Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lyric Of The Day

"you could read every word i wrote
follow the trail back to when i was young
you could read every word i wrote
in some attempt to understand what has begun
cuz it's beyond me"

- from "It's a Secret" by Dark Dark Dark

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Songwriting Ramble

Shortly after Sea Salt came out, actually during the recording of Sea Salt, I went on a writing tear and wrote many many songs. I didn’t do anything with them other than write them, make a quick recording of them to revisit later, and then set them aside until Sea Salt was completed and out in the world. The problem with having a boost in songwriting inspiration is that your newest songs are always your favorites. They are the most recent, therefore the most felt. As a songwriter, the writing of the song is the most fun part and it’s easy to get wrapped up in one and want to see it completed. But, if you are still writing while trying to complete another album that is already 14 songs long, then you can’t really focus on these new songs all that much.

But Sea Salt is out in the world now and has been since last August and my songwriting urges have continued to the point that I have at least enough songs for two full-lengths. But now these songs have been sitting on the back burner for so long that I’m starting to doubt them and I hate that.

I’m currently working on an EP due out in June. It’s a simple little EP recorded only on a 4 track player. If you’re not familiar with what that means, it means 1) the song can have no more than 4 tracks – so that would essentially be guitar, bass, drums, vocals. But with some trickery you can put two instruments on one track – but it’s tricky and you still run out of room because you need to record them on two tracks and then have one open track to mix the two tracks down to, so really you can only do it once and 2) Nothing is digital. Everything is done live in one take. It may take several tries to get that perfect take, but there is no cut and pasting. So these songs are mostly low-key acoustic numbers

 About to record some vocals for the EP.

I decided to do this because of this pile of songs that need a place to go. I started separating them into themes or styles and trying to figure out the best way for them to live. So I have this little batch of songs written during the time I was grieving the loss of my dog and just a lot of other things in general and decided they needed their own special place. When Shawn (my guitar player) brought up making a project with the 4 track, I thought this would be a perfect fit. So that’s where we are now with that. 3 songs recorded. Possibly 2 more to go – because I’m hesitating on one of them.

Because that’s where I am now. These songs have been sitting for too long and now I’m starting to doubt them. I look at this potential 5th song and the timeline I’m on and think, well, do I have to put this one out there? Maybe I’ll just do a 4 song EP instead. I haven’t even played the 5th song for the full band yet. We need to come up with an arrangement for it and I plan to have the whole thing (recording, mixing, mastering, and packaging) done by June because I’ve set up a residency at the 331 Club as sort of an EP release show(s). So there might not be time. But I feel I owe it to these songs. So I will find the time – or I will try to.

And then there is the full-length album. The recording of it is even further out – late July/August is the goal, but money and scheduling could push it out even further. I originally had another 14 songs ready for it, but I find myself whittling it down, taking songs off, replacing them with others, then putting them back. I think it’s at 12 songs right now, could go down to 11….but I’m still writing. Or trying to. I really want a super cohesive album so I keep debating on whether or not this particular group of songs will get that job done. It’s not that I think they are bad songs…they just might not all go together either thematically or sonically. So I keep trying to write new ones, though I don’t really know what I’m shooting for.

And lately I have no time alone to sit and demo them on the computer at home – layering them with percussion and other instruments to see exactly where they can go. Most of them are all acoustic numbers recorded on my phone with the arrangements hanging out in my head trying desperately not to get lost. The band and I have 3 of them arranged (2 of which are done and we are playing out now) and that certainly drives the sound of the next album. It’s amazing how a song can start out one way in your head, but you bring it to 3 other minds and they all come at it from different angles to create something completely different. It gives me goosebumps to watch it happen. It’s really one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of. But it really can change the course of an album. One of the new songs, “Introvert”, for example, is completely different from how I heard it in my head. And I LOVE it. And it makes me so eager to bring all of the rest of these songs to the band and see where they go, how they change. In a way, it almost seems better to not have the time or place to overwork these songs before bringing them to the band because then they are at their most raw and waiting for input.  And it makes them new again.

