Season To Taste

Alright, now this is just getting silly. When I finished the first album just over a year ago, it was a pretty spontaneous decision to be done recording it. I still had a good handful of songs in various states of disrepair that I decided to just set on the shelf until the time came to begin work on the next album. 
Well, my infatuation with making new music ultimately meant that the time to start work on the next album began immediately when I released the first one. Sure, I took some time out at first to create all my social networking sites and make futile attempts to send out a hundred promo CD's to seemingly independent outlets that I'm not nearly independently wealthy enough to solicite with my "music" (I'm looking at you, NPR. ). I did some interviews, I hired the wrong company to send out a press release about the new album on my behalf (I won't even mention them here, because I never want to be associated with their name in print again. To any of you DIY or independent musicians out there that are looking at press release services and want to know which one to avoid, shoot me an email at mike@thehighcell.com and I'll be happy to share my experience). Then I dove headfirst into a never-ending onslaught of articles written by "industry experts", telling me how to achieve success in the music industry as an independent artist. Without making disparaging remarks about anyone in particular, the majority of said experts are people who couldn't make a career in the music industry and turned to consultation after washing out. To me, it's the equivalent of a failed athlete deciding to become a coach when they never really understood the game in the first place. I think it's always important to hear different perspectives, as long as you take the input as a taste-based seasoning to your own personal stew of success... as opposed to taking that advice and making it the foundation of your dish. You can season your stew with salt and make it better, but you can't just have Salt Stew.
(In all fairness, there are also some really good analytical opinions out there for up-and-coming musicians. I personally really appreciate the sensible and practical advice that I've gotten from Madalyn Sklar  www.madalynsklar.com/ over the past year.)      

Even with all of this excitement going on for me after the release of Faceplant, I realized pretty quickly that I was missing the recording process.To give you a little peek into my fairly warped, fuzzy little melon of a head, my recording process... isn't really a defined "process" as much as it is a social experiment in obsession. I tend to officially write most of my music in the studio, spontaneously, one piece at a time. Sure, I'll often have a head full of rough instrumental ideas, guitar parts, lyrical themes, mental snippets of melodies and plans for general subject matter for a few days (or even months...err... years in some cases), but none of it really comes together until I sit down and work on it. 

One of my biggest problems in the studio is that I always want to get things done too fast. By nature I want to get all the instrument parts established and polished, the lyrics finished, vocals done, mix it and master it immediately, burn it on a disk and it can wait there until I'm done with enough to share a collection of them with everyone. It's not uncommon for me to get into the studio and want to slap together an entire song from scratch in an afternoon and call it done. (I suppose that's how I am with everything... If I have a car full of groceries, I'll hang bags off of my ears and hold one in my teeth just to get it all in one trip.) But as the time has flown by and each day seems to bring one less hair and one new wrinkle, I guess I'm learning something in my old age. I'm starting to have fun nursing this bottle of wine rather than pounding a bottle of Jack. I'm starting to enjoy a nice meal with several courses rather than just stuffing my face with a frozen pizza and passing out. I suppose I always have, it's just a matter of balance and realization.

And so it also goes, where my music is concerned. That good handful of songs that I had left over after I decided to release the first album? The majority of them were the ones I had tried to finish in one day. The songs that ended up on the album were all continuous works in progress. "So Fine" was a completely different song at one point, "A Frayed Knot" didn't originally have the slide guitar part that ended up being a defining part of the song. I went back and did the guitar and vocals over again on "Shame", I added the Sitar part to "What an Evening", and basically had to cut myself off when twiddling with "Underachiever". Essentially, I didn't just take the initial ingredients and run with them. I seasoned-to-taste.

I'm not sure exactly when I had this epiphany, but at some point I made the parallel between myself and the traditional full band model when it comes to recording. Most traditional bands go through a "writing" phase as a group before they start recording. Well, I may not have a full band, but why couldn't I as a DIY artist go through the writing phase too? Why would I put the pressure on myself to get the work of 6 or 8 people done in a fraction of the time? After all, this is what I love doing. Not the business, not the marketing, not being the center of attention in person, but the writing and recording process. That's what makes me happy. So here I am with 26 new songs in various states of disrepair as possibilities for the next album, and I hope you enjoy the end result as much as I'm enjoying the cooking process.      

           

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