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, 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. 



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

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. 


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.

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. 



Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Philosopher's Rock

Today's songs that I would like to share with you are all about big picture kind of stuff. Think of it as philosophy with rhyming words and musical accompaniment. As you can see, that PhD of mine is paying for itself already. 

These songs were all among the first that I recorded when I started producing my own music about four and a half years ago. As such, the learning curve in my work may be rather apparent. I've had to figure a lot of this stuff out as I go, so I tend to think that my newer albums, like Embers and Petrichor (both released this year) have significantly better production value than the songs that I am sharing with you today. Nonetheless, I hope you will agree that the songs themselves are good, as are the ideas behind them. 

The first of today's songs is called Particle, from my 2017 album Weather Patterns. This song is about contextualizing our place in a very big universe. It is inspired by looking at the nighttime sky with the understanding that just about any one of those stars could host a planet on which some intelligent being is looking up at their own sky and feeling all alone in the unfathomable emptiness of space.   


    When I look up at the stars
    So far away
    God, I feel so small
    Who am I, anyway?
    Just a particle of light
    In the sky tonight
    Is that a shooting star
    Or a satellite?

The second song that I would like to share with you today is called Cold Blooded, from Good Night, Fahrenheit, which I also released in 2017. This song is about how human beings are fundamentally social animals, and that sustained connection and regular interaction with one another are basic human needs. It's up to us to keep each other warm.


    We are cold blooded
    Holding onto each other
    We are cold blooded...

Track three of today's selections is called Still Life, which also comes from Weather Patterns. This song is about recognizing how big and diverse the world actually is. Even our own little planet is so large that a person could never possibly see it all, so perhaps the best we can do is to share our experiences with one another through artistic expression.   


    We're just living in a still life
    We waste away our days and dream away our nights
    There's got to be something better than this
    But what we've never seen, we can never miss

Thanks for listening. I hope that every decision that you make today comes not from your ego, but from a place of love, as our choices are the closest thing we have to any real sense of control over our destinies. Beyond that, we are little more than reactive particles floating around in an incomprehensibly vast universe.


Friday, August 6, 2021

Invisible Audience

Happy Friday to my fans, listeners and people who have never heard of me but somehow landed upon this site. Welcome to what I do. I hope you dig it. 

Today's songs that I would like to share with you are all tracks that I practice regularly but have never performed live. They all come from the two albums that I released in the first half of this year, both of which I wrote during quarantine. For what it's worth, I also wrote a novel in that period, which I am presently revising. 

Welcome Back, Jack Kerouac comes from Embers, released in January. It's about the role of improvisation and experimentation in art. Fitting with this theme, I wrote the lyrics in a stream-of-consciousness and recorded the lead guitar track in one take. The entire process of writing and recording this song took about a half hour... which is fast, even for me. In all honesty, I didn't really like this song when I first wrote it (probably because I scribed it so quickly), but it has since grown on me considerably. 


    Where have you been?
    Were you on the road again?
    Say hello to Carlo, Moriarty and Old Bull Lee
    We're still looking for the beat

Next, from Petrichor, which I released in June, we have Dandelion Wine (If Only...). This might be my favorite song of mine at the moment, which changes fairly often as certain songs work their way in and out of my regular rotation. This song is fun to play on both guitar and piano. I'm kind of proud of the rhyme scheme in this one, too. It's about making the most of what you have, which more or less describes my entire creative process when it comes to making music (and movies, for that matter).


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

Here's another one from Embers. To date, Original Miles is by far my most played song on Spotify, with over 50,000 streams and counting. This one is also fun to play on both piano and guitar, although the DIY-studio version is pretty much all electric piano and upright bass (which was also played on a keyboard for this one), with no guitar whatsoever. This song is about loving each other despite our inevitable imperfections.   


    These are all original miles
    Some city, mostly highway
    You could even say
    I've been around a while

Finally, here's one more track from Petrichor. It's called Holiday. I have yet to work out a guitar arrangement for this song, but if I'm sitting down at a piano, then there's a pretty good chance that I'll play this one at some point or another. The chorus is particularly fun. It's basically about going stir crazy, which, after over a year of quarantine, is probably something that a lot of people can relate to. I also happen to like the way that the drums turned out in this song.  


