Thursday, June 17, 2021

Album Breakdown

The tracklist for Petrichor, my new album (released today!), is as follows:

1.  Shadow Puppets - the only instrumental song on any of my six eponymous albums
2.  Light Pollution - about the things that blind us to an objective reality
3.  Rat Race - about dedicating a life to making money for someone else
4.  Out to Get You - about people who believe in insane conspiracy theories
5.  The Regular - about that guy at the end of the bar who is always there
6.  Haunted - about the memories left behind when a person is gone
7.  Plastic Flowers - about the ever-adaptable American Dream
8.  Petals in the Grass - about the self-destructive nature of insecurity
9.  Dandelion Wine (If Only...) - about making the most of what you've got
10. Holiday - about going stir crazy
11. Wasted - about how bad habits can affect the people we care about

I don't really think of my songs in terms of singles, so if there's one in here that you particularly like, by all means, please promote it. Personally, I like all of them and wouldn't have released these songs if I didn't. I just kind of operate on the assumption that if I like my music, then hopefully other people will, too. (I tend to think of comedy in a similar light, where the first step in crafting a joke or a bit is to make myself laugh.)

In case you're wondering, the album cover of Petrichor came from a picture that my spouse accidentally took of the inside of her pocket. I then played around with it in Photoshop until it looked like an abstract oil painting. On the physical CD (available soon), the back cover is also an accidental photo that she took. 

Basically, I like the idea of finding beauty where you least expect it, so I attempted to transform these "happy little accidents" (to quote the late, great Bob Ross) into art. I should note that my partner is actually a very talented photographer. In fact, Jamie took the cover photo for Better Days as well. I remember that the first thing that I said when I saw it was that it looked like an album cover -- even though it would be another eight years or so before I got around to writing and recording it. 

I have a lot of favorite songs on Petrichor (and Better Days, for that matter). Granted, whenever I make something new, that's usually my favorite thing that I've done, at least until the next one, but I really am quite proud of these songs. I hope that you like them, too. If so, please share my music with others and encourage them to do the same. This is how it spreads. It'll be good to spread something positive for a change, don't you think?

Four Years Ago Today

It just occurred to me that it was exactly four years ago that I released my first three self-produced albums. Weather Patterns; Mechanical Bull; and Good Night, Fahrenheit all made their worldwide streaming debuts on June 17, 2017. 

Personally, I think that I've come a long way in terms of production value since those earlier albums, which I more or less made in the order listed above. In fact, If you start with track one on Weather Patterns and listen all the way through to the last song on Good Night, Fahrenheit, I think you can probably hear at least somewhat of an improvement in my producing skills.

That's the thing about being self-taught and learning as I go. While I think that total immersion is usually the best way to learn something, at least for me, I also have to claim responsibility for the mistakes that I make along the way. I'm still learning through immersion, and I am responsible for every single element on all six of my self-produced albums, including the stuff that sucks. Sorry, but that's just part of the process. 

At the very least, I hope that you can appreciate the songwriting in my earlier work. I don't mean to suggest that the production is terrible, either, just that I think I've gotten a little better at this over the past four years. That said, if you wish to continue the experiment of hearing firsthand the slow and steady evolution of my producing skills, which are still very much a work-in-progress, the other three albums in chronological order are: Better Days (2019), Embers (January 2021), and Petrichor (today!).

Thanks for listening. Truly. You are the reason why these songs exist outside of my porch and my sunroom. 

New Album Now Available!

Petrichor is now live on YouTube, Apple Music and Pandora. It should be available on other services very soon, if not already. You can also listen to the full album here:


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

As a one-man-band, I am also a one-man-marketing department, so I really do need your help in getting my music out there. If everybody who likes my music shares it with two friends who might also like it, I'd be interested to see how far and wide it can spread.

Thank you for supporting independent art. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Rational Numbers

A while back, I wrote about my minor fixation* with seeing how many people in the world are listening to my music on Spotify at any given time. I'm not really the type of person to hold onto obsessive habits, in part because they also have my attention span to compete with, so I kind of forgot about it... until last night, when I saw that there were fourteen people listening to my music at the same time. I felt like Navin Johnson when he finds his name in the phone book. (If that reference is lost on you, then you really owe it to yourself to watch the 1979 movie The Jerk. Everything else can wait.)

