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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Ramping up to release time, kind of a big deal


Someone accused me of resembling fictional anchorman Ron Burgundy played by Will Ferrell recently when they saw my 70's style haircut parted on the side and wearing a jacket and tie in a photograph - an unusual look for me, but a bit of a stretch comparison-wise since I wasn't even sporting a moustache .  In that movie, among many memorable lines by the lead character, he said something like "I'm kind of a big deal," which was certainly memorable for me because it was funny.  Although I don't have the same ego, I do need to toot my own horn from time to time, particularly when I want my music to reach a larger audience.  You have to tell the world something is available for sale in the first place if you're going to have any chance of making a sale.  The ego I do have makes me selfishly want to sell my creative musical works, rather than just being satisfied with creating art for art's sake, without anyone needing to know it exists.

For the songwriter/recording artist who doesn't play concerts or shows, the event of most importance to both the artist and their fans alike is the almighty new album release.  I'm Scott Cooley, and although I'm not a big deal (yet!), releasing an album is kind of a big deal to me.  When you don't perform live much let alone book regular gigs or tour, your life as a singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist revolves around one major thing only:  Releasing albums of new songs you wrote and recorded.  It makes me both excited and anxious, so much so that I worry I'll die before I get a chance to get the music out there.  That's when you know you care about it a lot.  When the songs are written and recorded already, and the cover art is ready to go, it's a matter of waiting until that date, which like Tom Petty said, is the hardest part.  Don't get the wrong idea - I don't mean to hint that I might die at all.  Despite not being in the best of health, if you hear of my demise, you can be sure it was unintentional!

Everyone likes to hear that a musician they like has new material available, and they need some type of information to let them know what it's like - how it's different from their past records, a description that summarizes what it's all about, and maybe a sample or teaser video to further wet the appetite.  Maybe a trusted review found online will help sway you to want to buy/download/stream or whatever.  Let's face it though - nowadays when your favorite artist comes out with something new, you get a notification from a subscription service, and that same service that resulted from you previously buying or following that artist will also allow you to stream the new songs from the cloud on your home assistant speaker, mobile phone, or computer.  Yes, it's in the low-quality MP3 format, and yes, the streaming from the cloud to your device further degrades the sound quality, and yes, the speaker(s) and/or headphones you're listening on are substandard. 

For this experience, you pay roughly a hundred and twenty bucks a year, or $9.99/month.  Gone are the "audiophile" days of the giant home stereo systems with vinyl record players, an array of surround sound speakers, AM/FM receiver, CD player, etc.  In the modern digital era in which brick & mortar record stores cease to exist, we sacrifice sound quality for the lack of clutter, the portability and convenience of our streaming subscription, phone and earbuds or smart speaker.  You've even recently embraced the whole bluetooth thing, despite its frustrations.  Sadly, the typical Scott Cooley fans are probably Generation X'ers who have finally made this transition.  So, discovery starts with a little information in your feed, and the internet then offers convenient way to get more, and your service allows you to start consuming quickly.  This is likely your reality, even though you may still have that milk crate of albums in the basement and rotate a few CDs in and out of the mix on your car stereo.

I imagine when most artists do anything creative like recording an album of new music, they are proud to share it, and the do-it-all-yourself songwriter / performer / home recording hobbyist who self-produces and self-releases independently like myself is arguably even more so.  This is because everything you hear on the upcoming album, like many of my albums, was made by me.  So, it's my creative vision alone, which is something I would imagine a painter would experience, since you don't often hear of collaborative paintings.  Well-received or otherwise, you're ready for the credit/blame.

The Flint, Michigan area has plenty of rappers and punk rockers, but it's downright rare to find a solo artist who specializes in Acoustic Garage Rock with both Americana and Caribbean flavors.  How often do you hear of someone saying they blend the sound of the Violent Femmes with Jimmy Buffett?  The Police unplugged jamming with James Taylor?  Bob Seger sitting in with Gordon Lightfoot at a Margaritaville Cafe?  Jack Johnson collaborating with Jack White?

