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Letters To Joseph: Making Sense of the Chaos

LETTERS TO JOSEPH2Some people excel in chaos. Others like a more orderly existence. They each bring something to the table that the other needs or desires. They fill in gaps that the other needs. And when they work well together, it can be magic. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about me and Joseph.

I’m order and he’s chaos. In a way, we butted heads a lot. Not in a confrontational way, mind you. More like two solutions to the same problem. I can hear myself saying over and over, “sing like you’re going to sing when I hit record so I can get a good level. If I get all these levels right, It’s going to be much easier to mix.” Followed by Joseph, “I’m just going to feel it when I do it and it’ll be fine, man.” We were both right and both wrong. Depending on what you think is more important.

I can’t stand chaos. I like everything to have a place, so when you need it you know exactly where it will be. A lack of chaos is comforting to me. When everything is simple I can do very complicated things with ease. When everything is complicated I struggle to do the simplest of things. Joseph was the exact opposite. But somehow we meshed very nicely as friends and in the studio.

He could count on me to have everything squared away on the technical side of recording. To write guitar parts that mattered, but didn’t crowd out the rest of the song. He could count on me to be in control so much that if I had to change directions, I was ready. Like a good fucking boy scout, I was always prepared.

I could count on him to glide into any situation with a style and ease that made me jealous. He needed exactly zero prep time to be brilliant. There were times I would want him to sing backing vocals on a song, and a couple hours later it was more than I could have ever hoped for. Even if he had never heard the song before, he would just saunter up to the mic and proceed to blow my mind. He has an understanding of how vocal lines and harmony work together that I’ve really never seen in anyone else.

There was a time when we first started working together that I would question everything he was doing because it just didn’t make sense to me. I’m not going to lie, there were notes hit that I didn’t think had any business in the song we were working on. But he convinced me to wait to hear the finished product before I made up my mind. He was right, of course. The combination of all the wrong notes I heard was just a thing of beauty. I literally told him it sounded like angels on It’s Not The End. And that no, I was not too high to know the difference. I miss that day. By far, it’s not my best song. But I don’t know that I had a better time recording any of the songs we did together. There’s a lot that doesn’t come through in the final mix that I wish everyone could experience. I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it when I tell you that there was order from all the chaos that went into that song.

Letters To Joseph

LETTERS TO JOSEPHI try to think of how best to write something about my friend, Joseph Henry. It’s not easy, because he was not easy. I mean, I still expect him to pop through the door any minute. I know it’s not going to happen. But still….Likewise, I’ve found it impossible to write a comprehensive ode to my friend. I don’t know how you do that. But I do know how to visit a subject from time to time.

There are so many things we recorded that are still in the can waiting to be mastered. It makes me sick that it isn’t done. But that’s where we are. Maybe if I can do a few posts from time to time as I finish songs we’ve done together. I think sharing a little bit about him and his music should be part of the deal too. Songs that we played on. It’ll be good for me and you. With that in mind here’s an example why, no matter how much I did for him I’ll always feel like I got the better end of the deal.

If you’re like me, you have these “well it’s all over” moments where you think the music has finally passed you by and at most you’ll pick your guitar up once a month. And then less and less as the years go by. But then something happens, like meeting Joseph, and you’re right back in the middle of making music and leaning into the day to try to capture it all. That’s what being with Joseph was like for me. I had a genuine thirst to make music again. Not that I wasn’t doing anything. This just took it to a new level.

This is the last song Joseph and I played on. It’s called Back of the Line. This is a demo that still needs some work on my part. But I like what we did with it so far.

Picture on the player via Meg Buskirk

 

The Slow March To Respectability Street

Lord, I hate the time between work and work. Work being the recording and mixing/mastering. Especially right now as I’m building a new PC that will probably take over the world it’s so powerful. I really am quite impressed with the array of circuits I’ve assembled. It’s slow work, though, and doesn’t do much to move the project forward. Once it’s finished it will be a great asset. But for now, it’s just something else that takes me away from what I love to do.