So far, my record (that I've seen, anyway, not that I'm really looking all that often... honest) is sixteen people listening at one time. I realize that this may not seem like much, but it is in fact 1/20 of the number of people who reside in the town where I grew up. When I was playing live shows, I'd be happy if there were sixteen people present who were actually listening to the music. I don't exactly perform in huge venues, mind you. More often than not, I'm competing for people's attention with close-captioned ESPN and/or their phones. Talk about obsessions.

To the best of my knowledge, Spotify is about the only streaming music site that provides the artist with real-time metrics. I love that people in Argentina, Australia and Mauritania can all hear my music, as can anybody who lives just about anywhere else in the world. This truly amazes me. 

If the "listening now" number ever surpasses the population of my hometown, my mind will be thoroughly blown.

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

* possible band name up for grabs

Three Songs

Hello listeners, fans and people who landed here by accident. Welcome to what I do

Now that I'm done working on the new album (available very soon wherever you get your music), I can get back to sharing individual songs and introducing them as if I was performing for a live audience. Not counting when I was rocking out at the local park a few weeks ago, it's been a while. For more on this, see the picture immediately to the left and/or my Spotify pictures--and yes, I really was playing. I had a nine-volt amp clipped to the back of my belt. I got a lot of cheers and at least a few strange looks from passersby. 

I wrote my most recent two albums during quarantine. It kind of changed my approach to composing, since I wasn't as concerned about performing any of these songs acoustically as a solo artist. This is why so many of these songs are built around instruments other than a guitar, which pretty well dominates my other four albums

Back when I was playing live shows on a fairly regular basis, I rarely brought more than one instrument with me--in large part because I rode my bike. I either had an acoustic guitar or an electric strapped to my back, and that was it. 

Whenever possible, I try to keep things simple

As for the songs that I would like to share with you today, two of them come from the soon-to-be-released Petrichor. Once it becomes available on other streaming sites, I will post links on this blog. For now, the links that I provided before are the same low-resolution versions that I uploaded to my ReverbNation page most recently. 

The first song is called Dandelion Wine (If Only...). This is one of four songs that came out of a particularly prolific week. I imagined the entire video to this song while I was writing it. I'll tell you about that some other time. This track started with an almost painfully slow and simple bassline, and then I built the rest of the song around that. By the time I was done with it, the bassline had totally grown on me.

This song is basically about making the most of what you've got, even if it isn't much... kind of like the open room of a rented house where I record all of my music on a ten-year-old laptop through some forty dollar headphones. Whatever you have, you make it work.


The second track is called Rat Race. This song also started with a bassline and came from that same exceptionally productive week. This might be my current favorite song of mine. It's fun to play and it's fun to listen to loudly. It's structured like a pop song in terms of the chorus to verse ratio, although I wouldn't exactly call it a pop song, per se. 

It's about dedicating a life to making money for someone else as an interchangeable cog in the corporate machine... or, if you prefer, it is about rodents running around in mazes at the behest of scientists who are indifferent to their squalid existence. Either way. I also had a video in mind when I wrote this song. Sometimes that's just how my brain works.


Third, I thought I'd share my song Be Civilized, which comes from my 2019 album Better Days. I played this one on acoustic guitar yesterday for the first time in a while. It's a cool song, and it's quite fun to play.  

It's about reminding ourselves that civilization exists because this is what human beings figured out a long time ago is what we need to do in order to survive, and the more civil we are toward one another, the better our civilization seems to function for everyone. So be kind. Embrace empathy. Always consider the greater good. Be honest to others and to yourself. Don't be an asshole. You know, basic stuff. Imagine if everybody did these things.


Once Petrichor goes live on Spotify and other streaming services, I will let you know. Despite having listened to these songs literally hundreds of times over the past few weeks, I'm pretty excited to hear it. 

I hope you are, too.  


