Sunday, October 7, 2012

Twenty Two is a Seatbelt

I feel like twenty two is a seatbelt. In college, I studied communications, video production, creative writing, prose fiction, and a dash of music business, but I didn't study music. Those four years were focused on developing marketable skills that would open practical pay-check doors.  I wanted to graduate with the ability to work. But all the while, music stayed on the back burner, simmering and impatient. Here and there, I performed at some bars and little things, but nothing substantial.  There were brief periods of time where I didn't even really write music.  My junior year was a real low point for creative endeavors. Somehow, my studies and my TV production work sucked me into this ever-busy cycle of monotony and allowed for little to no personal growth.  There's a certain amount that needs be sacrificed in order to grow professionally, but at all points, I felt empty.  18, 19, 20, 21.  They each went by without me accepting and embracing my music seriously.  Pretty crucial years, in fact. Having worked my ass off through school, I'm now allowing myself the freedom to zero in on my writing and my performing. Graduation was in May and since then I've been continuously busy working towards music. I've performed with and met some amazing folks who look at me first as a musician/friend and second as anything else.  In college, it was always "Dave, the TV guy that kind of plays music sometimes."  That's no one's fault but my own. If you embrace yourself, others will as well.  It's projection and interpretation, the give and take of interaction.  So now, I'm twenty two and I want more than anything to be running in high gear and performing all the time but my life just isn't there yet.  I want to take this so seriously that it consumes me the way that my education did for the last four years but I haven't had the time yet.  If I finally do that, though, I can say I'm working in the right direction. The ever-present issue is that I'm only twenty two. I need to travel, meet people, see places, fail, stand up, fail again, perform, succeed, change, grow. All of that takes time and, as I mentioned before, my music is impatient. But it'll get there. Bring it on, life, I need you to raise me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Most Of It Is Crap

When I set out to write a new song, most of it is crap. It really is. I think most musicians will know what I'm talking about when I say that, by the time they stumble onto something they like and plan to keep, they've tried a bunch of shit that will never be heard.  (Unless drunk... in a room... with a friend or two -- that tends to be the setting for the resurfacing of the mediocre).  But when I'm writing something, I'll tend to have four or five co-existing, untitled, unfinished Word documents full of different ideas. These little half-assed brigades of the cliché and overcompensating.  Really though, how many different ways can someone write "I'll love you whether you like it or not"?  When that workable material finally finds its ways through your fingers, though, it's not about finding new ways to say the old. It's about finding the thread of thought strong enough and consistent enough to tell a simple story.  That's when you commit, dive in, and swim around in the deep end that feeling.  If you were body surfing, you're going to have a lot of "oh I've got this one, I've got this one!... Never mind, next one, next one."  It's a lot like finding that wave to carry you. A good one will crash you into the sand and make you want to do it again and again. You finish writing something you like and you should be mentally, emotionally, personally exhausted but want nothing more than to start back at the top and play it again. Lately, I've had waves in droves and it's been a particularly spaghetti-on-the-wall week of new songs, so we'll see how it goes and if I decide to keep any of them.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Finding Balance

Music can't be anxious, or worried, or rushed. Songs can emote those things but the performer has to control all variables when composing a piece. Some incredibly talented people can obviously make things up perfectly on the fly, but that's different from controlling the sound. If you can't separate feelings of anxiety and anger from the way you approach your writing, the equilibrium of good music will tilt to the desperate and the clarity of thought will be lost.  I'm young. I'm young and anxious and nervous and excited and desperate and loud and quiet and hopeless.  I'm all of these things and it affects my music. I want to put all that into my songs but what's more important than taking four minutes and whining into a microphone is finding balance in the only way I know how to compose myself. If I can't channel all that into simple threads of story or imagery or thought, then I'm not writing the best music I can. Some might disagree, maybe they think you have to bare all of yourself as raw and as broken as that is, and that the music has to be that too. But I think there's a threshold, where raw emotion meets clarity.  Step too far through the door on either side and the music can suffer. That's why good writers are so impressive. They tiptoe the balance and make it look easy.  The video below is an example of all this, where he found the threshold between broken and deliberate and balanced there in the writing. He's one of my favorites and he should be one of yours as well.  'Stranded' by Chris Ayer.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Good Things Make Good Things