I guess the thing that kills me the most is that I have all these songs that are in various stages of completedness. So much potential, it drives me crazy. But I have to keep reminding myself that nothing comes easy. It is truly a long slow march to respectability street. If I believe in what I’m doing then it will get done and it will be as glorious as I let it be. Having said that, I can’t wait for you to hear it. It is literally killing me.

Update From The Monkey Butt Studio

roundersDid I ever tell you that my studio is called Monkey Butt Studio? It has a lot to do with my friend Jeremy’s greyhounds. I just remember singing to them, “Shake! Shake! Shake Shake your monkey butt.” And that’s it. No other meaning or thought. I just enjoyed singing it to them when we first saw each other for the day. Bless their hearts, they are some beautiful affectionate animals. That’s not why I’m posting today, though.

I have had a chance over the past few weeks to get some work done on some songs. I’m super pumped to get Muse out there. It’s my favorite song on the CD. It’s got a drive to it, and anger but in the end still resilient. I also got to play a solo on one of Hardy’s songs, 7 of 9. Likewise he laid down the perfect bass line for Muse. I truly cherish those times that we can make music together. Duku, the perpetual optimist, is one of Hardy’s characters he acts out in real life. Funniest thing in the world and helps keep me in the right mood to play music. I’m not completely happy with my voice (I never am), but I like where I’m going with it.

I wish I had something to share right now, but it will have to wait. I have run into some issues with Pro Tools and some DAE errors. Very stab yourself in the eye with a pencil type of stuff. It all seems to work out in the end…if I update my systems. Which may be a final solution. I need to build a new PC soon anyway.

Hate Sandwich

It’s one of those knowns that no one wants to talk about. The sidewalk sale of hate in our society. The big dollar enterprises that are Fox News, MSNBC, Drudge Report, Salon, Rush Limbaugh, and so on. All echo chambers. All encouraging us to hate our political opposites. All feeding you just enough to keep you coming back. All have a laundry list of expert commentators that are only experts on selling shit…or to put it mildly, talking points.

It truly is like going into a restaurant. Your waitress gives you a menu, and you notice that the only sandwich available is the hate sandwich. You look up at your waitress and ask, “do you think you will ever run out of hate sandwiches?” She just gives you a quizzical glance and then laughs as she walks away. Just then, you realize you didn’t order the side of fear and spend the next five minutes unsuccessfully flagging your waitress down to update your order.

Oh you bet we need fear. Without fear, we wouldn’t be so likely to send someone else’s sons and daughters off to war to kill someone that poses no direct threat to our country.  We wouldn’t be so willing to pay for a security system for our home or enhanced weaponry for our police forces. We wouldn’t be so willing to accept the fallout when a swat team storms the wrong house and badly injures a toddler with a flash-bang grenade.

Between all the fear and hate, we are nearly paralyzed to make any true progress toward building a better society. Inequality of wealth is spiraling out of control. Corporations rights trump those of citizens, the human kind. We’re granted almost limitless lines of credit that we rack up to ensure we can’t afford to miss one day of work. To ensure that we are economic slaves to our employer. And yet we still buy more hate and fear with every opportunity. We’re addicted…

I don’t have the answers, but I’m pretty sure it would be something that we could all agree on. Not our differences, but our similarities.

 

 

In The Moment

There’s lots of moments to embrace. As a songwriter, I sometimes focus too much on the ones dealing with music. Like the moment you finish writing a song. It has a certain godlike feeling to it and it is most addicting. Be mindful of those other moments, though. They might just be the ones that inspire a great song.

2014 Couch By Couchwest Awards

cxcw2014Big surprise for me to receive an award for anything, really. So I’m overly happy to have won Best Song With A Message category. The song, Company Song, is one I’ve toiled over for a couple years. Which is to say I wrote the first verse a couple years ago. I had all the melodies for the chorus and all the verse parts, but nothing to say. The poisoning of the water in the Charleston area was what I needed to finish. I’d much rather it didn’t happen and I don’t finish the song. But since it did…

I can’t thank the folks at Couch by Couchwest for all they do. It’s a beautiful thing, the celebration of not being able to make the trip to SXSW. Turning lemons into lemonade. Because it’s probably as good a thing I can do to connect with music fans and musicians. You would do well to scan through from the beginning or from the top down. I have no doubt you will hear something you can’t live without. It’s such a wide range of genres and littered with inspired performances.

