For all intents and purposes, I've taken this semester off from writing so that I can focus on teaching some college courses that I've never taught before, while also getting settled into a very different life than what I am used to. I intend to get back into a daily writing routine in the new year, although I have not yet chosen a project.
That said, over the past several months, I have recorded over a hundred riffs and chord progressions that seem to be working themselves into songs the more that I practice them. I think that I've easily got another album worth of material here. It's just a matter of sitting down to write lyrics and develop them into fully realized songs, which I suspect will take place this winter, maybe even concurrently with some other major writing project.
Stay tuned for more...
As always, thank you for supporting independent art.
I tend to think that most of my songs that I've written in the past five and a half years can fit into one of two categories. Basically, my catalog of original music comprises pretty songs and songs that rock (plus a few miscellaneous tracks that I wrote on banjo). Today's selections all come from the rockin' category.
The first of these songs comes from Embers (2021). It's called Living in Oblivion. This song is about how passive consumption of media can perpetuate ignorance and confusion, and that critical thinking is a vital component of an active and robust citizenry. One must employ a certain degree of logic and objectivity when it comes to choosing what to believe in order to know the difference between a fact and a feeling.
Song number two comes from Petrichor (2021). It's called Rat Race. It's about dedicating a life to making money for someone else without any inherent meaning in itself, or it's about rats in a maze. Either way. The bassline in this one kind of rocks. It's fun to play, anyway.
The third song that I would like to share with you today is called Modern Inconveniences, from my 2017 album Good Night, Fahrenheit. The background in this one is a chaotic wall of sound, which seemed appropriate for the subject matter. It's about the technological distractions that come between us, and how the products that we consume end up consuming us.
Finally, here is Be Civilized, from my 2019 album Better Days. It's about how when human beings work together toward common goals, then everyone benefits. It other words, civilization is a good thing, so don't be a jerk.
Happy Friday. Thanks for checking out my blog and listening to my music. Feel free to crank it up. These songs in particular were designed with that purpose in mind.
The term "Do-It-Yourself" may seem pretty self-explanatory, but I want to talk a little bit about what that entails when it comes to making music.
Basically, unlike most music that you hear, which is very much a collaborative art, what I do is singular. I write the music and lyrics to all of my songs. When it comes time to record them, I not only do the recording myself, but I also play all of the instruments. With the drums, while I do have a drum kit in the basement, I find that I get a cleaner sound using sequencing software, and it's a lot easier to work with in the mixing stage -- which, incidentally, is also my responsibility, as is the mastering.
On the other side of the equation, I get to decide which songs make it to the album and what order they appear in. I decide what the cover art looks like. In most cases, I even took the photograph from which I made the album cover. I decide where it streams, where it sells and for how much. Basically, I have complete control over every aspect of my music. Every decision that brought it into existence was made entirely by me. Another bonus is that if I want to record a guitar track at 11:30 pm on a Tuesday, that's my prerogative. I can even re-record it a hundred times if I want to, and it doesn't cost me anything because I'm not paying for studio time.
The downside of this is that my decade-old laptop and my hundred dollar microphone in an open room of my house aren't exactly capable of capturing high-fidelity sound in the way that a professional studio setup can, but I do what I can with what I've got. I am also not nearly as good of a bassist as someone who plays that as their main instrument, for example. For that matter, I'm sure that there are plenty of people out there who could play all of these instruments far better than I can, just like how someone who is trained in sound engineering could do a much better job than I can in terms of production value, even with the limited equipment that I have at my disposal. That said, if I could afford better equipment, I would, and over the years, piece-by-piece, I have upgraded a lot of my gear. Still, I feel like the somewhat raw aesthetic of my music kind of fits with what I'm trying to do, at least with these last six albums. They each bear my name beside the title because every single part of it came from me.
For what it's worth, I have played in numerous bands in the past and have spent time in recording studios before. While I do very much enjoy working with other artists and technicians, on some level, that's not really the point of what I'm doing here. My six solo albums, all self-produced, are me saying: here's this thing that I created. It's like an art project. I hope you like it, because frankly, it's about the best I can do with what I've got.
