Monday, May 31, 2021

Slow and Steady

The new album is steadily coming together. 




You can hear what I hope are final mixes of all eleven new songs at my ReverbNation page, or at the links below:


Thanks for listening.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Conduction

I've been thinking about happiness. What does it mean? How do we achieve it? Can we recognize it when we have it? Here's what I've come up with:

Happiness, to a certain degree, is rooted in purpose. We all like to feel like we are a part of something bigger, as it lends a reason to our existence. No matter who you are, we will all live, die and be forgotten... but this thing that you were a part of might live on much longer. It is our only counter to the mortality that plagues us all. 

I think that on some level, we all want the world to be better off because we were in it, which, of course, can mean a lot of things to different people. That said, I think that one constant in terms of finding happiness simply involves wanting to share whatever happiness you do have. From there, it compounds exponentially. If everyone did that, think about how much better everything would be. If we all shared our happiness, there would be more than enough to go around. 

I think that it all comes down to contributing some kind of positive energy to the world. Energy, of course, can neither be created nor destroyed. Rather, it merely flows through us. When making art, we connect with something intangible. Through dedication to our respective crafts, we try to fashion ourselves into the ideal instruments for capturing this energy and expressing it to others. We do what we can, but it takes practice, and whoever said that practice makes perfect lied. Practice makes better, but no matter what, there is always better. 

Music gives me happiness. When I play an instrument and sing a song, I experience joy. Not always, mind you, but more often than not, I do find the act of playing music to be rather meditative (plus it sometimes has the bonus of feeling a bit like exercise). When I focus only on expressing this positive energy that I am fortunate enough to connect with, I experience a zen-like state. Through this, I find happiness. 

Taking this one step further, when I am able to share this energy with anyone who is willing to listen, I feel like I am contributing something to the world that is bigger than me. I am sharing this energy, which offers another kind of happiness in itself. I believe that it is rooted in one of the most primal instincts that drives us all: the desire to procreate, which, in turn, can lend a person a deeper sense of purpose. 

I speak from my own experience, and I do not mean to suggest that I am always happy--but when people all around the world are listening to these songs that I wrote in my sunroom, it makes me smile. The joy that I experience in playing the music and writing these songs is multiplied by every listener. 

When I create something that surprises me, it feels like I am receiving a gift from the universe, and I see no greater purpose than to share this gift with others. I aim to be a conductor of one, a tiny lightning rod adrift in the Milky Way. 

I believe that the best we can do is to make the world better because we're in it. I also believe that everyone has something positive to contribute, even if you don't know what it is yet or haven't quite got the skill to express it properly. Be patient. Be dedicated to your craft. Understand that there is always more to learn.

Happy Friday. I mean that. Think about what you could do that would make somebody else happy and do that thing. Write a song. Bake a cake. Compliment a stranger (in a non-creepy way). Then see if it doesn't make you happier in the process. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Again, Only Better

That's what you might call my mantra that I recite to myself after just about every take of a recording. When it comes to directing myself, I am far more Kubrickian than I would be to anyone else. 

I've spent much of the day mixing and then doing preliminary masters of each song. This makes it a little easier to tell if the mix is right. My theory is that if it requires a lot of work in the mastering stage, then it probably means that I need to go back and mix something differently and/or re-record the track that's giving me trouble. After I export each new version, I then listen to it and take notes. Wash, rinse, repeat. It is a process. 

The mixing and mastering are somewhat overlapping at this point, but that's just kind of informing me as to what I'll need to do once I'm officially done mixing these songs. In terms of the mastering, I'll basically have to start over once I get there, but at least I'll more or less know what to do. I continue to experiment to see what works and what doesn't. This is the nature of DIY music-making.

The new album is coming together... just as soon as I can stop repeating that mantra. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Perspective

I took yesterday off from working on music so that I could get some other stuff done. My hope is that when I listen to it now, I'll at least have a little bit more objectivity to work with. If this holds true, then I might consider expanding the time that I step away for the sake of gaining even more perspective. We'll see.

On the other hand, I also don't want to lose momentum. Every once in a while, when I step away from a big project for too long, it becomes difficult to reconnect with it in exactly the same way. While I do complete a vast majority of the projects that I take on, I also have a number of screenplays that just kind of fell apart in the second act, as well as a novel that I started writing about ten years ago, which more or less did the same. (I have since learned the value of outlining and found that this helps considerably.) 