    Let's take a holiday
    Pack your bags, we'll leave today
    Don't know how long we'll stay
    But I've got to get away, got to get away, get away
    Got to get away, got to get away, get away now!

That is all for now. Thanks for listening and for checking out my blog. You rock.  

If you like my music, please share it, add it to your playlists, and follow me wherever you listen. This is how my songs find their way onto automatically generated playlists and online radio stations.  As a one-man-band, I need and appreciate your help in reaching a broader audience. 

Thank you for supporting art that is not corporately sponsored.  

Thursday, July 29, 2021

A La Mode

I've been polishing the novel that I wrote last year. I'm happy to say that it holds up. It had been a while since I had even looked at it, but I think that time has granted me the benefit of at least some objectivity. 

My novel is a snapshot of a nation in a moment of crisis. It's called Pulse--available someday from booksellers worldwide.

Over the past few days, I have been able to trim quite a few adverbs, adjectives and clauses, while also sprinkling in some more jokes here and there. Objectively speaking, I rather like it. At the rate I'm going, I should have a new draft in another week or two. 

If I can't find a publisher for my book, I might just publish it myself, which would kind of fit with just about everything else that I do. On the other hand, I do want it to reach as many people as possible. 

As always, thank you for supporting independent art. If you like what I'm doing, please share it. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Keep It Simple

Today's songs that I would like to share with you are all linked by a common theme. Click on the song names below to listen to them on Spotify, or click on the embedded links to play them on YouTube. The album titles will take you to Apple Music, while the lyric excerpts will take you to that song's lyric page. If you use a different streaming service, you should be able to find these songs on there as well. 

This first one is the opening track on my 2017 album Good Night, Fahrenheit. It is basically about how we have a tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be. It's called Simple.



Song number two of today's selections is the closing track on one of the two full-length albums that I released in the first half of 2021. The album is called Embers, and the song is We Are All That We Need. It, too, is a reminder that the quest for happiness need not be overly complicated. In fact, sometimes all we really need is one other person with whom to share the experiences that make up a life. 

    Like the water we drink 
    And the air that we breathe
    I do believe
    We are all that
    We are all that 


The last song for today comes from my 2017 album Weather Patterns. It is the only one of the sixty-five songs that I have recorded in the past four and a half years that does not contain a drum track. The song is called Meand'er, and it's about the simple pleasure of going for a drive with someone you love, where the journey and the companionship are far more important than the destination.  


    Me and her meandering

Thanks for listening to my music and checking out my blog. If you like what I'm doing, please share it with others. 


Thursday, July 15, 2021

In Memory of My Father

One year ago today, my dad died unexpectedly. With that in mind, I would like to dedicate all of today's songs to his memory. (Click on the song titles to take you to Spotify, or click on the album titles to take you to Apple Music; the embedded links go to YouTube, while lyric excerpts will take you to that song's lyric page. Please note that if you use a different streaming service, you should be able to find these songs on there as well.)

The first one comes from my latest album, Petrichor (2021). Haunted is about the memories left behind when a person is gone. More specifically, it's about going to the house that I grew up in, where there are all of these things that my dad built, even though he's no longer there. "This old house is feeling haunted... by the ghosts of memory."




The second song is called Original Miles, from Embers (2021), which is the album that I released in January. I'm pretty sure that my dad would have liked this song, if only because it seems like the kind of thing that could play between the segments on the NPR show Car Talk. It's about how people are like used cars in that you almost have to expect some imperfections... and that new car scent air freshener isn't really fooling anybody. "These are all original miles... some city, mostly highway."




The third song comes from Good Night, Fahrenheit (2017), which obviously, I wrote before my dad died, but I think that it works almost eerily well. It's called Don't Forget Who You Are. This song is about how the people who helped us become who we are are always with us, along with all of the things that we wished we could tell them but can't. "Don't forget who you are... is unforgettable to me."




