Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I've been on a bit of a hiatus

No posts in a month! Well, life will do that to you. Or shall I say, girls. Been too distracted and haven't worked on anything in a couple weeks, but I've got about a week without distraction now, and look to resume writing.

It's getting a bit tougher though, I think my creativity is flaming out just a bit, but nothing concerning. I've still got a round of over 30 demos so far, should be enough to gather 10 to 12 together, but I want to press on for 15 more.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

goals in songwriting

99% of the time when I'm writing on guitar, it just happens. Nothing is forced, I come across melodies I like, and I stick to them -- it works. This kind of non-thinking in writing is really nice. It's a big relief, and absolves one of real duties. You tend to just play what you feel at the moment, or what you're drawing from. Your mind doesn't get muddied with "if's" and "how's", something I think should be saved for arrangement and composition. Just getting a basic, foundational melody out the gates with minimal thinking, I find to be a good start.

Yesterday though, I decided I have a particular goal. I want to write a song that is just simply captivating. Beautiful. Moving. It's an exercise in many things -- persistence, capturing a vibe, maintaining atmosphere, and staying on track towards that goal. It involves asking questions -- "what is it I want to accomplish? How do I want to accomplish it? What is most effective in relation to my goal(s)?".

I prefer creating anything to be generally free form. Unless it needs a concept, just keep it flowing, no mental interruption. But I'm at a point where I have to balance both. It makes me wonder... can a thought out song be as effective as genuinely spontaneous, in-the-moment song? Whether the song as a whole, or only it's roots. Or imagine, a paint-by-numbers painting. Is it any less effective as a piece of art, than something improvised? I don't mean I prefer to improvise -- that kind of style or genre never interested me, I like things to have a general purpose with very little of it being abstract.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for me though is, to create this song, I have to sift through a few emotions and thoughts that are on the other end of the scale. I am wanting to write a positive, beautiful song that is not haunting, but just embeds itself and stays there. Such a result isn't guaranteed, and is fairly relative to the end listener. That's ok. My motivation, is one person. It only has to reach them. It only has to hold them. Anyway, I suppose my original point is, it's tough writing something positive when you are more inclined to write something cathartic, regarding the same subject of the song - but drawing from opposite ends.

I don't have a vision for it yet. I guess it all starts there.

"All artists have a code of ethics they're operating by, and that we're all driven by commitment. Commitment in itself is quite serious decision, you come up as a kid and decide to embrace music and its not something that one takes lightly, because it becomes a way of life and as performers we witness the raising of the spirit... you know, the capacity that music has to change the feeling of a room. so we cant help but be spiritual people"
Daniel Lanois

Monday, December 22, 2008

amazingly productive lately

Months ago, I started out writing poems and lyrics to eventually work with. When I felt finished or had nothing more to say, I had 22 of them ready. Unfortunately as I worked with a few to write music for them, I struggled a lot. It was overwhelming. Lately though, I've been writing and playing more with the acoustic guitar and suddenly, new ideas are spilling out. Just a couple nights ago, I came up with a moving melody, and during a short walk, the lyrics and their melody came to me. I came home and tracked a quick demo and really liked what I heard. I did this with a few different songs (having recently finished a demo for "I Am").

Now instead of feeling overwhelmed, I feel... able. But, I'm still left with a bitter feeling about all the content I wrote over the months. It feels useless. I know this isn't true - I can just go through things I've written, update them, make them fit. But it's not always so simple.

I'm looking at getting about 10 acoustic demos done, then going from there for the songs in full production. Some may be left barebones if I find them more effective as guitar and voice.

I think I've found a process that really works for me.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

when it all comes together...

Regarding "Wide Smiles & Wine Bottles", it's coming along rather nicely. I recently had my acoustic restrung and it's great to have it in my hands again. I replaced the electric guitar I'd recorded with the acoustic, and it sounds quite nice. The mids and highs seem to be missing a bit, but this comes down to mic placement. Regardless, my AT-2020 picks up the acoustic guitar rather well, and I can say I'm pretty happy recording acoustic guitar with it.

When I played it all back (with drums I'd sequenced), it just suddenly seemed to have a life of it's own. I can see my vocal melody working very well over it. Since I removed the electric guitar part, my voice cut through better. Unfortunately, this opened up my ears to some issues with my singing. Yet, this is definitely a good thing, and something to learn from. Quite helpful, actually. I should be able to complete this song soon - I'm not sure if it will appear on the album. I'd like it to, but it may seem a bit out of place, unless I do a kind of remix version.