To be perfectly honest, I would probably love it if other musicians took my music further (as long as I still got proper credit for the songs, of course). As a musician, I am kind of a peculiar sort. I like writing and practicing music more than I enjoy performing it, and I do what I do purely for the love of my craft. That, and I couldn't imagine not playing music -- and I figure that if I'm going to play music, I might as well write my own. Taking that rationale one step further, since songwriting is something that I have a strange knack for, then I feel like it would be kind of waste not to use it.
In a nutshell, I write music because it is something I love to do and that I want to share, plus I have worked to collect the skills that allow me to produce this stuff by myself. I write songs that don't yet exist but seem like they should. Sometimes it feels like I'm just pulling them out of the ether. I am merely the vessel for transforming them into something tangible. As a DIY musician, I then take these songs as far as I can within my relatively limited means, which to me, is still infinitely better than when they did not yet exist. One is infinitely more than zero.
There's no reason why my process for making music can't be something closer to what we consider normal. After all, there are lots of other people out there doing what I do as well, and while we may not be able to get that polished radio-friendly sound that you're so used to hearing, this is a far more direct conduit between artist and audience, and I think that there's something to be said for that.
[Lately, I've been reposting old articles that I have polished up a bit, as I am actively engaged in other projects. This is one of my longer posts, an autobiographical tale of a musician-in-progress. There may be something to glean from it, but I might be too close to the material to know for sure. In any case, thank you for reading. If you like my work, please share it with others.]
For most of the time that I have been playing music, I was not writing lyrics. My first band was a two-piece instrumental noise group in Grand Rapids, Michigan where we both played electric guitar. We were loud. Our album/set consisted of three acts, the second of which could be best described as structured chaos. I ran an AM radio through an effects processor and incorporated the mostly indistinghishable voices of talking heads into the music. It was very avant garde. Alas, the world may not have been ready for it.
Around this time, I also jammed with a lot of different people who played a lot of different styles of music. Most of these musicians were far better than I, but I learned to keep up and found this to be a very effective way to learn an instrument. As they say, I faked it until I made it. Jam sessions generally took place in basements or on front porches. Back then, just as today, I played almost entirely by ear.
When my friends and I played acoustic cover songs on the porch, I learned that singing in the periphery of passersby is a good first step in overcoming stagefright. Nobody ever yelled at us, anyway, at least not what we could hear. In the winters, when it was too cold for front porches and Michigan basements, I wrote a lot of instrumental music and got my first real taste of multi-track digital recording. I later wrote a song about all of this that condenses it into one summer.
Then I moved to Chicago, where I started writing lyrics and playing acoustic guitar in front of small audiences. On Tuesdays, I often performed at open mic night at a predominantly lesbian bar down the street from where I lived. It was always a good crowd, especially considering how bad I probably was at the time. It took practice for me to gain some level of comfort at being the center of attention in a crowded room, but the audience at this place was always welcoming and receptive, despite my awkwardness behind the microphone. There was also an Irish-style dive bar on the west side that I performed at sometimes, where the patrons were quite kind to me as well. The later I went on stage, the better my set was usually received. Guinness: it's what's for dinner.
When I graduated from film school, I moved to Los Angeles, where I played in a three-piece band while trying to gain some semblance of success in the motion picture industry. I played electric guitar, while the singer/lyricist also played harmonium, and we had a creative drummer who could pound a steady beat out of a suitcase or just about anything else. We played a few small shows here and there, but mostly, we made the apartment building where we all lived on different floors sound like music on a fairly regular basis. The tenants were all artists of various persuasions, so nobody ever seemed to mind. When we played shows, I mostly kept to the background, focusing on the notes that I produced with my Stratocaster.
I also wrote about a dozen acoustic songs with lyrics while I lived in LA, which I occasionally performed as a solo artist. I do not remember how to play any of them, as the songs were pretty forgettable. In my experience, open mics in Los Angeles are kind of weird. There are so many people who desperately want the exposure, thinking there might be a talent scout or whatever in the audience. Plus, of course, there is no shortage of exceptionally skilled musicians in the greater Los Angeles area. As a result, performers often had to sign up a week in advance and were usually limited to sets consisting of a single song each--so it had to be good, especially if they ever wanted to perform there again. It was a good exercise in working under pressure.
After I left LA, I got involved in a lot of other things. I directed a no-budget feature-length documentary. I started a family. I went to grad school--twice, in fact. We lived overseas for a couple of years on opposite ends of the world, where I continued to play guitar but seldom performed. When not pursuing advanced degrees, I usually wrote one or two screenplays per year, which more or less satisfied my creative itch when it came to wordsmithing. Songwriting fell to the wayside.