Monday, June 14, 2021

Apparitional

I think that my great-great grandfather might have been a vampire. I don't drink blood or anything, and I do show up in mirrors, but only about one in six of those motion-sensor sinks works for me. I have to wave my hands around in front of the faucet like a lunatic, leaping sideways from one to the next until I find one that works. I usually give up on towel dispensers after the third or fourth try and just flap my hands around like a dog's ears until they're dry. For some reason, these things choose to ignore me, like I'm not even there.

Along these same lines, I cannot find a single review or comment anywhere about any of my music. Zero. This is weird, considering that this site gets hundreds of hits per day and my songs have been streamed tens of thousands of times all over the world. I would love to know who is listening and what you think... unless you don't like it, in which case, please hold your criticisms until after you've recorded six original albums on which you play every instrument. Then see if you can appreciate what I'm doing.

Every once in a while, someone buys my one published book, and for that, there actually is one review that exists out there in the web-o-sphere. I strongly suspect that my book was a required text for a graduate seminar and that the reviewer did not actually read more than a few pages of it. She gave it three stars and wrote one sentence about how the title should be different. Thanks for the tip about my already published book. I will file that under U for unhelpful. Also, if the publishers wanted to change the title, they could have.  

Oddly, I have more reviews on RateMyProfessor than I do about any of my music or other writing. So it you're reading this and you like my music and/or writing, then I encourage you to write a review somewhere, if only to prove that I do in fact exist. I'm starting to feel like Bruce Willis in that movie about the kid who sees dead people. I think it was called Die Hard 6: Die Most Harderest.

Thank you for supporting independent art. 

Manuscript

It's always weird to finish a big project, until I move onto the next one.

As a way of transitioning back into other forms of writing, I added all of the new songs to my "master lyrics" document. I then printed them and scribbled some notes to remind me how to play these songs, in case I forget. 

Keep in mind, the notes in my songbook were all written by and for a guy who plays almost entirely by ear, so there are things like "Big F" and "Weird D" in there. I know what I'm talking about, but unfortunately, my knowledge of music theory is limited to that which I have picked up over the years, often by playing with trained musicians who were far better than I. 

Even though the new album is officially done, a part of me still feels compelled to work on music--so typing up all of these lyrics and writing notes to myself kind of helps with that, too, while I figure out what's next. Right now, I am leaning toward writing another novel, while I continue to apply for actual paying jobs.  

The document with all of my songs to date kind of looks like a book when the pages are all stuffed into a three-ring binder. It comprises nearly seventeen thousand words in total. Including the title page and the table of contents, it's 106 pages of lyrics to sixty-four songs. If nothing else, I feel like being able to play these songs in any order is probably a good exercise for my brain.  

Of course, if I mess up a verse from time to time when I'm practicing, this is why. It's also a big part of why I practice. When I listen to my own music in the car or whatever, I count it as a partial rehearsal, too, because remembering all of the lyrics really is half the battle. When I sing along with these songs, if I'm doing it right, my voice aligns with the music in such a way that I cannot hear myself. It's a rather odd phenomenon. 

Petrichor will soon be available wherever you get your music. Thank you for listening and for checking out my blog. You're the real rock stars. I'm just a guy who writes words and music, sometimes together. I also like to bake bread, but I've yet to figure out how to work this into my repertoire.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Petrichor

Petrichor is done. Long live Petrichor.

If you're not familiar with the word and haven't yet looked it up, go ahead. I can wait. 

It's really kind of an ugly word for what it is. However, I think it fits the vibe of this album, and I like to introduce new vocabulary words whenever possible. I do teach English, after all. For what it's worth, I also enjoy gently busting rhymes (but only sometimes). 

Petrichor will soon be able to stream or purchase wherever you get your music. Please do, and if you happen to know anybody else as cool as you, please share my songs with that person, too. We should all hang out sometime.


MVPs

I actually rather loathe advertising, so the following is not meant as an endorsement of any of these products at all. That said, if you like what you hear and want to do something similar, I thought I'd share a few of the instruments that were instrumental (and yes, the pun is absolutely intended. I mean, it's right there, like low-hanging fruit, so of course I'm going to grab it. It's perfectly ripe, after all, so I'd hate to see it go to waste) in the making of this album.

