Fear (period)

some mornings start with fear.  i wake anxious.  heart pounds.  out of breath.  looking around.  did i miss the alarm?  where am i today?  what am i supposed to be doing?  there’s no difficulty in finding fear.  some of our worst decisions are based on it.  the difficulty lies in finding it’s root.  where is it growing from?

i know where mine is planted.  it’s not being late or making mistakes.  it’s my fear of not living.  and no, i do not mean death. i mean taking in every moment.  leaving this place better than i found it.  learning from as many people as i can.  trying to leave a mark.

some mornings there’s a voice.  it’s reminding me of my past.  the mistakes, the bad decisions, the pain.

the pain.

the pain.

for a brief moment i’m petrified.  i have to stop and take a deep breath.  then i grab my shovel and start digging.  pull up these roots.  i dig as deep as i can.  as fast as i can.  i’m not letting these roots drag me down.  i have too many songs in my head.  too many words to be written.  too many hugs i need to give.  too many smiles i need to see.  too many meals i need to eat.  too much love inside of me.

these roots will always grow back, and they will be tougher to pull next time.  but i will not let my life be defined by my fears, rather, define me by how i handle my fears.

reflection in your waking moments should arouse desire.

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Making a Record

People ask me all the time what it’s like making a record. And after countless hours of searching high and low for analogies, I think I’ve finally stumbled on the best one.

Making a record is like building a car. The artist is the designer. It’s THEIR car. They’ve spent many months/years working up the ideas, putting it all together, until they’ve reached a point where they were ready to build it. The producer is the Head Engineer. It’s his job to take the ideas of the artist and pan them out, expand on them, make it into a product that is feasible, but still stays true to the artist’s intentions. The engineer is Mechanical Engineer, it’s his job to take the ideas of the producer and artist and make it into a real working product.

Once the ideas are in place, it’s time to build. You hit rehearsal halls, you make demos, you hit the studio. You put things together, you take it apart, you try things, you fail, you succeed, until ultimately, the car is built. Then comes the next step:

Mixing. It’s the most important thing in making a record. You have a great car, but now you have to grind and buff the edges, paint it, choose the interior. You going leather, you going vinyl? How about the cd changer? IPod ready? No matter how well built the car is, it’s not going to be bought if it’s just a giant pile of sheet metal. I’m not saying every car has to be polished and spit shined (give me a 49 Ford Coupe with a coat of flat black and no gloss any day), but every one still needs to be presentable.

Last but not least is the Mastering phase. Mastering is the coat of gloss. How shiny do you want it? You want a long lasting coat? It’s the final step before it’s time for manufacturing. When all stages are done correctly, you can’t beat that feeling. Sure, there are plenty of other cars out there, but now you have something that you’re proud of, something you want to sell, something that is competitive on the highway.

But for some reason we’ve forgotten that. We’ve lost that drive. We’ve lost that pride. Most artists would rather have a mediocre record that they must constantly apologize for than to have a something they want to promote for the rest of their lives. The trend has now gone to spending all the budget on Mastering rather than mixing. I haven’t figured this one out.

Why put a high gloss coat on an unpolished, unpainted car? It just doesn’t make sense.

Be proud of what you do! When we’re too old to go out and play our music live, our records will still live on! It’s our immortality! Quit making excuses. Make good records.

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Mortality breeds contempt for life.  We know we all have a short time in this existence, and we all deal with it in strange and unusual ways.  I, like most of my friends, deal with it in the artistic way:  we strive for immortality in stories.  And out of those stories, we really just hope for one thing:

To know we are not alone.

Last night was a changed night.  Last night a different band took 9:15 pm slot at the LJT Music Festival.  As Meagan tied our ties we just looked at each other, jokes and pokes, trying to lighten the mood.  But our eyes were all saying the same thing.  “Don’t be afraid, you’re not alone.”

As we waited behind monitor world for the announcer to kick it off, everyone commiserated.  Bands I hadn’t seen in a long time, friends that I had just seen at Rich’s funeral.  We told quick stories, hugged each other a little longer, and made sure our eye contact said the things we couldn’t express in words.  Then Jay kicked into “Castanets.”

We opened with one of our closers.  The games are over.  The gloves are off.  We’re at war.  A war with monotony.  With dullness.  With wasted time.  And in a glance we committed to each other that this was a war we would win, every time we took a stage from now on.

It wasn’t a blur.  I remember every detail, every thought, every face for those 60 minutes.  I felt each note.  I stomped with all my might.  I counted each tear.  I remember looking into the eyes of Meagan, Manny, Beans, Neil, Thumbs, M-Knight, Muzzie, Brett, Moderas, and countless others.  Cody and I back-to-back.  Willy and I shoulder-to-shoulder.  Dave and I head-to-head.  Blood from bashing Jay’s cymbals with my hands.  The wall of sound flooding over me.  The flood of emotion cleansing me.

