We finished our album and threw it away. And we’re excited..!

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I had a Friday afternoon off, so Lisa and I did a bike outing. On the drive to our starting spot, I plugged in my iPad to play what was supposed to be our album. This was the first time she heard it. After a couple songs, we both had an unpleasant feeling.

Boredom.

Lisa said it first. “No one is going to listen to this.”

My first reaction is to defend our work because I’ve spent a lot of time mixing it. Lisa didn’t have the same investment as me. Of course she sang on it, but that was all. I spent hours tweaking this and that..

But Lisa was more objective. She heard it fresh.

We were discussing this later on, and I had an idea. I played her my old recording of “Amazing Day”. The one I made a year and a half ago. After about 30 seconds she looked at me with an excited face.

“Yeah! Can we make an album that sounds like this?”

What was the difference? The production. My original had a full arrangement as opposed to simple voice/guitar. At that moment, I realized the obvious. Some songs sound great with a simple approach, but some songs need more. The answer?

Let’s do more.

If a song shines with just an acoustic guitar and vocal that’s what we’ll do. But if it needs more, we’ll give it more. Thanks to fiverr, it’s easy and cheap to hire whatever instruments are needed.

So that’s why we discarded our original idea of a very simple album. It was an experiment, but we weren’t happy with it. It was too simple. Some songs needed more.

So we’re excited. I think this will be something we feel great about.

 

What is Success..?

What is success?

Easy. The Monkees.

At least that’s what I thought when I was ten. I saw Mike Nesmith playing that cool Gretsch guitar on TV. I heard “Steppin’ Stone” on the radio. What could be better?

But for me, what “success” means has changed over the years.

In my 20s my goal was to be a famous musician. I had a band aimed at big things. I scored a publishing deal and songs I’d written were on a couple of albums.

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Aah yes, the 80s… Me (2nd from left) in my band King’s English.

As I scaled the success ladder, I met and got to know people who had what I wanted. People with record deals. Hits on the radio. Good people. Talented people. But something dawned on me.

Success didn’t look like what I expected.

What was I expecting? I don’t know. It sounds naïve, but on some level I thought being a “big shot” would fill in some empty gap inside of me. But the people I knew weren’t more content. They had problems. They worried. Success has its perks, but it isn’t the answer to life.

…….

I left the music business, but I was still a musician. It felt good to have the pressure of career advancement off my shoulders. Problem solved, right? Now I could enjoy music again. But over time something came into focus.

Success doesn’t satisfy, but lack of success doesn’t either. What’s the deal..?

Will Smith says it well:

“I’ve been to the top of all those material world mountains and nothing makes you happy other than being useful to others. That’s it. That’s the only thing that ever will satisfy that thing, is that what you’re doing is useful.”
– Will Smith

Put another way:

The generous will prosper;
    those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
Proverbs 11:25 NLT

I saw an interview with David Letterman and Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry asked Dave if he had regrets. Without pause, Dave said he regrets not retiring sooner. Then he could have done something that actually helped people.

Jerry, the contrarian, didn’t buy it.

He said by putting on a great show, Dave did help people. I remember laughing while watching Late Night. His show made life a little better.

The point didn’t resonate with Dave. Why? I have a theory.

Dave’s regrets weren’t because his success wasn’t big enough. It wasn’t because his show wasn’t funny enough. The problem is what drove him wasn’t good enough. His drive for success was all about himself, and now he has regrets. He longs to do something that isn’t self centered.

And Jerry has a point. Dave could have had that motive all along, and his show could have been just as good. Maybe better. And he would have enjoyed his success more.

Here’s the lesson. When our goal is is to serve others with our art (or whatever) we find something. We find satisfaction. Joy. Purpose.

Success.

Not as Fast as Johnny Cash…

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I saw an old video of Johnny Cash on a TV show. After his song, he stood with his band and had a short interview with the host. 

“I hear you’re recording a new album tomorrow?”

Hold the phone. An album? In one day? Johnny confirmed. 

“Yes, we’re going into the studio to record a new album tomorrow.”

Wow, did he really work that fast? 

He kind of inspired me. We’re making an album too. But our budget is small (right around $0). Plus, we don’t have a lot of free time to get everything “just so.” Summer is the best time for us to do extra projects, but when fall comes other commitments ramp up.  

So how do we finish before our fall deadline? Do it in a single day..?  I don’t think we can pull that off, so here’s what we’re doing…

We’re making this an EP. That means 5-6 songs. 

Bam, that’s more doable right there. 

Can’t spend much? I’ve already got a laptop and some mics. Our back bedroom is the studio. Push away some laundry and move Lisa’s desk chair and viola.

A recording studio. 

Forget overdubs. Set up the mics, do a few takes, pick the best one. 

Perfection? Fugget about it. 

We love produced recordings. But if we take that route, this thing won’t see daylight for a year. For me, it would creative death to labor over the same songs that long. I’m impatient. I need to get ‘er done. 

And then move on. Write some new songs.

Our humble EP will sound just like us. If you like what you hear live, you’ll like the EP. If you don’t like us live, then…

Well, you get the gist. 

They’ll be little flaws, but hopefully a good feel. 

And it’ll get done. 

Not as fast as Johnny Cash, but pretty fast. 

Why musicians make albums…

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“Hey, I’m working on a new album, should finish in a couple of months. Look for it then.”

That’s what I hear a lot of songwriters say from the stage. Heck, we just said it at last night’s gig.

Why?

Most won’t make a profit or become famous. Recording can be a lot of expensive work, and tough to get anyone to listen. What drives musicians?  I can give you my theory in one word.

Connection.

Songwriters write songs. It’s what we do. Kinda like dogs stick their heads out of car windows though my dog’s too short for that. Writing songs is how we express ourselves. But once we love our song, it’s still not done. Our song’s purpose is unfulfilled until something happens. What needs to happen?

You. You need to happen.

Connection.

We want someone to hear our song and not only like it, but get it. Understand it. Feel it. To find their experience in our words and music.

When that happens, our song has fulfilled its purpose.

So songwriters scribble on note pads and share very personal stuff into microphones. Stuff we normally wouldn’t tell anyone. We write and re-write, getting stuck once again on the 2nd verse lyrics. Bland melodies and cliche phrases are weeds that need pulling. Oh, and that brilliant idea that came to us in the car? Now we can’t remember it.

Finally, the song is complete.

And we record it.

We agonize to make our creations as amazing as possible. We record 50 takes and later discover the 2nd attempt was fine. When money, time, energy and patience run out, we walk away.

Exhausted.

Almost satisfied.

Never completely.

Then we make our creations available to you, hoping you’ll click on the link. Or maybe listen in a noisy club or coffee shop.

And sometimes it happens. Our song connects.

When you, dear listener, find yourself in our song, we smile. You become the hero of our creative process.

Connection.

If it happens with only one person, it’s worth it.

And so Lisa and I are recording an EP.

Now you know why.

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15 NLT