Honorable mention goes to my Telecaster for providing the lead part in Plastic Flowers. The neck pickup, which I replaced with a reissue of a 1963 model, is great for getting round, glassy tones. This thing can cut through a wall of sound with laser precision, like a supervillain carving his face into the moon. This guitar is also responsible for one hundred percent of the guitar and bass tracks on my 2019 album Better Days

An additional shout out (pun also intended) goes to my microphone, which has recorded just about every vocal track on all of my six self-produced eponymous albums that I have released in the past four years. It is a MXL-9000 tube mic with a vacuum tube from Latvia, leftover from a Soviet military stockpile at a time when solid-state transistors rendered them mostly obsolete. I get a clean, warm sound out of it, and when I use other mics, I never end up keeping those takes. Besides, if I set the noise gate to -27db or so, I can record vocal tracks in an open room with my kids playing video games close by and the only thing that comes through is my voice, for better or worse. There may also be some Breath of the Wild in there somewhere, if you listen very closely.

Runner-up, or SMVP, goes to the latest guitar in my arsenal, a semi-hollowbody Gretch, which is largely responsible for the week in which I wrote and recorded four of my favorite songs that bear my name, at least for now. A special thanks also goes to this instrument for providing the mid-range guitar riffs in the background of Rat Race. I couldn't have done it without you. It really does make the song, like that C# in Weezer's Say it Ain't So.

Second runner-up, because I almost forgot, goes to my daughter's Casio CTK-6250 keyboard, which provided all of the Rhodes tracks, as well as the upright bass parts (which usually accompany the Rhodes parts). Incidentally, this instrument is also all over the place in Embers, including about fifty percent of Original Miles.

The star of the show, however, is my Danelectro baritone. Every song with a punchy bassline came from that instrument. Prior to this, the only song where I ever used it was Quicksand from Embers, where it pretty much carries the song (and was extremely difficult to mix with my voice, as I recall). 
   
    

Origin Story

I had no intention of writing another album at this time, especially having just released Embers in January of this year. Even now, Original Miles continues to be streamed on Spotify in numbers that none of my other songs have ever seen. I also know that if I wanted to maximize my [insert marketing lingo here], then it would make sense to ride this out for now, only to then promote another song from that same album. 

Mixtape, anyone?

Back in March, I was practicing guitar and came up with a power chord progression that was fun to play. As I was rocking out on acoustic guitar, I starting singing along as if the words were already in my head. Not all of them, mind you, but enough to get a pretty good sense of the song. After that, it was just a matter of writing it, which came together in about an hour. I later went back and revised it slightly. 

For the next few days, I had this new song bouncing around in my head, such that I was literally waking up with the chorus on repeat. It seemed that I had no choice but to record it, if only to exorcise this thing from my brain.

About a month later, I wrote two more songs in the same week, both of which happened to have seven-letter titles that started with H. At that point, I figured that I might as well write another album. If not now, then when? I wanted to capture these songs while I was still excited about them, and it seemed like maybe I had tapped into something. 

Over the next couple of months, I wrote eight more songs. In most cases, I recorded the entire "song skeleton" and then set out to figure out the lyrics. The only difference in this from my usual process is that ordinarily, this phase takes place almost entirely with acoustic guitar or piano accompaniment in real-time. 

This time, I listened to these simple instrumental versions of these songs until I came up with lyrics that fit the feel of the song, as well as the framework that I had already provided. There was one week in particular when I wrote four songs through the use of this process, one right after the other, like it was my job.  

The last two songs that I composed were tracks one and track eleven, respectively. In fact, if you look at my ReverbNation page, the order that they are listed in is the opposite order in which I wrote them. 

In total, this album took about three months to go from song stuck in my head to album with a bunch of tracks that I really like. If I wasn't proud of my work, I wouldn't release it. I hope you like it, too.

Petrichor will soon be available wherever you get your music. For now, you can hear low-resolution versions through the embedded the link below. Thanks for listening. 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Groundhog Day

Happy Friday to my fans, friends, listeners and random stumblers upon this site. Once again, I have spent the majority of the day mixing and mastering. The goal has been to get the mixing so close to done that I have to do very little mastering, because that's when it starts to feel processed and artificial, like Velveeta. 

I seek for my music to avoid any comparisons to cheese-like substances. 