It's always hard to describe your music, and likewise, it's always hard to know whether it's any good or not.  A side of me thinks this is my best-ever album.  I know that right when I write a new song, I'm excited about it because it is so fresh, and I have a tendency to overestimate how good it is.  Only after a long cooling-off period of time has passed do I find that I can revisit a song and assess whether I still feel the same way about it.  When I take a break from listening to it and even sort of pretend I don't remember it, I can go back and listen to it again and make a more honest judgment about how it compares to others in the batch of new songs that are candidates to make it onto the released album.

That same "distancing before judging" thing also applies to the entire album as it compares with your other albums you've released.  Your catalog may have some standouts, but the latest, newest one is always the one you're focused on when you've just completed it, and because of that, you have a tendency to maybe think it's better than you will think it is six months later.  It's just the way it goes, for me anyway.  This next new album, however, that I'm planning to release in a couple months, really does feel like it is a strong collection of songs.  A part of the reason may be that is more of a concept album, and has some common threads running through each of the 13 songs.

Describing your sound is always a challenge for any recording artist, but it's easier if the album groups together similar types of song styles.  Therefore, my next album, Missing The Boat, is one that combines various tropical flavors with acoustic rock with a heavy dose of escapism - including that which involves boating.  It's very simple stuff, fairly low art, in the grand scheme of things.  The lyrics aren't going to pass for poetry like Bob Dylan's, and the music isn't going to be respected by classical composers, and if you like ultra-serious folk music it won't be for you, nor will you like it if you're a fan of loud, distorted electric guitar-based music.  'Nuff said for now.  Now you have pretty good idea of what to expect and when.  Stay tuned in to this blog for subsequent posts leading up to the actual album release that will reveal even more!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Creative Writing about One's Own Creative Writing Habit (Lying about Lying in Songs)

I'd be willing to bet that some famous writers out there in the world have said and been quoted for saying something along the lines of "creative writing is lying."  Although I'm too lazy to google it and tell you which ones and how they actually phrased something similar, it's my blog, and I can do - or not do - whatever the hell I want, because there's this thing called freedom of speech and I'm being creative.  I'm engaging in a form of creative writing with my blog here, which itself is loosely based on my experiences with another type of creative writing - that being songwriting.  There's no doubt I'm a lazy dude, and in the time I've taken to type this, I could've produced the exact quote and attribution, but you get the point. 

Songwriting might not always be lying, but a lot of the time, I'm guessing it is.  Even when writing about your own personal experiences, you change a few facts for the sake of the song.  To make it more appealing, to work in a necessary rhyme, to protect the identity of the true characters, etc., you lie.  You change names, dates, places, and plots as you let your imagination run wild.  There's a reason real life stories are not as good as those you read in books, see in movies, or hear in songs.  Their writers haven't let the truth get in the way of a good story.  I'm pretty sure Samuel Clemens said that, but don't quote me on it.

I wish I could make a living at it - be a pro liar.  Obviously, I'm not that smart.  I've also heard it said you have to be pretty smart to get away with lying a lot.  That's not to say the as-yet-undiscovered smart and skilled liars out there won't turn pro eventually.  There's no imminent danger of that for me, but one never knows for sure what the future may bring.  Entertainment is pretending for the sake of lifting the listener above the ordinary, charming them, enchanting them, delighting them, giving them hope, engaging their hearts and minds, inspiring them, getting them excited, etc.  To achieve these things, it helps when you take reality as a starting point, then embellish to taste.

We're taught as children to tell the truth.  As we get older we realize white lies are sometimes necessary, often learning this from our elders, then applying it to our advantage.   Some take it further, which I admit I've done more than I wish I would've.  Especially as a young adult, I used to lie about myself to impress people mostly.  I guess I didn't want them to know the real story, so I embellished to make myself out to be more interesting than I really was.  I still feel compelled from time to time to do this when in conversation, but try hard to refrain from it.  I'm embarrassed I got so carried away with lying to people when I was younger.  The urge is still there, for some inner reason that's hard for me to grasp entirely, but I am able to curb it pretty well, and save it for my songs I suppose.

