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 which 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-rerecording 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

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. Fortunately, I also have a spouse who is able and willing to accommodate my temporary lack of an income, which definitely helps to make all of this possible. I couldn't do this without her. 

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.