Go now! Thank me later, and thank CXCW as well!

The Heart Of Songwriting

via berkleegroove.com

I’ve had the pleasure to sit in on quite a few songwriting discussions in my day. Not enough that I would consider myself a master on the subject. Really, just enough that I have something up my sleeve when I need it. There was a time, though, that I thought everything had to come 100% from me. So I shunned any suggestion of using tricks to write songs.

Obviously, I was being stupid. Now I’m much less worried about where the song comes from and more concerned that the songs keep coming. The little things you can do, like reading a random line of poetry or in my case, a random phrase from a random phrase generator. You see these things and it sparks something inside you. Whether you recognize that as being organic or not is really up to you. The tricks, of which there are a ton, spark something that was already inside you. When I see the work flame, I see something completely different than you or anyone else. Some days it’s magic and some days it’s crap.

And of course, there are times when I just play guitar until I make a mistake I like and turn it into the melody for a song. I think if you talk to any songwriter you’ll get the sense that we all have our own little tricks. Or we have an understanding that you can’t push for creativity. You just need to be awake enough to recognize it when it comes. I don’t think I’ve heard this process described better than a series of videos of John Mayer speaking at Berkley. He’s not exactly my favorite, but I’ve always had a great respect for him. I would encourage you to watch all the videos. But this one is the one for me. Talking about expectations, he’s not just talking about songwriting. He’s talking about life.

Welcome Back

MYTHSI never left. I’ve wavered quite a bit about the pros and cons of keeping this site going. After all, there’s Tumbler. I’ve used that as my art testing ground more than anything else. Pretty heavy on the “such” and low on the “music”. I considered that being the whole show and letting this page expire. But in the end, this page provides a broader appeal and ease of use.

I consider this the relaunch of the site. I hope I take you on a fun trip.

I have a few new projects started, but nothing I really would want to post. I am not committed to any of them over the other. Getting the drums lined up is always the hardest part for me. Usually, I’ve played the song a hundred times before I try to record it. This group of songs is no different.

Will work to keep this interesting, you know, hopefully…probably.

More Couch By Couchwest

cxcw123Time to hit on some highlights from some other artists that I’ve seen on Couch By Couchwest.  I may not get through all the videos until after it’s over (03/9/14-03/15/14). But these are some things I know I know.

I have to start with friend, brother, and fellow guitarist in The Feast of Stephen, Joe Vallina. Joe may be a robot. He’s for certain a good guitarist and songwriter. I’m happy he decided to share. Here he is with, To The Phono-matic.

 

 

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Next is Mat D. I don’t know what to say, other than he is the read deal. Just gritty dairy goodness.

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The Miners doing Walnut Lane. I don’t know, man. I just really like the steel guitar. It’s a little loud and a lot cool.

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Like I said, I haven’t had a lot of time to watch. Maybe more than anything else I want people to head over and check out all the different kinds of music and find their favorites. I’ll get back with more later.

Couch By Couchwest 2014

couch by couch westWe’re really happy to be part of Couch By Couchwest 2014. If you don’t know, CXCW was started for those of us too poor or too unmotivated to make the trip to Austin, TX for musical gathering known as South By Southwest.

Instead, artist (mostly independent artist) submit a video of a live performance of an original or cover song made just for CXCW. It’s incredibly awesome, but I warn you now that not every artist is the next superstar waiting to happen. Most are like me. Just good artists/songwriters looking for a place to share their music.

The fine folks at CXCW don’t ask for money, retweets, or anything really. It’s just grass roots dairy goodness. As a songwriter, you go to share your music. But as a person and a music lover, you find a lot of inspiration and make a few friends along the way. If you are a semi-pro musician/songwriter or even if you are just semi-anything, go give this a look and listen. You won’t like everything, but I promise you’ll find something (at least one) that you just can’t put down.

I’m backed up pretty bad with life right now. But hopefully as the week goes on I will be able to add some of my favorites from this year’s CXCW. For now here’s my submission, Company Song.