You'll notice my web site has a page for every song I've released, and on each I type anywhere from a few sentences to a few paragraphs about the "behind the music" stuff - the real story of how the song came into existence, how it started, how it evolved.  Some are based on real events, some on dreams, some on overheard conversations, and when I remember, I put those songwriter's notes there in case anyone might be interested.  The inspiration, the motivation, the original idea, these are the important parts, then the craft part takes over to fill in a few blanks here and there, and steer the song toward completion.  If you're interested in learning more about songwriting by learning about how someone else like me approaches it and how I've arrived at songs, then this blog might interest you in the first place.   Then if that is the case, you're probably the type of person who would want to stream my songs, and possibly even while listening, read more about how it became a song, and what I was thinking about at the time. 

This blog is brutally honest, but even within these posts, I probably make myself out to be better at songwriting than I really am, making it seem easier than it really is, and slight lies along those lines, but if you find any of it interesting, you'll be even more interested in the songwriter notes for each song.  To me, it's fascinating how others write songs, and quite often my interpretation and perceived meaning is far from what the songwriter was thinking when I learn about their story behind the song.  So, if you don't mind the risk of disappointment, go for it.  The starting point would be the songs page (www.scottcooley.com/songs), on which you can click a link to any song info page to read my anecdotes.

Again, with those, I try to be brutally honest as well, but who knows, even my story behind the song stories might contain lies, but I assure you that like the posts in this blog, I'm doing my best to tell it like it is, in all its ugliness and boringness.  Subject to truth-stretching is the nature of made-up stuff like song lyrics, just as song meanings are made up by each listener to some extent.  Shared interpretations of art might contain real feelings or what you want others to think you feel.

All that being said and set aside for a moment, my songs are genuine, authentic, real, from the heart, and written with the best of intentions based on whatever was motivating me to write it at the time.  For the sake of each song, in the event of personal experiences, real names and places are sometimes changed to protect the innocent and all that. 

So, I do assume responsibility for the content of my songs, and the opinions may reflect my own, or those of the characters in the songs.  Since I made up the characters, even if based on real people I've run across, they might be my views, but might not.  My stories may reflect real events, may not, etc., but you know - any standard disclaimer might or might not apply, depending on things and stuff.


Keep doing something you like and you'll keep craving more time spent doing it.  Take a break from it and the heart grows fonder of it.  Habits become tough to break and when they do you nothing but good, how can you even argue it's a waste of time?  If you get a kick out of it, a little jolt of satisfaction when you complete a good one, why not keep chasing that feeling?  If writing songs for you is form of habitual lying that makes you feel good, then pathological songwriting is a healthy pursuit.  The icing on this cake?  Little white lies aside, when other people report back to you that they liked your song.  How sweet it is.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Keeper Ratios for Rewrites vs. Newwrites - Glass Half-Full Outlook Can Lead to Stockpile Mode!

Dear Diary, um, I mean imaginary readers of this blog,

I am hereby posting more information about the writing and recording of songs I've done lately which you may feel free to comment on after reading or discuss freely with anyone afterwards.

Unlike a lot of famous recording artist blogs, I write 100% of everything you read here myself, and it's typically not filled with a bunch of photos I took on my phone while traveling, etc.  Nor does it have a lot of wild stories from the road while doing gigs and tours.

Instead, it gives you honest insight into what is going on with me, and what I think about things, as it relates to my passion of writing and recording songs.

To remind everyone, this is a single-author blog that is not a non-profit think tank per se, but it is free and it covers topics related to and advocating for the culture of songwriting, do-it-yourself music recording, acoustic garage rock music and Scott Cooley album and song appreciation.

I'm not really out to advertise myself as an individual or artist with this blog, but rather, a way to communicate with those who like my music.  Did you know you can comment on any of these posts as well as contact me via email, phone, text, or social media messaging?

Yep, I can be contacted and am usually willing to interact with those who like my music and want to reach out to ask me stuff.  I can usually find something to socially relate to with most people, particularly if I already know they like my music and just are interested to know more about it or me.

I don't moderate the comments, and they are public, but there are private ways to contact me as well which are listed on the Contact page of scottcooley.com.  So, you can comment on other people's comments, and interact with other appreciators, etc.  If there is hateful or offensive stuff, I do have the ability to delete it, so if you see anything like that on here, let me know and I'll remove it ASAP.

I also occasionally use Twitter as a microblogging platform, and this blog's posts get fed there, so if you like that @scottcooley is the handle.