Finally, here's a song called Carry On, which also comes from my album Good Night, Fahrenheit. It's about getting through it, whatever it happens to be. This past year has been pretty terrible for a lot of us, but I try to maintain a certain degree of optimism for the future. "Make love, make believe, and carry on..."




Thanks for listening to my music and checking out my blog. Life is precious, whether your own or someone else's, so try not to ever take it for granted. I hope you'll love the people you're with, including yourself. The party wouldn't be the same without you.


Monday, July 12, 2021

Brain Food

Here are some articles that I wrote earlier this year that have since been buried by my verbosity:

    How to Write a Song in Ten Steps

    DIY

    Punk Rocker Tricks

As always, thank you for supporting independent art.


Saturday, July 10, 2021

Under the Infuences

I just watched a documentary about Oasis and the making of their album (What's the Story) Morning Glory, which, by the way, absolutely holds up. It is a great album, apparently recorded in ten days, during which Noel Gallagher also wrote about half of the songs. 

I happen to think that he is one of the best songwriters of the past thirty years. As such, it was kind of funny to hear him talk about how most of his songs are directly inspired by the works of other artists. 

Of course, I tend to think that this is what a great artist does. They take the familiar and make it their own. Noel Gallagher took a handful of chords and forged them into masterpieces. Truly. Whether you like him or not, the guy knows how to craft a song.

I'm sure that this isn't a popular opinion, but while I can name five or six great Beatles songs (and my parents played them all the time when I was a kid, so I am perhaps overly familiar with their work), I could easily come up with a dozen Oasis songs that are just as good as any of them. 

Yellow Submarine? Give me a break. I Want to Hold Your Hand? The main contribution of the Beatles to the genealogy of popular music was that they appropriated black music and watered it down for white suburbanites in the 1960s. This was back when they had matching haircuts and were playing with their instruments way up on their chests. 

Later on, their more experimental stuff was directly inspired by Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, who once melted a bunch of quaaludes on his head under the stage lights and then went on to play the same note for pretty much the rest of the set. Not long after that, David Gilmour officially replaced him as the lead singer/guitarist, which steadily changed the direction of the band, as he brought his own influences into the mix.

I mean no disrespect to the Beatles, as they too did what great artists do. For that matter, Pink Floyd even gets its name from two blues musicians who inspired Syd Barrett. As artists, they all offered their own distinct contributions to an ongoing conversation about what it means to be human. This is why arts are sometimes referred to as the humanities (and why they're so important to civilization).

In my opinion, the one thing that we each have that is ours and ours alone is the perspective through which we see the world. An artist shows us what we thought we already knew, but from a perspective that is unfamiliar. Otherwise it is a cliche, and we can all do better than that. Everyone has a unique perspective, and therefore everyone has it in them to be an artist. They just need to master a skill through which to properly express it. 

When people who have never heard my music ask me what it sounds like, I never know what to say. Every once in a while, somebody will point out that a song of mine sounds like it could have been written by some other band that we both know, at which point I can sometimes hear it, at least a little bit. 

For example, I've been told that Be Civilized could just as easily be a Pearl Jam song, or that the Weezer influence comes through pretty clearly in Make Some Noise! (Summer of '99), the title of which is a deliberate reference to a Bryan Adams song, or that my quiet/loud/quiet dynamic that I've got in a lot of my songs is a nod to the Pixies.

I don't dispute any of this. I'm sure that a person could go through all of my songs and link them up with artists that may have inspired each track. Then maybe I'd know what to tell people when they ask me who I sound like. I'm sure there's some Oasis in there, too.

To quote Noel Gallagher, "Well, there are only twelve notes, aren't there?"


Friday, July 9, 2021

Cabinet Fever

Here is a bonus morsel of life advice on this Friday evening: Don't ever walk away from a bread mixer on the counter that is set to high speed. As an extra bonus fun fact: that is where the name of my album Mechanical Bull came from. True story.

I was in the adjacent room, trying to think of an album title, when our bread mixer rocked itself off the counter like a mechanical bull that wasn't bolted down. While we did lose a kitchen appliance that day, at least I got an album title out of it, so it wasn't a complete loss. Incidentally, the album also kind of rocks, but it's far less likely to leap from your countertop when your back is turned.

