Friday, December 15, 2006

Are You Going To Make A New CD?

Good question. I do get asked that a lot. Have I abandoned making albums? Absolutely not. I just feel that with "Backstage Pass," I put many carts before many horses. When you are under a record label, you are working off of a pre-composed infrastructure. Someone is paying you to create music (and it is expected that you write music which will sell), and along with that comes a manager and a booking agent and a publicist... and a groomer, if you're lucky. In my case, I was trying to do everything on my own. I know I've mentioned some of this before, but essentially, with "Backstage Pass," I thought if I built it, they would come. Make a good sounding record, and people would buy it. However, there came a point where I realized that I wasn't going to make a profit off of the album, and there was, at one point, a shift in thought, where I finally painfully adapted to the idea that selling albums at a show (or anywhere for that matter) was more of a bonus than a given. As a man, you can get pretty deflated when you sense that you have "failed" at something. I wish that I had a clear cut answer of why I haven't been able to sell my music. I could blame it on my personality, as I am not a sales person and hate the prospect of pushing myself. I could attribute it to the style of the album, and the audiences I was playing for (I was trying to reach college / young adults, but somehow it was always the middle schoolers and grade schoolers who were memorizing my lyrics and making up dance routines... there have been times when I wondered if I should go work for VeggieTales). I could make the assumption that people didn't like my voice... or the music wasn't mainstream enough for radio DJs to play it... or the album was too diverse in style to fit one genre and was therefore potentially difficult to market... I could agree with some people who have said it is overproduced. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, I don't know why people don't buy my music and I don't know why I "haven't gone anywhere"... that is, according to the world's definition of achievement. Maybe God's will has had another zip code than my own.

Despite what happened and why it may have happened, I think there comes a point when, as an artist, you stop asking the questions and stop assuming and stop trying to dissect what went wrong, etc, etc. After all that, there is still a passion to create... and you realize that it can't be about money or success or popular opinion. In every artist is a drive, a drive to capture beauty, to embody the ethereal, to put on paper or in song emotions and struggles and thoughts that can't be described with mere conversation. For me, I've sort of come full circle where I'm back to a place, a simple untainted place, where the drive is about communicating truth and exploring new dimensions of life, and God, and the human condition, while stepping off into the unknown with a reverent fear and sweaty anticipation.

I was reading in a music forum the other day, and one of the writers posed the question, "Does anyone get tired of writing music?" Many people responded in the same way... give yourself space from what you love, and when you come back to it, you will be more inspired. I am in a different place than I was 3 years ago when "Backstage Pass" rolled off the press. Growing older carries this sweet and sour reality. I think I've become more comfortable with who I am as I have aged, yet I also wrestle with being a comfortable loner more than ever. I'm not bitter, I'm not trying to look like a tough guy (with a beanie), I'm not trying to show anyone how much I hurt inside (this is where I was at in 2004). I'm more content with being quiet and having people wonder about me than trying to make a forced and loud impression. Maybe I'd rather even see others succeed more than manipulating myself into the lime light. Along with these changes, my spirit feels full and increasingly free, and I sense that there is much inside which is ready to be put to music.

Time can be our enemy and our friend. Time can turn us into better adjusted people, or can leave us cynical and shielded. I would like to say I relate more to the former than the latter. As an example, I used to be very under confident... now I don't care all that much what people think of me.. I imagine this has developed as I have realized that sometimes nobody can help you (in a human sense) and you just have to suck things up and be a man and get over yourself when you'd rather whine and complain and soak in a pool of self pity. I also believe I've learned to trust God more... I suppose that is really what has changed me. Through this, I've become stronger, however at times, this confidence can probably be a problem as I am more apt to avoid social interaction... not because I am so much under confident, but because I don't feel like I need other people as much as I used to, in a once world where friendships and relationships orbited the sun of my unquenced loneliness. If you are single and in your 30's (especially if you're a guy), you can probably relate to this growing independence and self sustain. We obviously all need each other, but I'm just trying to give you a picture of how I (and maybe you) can become overly independent. It's good to remember that it's easier for a wolf to pick off a wandering sheep compared to one guarded in a herd. Satan would love for us to think we don't need anyone else. For me, the urge to withdraw from people is the dashboard light which tells me I need to get in the Word and pray more and stay close to the Lord and get back involved in Christian community. Hey, that might be be theme on a song on a new project.

So now that I've totally strayed from the topic... am I making another album? No promises here, but I think I am headed that direction. I am closer than ever to having the gear to make much of a project at home, for less money... and I am again catching the creative itch.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

'Tis The Season

I get the impression that most people are extremely busy during the month of December. I have been no exception. As an audio producer, I find myself working some strange hours... nearly every day is filled with some sort of work... whether I'm working at the tv station, running sound for church services, weddings, or concerts, mixing recorded live events, composing custom music, writing invoices, making phone calls, sending emails.

My sister is flying in from Germany December 20th, and will be in Columbus for a couple weeks... my brother and his family will be visiting during the holidays... it will be a busy time. So... I'm trying to get all my work caught up so I can focus on people more during the holidays... and hopefully beyond. The challenging thing is, as a freelancer and small business owner, it always feels like turning down a job means a lost opportunity that could lead to another opportunity and then to another opportunity... life is this constant struggle of balance... and this weighing of priorities and motives. Good thing, as Christians, we have the Holy Spirit to keep us in check. I've been around workaholics and don't I want to be one. So at what point does one become a workaholic? I know some people who are up pretty late hanging out with people every night of the week. I'm not sure if that's healthy either. Probably depends on the person to some degree.

Maybe we should look at Jesus' life to figure out how to prioritize our time and resources. From first observation, I can see that Jesus lived an extremely disciplined life. He was up early spending time with His father in solitude... He disciplined Himself to fast for 40 days in the desert... He made it a point to pour into the lives of His disciples and followers. Jesus didn't have the distraction of instant messaging and cell phones and television. So anyways, this is something I've been thinking through. Where do I invest my time and how should I spend my resources? Is it better to spend a night alone praying and walking in the park and talking to God instead of going to church in antisipation of meeting the new girl who may become your future wife (what I meant was learning more about God)? As the bracelet says... what would Jesus do? Tonight is one of those evenings of question. I've got so many jobs backing up right now, and I'm afraid I'm going to have some disappointed clients if I don't get moving on some of this stuff. I also feel like I'm missing social opportunites. Sometimes, we put extra work into this or that with the expectation that our extra time investments in this or that will give us more time with people we love later, or will make it easier for us later, or... you fill in the blank. The hamster wheel must be a rippling excuse.

I am working on a new singlehood blog, so stay tuned. I could use your prayers that God would give me wisdom as I work through some of these issues of balance, addressed above.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." James 1:5