I'm on facebook too, but log into it even more rarely than this blog, which as you can see, is an average of maybe once every two months.You might get the idea that I don't have much to say if you only look at my post frequency numbers, but you'll see each post is fairly long, and dives fairly deeply and thoroughly, so once you read some posts, you'll see the opposite is true and I do have a lot to say, it's just that I don't post often.

So, I like to wait until I have something of a fair amount of quality and quantity before posting, which means I have to be compelled enough to start a post, then have enough to say that I continue until I have some sort of conclusion or point, and a way to relate it to my love of writing songs.

On to my recent ventures, which have been 1) more rewriting of old songs with mixed conversion ratios, and 2) new song writing spurred on by the rewriting.  Let me elaborate on #1 first:  Usually a song doesn't make the cut for a good reason and no amount of rewriting will boost it to a keeper level to make it "release-worthy," but it is possible for such a thing to happen.

I typically have to attempt rewriting about five borderline keepers before one will become better enough that it is vaulted above that threshold.  That's the approximate ratio.  Interestingly enough, it's about 1/2 of the keeper ratio of writing brand new songs, which is approximately 2/5 or 4/10...something close to that usually.  The other four become "don't waste time on again" songs.

You can look at that as discouraging and effort-wasting, or if you're like me, you can view it as a glass half-full scenario and be psyched you got that 1 K out of 5 tries because the 5 tries were good practice and you got another K you wouldn't have otherwise had, so it's always productive time spent the way I see it.

Then, the beauty of it all is that there's this boost of a bonus that K brings on - it gets you back into the creative flow again, and next thing you know, you're working on new ones again, which brings into play the 2/5 ratio.

Write 5 more, and you're going to end up with 3 keepers and 7 non-K's, but that's OK.  It's more than OK, it's great, because that's what you're trying to do.

When you get on a little creative roll like that, and let's say you write 5 new ones and get your two K's, that's just one spurt, and just an average ratio.  No matter how much you get writer's block droughts, and no matter how much you get afraid you'll never get a spurt again, you know that all you have to do is one thing:  go back through your non-K's a rewrite!

Sometimes you only need three or four short bursts of creative output like that and you're close to an album's worth of material.  Then you know you're close, and writing more to get to that 12 song count is not so daunting.

Once you're over it, you've surpassed the baker's dozen and get into stockpile K mode, you then have the luxury of getting more discriminating and replace a weaker K with a stronger one, improve the lineup if you will.

These are good situations to be in when you're a recording artist with a fan base whose expectations of more releases are based on your past output, and you know you can be consistent and deliver again.  This is precisely the situation I currently find myself in.  A good place to be, for sure.

So, if you're one of the surprisingly many now anonymous readers of this blog for whatever reasons, and one happens to be you're wanting to know if more music is on the way, I'm happy to report the answer is yes.  So, the only thing that could prevent me from releasing on my birthday in even-numbered years again, as has been my practice since the turn of the century, would be if I die between now and then, but the stockpile means potential for contingency plans just in case.

As I just told my friend Rich, it's good to have a couple albums "in the can" because you never know how long you'll live, and just like Yoko Ono and Courtney Love, my wife Lenore will be able to do posthumous releases ... to keep up the lifestyle!  😉

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Why There's Not A Lot To Write About When Writing About Writing Songs

It's been over 6 months since I last posted a log (or would that be logged a post?) to this website, and I realize part of the reason is there's only so much to cover for the topic focus I've advertised on this Blog's  about page.  I am interested in writing songs, but I have never sought out other blogs where people who also like to write songs write about writing songs.  I don't really care how they do it or why they do it.  I know I like it, and I know how I do it, and I know why I like it, but I'm not sure others would be interested in any of this information. 

Occasionally, I like to write about my experiences with the craft.  I've expanded the subject matter to include recording music and trying to sell music.  I've also occasionally thrown in a review of recorded music I've purchased as a consumer or live music concerts I've attended and enjoyed.  Why anyone at all would care about what I think about any of these kinds of topics is beyond me.
Even so, I blog on without an audience.

For Starters, There's Not Much To Talk About Even When Asked in Conversation

If you can't think of much to say when asked about your experiences with the hobby/craft of songwriting and/or recording in person with people, then it's highly likely you won't be able to think of much to write about either.  Figuring out what people like to hear about is important, and that's what I'm hoping to get closer to by the end of this post.  What kind of music do you like?  That's always a fun conversation-starter, but as for songwriting, it's more of a chore.  That said, people do ask, and I do reply.