Monday, November 24, 2008

love keeps me going

I was intending to work and hopefully finish a demo of "Everyone Knows" this month, but it's not proving as fruitful or as inspiring as another track, "Wide Smiles & Wine Bottles". I wrote the lyrics over a year ago as a poem titled "The Last Day". It basically described being in the moment: spending the little time you've got left with someone dear to you. Not in any mortal sense, although I guess one could interpret it that way. I did a few vocal attempts this last week and realised I had to further adjust the song and how the words came together. Some lines were omitted altogether. I've come up with a vocal melody I'm happy with. The rest of the challenge lies in bringing the rest of the track to life, above the basic but effective chord progression I wrote on guitar. I'm thinking of using it on piano.

This all reminds me that most anything creative, especially music - tends to evolve during it's process. Trying to keep up with this evolution, choosing what stays and what goes, can either be challenging or frustrating, or both. What keeps me going though, is love for the piece itself - which is rooted in love for another person. All of our emotions, positive or negative - can be used in this manner... a sort of driving force, a motivation. Being that this is my first time writing a full song, it's daunting. But, I know somehow with my vision for it, and the passion born of it - it will come into it's own.

Amusingly enough, part of me feels a bit guilty for putting "Everyone Knows" on the backburner. It's completely normal though. Even it is completely abandoned in context of the album, that's okay too. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't miss it.

"There is always some madness in love.
But there is also always some reason in madness."

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, November 21, 2008

my voice is not ready to be heard

I've always felt I could sing well along with many of my favorite songs. Many of them ranged from Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Depeche Mode and Dave Matthews Band. I'm good with pitch, but I'm coming to realise delivery is my problem. It's not as convincing, and a bit throaty. On top of that, my voice is naturally a bit stuffy sounding, unless I sing a little higher. A couple days ago, I recorded some vocals of a song I'd written over a basic piano track. What I heard back definitely needed improvement. I liked the vibe I had, but it wasn't really being cohesive with the piano -- and it wasn't a composition issue, it was just how I sung it.

Initially I got extremely discouraged -- I considered selling all my gear. I do not want to just write instrumental music. I want to use my voice, as I enjoy writing and I want to express these things vocally. The voice is one of the most moving "instruments" there is. I am torn between whether one has the potential to develop a good singing voice, or if it comes down to "you got it or you don't". I lean towards the latter.

Regardless, I still feel there is this potential there. Perhaps exercises and warmups aren't futile, and I should commit to them. It's like... I know somewhere in me, I can do this. But what I'm hearing isn't entirely encouraging.

"To catch a song, you have to think like a song."
Tom Waits

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

coffee shops never fail to inspire

I've been visiting Copper Rock Coffee somewhat frequently lately, bringing the Strat. Just being in a different, warm environment helps. I can barely hear what I'm playing, but I'm not any less productive. I've come up with a few pieces for various songs, and altogether I have about 7 or 8. I can't say for sure that I will use each of them for any of the songs I tied them to, as I don't want to be too rigid. But all these pieces are assets I can choose from - if they fit, great. If they don't, I write more.

I also wrote a song that feels a bit more folk-ish, which although I enjoy the genre, it's not something I usually write. Perhaps it will appear in different form on the album. I'm trying to balance the album's lyrical content. A lot of it has been dealing with negative people and negative situations, but I have enough positive to draw from that I want to include.

As far as schedule or time constraits, I'm still not comfortable with these. I do know I would like to get at least 1 or 2 songs written by the end of November, and get a 3rd done in December. I've been waking up like a normal human being lately, so I'm considering a 10 AM to 10 PM writing/recording "shift".

I've been pretty inspired by Billy Howerdel's project "Ashes Divide". Billy was the guitarist in A Perfect Circle, a band that Maynard James Keenan of Tool fronted. Checkout this remix of an AD song - it's beautiful, and summarizes my style and aim more, as I'm not totally using guitar - yet here they are able to create a beautiful, emotional song without a staple instrument of rock:

» "Denial Waits" (Danny Lohner remix)

"I know people who spend and spend and spend. Every month something new comes out, but it all achieves the same thing. I don't think equipment makes your music, really. That's enough to make your music. You've got to have some soul, man. You hear people who use machines, and their music is technically advanced, but there ain't no soul in it. Shit, music without soul? It's no good to be technical. If music ain't got soul, it's not music."