Also, there is nothing worse than forcing a song. Sometimes I will hear a song and think, wow, I really wish I could write a song like that. I’m going to try. So I sit down and I try and it never happens. All of my favorite songs that I’ve written come from super quick writing sessions where I either think of a lyric and just go from there, or am sitting there messing around on the guitar/uke/whatever and stumble across a particular chord progression that I like. And I don’t stop before they are done.

I just don’t get that kind of uninterrupted time anymore. I miss it. Desperately. I’m very one-track minded so if I have the inspiration to write, it’s all I can think about and not being able to do it greatly annoys me and starts to wreak havoc on my day to day life. This goes for anything. Not just songwriting. Needing to laundry can consume me in this way.

And right now, I just want to write. I want to sit for at least two days, alone, and tackle songs. But I can’t. And it’s driving me mad. Literally.

I’m going to start work on my music room in the basement this weekend. A place I can go to and sit and write and arrange and practice. A part of me worries that once it’s complete, I’ll never see anyone again because I will just want to be in there all the time. But, I guess, it’s fortunate that our basement is not the most relaxing place so I may not want to hang out down there all that often in the end.

Where am I going with all this? I don’t know. Maybe since I can’t seem to find the time to work on songs, I thought writing a quick note about it might help me purge some of the clutter.

Another lesson I need to remind myself of is to not set these ridiculous goals for myself. I went into the year thinking I was going to get an EP and a full-length album out before year’s end. But there is just no way that is going to happen. Like I said, I have upwards of 14 songs for the full-length that keep changing and shifting and the band has only heard 3 of them and April is right around the corner. We have to finish the EP first before we can even begin on the full-length and time is just not great enough to get that done. I think we might be able to manage by January 2014 – but I need to let these goals go and just let things happen as they are.

Of course, I need to finish the EP by June and I think we can do that.

I tend to make life more complicated for myself than it needs to be.

Maybe I should write a song about it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Winter Wasteland

This is the post where I complain about winter. You've been warned.

This is the current landscape:


It makes me beyond angry.

Tomorrow marks the first day of spring and there is a pile of snow at the end of the driveway that is taller than me.

It is 9 degrees out right now and it will get down to 2 tonight. And that is air temperature. Add in the windchill and it feels like -6.

As a Minnesotan, we are used to these temperatures. At least, as use to them as a person can be. But there is this unwritten rule or understanding we have with Ms. Mother Nature that come March this below zero windchill crap is over and done. Especially by the first day of spring. We should be sitting consistently in the 30s right now. I can handle that. 30 degrees on a sunny day can feel pretty okay.

We can at least walk the dog.

I feel most bad for this guy:


He can't be walked in this weather. It's too cold. For all of us.

Last year we were completely spoiled. It was 60-70 degrees in January. And it was 60-70 degrees in March.

It is at least 60 degrees colder today than it was this time last year.

And I know last year was as much of an anomaly as the bitter cold this year is.

But this never ending snow and cold is just too much to deal with.

I am so sick of being cold.

I have not had a proper winter jacket this year and I thought I had made it through.

But nope.

So why do I live here? Because I do and always have.

But it gets harder and harder to tolerate each year.

It's just so depressing.

I'm not asking for 70 degrees. A nice 40 degree day would make so incredibly happy.

Please make it so, Mother Nature.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lyric Of The Day

"sing, baby, sing
until it all comes out"

-from "You're the Only Thing In Your Way" by Cloud Cult

Friday, March 8, 2013

Happy International Women's Day!

I’m told today is International Women’s Day. So I thought I’d put together a list of some of my favorite (international) women in music. Most of these people I’ve mentioned on this site countless times before. And some of them I don’t listen to at all anymore. But whatever. They were a big part of my life at one point and influenced me musically in some way. Here’s a list (in alphabetical order) for you to come back to if you’re ever looking for something to listen to.

Fiona Apple
I love this song with all of my being. The perfect heartbreak song.
Babes in Toyland
When I was in high school, I was pretty sure that if I ever became a musician, I would be making music like this.