The Inevitable Questions

People who know I write and record songs ask about it from time to time.  They like to almost half-jokingly ask when the next release will be available.  They also ask if I still write and record, and whether or not I have any plans to perform live anywhere in front of an audience.  I had one relative ask for an additional copy of my Christmas covers CD recently. 

The Standard Replies

I always say yes, I still write songs, still record them, still release an album every two years on my birthday, still don't play live anywhere, still haven't sent a song to a famous artist for them to record yet...but that it remains a part of the fantasy.  Sometimes they leave it alone after my brief reply, but sometimes ask why I don't try to get one recorded, and then my reply to that is always that I haven't written one that is good enough yet.  Sometimes I go on to explain that even if I had a worthy song, I'd have to pay a lot of money to have pros record a proper demo of it in a real recording studio first before submitting it to artists, and I don't have the money.  Sometimes they say you should keep trying, sometimes they leave it alone and the conversation moves on to something totally unrelated.  When it does, I'm usually relieved.

Waning Interest

If my friends and family who do not write songs are satisfied with the above exchange, one might think fellow songwriters would want to talk about it longer, but that's not really the case either.  The few I've spoken with over the years are typically like me in that they've learned all they care to about the craft, and have settled in to a way they enjoy it, and don't particularly want to learn from hearing someone else's approach.  The interest wanes.  People who like boats, for example, can hang out and talk about boats for a long period of time and thoroughly enjoy it, as if they can't get enough of it.  Not so with songwriters, I've found.  Maybe it's common to any creative pursuit, or maybe it's the fact that it's typically a solitary pursuit.

Blog Awareness

So, I guess I'm typing my thoughts on the way to a conclusion here that even if I were to read up on and follow ways to increase the readership of a blog by targeting an audience of other songwriters, there may simply not be much interest.  As a musician and solo artist who releases albums, maybe the fans out there would want to read this.  I've read the autobiographies of Bob Dylan and Neil Young for example, because I was interested in their lives and how they came to be songwriters.  I suppose I would've been interested in knowing more about their approaches to writing songs if it had been in those books.  If they had blogs about their experiences with writing songs on their websites, I would read them.  It could be that there's simply not much information to share.  Neil says "wait for the muse to show up" and Bob remains mysterious about it as if he's been blessed from a higher power with the songs and as a result needs to tour a lot as a form of payback or gratitude.  Not much to go on there.  How one writes a great song is treated as somewhat of a trade secret or accident by most it would seem. 

Shifting Focus

So, my focus therefore should be more varied about me as a recording artist to appease those interested in me because they are fans and consumers who have bought my music and want to know more about the person who wrote and recorded the songs they liked and bought.  Rather than just talking about the songwriting part, that is.  Truth is, if you look back at the last few years of blog posts, I've already shifted the focus accordingly.  I exhausted all I knew about writing songs in just a few posts.

The Motivation

What gave me the idea is the story behind the song part that might wreck your interpretation, but might be really interesting, and if you want to know those, I provide them on the site.  So, one can't blog about what is essentially the same process for each song, and a paragraph or two explaining what motivated each song idea. 

You'll notice that from my albums page (www.scottcooley.com/albums), you can then click on an album to view links to subpages for each song.  From that starting point, select a song page and you'll see a paragraph or so explaining the "story behind the song" that I wrote about what I remembered happening when I wrote the song.  These may be interesting, or they may disappoint in the case that you'd already formed your own opinion of what the song meant to you when listening to it.  Fans derive their own meaning and envision what the writer's thought process might've been, and when learning what that writer was actually thinking about, may think less of the song as a result.