If I do it right, though, stepping away from a project for just the right amount of time in order to gain a fresh perspective really can add a whole other dimension to the work. I find that the ability to zoom out like this can also be helpful in separating one's art from one's ego. As with most things, I think that it's about finding the right balance. Sometimes that means knowing when I'm ready for a project and other times that means knowing when a project is ready for me. 

As I move forward with this new album, I will try to put each song under a microscope and fix everything that I am capable of fixing within my relatively limited means. After that, I will officially move on to mastering. In the meantime, I'm still working on finding a dayjob, which in many ways, is kind of like a job in itself. It can be rather time-consuming.

Thank you for supporting independent art. If you like what I'm doing, please share my music with your friends and add my songs to your playlists. You can also purchase them, if you feel so inclined. Presently, I have 54 songs available to stream or download wherever you get your music, and I shall be adding another 11 to that total in the very near future. 

I do it all for listeners like you (and because I love to write songs). Music is meant to be shared. If a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, DIY recording artist makes an album in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? 

Thankfully, people like you are listening.

Monday, May 24, 2021

New Versions

I posted new versions of all eleven of the new songs to my ReverbNation page. I think they're getting closer. You can find all of the links in my previous post. 

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Trail Mix

I did another mixdown of each of the tracks to be included on my forthcoming album. Once I'm happy with the mix, I'll officially move on to mastering these songs. I'm not there yet, but it is steadily coming together. 



Once again, you can hear newly mixed versions of all of the songs at my ReverbNation page, or at the links below:


Thanks for listening.

Friday, May 21, 2021

One of Those Days

Some days, I write music. Other days, I write long-winded blog posts about the challenges of making music with equipment that isn't really up to the challenge... which then digress into an inquiry into the social value of art. 

Thanks for listening to my music and reading my blog(s). Above all else, you are the reason that I do it. 

Simplex

I was about fourteen or so when I wrote and recorded my first song. To be perfectly honest, I don't even remember what instrument I played it on, as this was before I even owned a guitar. The thing that I recall the most vividly was the process through which I recorded it. 

It must have been a very simple riff, because I really knew nothing about guitar at the time. I recall the instrument as having nylon strings. What would take me about ten minutes today took an entire day back then. Of course, I was recording on what was known as a "simplex" sound card that my brother and I installed on the computer that my parents owned. An IBM PS/2, it boasted an incredible 1 MB of RAM and a 20 MB internal hard drive, with a scorching 286 processor. Whereas pretty much all sound cards from the mid-1990s on were referred to as "full duplex," which meant that they could both play and record at the same time, this computer could only do one or the other. I think that this was around 1991. 




I recorded a simple guitar melody that probably consisted of no more than four or five notes in a loop. I was pretty proud of myself, but I wanted to do more with it. We had some program that came with the sound card that we installed, which allowed me to record multiple tracks, even though I couldn't actually hear them while I was recording. This presented somewhat of a dilemma, as well as a challenge. I find that these things commonly overlap. 

While recording, I kept time with my left foot. I did so many takes of that second track that my ankle was probably sore by the end of it. Eventually I got it right, where the notes were all lining up just like I wanted them to. That may have been the first time in my life that I ever saw myself as a musician of any kind, perhaps because even when I was done with it, I could still hear the music in my head. I have no idea what ever happened to that song. It probably exists on a 3 1/2 inch floppy disk in a box somewhere.

Incidentally, the second song that I ever recorded was about five years later. It resided on a Spanish cassette tape that I returned to the college bookstore along with the book that I had used the previous semester. So if there's somebody out there who was ever part way into the audio portion of chapter three, personal pronouns, sorry. I hope you liked my song. I didn't think that I would have to return the tape along with the book, and at the time that I needed it, it was the only cassette that I could find. 

I mention all of this because my current recording process has been reminding a lot of that first song that I ever recorded. 

These days, I record multiple tracks on an old version of GarageBand that came with my laptop, which is now nearly a decade old. This edition of the program has some features that they did away with in subsequent updates. Once I've got all of the basic tracks recorded and I start to add plug-ins for processing and effects, my computer just can't handle it. Disk too slow or system overload. As I get closer to the end of the process, I start to see this error message appear far too frequently. Over the past few weeks, I've seen it literally hundreds of times. No joke

My present solution is to export the mixed down GarageBand files to a stereo audio file, which I then process with a different program. Basically, I do all of the recording and mixing in GarageBand, and then I master the tracks with a program called SoundForge Pro. It also does not get along with my computer all that well, but at least it can play the songs without freezing every second or two, which, obviously, can get kind of annoying.