Speaking of which, when I was riding my bike yesterday, somebody at the skate park was blasting Kenny G like it was in style. These kids today and their light adult contemporary jazz-like substances.

Petrichor might actually be done, and I think that maybe I really mean it this time. 

Every day, when I sit down to work on this, it's kind of like the movie Groundhog Day. Basically, I start with the raw AIFF files every day, but as I am mastering these tracks, I also refer to notes and such in terms of what worked and what did not on my previous attempts. Then I minimize the process to its essentials. 

I am a scientist, damn it.

To date, I have made at least twenty or so shitty versions of each of these songs, but I think that I have almost polished out everything that I did not like. We'll see how I feel about it tomorrow. Once I can listen to these songs without being compelled to change something, that's when I know it's done. 

When writing, I sometimes export to PDFs for the same reason--so that I can read without the ability to edit. It forces a certain degree of objectivity. 

You can listen to the new songs through the same links as always, and you can find my other five albums wherever you get your music. 

Thanks for listening to my music and checking out my blog.

 


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

My general rule when it comes to editing is that once I get to a point where my revisions involve going back to a previous version, then it's probably time to walk away. I find that this is true whether discussing music or any other form of writing.

It's kind of like tuning a guitar, where I steadily add tension to the string until it passes the note that I'm trying to reach, then I slowly ease it back into place. It's a good way to get precision, which is kind of important when tuning. 

I mention all of this because for the past couple of weeks, I've been doing a lot of mastering and equalizing, trying to get my newest batch of songs to sound as good as I can through the various speakers that I have at my disposal. Lately, I've been discovering that my early versions sometimes sound better, depending on which speakers I happen to be listening to them through. That never ceases to frustrate me. 

Don't be surprised if these songs once again sound slightly different by the end of the day.


[They do.]

This is the part where I usually audition some of the many versions of each of these songs and figure out if there is one that sounds better than the others on a variety of speakers. Ideally, all of the songs that I end up going with will come from the same batch, too, but that's not always the case.

It's getting close. Pretty soon, I will have completed my sixth full-length album to be released in the past four years. That's sixty-five songs in total (plus a few throwaway tracks that I never published.) My goal is to write at least as many songs as Shakespeare wrote sonnets, because I don't just like to swing for the fences; I'm going for the parking lot down the street. The trick is to lean into it and use the momentum of your own weight. 

Enjoy the music. For now, these songs are exclusively available here. You're that cool. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Equalizer

I don't know if that was the name of a 1980s action movie, but if not, it probably should have been. I can imagine Chuck Norris or Sylvester Stallone on the poster, possibly holding a rocket launcher or a machine gun--basically, an undercover commercial for the NRA and "Big Stick" diplomacy. 

I also wonder if the screenwriter of this hypothetical movie looked up the word "level" in a thesaurus, as in to level a building with a single shot and ended up going with "The Equalizer" in an attempt to appeal to the high-brow crowd, while also in a frenzied rush to get back to his crippling cocaine addiction. 

Once again, I've spent all day equalizing, uploading, listening, etc. I can't even tell you how many different versions of these songs I made today, but it was a lot. 

You can hear the (almost done) new album by following the link in the post below.

It will soon be available to stream or purchase wherever you get your music. 

Thank you for supporting independent art. 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Cohesion

Petrichor is nearly done. All but a few of the songs have passed the "car stereo with the windows down" test. At this point, I think it's mostly just a matter of fine-tuning the equalization on the songs.

You can hear the new album in its entirety below. Until I finish it and officially release it, all eleven of these songs are exclusively available here.


Thanks for listening.  

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Multi-Speaker Challenge

This album feels like it's just about done. It probably isn't... but on my studio monitors and headphones, I think that it sounds pretty good at this point.  

I have now reached the part of the process where I listen to it through as many different sets of speakers as I can and then try to make it sound equally good on all of them. (I'm self-taught at all of this stuff, but this is more or less how I tend to think of mastering.) 



Check it out for yourself. See what you think.

You can hear all eleven of the new songs exclusively on my ReverbNation page: 


You can also find all of the lyrics here.

This album will soon be available to stream or purchase wherever you get your music. 