It was for Gus.  It was for Rich.  It was for us.

Mortality breeds contempt for life.  We each have a choice, embrace the disdain or live a life of passion.  The choice is never easy, especially with weeks like this past one.  But what I hope everyone sees and what I hope we all show each other with a song, a hug, a smile:

None of us are alone.

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Thunder Road-Bruce Springsteen.

the other day Galleywinter approached me about my favorite Springsteen song.  i did not even hesitate, “Thunder Road” is beyond my favorite.  it is a story that in some twisted way i had lived.

my Mary was blonde;  not petite, curvy and gorgeous.  from the day we met we spent every free moment together.  she understood, she listened, she sang, she comforted, she was honest.  she came to me with no judgement and i gave her all the pieces of my soul.

a year had passed and before we knew, the time had come to take the long walk.  i wasn’t choosing “the road less travelled,” i was flat-out paving my own way.  turning my back on the “promises” and finding my own future.  giving away everyone else’s certainty for my own clarity.  and i wasn’t alone.  my Mary climbed in….

It’s a town full of losers, and we’re pulling out of here to win.

16 years later.  we’re still on the road.

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i’m an artist.

i’ve come under a certain amount of scrutiny in the past two days.  i’ve started doing some follow-up research on this whole “Gibson Guitar Scandal.”  it is each and every person’s choice to decide whether to listen to the sensationalized headlines or to see what’s really going on.  myself and others (lawyers, musicians, business men) are looking into what’s actually happening.  you can ask me and i will answer, but i will not force it on you.

i’m a musician.  i’m a producer.  i make mostly independent albums.  i’m fighting for good music to prevail over corporate mediocracy.  we’ve already come to a turning point where music corporations are grasping at straws to keep their old business models alive.  the internet is evening the playing field and the choice is back into the hands of the fan.

now the government is getting involved.

chastise me all you want.  i’m still going to fight for musician’s rights.  and i’m still going to fight for the companies that make instruments.  most musicians do not have health insurance.  most do not know when their next paycheck is coming. and now our government is beginning to enact laws that will allow them to literally take an instrument out of our hands.  your grandfather’s Martin acoustic?  gone.  BB King’s Lucille?  confiscated.

i will not sit idly by.

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Almost Familiar

my notebook’s a graveyard
my notebook’s a graveyard for love songs
but that doesn’t mean there’s
anything wrong with you…

can i say i believe “Almost Familiar” is the perfect love song?  yes.  will i?  yes.  it’s excitement, fear, confidence and disbelief all blended together in a gorgeous lullaby dedicated to new life.  the foundation of a father.

to say Scott Melott is a great songwriter is an understatement.  listen to the Groobees back catalog, then listen to the Dead End Angel’s “November.”  i could have picked any one of his songs (you’ll find more of his showing their faces as time progresses), so i began with the tune that blows me away upon every listen.  a man not singing for himself, not singing for a “hit,” just singing for the deepest love he will ever know.

buy the song.  put on your headphones.  sit with Scott for 5 minutes.  feel a man’s honest soul.

i’m really gonna need you tomorrow…..

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Big E.

there’s an Elvis story for everyone.  and i love them all.  he made music from his soul.  he was told his music was terrible and yet he still made it.  from a deeply buried desperation he pioneered a music that changed the world.

and at four-years-old my short-lived search for a career was over.  i was going to make rock and roll.

in 1982 i watched Elvis Presley perform on stage.

but wait, what?  huh?  uh……

one night i was told to come into the den.  a screen was set up and two chairs were on either side of the projector.  as i sat down with a glass of milk Dad turned off the lights and started a record player.  Elvis:  As Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis began and suddenly, right there in front of me, a man in a white-sequined jumpsuit began winking, kicking, kissing, chopping his way through the hearts of every single person in this crowd.  i was among them.  it didn’t matter that the music i was hearing wasn’t the music being played on the screen.  it was the same performer.  it was the same band.  it was magic.  all caught on an 8 mm camera my father snuck into an Elvis concert.

nothing was the same again.  i couldn’t get enough of Dad’s Elvis albums.  i wanted to watch that concert over and over.  fast-forward 16 years and i’m head-engineer at Cedar Creek Recording working on the same console that recorded the live album that started my journey.

Jamming on the Elvis Neve!

remember the man today.  i’m going to listen to what i consider the most soulful vocal performance ever captured.  the end of this song gives me chills every time.  from the ’68 Comeback Special, “If I Can Dream.”

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