For the second time this week, I've been lucky enough to see Brendan James perform live. When I saw him on Thursday at the living room show, I asked him (apparently more desperately than I meant to) to play 'Take the Fall' at his show on Saturday 1. because it's my favorite song by him and has been since about 2007 and 2. because I think it's one of his most honest songs. Well, during the show, he gave a shout to me as that guy that really wanted to hear 'Take the Fall'.  Yes, I felt like a groupie, but it was amazing that he actually took the time to fit that song into his set-list. Apparently, he's just that kind of thoughtful person. And for the record, his performance of it was amazing. But when I got home last night, I sat up 'til about 4:30 writing a new song called 'Sinking' and have totally fallen in love with it. Finally decided to go to sleep, but before doing so, I listened to the demo recording I made of my new song and I wasn't sure how it had all gotten there. It was as if the time spent writing it was blank for me and the only thing that matter was the product on the other side. That's happened to me only once before when writing a song and it's a fantastically confusing experience. I'm really proud of this one and I think it marks a big change in the type of songwriting I'm capable of. Seeing Brendan play and meeting so many cool people lately, I guess good things make good things. We'll see, though. I'm never quite sure until the song sneaks onto a stage and evokes some type of reaction, but, fingers crossed, this one's different.


-- Also, here's the video of Brendan playing 'Take the Fall' last night. Awesome.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Music Has To Matter

Yesterday, I had the privilege of sitting in a living room where Brendan James played for an hour to a group of thirty of us. There's nothing as humbling as watching someone that talented, who you admire that much put on a show. He truly is an amazing musician and individual. The music matters to him. That's so key to putting out an honest product. The music has to matter.  What I learned last night is that I have so much to learn and so much to look forward to. The people I've met and the shows I've seen, it's just one wonderful lesson at a time. Keep your eyes up and your mind open. It's only way to see the world right.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Learning How To Linger

You know when you have realizations that just shake your whole foundation, forcing into question your approach to your entire existence? Well, mine maybe wasn't that inspired, but recently, I started to question my approach to writing. Until now, everything I've written has been wordy and complicated and that was purposeful. I figured the more words I squeeze into a stanza, the more interesting it was. Although, while sometimes that works, sometimes you just got to slow down and learn how to linger. Lingering works beyond music too. If you can push yourself to settle and step away from the busy-ness of everything, you might just enjoy the ease. You might notice what's in front of you and actually be part of it for once. That's what I'm trying to do with music these days, learning how not to rush, so I can be part of it. With that said, I wrote this song last week called 'Break Down' and it was my attempt at slowing my own pulse, bringing the emotion to a simmer (at least for part of the time). I hope you like it.


To hear the song click here ---> 'Break Down' (demo)

Monday, September 24, 2012

"Hold on to those little things..." - DMB

One of my best friends made me this box as a graduation gift. She wood-burned the design and created something beautiful from something simple.  It's really amazing.  She also burned a quote into the front, a Dave Matthews quote. (Does she know me or does she know me!) The end of the quote is "Hold onto your memories/Hold on to those little things..."  Well, this box currently contains every bit of merchandize I have to support my music.  Some stickers. And hell ya, some stickers! While most musicians carry around their merch in suitcases and flight bags and shit, I've got this gorgeous little box. And it means more to me than any Samsonite merch case that I could buy at the mall.  This box and those stickers represent the beginning of whatever journey I've decided to embark upon.  That's something. These little things are my things. (But they can be yours if you come to a show!)

...but you can't have the box.