Belly
Belly's album Star is one my favorite albums ever. EVER.

Beyonce
The is a perfect song and Beyonce rules all.



Bjork
This video was the first time I saw/heard Bjork. I was mesmerized. And frightened. These days I sometimes just can't listen to her. But everyone once in a while, I get in a mood.

Belinda Carlisle
People will say I should put The Go-Gos here instead. But The Go-Gos were just slightly before my time. I loved solo Belinda first and whenever this song came on VH1, I was glued to the TV singing along. I also thought we shared similar facial features (round face yet pointy chin, small turned up nose) and being an insecure kid, it made me feel good to see someone on TV with those features.

Cat Power
Beautiful. 
Kelly Clarkson
She's just amazing. And I love that she is totally respected as a singer now. I've always loved her voice but seeing this performance blew me away. Girl. Can. Sing.
The Cranberries
I was obsessed with The Cranberries in the early 90s. 

Ani Difranco
My biggest inspiration on this list. She inspired me to play guitar and the way that I play today is all due to learning her songs. Not sure I should say thank you since I never learned to play with a pick because of it. 

Elastica
Cool.

Feist
When I started to write Sea Salt, I was listening to Feist's The Reminder on repeat and really thought that's what Sea Salt would sound like. Of course, that's not the case. Still trying to write this song.

Garbage
I so wanted to be as cool as Shirley Manson.

Juliana Hatfield
This video played every morning on MTV as I got ready for school. Juliana is the coolest.
Heart
I've often tried - but always failed - to both 1) learn how to play this guitar intro and 2) sing this song. 

Kristin Hersch
This was probably the first super intense, raw album I ever bought. I was obsessed with it. Pretty much the coolest album I owned at the time.
Hole
This song could possibly be in my 10 favorite songs ever. I still love Hole. Live Through This is a fantastic album. One of the last true classics.

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston helped me get through my mother's death. She will always be important to me for that. Rest In Peace, Whitney.
Janis Ian
I recall always hearing about this song. Then I caught her SNL performance of it on late night TV when I was 17 and I totally felt it. I ordered the album and fell in love with the whole thing. It is my favorite get drunk and sing along to every word of every song album.

Janet Jackson
Ms. Jackson is The Queen. I remember watching this video as a little girl and running around our apartment trying to mimic every move/scene.

Joan Jett
My karaoke jam.

Jewel
Don't judge. This was the first non-strumming song I learned on the guitar. I was very proud of myself. And back then you just didn't see this kind of performance on TV. 
Janis Joplin
The original karaoke jam when my girlfriends and I would all go up on stage to sing together.

Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi was probably my first favorite lady. 


Annie Lennox
When this video came out, I was just transfixed by how goddamn beautiful she is. Then I listened and her voice is so amazing. And this song is one of the best. Ever.

Jenny Lewis
I feel so honored whenever my songs get compared to Jenny's. You just know she's going to be around for a long time. An excellent songwriter.
Lykke Li
Just try to stop watching this video. Lykke Li is dance music with feeling. The lyrics are not thrown aside. She is super super good and both of her albums are top notch.

Lisa Loeb
Don't judge Part 2. And just try not to sing along. I blame her and Jewel for getting me started on my folky side.

Madonna
I can't not include Madonna. When I was kid I knew this whole dance routine. Probably my favorite Madonna song.

Mazzy Star
This was my "I'm so cool" album in high school.
Erin McKeown
Erin is lovely in every way. And she's an amazing guitarist. 

Anais Mitchell
I always say Anais is the new Paul Simon. Lyrically, she reminds me of him, the way the words just happen so perfectly. 

Alanis Morissette
I also can't not include Alanis. I loved her back in the day. I really can't listen to her now and by the time her Unplugged happened, I was over her. But I always secretly liked this song, but couldn't bring myself to buy the album.
Joanna Newsom
This song will cut you. Deep. A new favorite artist of mine.

No Doubt
Seeing this video for the first time, I knew I had to have the album and like every girl back then, I wanted to be Gwen.