So in order for me to hear what still needs to be addressed in GarageBand, I need to export it to a different program, take detailed notes, and then go back to GarageBand and try to fix them without being able to play it back as I make these changes--because if I do, it just keeps freezing and giving me that error message. I just have to export it and hope that I did it right, which is why it reminds me of that first song that I ever wrote. That is to say that the trial-to-error ratio kind of sucks.

Obviously, one solution would be to invest in better equipment. I do that to a certain degree, but considering that I make approximately 1/5 of a cent every time that one of my songs plays on a streaming service, it's not like I can justify building a ten thousand dollar studio or something, even if I could afford it. When I do the math, it just doesn't add up. In order for me to make $10,000 as a musician, my songs would have to stream about five million times. So far, that has yet to happen.

Spotify is about the only one of these streaming service for which I see much in terms of metrics, and they tell me that my songs have now been played over 56,000 times. That truly amazes me. However, if you do the math, you might realize that I actually get paid considerably more as an adjunct instructor at a community college, which is really saying something. As much as I would love to have an unlimited budget when it comes to making music, I live in the real world. I have a family and other responsibilities that take priority. 

From my perspective, it seems that our culture sometimes puts value in the wrong places. How many brilliant works of art have been lost to the fact that the people who would have made them simply could not afford the luxury of creating art? Most musicians need day jobs. Most writers get paid shit. 

Allow me to digress even further for a moment. I once wrote an article for the website Cracked. I think I made fifty bucks on it, and they changed pretty much every word. In my opinion, this had the effect of rendering it considerably less funny. This was after I had submitted about twenty or so other pitches for articles, which I later published myself and then just kept going with it. In total, I had probably fifty hours into what amounted to this one article, which works out to about a dollar an hour. For my whole life, I had wanted nothing more than to get paid as a writer, and this is what I got. As you can surely imagine, it was a bit disheartening. 
 
The idea of the starving artist has become somewhat of a punchline in our society, but I don't think I get the joke (and I've even done advanced work in the study of comedy). When people look back at this time and place and wonder what it meant to be alive and what lessons they may glean from our experience, what will they see? What will they they learn from our existence?

Oh, they turned TV into movies and movies into TV, and then streaming services made the whole delineation even blurrier. Popular music? Most of it was made by rich, well-connected people and designed specifically for mass consumption. What about poetry and fine art? Can you name the top ten most popular poets and fine artists alive today? (Don't feel too bad. I can't either.)

Meanwhile, we pay athletes and coaches ridiculous salaries, but about 3/4 of college courses are taught by part-time and non-tenure track instructors. At least primary and secondary teachers tend to make more money and get benefits, but they should be more valued as well. What about social workers? School lunch attendants? Think about how much better off we would all be if we actually put value where it belonged: in the places where it stands to benefit the most people. Imagine if the level of one's income was based on how many people could potentially benefit from what they do. Instead, we have pretty much the opposite: a system that rewards greed and empty distractions.

Michael Jordan is a brilliant basketball player, arguably the best who has ever lived--but think for a moment what a strange and precise collection of genetic gifts and talents he possesses. When it comes down to it, he puts a ball through a hoop really well. Very few people would argue otherwise. But imagine if they made another Space Jam movie, and it took place ten thousand years in the future, when people have no interest in ancient sports and everyone is seven and a half feet tall. Now there's conflict.

My point is that it should be easier for artists to make a living by creating art and that it is we, the members of society-at-large, both today and in the future, who are missing out on all of the art that could have been--all because we assign value to the wrong places. I say this as someone who only vaguely knows what a Kardashian is, and who is so incredibly tired of superhero movies and other franchised garbage. It seems that we have traded the element of surprise, which is such a key component of art, for bland predictability. 

Art should show us what we think we already know in a way that proves us wrong. Often, this requires an unfamiliar perspective, which means that we should be looking for art in places other than where we are told to look by the people who have no interest in ever changing the status quo. That's my two cents, which you now know took ten streaming songs to generate.  

Happy Friday. Thanks for listening to my music and checking out my blog. You're the real rock stars, I'm just a guy who makes music and writes words (sometimes a lot of them). 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

New Guitar Tracks

I re-recorded two of the guitar tracks in Plastic Flowers. The timing was a little off, but I think that I fixed it. Basically, it was a case of recording a song immediately after I wrote it, but before I could really play it all that well. It's not done yet, but I'm hoping to be almost finished recording and mixing on this one. We'll see.