While I was working on my MA and my PhD, though, I didn't have time for any big creative projects, so I tried to at least keep Fridays open as my music days. It was part of an overall strategy to compartmentalize the various facets of my life, which was rather hectic at the time. Every other day of the week, I was either reading dense academic literature, writing lengthy analytical papers with subtitles introduced by colons, making lesson plans for my students, or grading their weekly homework. Plus, as you may know, having a family requires a certain degree of time and energy as well, and as they say, kids are only young once. It was a lot to balance out. Whenever the house was quiet, I was usually reading.
For a while during my time in the doctoral program, a friend of mine and I got together once or twice a week to play acoustic guitar on my front porch. After a couple months of jamming and playing songs written by other people, we decided that we might as well come up with some original stuff. I wrote most of the music and he wrote the lyrics, which he would then sing. Once we had a reasonable setlist, we played at a couple of local venues regularly and continued to rock out on my porch every Friday, as well as an occasional Wednesday if the weather was decent.
We wrote about six or seven songs together. Then he graduated, got married, and moved to California. I'm sure there's a song in there somewhere, if John Mellencamp hasn't already written it. Meanwhile, I continued to perform as a solo artist while I finished up my PhD, usually about once a month, except when it was too cold to ride my bike. For a while there, my sets were made up entirely of cover songs.
After about a year or so of this, I started to get a little sick of playing other people's music, so I went back to writing songs, but with my own lyrics this time. At this point, I had also begun working on my dissertation, and making music provided a good balance to what I would consider to be the exact opposite kind of writing. One has to be vague enough to be emotionally relatable, while the other has to be supported by factual evidence and laser-focused in terms of spefificity.
When I resumed songwriting in late 2015, it had been over ten years since I had crafted a song for myself to sing. I think the first one out of the floodgate was Gravel Roads, on my 2017 album Weather Patterns. This song still makes almost every setlist, whether I'm performing or practicing. It's quite fun to play and an excellent way to warm up.
This may not come as a surprise to anyone, but I've never really thought of myself as a singer. In the back of my mind, I've always figured that if Bob Dylan can do it, then anybody can. Seriously. I enjoy writing lyrics and expressing those words with my own musical accompaniment, and so I sing. It's that simple. I would even say that I like songwriting more than performing, as weird as that probably sounds. I attribute this to my INFJ personality type. Art above ego.
This is not to say that I haven't grown to rather enjoy the immediate gratification that one gets from playing a song in front of people who seem to genuinely appreciate it. Over the years, I think my voice has gotten a little bit better, too, but only because I practice just about every day. At this point, I can sing all of my own songs spot on, which is all I really care about. If people don't like the untrained timbre of my voice, I'm ok with that.
I do still play cover songs from time to time, but usually just on piano. When I rehearse, if I'm not making stuff up as I go, then I'm most likely playing my own songs that I have already written. Sometimes I like to mix it up and use different instruments than those which I originally wrote these songs on, if only as a fun mental exercise. For what it's worth, Dandelion Wine (If Only...) sounds pretty cool on piano, even though there isn't any keyboard at all in the recording of it.
Not that I need to justify why I write lyrics, but I thought that I would walk you down the path that took me here. I have been playing music for many years, but for most of that time, the only writing that I did involved other projects that had nothing to do with music. At various points in my life, I have come back to writing my own songs and lyrics, most recently about five and a half years ago, when I asked myself, "Why not?" and couldn't come up with a reasonable answer.
Since then, I have released six albums of original music: sixty-four complete songs with lyrics, plus one instrumental track. Once the floodgates were open, I discovered a whole reservoir of material that I had accumulated from years of practicing, while inspiration continues to abound. The flow has been more or less steady ever since, and I find that singing my own songs is a rewarding exercise for the body, mind and soul.
Thanks for listening to my music and reading my blog. If you dig what I'm doing, please share it. Thank you for supporting independent art.
I've always approached music with somewhat of a punk attitude, if only out of necessity. By that, I mean that I see music as a dynamic mode of creative expression, and I've always felt that the sentiment behind it means a hell of a lot more than how polished the final product may be. In the past, I have taken this same approach to documentary filmmaking as well. I believe that to create something, even if it isn't perfect, is infinitely better than making nothing at all. One is infinitely more than zero.