Sinead O'Connor
I feel like my purchase of - and liking of (beyond "Nothing Compares 2 U") - I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, was when I realized I liked music beyond all the fluff.

Amanda Palmer
This was the first Amanda Palmer song I fell in love with.
Liz Phair
The first time I heard this song, it blew me away how much I related to it. My group of guy friends also left suspicious things in the sink and egged me on and kept me mad. 

PJ Harvey
Whenever I say how much I love PJ Harvey, this is the video I post because it just wraps up all that is awesome about her.

Salt N Pepa
"Shoop" was my jam back in the day and they paved the way for me to start listening to rap.
Regina Spektor
It was hard for me to pick a Regina song to post, so I went with the prettiest.

Tiffany
For reals. Go back and listen to her first record. It's an amazing and mature pop record that still holds up. This is my favorite song of hers.

Sharon Van Etten
Sharon is new to me, but I'm already so inspired by her. This is the latest favorite.

Suzanne Vega
I spent a summer in my early twenties unemployed and trying to beat Super Mario Bros. 3. I had bought her album 99.9 on a whim and played it as I played this game. I've loved it ever since.

Gillian Welch
A true talent.   

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Things I Love Right Now

1. Downton Abbey
I just started watching Downton Abbey. I love it. I am totally addicted. I am 4 episodes in to Season Two - so NO SPOILERS, PLEASE. I’m not asking the entire internet to not spoil things, just don’t post any spoilers here. I’ve done very well at avoiding them so far.

It’s a really good show. The characters are well-developed right from the start and there are so many of them! The second season has become a little soapy with some plot points that are hard to believe. I mean, it’s not like this is a zombie show or some mythical land where anything goes. It’s a show based in reality, so I do expect plot lines to lean towards the realistic. But, still, it’s highly enjoyable and utterly addicting television.

2. Cloud Cult new album Love

Cloud Cult has been a favorite band of mine for many many years now. I love most everything they do and Love is no exception. But their last album, Light Chasers, didn’t really pull me in (with the exception of a couple songs which are probably some of their best songs: “Running With the Wolves”, “There’s So Much Energy in Us”). But Love grabbed me right away. It really feels like a revisit to old school Cloud Cult. Less orchestral and more guitar based. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE their orchestral stuff. They really feel like a rock band meets Classical music. But this album feels like a different approach for them. It’s just very good and beautiful  and totally suits this station I am at in my life right now. The album’s released is perfectly timed for me.

3. My new song
The band and I are currently working on an EP to be released in June. The songs all deal with grief and loss and really wouldn’t fit on the next full-length album, but I feel like they need a place. They are much more simple and usually just me with some light additional instrumentation. But the song we just recorded last weekend titled “Blind” is a very special song to me and might be one of my favorites that I’ve ever written. The full band plays on it and they just nailed the arrangement. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.

4. My contacts
I went to the doctor for eye irritation issues Sunday morning and they told me I scratched my cornea. That means I can’t wear contacts for a week. It’s awful. I haven’t had my glass prescription updated in years. They are old and unfashionable and I can’t really see very  well with them on. I miss my contacts so much. I wore glasses for most of my life because I was too afraid to use contacts. But now, I just want them back so bad.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Driftwood

I had a show at the Driftwood this past Thursday. It was certainly an experience.

The Driftwood is a little bar in south Minneapolis with hockey on the TV and all of the Lite beers you can imagine on tap. They are new to hosting live music. They have a very simplified PA system.

We had problems with sound throughout our whole set. Namely the inability to hear my guitar in the monitors, which can be a problem for those of us on stage.

But we got through it. And we did it well. We just had fun with it. I'm extremely fortunate to have such a great band.

And today we are going to start the recording for another song off of the new EP coming out in June. I'm very excited about this song. It's a very special song for me and the arrangement that we've worked out makes me so happy.

Setlist for the Driftwood 2/28/13

  • Good
  • Float
  • Good to Know
  • Lens
  • Here
  • Adore
  • Flavor
  • Beg, Borrow, or Steal
  • Introvert

And the whole time we were there, I had this song in my head by Travis. I used to love this band.