(I also fixed some issues with the drum track.) 

This song is about reimagining the American Dream to adapt to the ever-changing American Reality. You can hear the latest version of it here:

Thanks for listening.  


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Spit Shine

I posted new versions of all eleven tracks from my yet unreleased album to my ReverbNation page today. They might sound a little bass-heavy at this point, but I think they're getting closer. 

In my experience, there tends to be a lot of trial-and-error in DIY music production. Think of these as preliminary masters (so that I can figure out if the mix is right and if I need to re-record anything before I officially master the album).

Thanks for listening. Check back often. As I continue to work on the new album, I will upload the latest versions of these songs and provide the links for them here.  

If you like what I'm doing, please share it and add my songs to your playlists.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Scratch That

In my last post, I said that I was going to walk away from this album for a little while for the sake of gaining a fresh perspective, and so that I could work on some other stuff. So guess what I've been doing.

The "other stuff" mostly just involves reading, which I can do while my ridiculously slow computer processes audio files. I also reasoned that I should probably get these songs as good as it seems like I can before I walk away from them for a few days. 

I already knew of a few issues with each of the songs that needed to be addressed, so that's what I've been doing. Ideally, I am trying to finish up all mixing and re-recording before I move on to the mastering phase, which I like to think that I have almost reached.  



You can hear newly mixed versions of all of the songs at my ReverbNation page, or at the links below:


Now we'll see if I can actually walk away from this project or not. I suspect that I already know the answer. When I've got momentum on a big project, I usually like to keep going with it.

Thanks for listening. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Shifting Gears

I think that I am to a point where the best thing for me to do is to temporarily walk away from the album that I am working on for the sake of gaining a fresh perspective. I think that I'm happy with the tracklist, but the next step is the part where I listen to all of the songs and take detailed notes about what needs to be fixed. At this point, I feel like I am a little too close to the material to be objective. Besides, I've got some other, non-music stuff that I need to work on right now.

So here are a couple of songs off my most recently completed album, Embers (2021). Fun fact: part of the reason that I chose that name is because I decided in September 2020 that I was going to write, record and produce another album; then I wrote most of the songs in November and recorded them in December. (-embers, get it?) There was more behind my reasoning than that, but this is the inside joke to myself that I threw in there for good measure, as I like to do sometimes. (My dissertation/book is riddled with them--but that kind of made sense, since it's about comedy.) 

In any case, here are a few of my favorite songs off the album by that name, which I just released about four months ago. The first is called Mixtape. I came up with the riff/chord progression in the same room as where my daughter was putting together a streaming playlist. Taken together, it made me think about the art of making a proper mixtape, and the many hours that I have spent getting them just right. Shortly thereafter, this song came into existence. 

    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 next song that I would like to share with you today is the closing track on Embers. It is called We Are All That We Need. It's a simple song--just electric piano, bass, drums and vocals (and a few sound effects)--but I'm quite proud of it. Structurally, it's one of my only songs with both a prechorus and a bridge, for whatever that's worth.
    
    Like the water we drink
    And the air that we breathe
    I do believe
    We are all that
    We are all that
    We are all that we need...

Just for fun, here's one more from that same album. This is the song that I wrote about the time that the citizens of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (symbolically) declared their independence from the USSR by holding hands between their capital cities. It's called Black Ribbon Day.

    Two million people strong
    Four hundred miles long
    Of strangers holding hands

If you like what I'm doing, please share it with others who may like it as well. As a one-man-band/DIY recording artist, I am also a one-man marketing and public relations team. That is to say that I need your help in reaching a broader audience. Besides, the less time I have to spend promoting my own work, the more time that I can spend creating it.

Enjoy. Thanks for listening and for supporting independent art. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

There's Always Room for Ebow

I added some more instrumental tracks to Shadow Puppets, including one where I am playing the guitar with an Ebow. You can stream the latest version of it here:


These new songs are all still works-in-progress, but they are steadily coming together. Thanks for listening. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Song Surgery

I spent much of yesterday working on The Regular. I recorded a new bass (baritone) track. I also spent several hours re-recording and playing around with the guitar solo, only to end up scrapping it altogether. I also took out one of the choruses and about five of the backing vocal tracks, which I thought were making the lead vocals sound muddy. 

