miles tones reflections

I’ve never had such a positive experience finishing up an album as I did with this one. Not setting a hard deadline for finishing the album was an excellent decision. It eliminated the element of stress from the tedious and time consuming process of finishing up the tunes (final mixes and mastering). I made loose goals along the way so I had something to aim for, but didn’t feel bad if it took longer to achieve these goals. My free time has diminished greatly from my pre-fatherhood days, so I really wanted to make working on tunes a fun outlet as much as possible.

My drive to promote my music has greatly diminished. I used to spend a lot of time sending out cds and emails to outlets for consideration. I very rarely got any response. It can be fun to share my work with other people, but its also a labor intensive process with a lot of rejection along the way. At this point, a decade in, my music has found some of its audience. There are people who care about it, and that’s pretty sustaining to me. Of course I hope my audience continues to organically grow.

My favorite part of making music is when ideas are flowing well and starting to coming together. It’s not when I’ve finished a track / album. It took 6 or 7 years, but I did eventually learn that it’s really more about the journey then the destination.

I pour myself into these songs. It takes more time then I care to admit. The tracks on this album took many different directions before they were finished. There was a ton of content that was written and removed. Many times I had to remind myself  that trying things that don’t work out is not a waste of time.

All I used to create these songs was my computer, a mixer, two MIDI controllers, a mic, and speakers at slightly uneven heights (and a LOT of software). My recording room is completely untreated, with a tile floor, glass windows, several bikes, and a couple large plastic baby toys that need to be passed along. The recordings always sounded good enough to me. Thank goodness there are tools like RX and Melodyne to clean up my recordings though. I did outsource the some of tricky instrument recording though – thanks very much to the internet + skype.

In the past three years I’ve become aware of what an amateur I am at producing, mixing, and mastering music. I’ve attended workshops with Carmen Rizzo and Rena Jones. I have learned that there is a huge amount of knowledge that I’m lacking. They all have very strong opinions over what gear and software you should use, how to treat your audio, and to never self master your music. If you listen to one my tracks and then of their tracks, you can hear the difference. I don’t think of this as a failure on my part – I just know that there is a lot more to learn, and that later in life I hope to learn more about my craft.

I’ve been making music as general fuzz for over a decade now. I no longer feel the burning need to prove to myself that I can make an album. I also have no intentions to stop creating music. General fuzz has become such an important part of my identity. I hope to create music for the rest of my life, and in theory, I have a lot of time left. I do need to try vary the course some though. I’ve got to try working in different styles and collaborating with different people, so that I can grow as a musician. I need to also take breaks from music, and allow some time for inspiration and motivation to brew.

Releasing an album is very exciting for a number of reasons. One aspect that I have only become aware of recently is that it acts as snapshot of my life. I can now listen to my previous releases and remember what was going on at that time. It’s also something concrete which represents a step forward in my path as a musician.

Most importantly, I’m proud of what I made. So far I have no regrets about the album, which was my ultimate goal. I felt that way after “soulful filling”, and I learned that it was worth aiming for.

Also, this moment brought everything into alignment.



Shedding some Armor

When I was growing up back east, I had a very hard time accepting feedback from other people, especially my parents. I was particularly defensive when it came to my ideas, which was probably to compensate for how emotionally fragile I was. Over the years, I have dialed back this defense mechanism since it turns out that other peoples ideas can be valuable. By which I mean, worth money. For example, Garbage Pail Kids was not an idea I came up with, and that guy was laughing his way to the bank when I was 8 (and deeply defensive).

I’m currently nearing the end of my second paternity leave. This was very different then round 1, since Jasper has developed into a little dude and we have a nanny 3 days a week. Knowing full well that I was going to have some time to work on projects during this leave, I tried to come up with a challenging computer project that would force me to learn some new mad nerd skillz.

The initial idea came to me when I was last in Newton, and I attempted to explain it to my dad. He had some feedback, which I initially rejected. I later mulled over his words and happened upon some shiny useful nuggets which somewhat reshaped my initial idea. This is a hard learned technique I picked up from surviving a long term relationship. More over, I realized I could get more nuggety goodness by sharing my project idea with lots of other people and seeing what they had to say. So for the first time in my life, I actively solicited lots feedback from tech savvy people. The rewards for this approach have been bountiful (in terms of  insightful ideas, not cash). The trick was to be open to all feedback, and take my time evaluating what people had to say. I believe this to be the most valuable thing I’ve learned during developing this web application, which has nothing to do with all the intentional computer learning that I set myself up for.

Now that I’m finished the first pass at this app, I’m really interested in the feedback that my beta testers have to give. Instead of being bruised by negative feedback, I’d like to see if I could use any of this  information to improve the app.

The basic idea behind the app is a general fuzz song unlocker, where people earn the right to unlock bonus songs by promoting my music. It’s  a little ironic to spend so much time and energy building something that I know my fans will actively dislike. Almost all my previous music was free to download before – how could I have the nerve to make people jump through hoops to get new stuff? This is the advantage of being slightly more established then I was a decade ago – there are at least ten people across the globe who are willing to do a little more then nothing to hear unreleased tracks.

I had a relevant conversation with Stina at dinner. She was talking about how amazing our friends wedding website was. When I asked, she admitted that she hasn’t taken the 5 seconds to write them an email telling them how much she liked it. We consume, and rarely provide feedback to those who produce. I’ve already fully come to terms with this behavior. Therefore, I’m trying to incentivize people to take that easy extra step.   It’s an interesting idea which may not work at all. If nothing else, I had a really fun time building the app (I had almost forgotten that I actually enjoy programming), it’s a very solid piece of code that I can add to my resume, and I’ve internalized a valuable life lesson.  That is, money is good.