When it comes to making music on cheap gear, here's what I've got for you:
Tip #1: Replace the stock hardware.
The most expensive guitar that I own cost about $450 new. That said, I did pimp it out as soon as I could afford to. With nearly all of my guitars (which isn't very many), I have replaced the pickups and the tuners, and in some cases, the switches and potentiometers (volume and tone). Control the variables that you can. The rest is jazz.
The way I see it, the most important thing is to have an instrument that stays in tune. If it doesn't, then it really doesn't matter how well you play it, because it will always sound like an instrument that only produces sour notes, mocking even the most meager attempts at virtuosity. Even Moonlight Sonata would sound something akin to stray cats getting funky.
After the tuners, the second most important thing is replacing the pickups, as that can make a huge difference in shaping the overall sound. Stock pickups usually suck, and using a soldering iron isn't very difficult. Just don't breathe in the fumes when you're doing it and be sure to unplug it when you're done. (That's the dad in me talking.) I'm sure there are videos out there to walk you through the process.
I paid $220 for my Telecaster, used. That was about four or five years ago. It's Mexican-made, as are most of my Fenders. The thing is, when you switch out the electronics, all of a sudden a relatively cheap guitar sounds like one that cost a lot more. Seriously. I think the cost-to-quality ratio plateaus at a certain point when it comes to guitars.
That is to say that a $300 guitar may indeed be twice as good as a $150 instrument, but never in my life have I played a $2,100 guitar that sounded seven times better than the $300 one. I have, however, played a $300 instrument only needed a few modifications to make it sound just as good as one that cost five times as much. In fact, I play an instrument like that every day.
Tip #2: Thicker strings will make your pickups sound better.
I have found that I can get a much fuller and richer sound if I use thicker strings. They also stay in tune better, because they don't stretch as much under the tension. Personally, I always pull on the strings after I put them all on, just to try to get some of that initial stretch out of the way. It's also a good way to make sure everything is secure before you start tightening it down.
Thicker strings will toughen up your fingers, too. They may not be the best for beginners, but once you've got decent calluses and finger strength, consider upgrading. You might be surprised how much bigger it sounds. Much like replacing your pickups, thicker strings give your amp and your effects pedals more defined vibrations/signals to work with, which is usually a good thing.
I should note, though, that if you are changing to heavier gauge strings, it can affect the action, since it's putting more tension on the neck. To accommodate for this, you can adjust your truss rod. Again, you might want to watch a video to feel more comfortable with what you're doing. The basic rule is: don't turn it too far too fast, and I highly recommend doing it when the strings are off the guitar. Let the neck ease into the adjustments by doing them in increments of about a quarter turn. If it's still not quite right when you string it back up, you can always make some more adjustments next time you change the strings.
Tip #3: Stop buying new bass strings.
If you happen to play bass, you know that the strings are kind of expensive. They also hardly ever break, and if they do, then congratulations, you may already be a punk rocker. Breaking bass strings is hardcore.
A long time ago, a good friend of mine told me that if you take the strings off and put them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes and then put them back on, they will be as good as new. This really does work. I have gone years without actually changing the strings on my bass just by boiling them every once in a while. Just make sure they're dry before you put them back on. Water and frat dudes are a string instrument's worst enemies.
Tip #4: Clean your guitar strings and you won't have to change them as often.
I'm happy to report that there's a similar trick when it comes to guitar strings. Although taking them off and putting them back on is nearly impossible (and would probably weaken them considerably even if you could), what I usually do is take a paper towel, fold it up and spray it with a little bit of WD-40, and then I put the towel under the strings so that the oily side is facing up. I'll go up and down the strings a few times, and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of crud this takes off, a nasty combination of corrosion and finger gunk (and it's not like my hands are dirty when I play, either). Generally speaking, the more humid it is, the more often I have to do this.
I should offer the disclaimer that I have never heard or read of anyone recommending the WD-40 method before, but I can attest that I do this on my guitars on a pretty regular basis and have never had any problems. If anything, I think that the oil actually helps seal the wood on the fretboard (the WD does stand for water deterrent, after all).