There was no reason for this song to be almost six minutes long. This took it down to a little over four. It still isn't exactly where I want it to be in terms of the mix and master, but the overall shape of the song itself feels about right now. On the other hand, it's still possible that I may end up re-recording the whole damn thing. 


Thanks for listening, and for taking an interest in the process of making music. I tend to believe that smart people learn from their mistakes, while those who are wise are also capable of learning from the mistakes of others. Unfortunately, DIY music production requires a lot of trial-and-error in order to figure out what works and what doesn't--but at least you can learn from my mistakes. 

If you are interested in this kind of stuff, I encourage you to check back often, as I will continue to post new versions of all these songs until the new album is complete. I also like to share teachable moments from the process whenever possible. 

At this point, I'm also still debating whether or not to take out the opening instrumental track (Shadow Puppets) and/or add another song that I intend to put lyrics to but have not yet done so. 

That is to say that all of this stuff is very much a work-in-progress. Stay tuned for more...

Friday, May 14, 2021

Possible Album Cover

I know that I'm getting a little ahead of myself here--considering that I haven't even finalized the tracklist for the album, let alone finish mastering any of the songs--but I was playing around with a possible album cover this afternoon:


It may very well change as I go forward with this project (the name of which may also be subject to change), but for now, I think that this works.  

The image was a blurry photo that my wife shot. She wasn't sure what it is, but we both thought that it was pretty cool, so I cropped it and played with the colors a bit until this is what it looked like. 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Demo Tape

This might be the first draft of an album. I uploaded new versions of everything to my ReverbNation page, all normalized to the same volume levels. 

I intend to keep working on all of them (as well as another song, which may or may not be included on this album), but this is what the first mix of a potential album sounds like:

11. Wasted

Tentatively, I'm calling the new album Petrichor. Thanks for listening. 

Brand New Music

I wrote and recorded the instrumental parts for this one yesterday, and then I wrote lyrics for it today. Exclusively available here, this is version number one of Wasted:


Check back often, as all of these new songs are works-in-progress to be included on my forthcoming album. (As I make new versions, I upload them to my ReverbNation page so that I can listen to them through different devices.)

Thanks for listening. 

First Draft

I cracked another song today. I'm still working on it, but I think it's coming together. 

More to come...

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

New Album is Coming Together

I've got another song that I am working on. I haven't cracked it yet, but I'll keep you posted. For what it's worth, I feel really good about this new batch of songs that I'm developing, which is steadily coaslescing into another album. Once completed, this will make my sixth self-produced full-length album of original music since 2017. Not bad, especially if you consider that making music is just one of the things that I do

Original Miles, from my recent album, Embers (2021) has been streamed on Spotify over 25,000 times now. This amazes me. 

Thanks for listening to my music and checking out my blog. I could not do what I do without you, so if you like what I'm doing, please share it with others. As always, thank you for supporting independent art.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Music So Fresh, It's Steaming

I mean that in a good way, somehow.

I re-recorded vocal tracks on a few songs today. Just for fun, I also uploaded the song that I wrote this morning. For now, it has no lyrics. We shall see what becomes of it. 

I've posted all of the new stuff to my ReverbNation page. You can figure it out from here. I'm done looking at a screen. I'm going to go play piano.

Works-in-Progress

Hello listeners, fans, and people who randomly stumbled upon this site. Welcome to what I do (among other things).  

These are the [ten] songs that I've written since March. These are all works-in-progress, but you can always listen to the latest versions of them at the embedded links below (which connects to my ReverbNation page). 

Until I officially release these songs, you can only listen to them here. They are that exclusive, so please enjoy what I've got so far. Check back often, too, as I will regularly update these songs as I continue to work on them.

 










I also have a song for which I recorded some instrumental tracks this morning, although I'm not entirely sure what to do with it at this point. It's got a cool groove, but so far, I haven't figured out a vocal melody that works. Once I crack it, I'll let you know. 

Thank you for listening and for supporting independent art.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Gently Busting Rhymes

I'd like to share some of my favorite rhymes from the songs that I'm working on. 


    "here, it meant" with "experiment"


    "like seeds in the breeze from a dandelion" with "make mead from weeds and we fly on"


    "remind you of what's familiar" with "and kind of sort of similar"

Dr Seuss and Dr Dre are pseudonyms. I actually have a PhD, but I don't refer to myself as Dr Sands. Just saying. 

No more rhymes now, I mean it. 