With those final, self-destructive actions of our stand mixer, I may have perceived some bullshittery in the fact that this thing wasn't weighted properly to not jump all over the place--as in mechanical bull(shit). Yes, I like to put layers of meaning into things, even if it's just an inside joke to myself--or in this case, two. There are other layers to it as well. Even my dissertation/first book (the paperback version of which happens to be on sale now) contains some scarcely hidden jokes.

I mention this in part because I am presently making dough for calzones. It's kind of the same idea, in that once that dough starts getting slap happy, look out. It's set to medium speed right now, and I'm listening very closely with my left ear. Earlier, when I was doing the responsible thing and standing over it (i.e. following said life advice, as mentioned prior), I realized that kitchen cabinets make excellent hand drums. 

While the words "What the fuck?" were no doubt muttered by at least one of our neighbors, I was rocking out along with the tempo of the mixer, slapping my hands on particleboard cabinets... and I realized that it had a certain kind of sound that I wished I could get out of my cajones. (By that, I mean the two box drums that I built, obviously.) 

So next time you're in your kitchen, ideally with three or four other people who can keep a steady beat, you should give it a try. It's kind of like a drum circle, but without having to invite a bunch of hippies into your kitchen. I only say that because you know that there's at least one person in there who's going to throw it all off. Besides, you don't want your whole kitchen smelling like patchouli oil, not unless you want everything that you make in there to taste a little bit like naugahyde. 

(Incidentally, I have been waiting years for an occasion to use the word naugahyde without forcing it, so I'm feeling pretty accomplished right now. For what it's worth, I also have a song for which the lyric writing process began with me challenging myself to rhyme with the word schadenfreude. Once I had it, I built the rest of the song around that.)


50,000 Original Miles

Happy Friday to all of my listeners, fans, and random stumblers upon this site. Welcome to what I do. 

Today's tracks that I would like to share with you are both good end-of-the-week songs. 

The first comes from my latest album, Petrichor. It is called The Regular. It's a bar song. I conceptualized it as blaring out of a jukebox in a crowded pub, so feel free to turn it up.

The second comes from Embers, which is the album that I released in January. It's called Original Miles, and it's about how people are kind of like used cars. 

As of today, it just crossed the threshold of 50,000 streams on Spotify. That amazes me. 

Thank you to everyone who listens to and shares my music. I couldn't do this without you.


Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Barefoot Setlist

Before the pandemic, I typically performed about once a month, give or take, except when it was below 20°F. That is my unofficial cut-off temperature for riding my bike. Outside of that, unless it's pouring out or I'm getting groceries or something, I try not to drive anywhere that is less than three miles away. 

I am a man of principle, and these are some of the principles to which I abide. I also have not eaten at a McDonalds in over twenty years (excluding one in Ukraine about ten years ago, which was not by choice), nor have I ever owned a smart phone.

Incidentally, when we went to Ukraine, I was on the steps of Odessa with both a stroller and a video camera, and I did not recreate the famous scene from the Eisenstein movie that everybody has to watch in film school. This ranks among my only regrets in life.

Regarding performances, when I did play out, it was usually on a Wednesday, as that was when a local pub hosted an open mic night. On such occasions, I usually did a half hour set, which works out to roughly seven songs.

Minus the audience (and shoes), these are the songs that I practiced in my sunroom this evening. I played the first four on my semi-hollowbody guitar through a battery-powered amp that clips onto my belt, and then I played the other three on piano.  




    Rat Race

    Haunted


    Still Life (This one links to an unplugged version of it that I recorded a few years ago.)

Put these songs on a playlist on your streaming service of choice, and it will almost be like you were right there in my sunroom with me. You know, except for the part where I dropped my pick or the other part where I had to tune my guitar. Oh, and the recorded songs all have other instruments.

Other than that, it's pretty much the exact same thing. 

I might play an encore in a little bit on acoustic guitar. It's raining and the air is rich with the smell of petrichor (which happens to be the name of my latest album).