Then again, as mentioned above, it's not like I'm playing a $2,000 guitar or anything. I wouldn't recommend doing this on coated strings, either, because it would probably take the coating off -- but I have been doing this for years, such that most of the time when I change strings, it's only because I broke one of them (which doesn't happen as often now that I use thicker strings). Clean them up every week or two and they continually sound almost as good as new.
Tip #5: Learn the lighter trick.
As long as you're fixing to be a punk rocker, at some point, it might be a good idea to learn how to open a beer bottle with a disposable lighter, too. Otherwise, I'm not sure that you can actually call yourself a punk. It's one of those technicalities. As for how to do it, it's essentially about creating a lever with the lighter by using your bent thumb as the fulcrum. Then you pop it off with the bottom edge of the lighter. Oh, and try not to crack it in the process, especically if it's someone else's lighter. You lose a few punk points for that.
Tip #6: Treat your instruments well.
One last tip for today, which I admit is slightly less punk, though more closely related to maintaining decent instruments: if you want to clean up the fretboard, use 0000 grade steel wool (I'm pretty sure that's the "softest" that you can get). Once you've scuffed up the whole fretboard, wipe it down with a damp towel, but then dry it immediately afterward.
Always remember that one of the worst things for a guitar is for there to be any absorbable water on the fretboard, as this will warp it, rendering the instrument utterly useless. Second to this, as alluded to earlier, is to let it fall into the hands of someone who intends to use this instrument for evil purposes, like Jimmy Buffett songs.
When it's completely dry, rub it down with some lemon oil. Wipe away any excess. It might even look like brand new when you're done. You'd be amazed. Granted, like I said, I don't know how punk rock it is to have a clean, new-looking instrument, but personally, this is something I do to my guitars about once a year or so. It probably helps to take off any remaining residue from the WD-40, too.
When I was a graduate student, the only way that I could make sure that I got everything done was to compartmentalize my time. Monday through Thursday, on two of those days, I taught during the day, and on the other two, I was in a graduate seminar, just as I was for one or two evenings every week during the school year. For about seven years, this was more or less my life.
Throughout both my MA and PhD programs, I had to read a book per week for just about every one of my classes. This wasn't usually fun reading, either. It was dense academic prose, where I had to translate everything into common parlance, writing in the margins of the book with a mechanical pencil just to make sense of it. You might be amazed at how much can be reduced to three or four words on the side the page and still make the same exact point.
As you may have gathered, most days of the week, I was pretty busy. In addition to the reading, almost every one of these courses required that I write two thirty-page papers each, which involved research, outlining, thinking through, revising, etc. They also had to be good. One time, my computer died about a week before one of these papers was due, and that one week probably aged me by a year or two. I have since learned to back up my work on a regular basis.
I kept Saturdays and Sundays reserved for writing lesson plans and grading papers. Not all day, necessarily, but at least part of it. Sometimes, I also had some reading to catch up on, more words to scribble in the margins. I was paying for this education, so I wasn't going to not read the books. Six days a week, whenever the house was reasonably quiet, I was either reading or writing. That left me with Fridays.
Every major religion has a day of rest, so I figured that even grad students deserve that. Friday was my recharge day, which I did by playing music. See? You were thinking that I was accidentally posting this to the wrong blog, didn't you? Nope. It's about music, after all.
As referenced in another autobiographical article that I recently reposted, it was on these Fridays that I wrote music with a friend and jammed with him on the porch or in the dining room. After he moved to California, I continued the tradition, and pretty soon, these were my songwriting days. I'd throw riffs together that I had come up with years apart and on opposite sides of the planet, and I would craft them into songs, one at a time. Plus I kept coming up with more. Once I got into it, it became a lot of fun.
A musician has to practice, so I figured that I might as well practice songs that I wrote. Before I knew it, I had a shitload of songs. I'm not sure what that converts to in metric.
My Friday tradition led to the creation of all three of the albums that I released in 2017:
Over the course of about two years, I wrote thirty-three songs (plus a couple of throwaways that may resurface someday). I also wrote a dissertation, which later became a book... and they say that if you play my music backwards, you can even hear me typing.
I recognize that a lot of these songs could probably be re-done by other artists and sound a hell of a lot better, but I was just learning how to make an album as I went along. I still do, in fact. Either way, prior to my Friday sessions, these songs did not exist, and one is infinitely more than zero. Always remember that.