The Summary

If there are songs of mine you like, chances are the way I wrote them was not that exciting.  Likely I had a moment of inspiration for the main song idea, which brought about a chorus and title, and then I wrote verses that supported it by telling a bit of a story, and as I did this I made the number of lines in each verse match, and if there was a bridge it took a different perspective, and I probably looked up in an online rhyming dictionary a few of the rhymes.  Then I probably looked at the typed up song and read the lyrics back to myself in my head and a meter and dummy melody formed in my mind, and then from that I instinctively knew where the chord changes would be, then I picked a key good for my vocal range, and then possibly looked up on a chord family chart what chords were available in that key, then strummed a bit, and then sang while strumming, and then I had a song.  Usually if the idea was good, and the lyrics turned out well, and the singing of the melody was catchy, then there's a good song.  That's the songwriting process summary for me, and although there've been many an exception, there's not much else to say.  That's why this is a general solo artist blog, expanded to be about anything music-related, for anyone who likes me as an artist. 

The Mystery

The reason is that how a good song comes into existence has an indescribable element of magic to it.  Stars align, all cylinders simultaneously fire, and there's more pure accidental luck to it than craft.  There's only so much you can say about the happily automatic.  It's hit or miss, and if a few cylinders didn't fire, some sweat equity crafting might make up for it, but it's rare.  It's a mystery why and how good songs happen, but we music lovers are glad they do, and we know them when we hear them.  It's a matter of taste, and taste curation is what artists should be writing songs about, and what they should be blogging about too, I suppose.  Narrow focus is what the experts recommend to nail down what's appealing, but I'm too varied in what I write about and the style of songs I write to have a good shot at this type of thing.  I don't want to only write post-industrial shoe gaze alt-surf songs that are only about the things that type of music fan are into, let alone blog about the things that crowd are into, whatever those things may be.

Tales From The Road, Tales From The Studio, Causes

Famous major label artists and bands blog about their experiences on tour and recording albums in real recording studios that their fans apparently read.  I'm a fan of a lot of solo artists and bands, but I never seek out their blogs.  I don't really want to know about their adventures travelling from show to show or how their album is coming along, but that's just me.  I guess I don't care if they support certain causes either.  If they recommend music they like, however, I might be interested to know that.  Maybe I'll do more of that.  This blog post has allowed me to think harder about what might be interesting for people to read about, should I ever gain an audience for this blog.  If you're reading it, chances are my future blogs peaked your interest to read older posts, which means this blog post helped me focus on what you'd like and I gave it to you.  Hopefully, I've continued to do that with the music as well along the way.  Peace out, y'all.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Rest Assured, There's A New Scott Cooley Album This Year To Put Under Your Tree

Dear Everyone,

Just in time for the holiday season, I've got a great gift idea for you!

Six months ago I released a new album of original songs on CD and digital you can buy from Amazon, Google Play, Apple Music, etc., and forgot to blog about it!  So, here it is Christmas present shopping season and I thought I should do that now while I think of it.  Might as well blog about it, just in case you want to consider it for a stocking stuffer for a music fan in your life.  It's called "Rest Assured" and it's the 7th full-length record I've self-released on the independent Scott Cooley Records label, and it contains 13 songs.

It was made available in stores on the usual release date - my birthday, which is June 21st.  Also as usual, I produced it, arranged it, wrote all the songs, sang all the vocals, played all the instruments, recorded it, mixed it, mastered it, took the cover photo, designed the artwork, wrote the liner notes, etc., except...my lovely wife Lenore was once again a guest studio musician appearing courtesy of herself on two songs as an accordion player.

So, you can get it now in time for Christmas, and here are some handy links:


Here's what it looks like:
www.scottcooley.com/albums/rest-assured

Here's a link to the press release:


Here's a link to the album page of scottcooley.com that has the full artwork, track listing, liner notes and details:


The person you buy it for will probably love it, and love you even more for giving it to them!

Merry Christmas,

Scott


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Human Art and Technology Will Always Need Each Other

You make some art, then you try to sell it, then you realize you need people to find out about it.  It's when you want to grow your audience that artists run into the unnatural-feeling reality that the internet and tech companies are necessary.  They are the system, and the people who are potential consumers of your art are deeply connected to that system.

You don't want to alienate anyone, and your art suffers as a result.  You don't want to piss off the corporations out there, even when the say they aren't evil, because a vast portion of society share the same fear.  You can't put down technology in a song, because your potential fanbase relies on it.  They are married to it.  Try to make fun of technoconsumerism or social media, and you're being anti-audience.

When an independent recording artist/songwriter gets a small audience, there is recognition, and when you are pretending to be someone else when writing songs, you are sympathetic to your small audience that has given you that small amount of recognition, and you don't want to satirize any of them from an angry point of view.