I hope to get back to playing actual live shows at some point, too. I kind of miss the sweet validation of applause. As a writer, a scholar, a parent, and a teacher, instant gratification can be rather hard to come by, which also no doubt factors into why I like to cook

Thank you for listening to my music and checking out my blog. If you like what I'm doing, please share it. 

Music is love. Love is music.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy Indie-pendence Day

I know. There's only one "I" in independence, which makes sense.

But what better way to celebrate our nation's independence than with some truly independent music that was created with zero corporate influence?  (For your added enjoyment and elucidation, the embedded links in this paragraph all go to articles that I wrote about four years ago.)

This is about as indie as you can get. No joke. (This one links to a video of me in my second ever attempt at stand-up comedy. It's not terrible.) 

Here are two songs from prior albums, both of which are meant to be played loudly. 

The first is called Be Civilized, from my 2019 album Better Days. This song is a friendly reminder that we're all in this together (so don't be a jerk). 




The other is called Modern Inconveniences, from my 2017 album Good Night, Fahrenheit. It is my only song to feature an allusion to the seminal work of a twentieth century French philosopher. You get five bonus points if you can spot it, which unfortunately does nothing to pay off your student loans. (Sorry. It's a shitty system.)




(I am acutely aware that this blog post has more parentheses than a compilation album of hair rock ballads from the 1980s.)

Thank you for celebrating independent rock.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Album Covers

In case you've ever wondered what the cover images are on each of my albums, here you go, coming to you directly from an inside source:



Petrichor (2021) - the inside of Jamie's pocket. This was an accidental photo that I digitally manipulated in an attempt to make it look like an abstract oil painting. Personally, I rather like it, plus it seemed to fit the vibe of the album. That's more or less my criteria when designing cover art. 


Embers (2021) - the image was taken by NASA, as I do not own a high-powered orbital telescope. I cropped it and adjusted the colors, thereby offering my artistic interpretation of the image. It's a nebula, which is kind of like embers in space. It denotes both a tumultuous ending and a beautiful beginning. 

You may have noticed that this is my only album that does not have my name or the title on the cover. This is because I am not so full of myself as to project these words upon a starlit sky. Not once have I ever looked up at the vast depths of space and said, "You know what this needs? My name in letters that extend for light years."


Better Days (2019) - the back of my son's head at the Chicago Art Institute. Jamie took this photo (on purpose). For a while, we both took credit, but I eventually conceded, as I think it just looked like a picture that I wished I had taken, and we shared a camera at the time. 

I've always thought that it looked like an album cover, even well before I was producing my own music. I love the composition and color balance. It's like if U2's Boy was made by the Beastie Boys.


Good Night, Fahrenheit (2017) - a sunrise in Micronesia, as seen from the top of a very steep hill. I know, based on the album title, you probably expected it to be a sunset. You can still pretend. That's what I do. 


Mechanical Bull (2017) - a ferris wheel at a fully operational amusement park in the Republic of Moldova. I did not ride it, but I found it to be aesthetically interesting, like stepping back in time to whenever this thing was most recently inspected by the proper authorities. I'm guessing 1982-ish.


Weather Patterns (2017) - the view from the ground looking up, witnessing a garden hose spray water over me and beneath a couple of trees. Now that I say that, it's probably obvious, but I'd be curious how many people would have guessed it.

...............................................................................

Part of the fun in being 100% responsible for an album is getting to design the cover art. Of course, I also play every instrument and wrote every track, each of which I also recorded and produced myself in the open room of our house that doubles as an office space and triples as a media room. As far as I'm concerned, that's about as indie and underground as a musician can get. Frankly, it's kind of amazing that you've even heard of me. Good for you. You probably didn't even know that you were that hip.

Please keep in mind that as a one-man-band, I am also a one-man publicity and marketing team (who rarely uses social media, choosing instead to communicate with listeners by way of this blog). I very much need your help in reaching a broader audience. To that end, please share my songs with anyone you know who is roughly as cool as you are and ask them to do the same. This is how it spreads, and I cannot do it without you.