Thanks for listening. Happy Friday. Enjoy it. It's yours.
I only started using a capo on a regular basis about ten years ago, when I lived on a small tropical island that gets among the most rainfall of anywhere on earth. Rarely did a day pass without a tremendous downpour, after which the air became steamy as the equatorial sun pulled the moisture back up to the clouds. Rinse and repeat.
Most of the time, I couldn't tell if I was sweating or if the air was just sticking to me, but it was probably both. In the afternoon, the temperature would reach 86°F or so, and at night, it got down to about 72°F. Sunrise and sunset were at the same time all year.
Rats played the roles of squirrels as they scurried along the power lines, while smiling geckos scouted for ants from the living room walls. The steering wheel of my car was on the right side, which is also the side of the road that they drive on. Cheese was virtually nonexistent, but the fresh fish was incredible.
What does this have to do with a capo, you ask?
The only guitar that I brought to Micronesia was my acoustic/electric. It was all that I could carry on an airplane. I quickly learned that between the heat and the humidity, the climate in this place is not kind to musical instruments. Guitar strings corroded within a day or two, and the fretboard absorbed a lot of moisture from the air. Within a few months, the neck had started to noticeably bow.
I did not think to bring a truss rod wrench, nor did I really want to make any major adjustments to my guitar in this environment--so to compensate for the intonation being off, I started using a capo. Prior to this, it mostly just took up space in my guitar case, along with an old sock, a string winder and a bottle slide.
Many of the songs that would later find their way onto my albums, particularly those that use a capo, started as riffs and chord progressions that I played on the back porch during the year that I lived on the island of Pohnpei. Examples include:
I'm sure there were others, but you get the idea. In most cases, it would be another six to ten years before I turned any of these "practice riffs" into fully realized songs. At the time, I wasn't really thinking about writing music. With no cell phones or televisions, where the electricity came by way of enormous diesel generators, playing guitar behind the house was just something to do. I kind of miss it sometimes.
By the time I left Micronesia, the pickguard on my guitar had almost completely slid off. Upon returning to the US, I had to take it off the rest of the way and then glue it back on, as well as make some significant adjustments with the truss rod. That said, I'm happy to report that the guitar still works perfectly fine. It is adventure-seasoned and well-traveled. I still use a capo quite a bit in my songwriting, too.
I guess if there's a point to any of this, it's that when I changed how I approached the instrument in order to adapt to this different environment, I came up with a bunch of stuff that sounded cool to me, which later became songs.
Change in Environment-> Learning to Adapt -> Finding Inspiration in the Unfamiliar -> Writing Lyrics to Fit the Music
Back in July of 2020, my dad died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Not long after that, my mom got sick with covid. By the time she recovered, due to the pandemic, my job teaching English and tutoring students in the writing center at a community college had essentially dissolved. This, in turn, may have contributed to my marriage of sixteen years falling apart, which left me little choice but to move back to the place where I grew up and have spent most of my adult life trying to get away from. I now live over two hundred miles away from my two kids, whom I miss dearly.
Since the pandemic began, I finished and fully revised the novel that I had started writing back in January of 2020. Coincidentally, it's about an event that disrupts and transforms the lives of all Americans, causing a sudden reevaluation of our priorities. Sometimes life only makes sense when you step back and look at the big picture, and sometimes it takes years for this to happen.
I also recorded two albums last year, the first of which I began writing back in late autumn of 2020. Embersis essentially about trying to save my marriage and find meaning in existence, while Petrichor is largely about accepting what I can and cannot control.
Another day, another night, another life is wasted...
As I mentioned in a previous post, I haven't played an actual show since before the pandemic began. Now that I'm back to living in the very small town where I grew up, I don't even know where I would perform if I wanted to. I still practice, and I've toyed with the idea of writing another album, but my priority right now is in finding a viable way forward from my present situation. I certainly never expected to be here now.
My mom appreciates the help around the farm, and I am thankful for the time that I get to spend with her, especially since it's time that I never really got with my dad. Besides, who knows where I'll be living after this? I am excited by the possibilities. At the same time, being here is kind of therapeutic in its own way, an opportunity to recharge for whatever comes next. Life is precious, and it's easy to take the things we have for granted. Right now, I'm just trying to make the most of what I've got, one day at a time, while trying to create and pursue new opportunities to look forward to.