You know the rest.

Out to Get This Right

This afternoon, I re-recorded the vocals in Out to Get You (the song that I wrote yesterday). I also added some more guitar at the choruses. You can always hear the latest version here:


I'm sure that I'll keep working on it, but I think that this version sounds at least a little bit better than the one that I recorded yesterday. 

Also, I see that Original Miles is creeping up on 25,000 streams on Spotify. That amazes me, especially since I just released Embers back in January. 

Thanks for listening to and sharing my songs. I am honored and humbled by your continued support. You're the real rock stars. I'm just a guy who makes music.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Subtractive Editing

I didn't so much remix this song as take out an offensive vocal track where I was attempting to harmonize but landing off-key. This is the nature of experimentation, which is an integral component of art. Sometimes our experiments fail, which is how we learn.

Here is the updated version, still a work-in-progress:


I've been working on music for close to fourteen hours today. Please enjoy what I've made. If, after listening to this song, you can get the guitar riff out of your head, good for you. 

I still can't.

Those Graduate Degrees Are Finally Paying Off

I finally did it. I achieved my day-long ambition of working the word "schadenfreude" into a song -- the last word of the chorus, no less. For a few bonus points, I also rhymed "surreptitious" with "suspicious" and "popular opinion" with "secular religion." 

I'm kind of proud of myself. Did I mention that I've spent many years teaching English and Film Studies to college students? For all of them who complained about writing a 300-500 word essay, they should know that this song clocks in at 340 words, and it rhymes.

Here is version number one of Out to Get You. I wrote and recorded it today.


I've been working on this song pretty much all day. I'm sure I'll keep working on it, too, but this is what I've got so far. Like all of these new songs, it's a work-in-progress -- but that makes nine, in case you're keeping track. Two more and I'll have another album.

Enjoy. Thanks for listening. 


Friday, May 7, 2021

But Wait...

I re-recorded the vocals on the song that I wrote yesterday. Here is the latest version:


This is art in progress. Thanks for listening.

There's More

Here is the more that I promised in my last post. I revised the lyrics and re-recorded all of the vocal tracks in Petals in the Grass. You can hear the latest version here:


This song is an ekphrasis of the first 16mm film that I ever made. It was my Grant Park Project in Production I at Columbia: a silent film about a guy tearing petals off a flower -- she loves me, she loves me not, etc. -- until in the end, all that he is left with is a broken stem and a bunch of petals in the grass. 

Thanks for listening. 

Remixed the Vocals

I remixed Plastic Flowers, as the vocals were way too loud at the chorus. I think it's better now. See what you think: 


This song is about reimagining the American Dream to adapt to a changing social context (just like it always has). 

Enjoy. More to come. Stay tuned...

Dayjob

For the time being, this is my dayjob. 

I had been teaching English at a local community college, but then the pandemic hit, which turned everything upside down. I hope to get back to working a full-time job at some point in the near future, but for now, I try to make the most of being unemployed. The situation is not ideal by any means, but it does allow me a lot more time to be creative, which is a luxury that I have not always had. 

Over the past few weeks, I have been very prolific in terms of songwriting, even for me. I believe that this is largely because I have been treating it like a full-time job. That is, I get up in the morning, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, pour coffee, and sit down at my desk, where I then work for the pretty much the whole day. Yesterday, I was recording vocal tracks at 9:30 in the morning, which probably sounds stranger than it actually is. Then again, it probably did sound pretty strange to my neighbors. Today, I plan to start composing another song and do some more work on a few that I already wrote. As you may have noticed, I also usually write a blog post at some point in the day, some of which can be rather long (like this one, for example).

Back in 2015, when I started writing my dissertation, one of the most valuable pieces of wisdom that my advisor gave me was to give whatever it is that I am working on the time and dedication that it deserves. In other words, treat it like a full-time job. That was how I was able to go from idea to dissertation to published book in less than two years: I worked just about every day on it, even when I really didn't want to. This is how shit gets done. 

Of course, I also took breaks to play music, which was always a good way to recharge my mind and spirit. Personally, I find that the act of playing music can be very meditative. Plus Fridays were always my music days -- no reading, writing, or grading, just music. It gave me a reason to look forward to Fridays again. In the process, I wrote, recorded, and produced three full-length albums while I was working on my dissertation, which I released right around the same time that the book was published. This was all because I had developed an efficient strategy for being productive.  