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Am I a Songwriter?

CIRCLE LOGOIt’s a good question to ask every once in a while. A look in the mirror moment and confirm or deny. What purpose does it serve? Who benefits? On and on. None of that is why I do it or did it. It’s a love and a way of life that kept me whole. And if not writing songs, I’m sure there’s something you do that you can point to as more than a hobby. It’s a passion.

Sometimes life interrupts and you spend time away from the process. Or find that the process is no longer possible. If you’re smart, you find a way to do both. Having said that, I really regret nothing. If anything, I just wish I had time to have my cake and eat it too. I’m spoiled like that.

Back to the question, though. Am I a songwriter or am I someone that writes songs. I think of a songwriter as someone who can’t turn it off and a person that writes songs as just having the ability. The truth is, I’m a walking melody and my footsteps are the beat. My left foot is the kick drum and my right is the snare. Honestly, I wasn’t really aware of it until I sat down to write this. It’s just one of those things that’s on the tip of your tongue all the time. So much so that you never really see it.  And of course, my voice or my whistle is the melody.

The good thing about it is that I’m always exploring melody. It’s spilled over into the time I spend with my son. He doesn’t speak yet. So we communicate more with noises and gestures. I don’t practice this or do it purposefully, it just comes out. I love it, and I hope it someday spills over to him and he carries a song in his heart all the time like I do. On the flip side, though, it only stays with me as long as I am not distracted by a new task or issue.

If I was smart, I would attempt to record the melodies and revisit them when I have time. I’m not, though. I guess I haven’t made the transition to parenthood in that respect. I still believe my creativeness is a never ending well. But the longer I go without applying this creative gift to a focused effort, the more I get anxious about if I can still put it all together into a single thought.

I don’t know, maybe I’m a songwriter that stopped practicing. Like a lawyer or doctor that went on sabbatical. I don’t want it to stay that way. But the responsibilities before me demand my time and attention. Like I said before, I’m fine with that. The loss of myself does at least give back in love and enjoyment of those around me. Why keep the webpage, though? Well, someday I’ll be back and I’d hate to get rid of this place that I’ve chronicled the last decade of my life and music. It’ll be fun to look back on one day and take stock of my life.

Shutting Down The House Concerts

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It is with a sad heart that we have decided to stop hosting house concerts. Last year about this time we had the same thoughts, and we gave it another go this year but with the same results. It’s no one’s fault. It just doesn’t work the way we need it to in order to keep doing it. Hopefully over the next few months we’ll be able to post more of the videos from the shows we’ve hosted. We’ll certainly keep this list of people we’ve hosted up for as long as we keep this site going.

We were able to make some great memories with these fine folks, and we will forever be grateful to them and to everyone that attended.

 

Artists we’re happy to have had at the house concert series

Small Houses

Dean Fields

Appalachian Criminal

Kevin Montgomery

Brooke Brown-Saracino

Rob Szabo

Peter Katz

The Good Lovelies

Owen Temple

Adam Carroll

(Gary Floater)

The Kernal

Mechanical River

Andrew Combs

Blackwater Mojo

Option 22

Andrew McKnight

Jill Jackson

Marium Bria

Wilbur By The Sea

The Parlor Soldiers

Haggard Wulf

Water Liars

Dean Fields June 7th House Concert

DEAN FIELDSWe’re happy to have Dean come play for us June 7th. He’s a wonderful songwriter and performer as you’ll see below. We love witty, and this snippet from his bio reminds us of us in a way. But we never forget the catbox smell.

It takes a long time for me to wake up. Often Ill get up in the middle of night, change the cat box, and go back to bed with no recollection of it.   Im an over-thinker and an undecider.  I make up words.  I went to grad school to pursue music and left grad school to pursue music.  I moved 7 times in 3 years between 4 states.  I have 300 voices with 300 accents for 301 different moods.  I cannot park a car.   My wife is the coolest person I know.  And she is not a horse.

Show starts at 8pm. We ask for a $10 donation and hope you’ll follow Dean on Facebook and YouTube. Visit his website Dean Fields