It's also nice to be reminded that I have friends who care about me. When I lived in Ohio, most of my friends were in the graduate program with me and have since moved on to better things (i.e. the fuck out of Ohio). I had expected to be there for five years and ended up staying for about nine. In the end, it got kind of lonely, while being quarantined and unemployed certainly didn't help.
I am sharing all of this with you not only as a means of self-therapy, but with the hope that you might get something from it as well. Fundamentally, I think the most important thing we can do is to see to it that the world is better off because we're in it, whatever that means. Our contributions do not need to be grandiose in order to be significant.
To everyone who is reading this, I wish you the best. I believe in the beauty of the soul, and that art and love are its greatest forms of expression. That in mind, I hope you will find the beauty within yourself and share it with others, whether through a song, some other work of art, or a simple act of kindness.
A friend of mine with an old car once told me that it had 4-60 AC. When I asked what that meant, he said that if he drove 60 mph with all four windows down, then this was the closest that his car had to actual functioning air conditioning. Hence 4-60 AC.
Not to be confused with blinker fluid, which needs to be changed every five years or fifty thousand miles, whichever comes first.
Today's songs that I would like to share with you are both good for playing loudly with the windows down. I have tested this myself and can confirm. That said, I should also note that the first of these songs made me inadvertently drive faster when I turned it up.
This was one of (if not the) first songs that I wrote when I picked up solo songwriting again about five and a half years ago. It's still one of my favorite songs to play. It's called Gravel Roads, from my 2017 album Weather Patterns. It's about the unexpected places that life takes us and the winding, often bumpy roads that take us there. [In reference to the article above, this song also features a progression that was born in Micronesia.]
The chorus goes like this:
Where do we go from here?
It could be anywhere
We don't know where we're going
Until we get there
The other of today's songs comes from Petrichor, the album that I released in June. It's called Dandelion Wine (If Only...). It has since become one of my favorite songs that I have written. Crank it up with your windows down and see if you agree.
If you want to sing along with the chorus, it goes like this:
Planted like a wallflower
Sipping dandelion wine
Daydreaming about tomorrow
When everything is fine
If only in my mind
As a bonus track, I'll share one more for today. This song is also from Weather Patterns. It's called Meand'er(and here is a live unplugged video of it). This one actually is about going for a drive with the windows down, so it made sense to include it here, even though it is the only of sixty-five songs that I have released over the past four years that does not have a drum track. As such, it may not rock quite as much as the other two. In other words, you might have to roll your windows up.
Thanks for listening. If you like what I'm doing, please share it with others.
Today's songs that I would like to share with you come from my "casual swearing" collection, where each of these tracks was labeled explicit on Spotify and Apple Music, often because of a single swear word that I wrote into a verse for emphasis. This might be the only context in which my music could be categorized with the work of 2 Live Crew.
It's called artistic license, damn it. Yeah, that's right. I said damn. Take that, the man.
These songs also all happen to come from my 2017 album Good Night, Fahrenheit. I won't include embedded links to the lyrics of each song this time. I'll let you see if you can find the naughty words all by yourself. I guess the main thing is to not let them corrupt you.
The first track is called Life Preserver. It is about always wanting to save the people you love. I've said this before, but this is probably my best example of "dad rock," and I think that this opinion is supported by both the rockin' guitar solo and by my purposeful wielding of the F-bomb in the last verse.
Track number two is called Carry On. It's about getting through it, whatever it may be.
The third track that I am sharing with you today is called Modern Inconveniences. It's about bullshit; I'll let you unpack it from there. In addition to spotting the only swear word in this song (but not this article), you get a bonus point if you can find the allusion to the work of French philospher Guy Debord.
As a bonus track (with bonus cuss words), here's a song called Begin. It's the last track on Weather Patterns, which I also released in 2017. I often like to close sets with this song, in part because I like the idea of ending with a song called Begin, but also because the last line gives the audience something to chew on as I exit the stage.
Enjoy the music. Share it with your friends and add it your playlists if you dig what I'm doing. As always, thank you for supporting independent art.
Sometimes when I write a song, I know right away where it's going to land in terms of the tracklist of whatever album I'm working on. Certain songs just feel like a track seven or a closing track, for example.
The songs that I would like to share with you today are each the third track on their respective albums, which I knew they would be as soon as I wrote them.