Ever since then, I have worked to maintain this habit of writing every day, with only a few exceptions here and there. In addition to the five (soon to be six) albums that this has generated, over the past four years, I have also written four feature-length screenplays in various genres, one novel, and two children's books. Again, this is only made possible by the fact that I sit down to write every day like it's my job. I should note, too, that for most of this time, I was also working full-time hours as a teacher (while getting paid as an adjunct).

In recent weeks, I have applied this approach to songwriting. I know that in previous posts, I said that the muse had visited -- but the truth is that in order for that to happen, I have to make the opportunity possible. I do this by sitting down to work, even (and perhaps especially) when I don't feel like it. If I do that, then it really does feel like these songs come from out of nowhere sometimes, even though, like everything that I create, it's all part of a process. It's just that things like this seem to come together much faster when approached systematically, as though delivered to me through some kind of magic. 

That said, one of the things that I particularly like about songwriting is the almost instant gratification that it gives me. As opposed to a book or screenplay, which might take me several months or more to write, I can sometimes write and record an entire song in one day. In fact, I did precisely that just yesterday. 

As I also noted in yesterday's post, since March of this year, I have written eight new songs, four of which I wrote just this past week. Three more and I'll have another album. Granted, once I finish writing these songs, then I go back and re-record just about everything and master the songs to function as a cohesive album -- but again, this is all part of my system, as I find that the key to being productive is to have an efficient process. A clean desk also helps, as does regular exercise outdoors. Personally, I like going for bike rides. I always take notecards with me, too, as I can't even tell you how many lyrics and story ideas have come to me while I was riding around and not thinking about anything in particular.

I share this information with you not to brag about all of the stuff that I've made in recent years, but rather, so that you might apply this same approach to whatever it is that you may want to create. Basically, I am simply passing on the brilliant nugget of advice that my professor gave me about how to be productive, while saving you the immense costs of grad school. You're welcome. You can thank me by streaming, sharing, and purchasing my music. 

Personally, I happen to believe that everyone has the ability to be creative, but that some people just don't know what their own gifts are yet. Sadly, some people never find out, often due in part to the fact that their other full-time jobs get in the way. I sincerely hope that isn't you, as I'm sure that you, whoever you are, have some insights to contribute to our broader understanding of what it means to be human. You are beautiful. Show us the world through your eyes.

To quote my own song (Wake Up!):

    Welcome to the party
    We're all glad you came
    Without you it wouldn't be the same
    So speak up, raise your voice
    Stop talking in your sleep
    Promises are the only things we keep

You can click on the links in my previous few blog posts to hear the stuff that I'm working on now. In addition to continuing to work on new material over the weekend, I plan to do some more re-recording and re-mixing as well. Like I said, I seldom take days off, but when you love what you do, that's not really a bad thing. It sure as hell beats grading papers. 

As I create updated versions of these songs, I upload them to my ReverbNation page, which is an easy way to make it so that I can listen to them through a variety of speakers. This helps me to know if the mix is right, which is all part of my job as a DIY recording artist. That said, I hope you can appreciate that there really is a hell of lot of work involved, especially since I do all of this stuff by myself. 

So even though I'm technically unemployed at the moment, I do usually work through the weekends. As such, you can probably expect new versions of most of these songs to appear over the next few days, as well as any new material that I may come up with. As always, faithful listeners, fans, and kindrid spirits, I will keep you posted.

Happy Friday. Thanks for listening and for reading my blog. If you like what I'm doing, please share it with others who may appreciate it as well. If you happen to be unemployed, it's probably not your fault, and you're not alone. Make the most of it. Create something that could only have come from you.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Little Big Pete

In bowling, if you get three strikes in a row, it's called a turkey. If you get eight in a row, it's called a Little Big Pete. I actually just learned that myself. Thanks, internet. 

I mention all of this because back in March, I wrote a song called The Regular. It just kind of came to me from out of the blue. I couldn't get it out of my head, so I recorded it. Since then, I've been on some kind of weird songwriting binge. 

As of today, I now have eight new, unreleased songs. They are all works-in-progress, to be included on my forthcoming album, which is now looking like it might materialize yet this summer. That's kind of crazy, considering that I just released a new full-length album in January. For all intents and purposes, though, I don't really decide these things. When the muse calls, I just pick up an instrument.

Here's the one that I wrote today:


This song is about seeing beyond the ideologies that we subscribe to for the sake of expanding our own perception. I'm sure I'll re-record most of it, but for now, I'm happy with it, especially considering that when I woke up this morning, nothing about this song even existed. In fact, I thought I was going to be spending the day working on the song that I wrote and recorded yesterday. 