Thanks for listening to my music and checking out my blog. 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Soon to Drop

I think that the new album is just about done. I expect to wrap it up in the next week or two, but we'll see how it goes.   

In case you're keeping score, this will be my second full-length album to be released this year. (That's prolific, even for me.) Embers just came out in January, and the opening track, Original Miles, has now been streamed over 32,000 times by Spotify listeners all over the world. This amazes me.

Releasing albums as I make them is one of those things that you don't necessarily get with most mainstream artists. To me, one of the advantages of DIY music-making is that I can connect directly with listeners and fans, and I don't need a committee to be in agreement in order to make something happen. Every decision that brought this music into existence was made entirely by me. If you don't like it, then I guess that's on me, too.

As I continue to polish these new songs, I upload them to my ReverbNation page so that I can listen to them on multiple devices without having to enter all of the metadata every time I post a new version. Once I feel like they're done, then I shall officially make them available on streaming services worldwide through a digital distributor.

I usually get some physical CDs, too, which I order from an automated company in Japan for what amounts to about two bucks per disc. They come in a professional-looking cellophane-wrapped jewel case, and they don't charge extra for the UPC symbol.

(I'm not getting paid by these companies; I simply wanted to share how I do it, just in case any of you are looking to do something similar.)   

The opening track on Petrichor (available soon) is the only instrumental track on any of my six eponymous albums that I have released since 2017. Not that it sounds anything like it, but I was thinking specifically about Pixies: Bossanova when I decided to open the album with an instrumental. As I recall, the first track on Nine Inch Nails: Broken is also without words. These were two of my favorite albums when I was first learning to be a musician (although it has been a while since I've heard either).  

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

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Dr. Mix-a-Lot (no relation)

I've gotten a lot of reading done this week, mostly while waiting for my ancient laptop to process audio files so that I could listen to them and then go back and make adjustments. It takes about four minutes to export a song, which I have to keep doing until it's more or less where I want it. 

That said, I might finally be done with the mixing, and I'd like to think that I mean it this time. This is the part where I try to be as objective as possible when I listen to it, which isn't always easy. 




For now, you can hear all eleven of the new songs exclusively on my ReverbNation page. I've also provided links to each track individually below, along with a brief description of the song itself: 

01. Shadow Puppets (instrumental)
02. Light Pollution (about how ideologies can be blinding)
03. Rat Race (about being a cog in a corporate machine)
04. Out to Get You (about people who believe in batshit crazy conspiracy theories)
05. The Regular (about that guy end of the bar who seems like a permanent fixture)
06. Haunted (about the memories left behind when a person is gone)
07. Plastic Flowers (about how the American Dream adapts to the American Reality)
08. Petals in the Grass (an ekphrastic song about the first 16mm film that I ever made)
09. Dandelion Wine (If Only...) (about making the most of what you've got)
10. Holiday (about going stir crazy)
11. Wasted (about being consumed by unhealthy habits)

You can also find all of the lyrics here.

Thanks for listening. This album will soon be available to stream or purchase wherever you get your music. As of now, it's still a work-in-progress, but I think it's getting close. As always, thank you for supporting independent art. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Almost

This album is getting close. Once again, I uploaded new versions of all eleven songs to my ReverbNation page. You can find all of the links in an earlier post. These songs are so exclusive that they are only available here. 

Thanks for listening.


Favorite Songs (That I've Written)

My own favorite song that I've written is constantly changing, depending on my mood and how often I've played or listened to it in recent weeks. That said, I thought that I would attempt to pick my favorite songs of each of my five released albums (and my album that shall be released in the very near future).

----------------------------------------------

Favorite track on Petrichor (2021 - coming soon):

    Rat Race

Favorite track on Embers (2021):


Favorite track on Better Days (2019):


Favorite track on Good Night, Fahrenheit (2017):


Favorite track on Mechanical Bull (2017):


Favorite track on Weather Patterns (2017):


----------------------------------------------

With some of these, it was pretty close, as I tend to like all of my songs. That's why I wrote them. In any case, I hope you like these songs, too. Thanks for listening.

I also added all of the new songs to my lyrics page.

If you like what I'm doing, please add my music to your playlists and share it with others. Thank you for supporting independent art.