Break Up/Break Down

Once again, today's songs that I would like to share with you are united by a common theme. It seems like just about every songwriter has a repertoire of break-up songs. Here are a few of mine.

The first one is called Petals in the Grass. It comes from my latest album, Petrichor (2021). The chorus goes like this:

    All these petals in the grass
    Can't answer the question that I asked
    Does she love me? Does she love me not?
    If she doesn't love me, then what else have I got?
    It used to be a daisy, I'm going crazy
    Somebody save me before I stop




Next, we have The Fool, from my 2017 album Good Night, Fahrenheit

    I was a fool for you
    And everything you do
    You had me under your spell
    And I couldn't tell heaven from hell(o)




And here is Goodbye, from Mechanical Bull, which I also released in 2017:

    Everything looks different
    From behind closed eyes
    There is no innocence 
    In a lie that's in your mind
    So goodbye...




That is all for now. Thanks for listening. 


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

4-60 AC

A friend of mine with an old car once told me that it had 4-60 AC. When I asked what that meant, he said that if he drove 60 mph with all four windows down, then this was the closest that his car had to actual functioning air conditioning. Hence 4-60 AC.

Not to be confused with blinker fluid, which needs to be changed every five years or fifty thousand miles, whichever comes first. 

Today's songs that I would like to share with you are both good for playing loudly with the windows down. I have tested this myself and can confirm. That said, I should also note that the first of these songs made me inadvertently drive faster when I turned it up. 

This was one of (if not the) first songs that I wrote when I picked up solo songwriting again about five and a half years ago. It's still one of my favorite songs to play. It's called Gravel Roads, from my 2017 album Weather Patterns. It's about the unexpected places that life takes us and the winding, often bumpy roads that take us there. [In reference to the article above, this song also features a progression that was born in Micronesia.]


The chorus goes like this:

    Where do we go from here?
    It could be anywhere
    We don't know where we're going
    Until we get there

The other of today's songs comes from Petrichor, the album that I released in June. It's called Dandelion Wine (If Only...). Ever since a couple months ago when I wrote it, it has become one of my favorite songs that I have written. Crank it up with your windows down and see if you agree.


If you want to sing along with the chorus, it goes like this:

    Planted like a wallflower
    Sipping dandelion wine
    Daydreaming about tomorrow
    When everything is fine
    If only...
    If only in my mind

As a bonus track, I'll share one more for today. This song is also from Weather Patterns. It's called Meand'er (and here is a live unplugged video of it). This one actually is about going for a drive with the windows down, so it made sense to include it here, even though it is the only of sixty-five songs that I have released over the past four years that does not have a drum track. As such, it may not rock quite as much as the other two. In other words, you might have to roll your windows up.

Thanks for listening. If you like what I'm doing, please share it with others.

Also, there's no such thing as blinker fluid.



Friday, August 20, 2021

Embers Aglow

Happy Friday to my fans, listeners, and random stumblers upon this site. Welcome to the thing that I do when I'm not doing other stuff. 

Today's songs that I would like to share with you all come from Embers, which I released in January of this year. While Original Miles remains by far my most streamed song on Spotify, these are some other tracks from this album that you might also like:

Mixtape. This song is about the delicate art of making a mixtape.


Tunnel Vision (Out of Habit) This song is about why it is important to get news from multiple sources.


Going Nowhere. This song is about growing up in a small town.


We Are All That We Need. This song is about companionship.


Thanks for listening. Be sure to exercise your mind, body and soul, today and every day. If available where you live, I also recommend some fresh air and sunshine. When out in nature or anywhere else, remember that we are all just expressions of life, all of which serve an important function and are products of the same incredible universe.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Swear Jar

Today's songs that I would like to share with you come from my "casual swearing" collection, where each of these tracks was labeled explicit on Spotify and Apple Music, often because of a single swear word that I wrote into a verse for emphasis. This might be the only context in which my music could be categorized with the work of 2 Live Crew.

It's called artistic license, damn it. Yeah, that's right. I said damn. Take that, the man. 

These songs also all happen to come from my 2017 album Good Night, Fahrenheit. I won't include embedded links to the lyrics of each song this time. I'll let you see if you can find the naughty words all by yourself. I guess the main thing is to not let them corrupt you. 

The first track is called Life Preserver.  It is about always wanting to save the people you love. I've said this before, but this is probably my best example of "dad rock," and I think that this opinion is supported by both the rockin' guitar solo and by my purposeful wielding of the F-bomb in the last verse.

Track number two is called Carry On. It's about getting through it, whatever it may be. 

The third track that I am sharing with you today is called Modern Inconveniences. It's about bullshit; I'll let you unpack it from there. In addition to spotting the only swear word in this song (but not this article), you get a bonus point if you can find the allusion to the work of French philospher Guy Debord.

As a bonus track (with bonus cuss words), here's a song called Begin. It's the last track on Weather Patterns, which I also released in 2017. I often like to close sets with this song, in part because I like the idea of ending with a song called Begin, but also because the last line gives the audience something to chew on as I exit the stage.

Enjoy the music. Share it with your friends and add it your playlists if you dig what I'm doing. As always, thank you for supporting independent art. 

 
 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure

Happy Friday, everyone. I've been doing exhausting physical labor in the sun for much of the day, so I'll keep this brief. In fact, I was actually thinking that you should just scroll down toward the bottom of the page, where you'll find links to all of my previous posts. I've written 170 of them. This makes 171. There's bound to be something interesting in there. 

I have other blogs as well. The links to a few of them are in the left column near the top of the page. Thanks for reading my work and listening to my music. You are the reason I do it. Well, that and my innate compulsion to create.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Taking the Lead

When I first record a song, I sometimes leave room in there for a lead guitar part. However, by the time the song is done, I have usually cut that part completely. More often than not, after listening to a song repeatedly during the mixing process, the lead part starts to seem a bit gratuitous. Here are three songs where that was not the case, so I left it in.

First, we have Life Preserver, from my 2017 album Good Night, Fahrenheit. This is probably my favorite lead part in any of my songs. I remember that it took three takes before I had one that I liked, and that was the one that I stuck with. This song is about wanting to save the people we love. If this isn't "dad rock," then I don't know what is. (About two minutes in is where I tear shit up.)


Next, we have Parallel Lines, from Embers, which I released in January of this year. This is one of those songs that started as a banjo riff, and then I added other layers to it until it became a song. It's about sharing the experiences that comprise a life. (The lead guitar part comes a little over two and a half minutes in.) 


Finally, here is Plastic Flowers, from Petrichor, which I just released in June of this year. This song is about reimagining the American Dream to adapt to a changing cultural context, just like we always have. In fact, this is exactly what makes it so resilient. (The lead part comes in just past the three minute mark.)


Thank you for listening and for supporting independent art.