I don't know where this is all coming from, but I'm thankful to be able to share it with you. Meanwhile, Original Miles continues to be streamed and shared, hitting numbers on Spotify that I've never seen before. Well, not in that context, anyway.

I hope you enjoy my songs. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Spring Bloom

This song is so new that I suspect I'll continue to revise the lyrics and tighten up the vocals over the next few days. I may even add some more instrumentation. In any case, here is version number one of the song that I've been working on for much of today and yesterday:


Something about flowers seems to be a running theme with this latest batch of songs. It probably has something to do with my own spring fever and wanting to get outside more. 

I had my window open when I recorded the vocals this afternoon. I didn't notice until after I had put it together that there is a bird chirping at the end of the song. I will very likely leave that in there. It's kind of a nice touch -- a happy little accident, to quote Bob Ross. 

The link above will always play the latest version that I have uploaded to my ReverbNation page. This is part of my process as I continue to develop this album, which is still very much a work-in-progress. This song makes seven in the past month. That's prolific, even for me.  

Thanks for listening and for supporting independent art. 

Another Song Cooking

I'm in the midst of working on another song. I think I cracked it last night. I had already recorded the drums, baritone and guitar, and then I wrote the lyrics to the chorus and one of the verses. I just listened to what I've got so far, and I think it works. I'll try to finish writing it today, and with any luck, I'll have a first version of it recorded by this evening.

Stay tuned for more...

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Intermediate Master

Mastering is one of those things that you can never truly master. However, I have spent much of the day remastering all six (so far) of my yet unreleased songs through a different program than what I had been using. Like a lot of what I do, it's an experiment from which I hope to learn something.

I uploaded all of the new versions to my ReverbNation page. I do this so that I can listen to my songs on different devices/speakers, which helps with mixing and mastering. These are all works-in-progress. A few of them have new vocal tracks that I just recorded today. 

Click on the embedded links below to hear the newest versions of all six of them. For the time being, these songs are only available here and in my living room. 








I've also been working on another song, but I haven't quite cracked it yet. A few words have begun to emerge, but that's about it. I'll keep you posted. 

Thanks for listening.


Monday, May 3, 2021

Word Processor

I once read that the members of the band The National all live in different cities, and that when they are writing music, the instrumentalists in the band record their own tracks to the basic song and then they send that to the lead singer, who listens to it over and over until he's got some lyrics to go with it.

For the last two songs that I have written, I adopted a similar process, except that I don't really drink wine. That is, I recorded the guitar, bass and drums as a whole song, anticipating where the chorus parts should come in, and then I listened to these recordings on repeat and wrote lyrics. Over the past week, this process has resulted in Rat Race and Dandelion Wine (If Only...). Not bad. 

And yes, I know that I just admitted not being a wine drinker, despite having recently written a song with that word in the title. The truth is that I've never actually had dandelion wine. It just seemed like a good metaphor for making the most of whatever you've got (which is how I tend to approach music-making). 

Enjoy. Share. Thank you for supporting independent art.
 

New Vocal Tracks

I revised some of the lyrics on Rat Race, and then I recorded new vocal tracks this morning. You can hear the newest version of it here:


You really can't get much fresher than that. Thanks for listening. 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

On a (Rock and?) Roll

I wrote another song this weekend. I laid down the (baritone) bassline, drums and one of the guitar tracks yesterday, and then I wrote lyrics and recorded the other guitar tracks and the vocals today. I'm sure that I'll keep working on it, but I like what I've got so far. I hope you like it, too.

In case you're keeping score, that's six songs in less than four weeks. Also, the title for this one happens to be seven letters, too. I'm not sure what's up with that, other than to say that it probably has something to do with the fact that I used to play a lot of Scrabble.

In any case, here is version number one of Rat Race.   

If you dig what I'm doing, please share it. Thank you for supporting independent art. 


Mix-Master Z

I've spent much of the day remixing and remastering Plastic Flowers and Dandelion Wine (If Only...). You can hear the newest versions of them here:




Thanks for listening. 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Version Two

I recorded new vocal and guitar tracks on Dandelion Wine (If Only...). It's still a work-in-progress, but it's getting there. 


The link above will always take you to the latest version that I have uploaded. 

This song is about optimism. For now, I'll leave it at that.