Friday, October 4, 2013

On First Albums: An Anniversary

Wednesday was the three year anniversary of the release of my first album, Good. When I think back on where I was when I made that and why I made it and just generally who I was when I made that, it's a weird thing.

I read so many interviews with musicians who talk about how they cringe when listening to their earlier albums. And I get that. It's hard. Everything is so new. I didn't know what I was doing. I wasn't thinking about overall sound and themes and what I really wanted for this record, just that I wanted to make it. Make one. An album.

I had been sitting with this goal in my head for so many years. The goal was to perform one of my own original songs on stage one time. Just one song, one time. And I put it off for so long. I was terrified. Writing a song and playing it in front of people is absolutely terrifying the first time. And the second time and sometimes many many more times. People are so weird about music. Every one looks at it from a different perspective and likes what they like for different reasons. And you never know who your audience is that night. The fear of being laughed at or catching someone rolling their eyes or plugging their ears or getting up and walking away is a very legitimate fear. And I was terrified. So I put it off. For years. And for so many excuses. I had a guitar. I had songs. I had a voice. But there was always a reason not to.

Until I decided that there wasn't a reason not to.

So I did it and as I stood up there performing what would end up being the title track to this first record, I just felt a change. Something shifted in me. It was like I finally felt comfortable. Like I discovered this thing, a point of focus, that I had, that had always been there.

I performed 4 more songs that night and couldn't wait to come back the next week and do it again.

 First time on stage.

Throughout the next few months as I attended open mic after open mic, I kicked myself repeatedly for not tackling this as a young 20 year old - when the freedom to focus on your passion is more acceptable and easier. For now, this music thing would have to sit in the hobby section of life. Something to do between 8 hours of work and a good night's sleep and every other chore in between.

But I couldn't just let it sit there. I wanted to do more. I wanted to make an album. I had adjusted my goals and now an album is where it was at. I still couldn't really pin point why or what the ultimate goal was. I just thought, baby steps. One thing at a time.

So I contacted my friend to play drums on the album (Shawn, who still plays with me, but now plays lead guitar). I headed to the place where all my friends like to record (owned by the lead singer/guitarist of one of my favorite bands, so bonus), and started recording the songs. Because that's what I wanted. A professional sounding collection of my songs.

And after 6 weeks of work day evenings and a couple of 10 hour Saturdays, I had an album.

So then what?

I asked my friend if she would create the artwork. And she did. And it's so lovely. And people are always gushing about how pretty it is. And I cried when I first saw it because there it was. My first album cover. It was happening.

I listened to it and, it's a weird thing listening to your own records. With this first one, I was amazed to hear that, yep, my guitar can sound like the artist's I listen to. It's just an acoustic, but it sounds like an acoustic. It was some sort of validation that I can actually play. It's hard to explain.

And then you hear your own voice, which for anybody is awkward. It's really hard to get used to. You cannot help but pick it apart. I still think of all the things I would change vocally if I were recording Good now. These songs now, when played live, are so different in so many ways.

But this was all so new to me then.

I didn't heavily promote it. I didn't know how. I played shows and told people there about it. I figured out how to get it on iTunes and other music places online. I sent it out to radio. But I held my release show in my living room. Still just so very shy and worried about really putting myself out there. (It was a super fun awesome night, though.)

Preparing to rock the living room.

I am incredibly proud of this record. Just its very existence marks a complete change for me. And it's not a change of me becoming a different person, it's a change of me figuring out who I really am.

Music has always been the driving force in my life. My obsession. And now, three years later, I feel like I can tell people that I am a musician. And here are my albums. And I have a show coming up at this place. And you can hear me here. And I do this thing that I am really proud of and I hope you will listen. I want you to listen. I no longer want to keep it hidden to my own files. And if you don't like it, thanks for taking the time to check it out.

I've never been a very confident gal. I've always been very unsure of myself. Music has given me a confidence I never knew I could have. And even if most days it's not there in my every day life, walking the skyways of downtown St. Paul to get coffee before work or in a room full of party people, when I'm playing music I feel comfortable. I feel at home. I feel like myself.

Good will always be the starting point for that. Learning about the craft of songwriting and album making and gaining experience, I do things a little differently now. With Sea Salt I caught a theme running through and wanted to make sure the songs had a connecting vibe with them. Same with Intermission. I take songwriting as a challenge in my life. A positive one. Something to study and work on. I write with my band in mind. I write with my band. I have a band. And they are awesome. But I'm also less fearful of putting it all out there. With Good, it's a collection of songs that I had. That I was proud of. That I wanted to test the waters with. I learned a lot making that record, performing those songs, promoting it. I learned a lot about a lot of things.

It's a fascinating world, this music world. It can be extremely fun and extremely frustrating. But I'm so incredibly happy to be a part of it.

So thank you to the songs of Good and everyone who helped to make it a reality. It's been a gift that I will always cherish and am so thankful for.

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