So, if you're angry at the system, you try not to let it come out in your songs.  The system today means fitting a mold that is like a needle in a haystack, or being a do-it-all-yourselfer outside the mainstream the gatekeepers control.  Getting reviews and recommendation seems vital to growing an audience for the indepedent artist, but goes against their inherent grain to a certain extent.  Doing my own promotion and advertising doesn't feel right.

Paying someone to blog about my songs or put them on the radio is something I do not feel comfortable doing, but it seems like an inevitable path when self-promotion for an independent artist who wants to gain a larger audience is the only option.

Physical record stores have been replaced with on-demand music streaming subscription services, and potential fans depend on the music bloggers and internet reviews as their tastemaking recommendation engines to choose which music to listen to and buy.  Social media can't be ignored by songwriters and musicians like me who work hard for little pay because our potential audience want entertainment that is immediate and cheap if not free since they also work hard for little pay.

Word-of-mouth doesn't happen otherwise for people who spend their free time with their heads buried in their smartphones.  It feels like the big record companies/internet companies have the power of music advertising and influence over the reviewers and promoters of music, but people will not want to support those big corporations and all they stand for.

It feels like my potential audience out there are instead the types who prefer to support local mom & pop businesses, if it's not too expensive.  Herein lies the problem:  the local songwriter/musician can't compete with the low cost of music produced by the music/internet corporations, just like the local producers of other consumer products can't compete with the low cost of Walmart products.

The difference is those large record/internet companies contribute to large problems in the world and I don't.  Do they make long-term investments in songwriter/musical artists like me these days?  No, but they provide a low-cost storefront and platform for self-promotion. The only world I know to try to find my place in as a songwriter and solo artist is to distribute my albums to online music stores and find free or low-cost ways to self-promote online.

It's the self-promotion part that doesn't feel right for the artist, and one the record companies of old took care of on our behalf.  The same is likely true for most types of written or visual art - a novelist who self-publishes is dependent on Amazon, a maker of any video medium is probably dependent on Google and YouTube.  They control the platform of delivery, the storefront, the distribution, the advertising, the recommendation engine.

No one can recommend your music to someone else without their smartphones anymore really.  I wrote a song called Show Up that satirizes this to some degree, and I didn't realize it until after releasing it that I was biting the hand that feeds me.  Technology has changed the playing field for those of us who hope to sell music.  It's not an apocalypse as the old-school tech haters in Nashville would have you believe.

Rapid change is constant.  Online newspapers, magazines, e-books, and Netflix are here to stay.  Those that control the delivery mechanisms for art are worthy of our financial support just like independent artists are, because they play a part in discovery.

We're far from the artifical intelligence of computers producing our art for us and rendering human artists obsolete.  I suppose I'm blogging this semi-frustration with the hope that someone might read and agree and be entertained by my perspective.  Writers write about the human experience to entertain, don't they?  That will never go out of style.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Revenge Of The Real

Maybe the biggest alternative to today's popular music is my style of music.  That is, the kind of music that I make, not necessarily the music I listen to that is made by others.  My music I write and record is a blend of the many types that have influenced me, like everyone else.  I tend to think I don't come anywhere close to the greatness of music I've chosen to have in my collection.  We've all got our tastes and opinions, and regarding my own music, my only claim is that I think I can write and record an interesting and pleasing song from time to time.  I consider many of them to be good songs, anyway.  All musicians have influences, even if the music they produce doesn't necessarily sound like those influences.

If that's true, then what in the world are today's mainstream artists listening to?  It's got to be other mainstream artists of this most recent era.  The styles all sound so similar to me, as if they're all copying each other.  I don't seek it out, but it's unavoidable.  When I'm stuck in a traffic jam, or can't find anything to watch on TV, I sometimes out of curiosity tune in to the popular music of the day.  You know - to hear what the kids are listening to.  It's far from what was popular in my day, and by "my day" I'm referring to those peak getting-into-music years from age 10 to age 30. 

So, since 1996, the past 20 years seem to be a big decline and somewhat drastic departure from what was cool in my range from 1977-1997.  I'm almost 49, by the way.  Aside from the obvious:   the auto-tuned vocals, the all-electronic instrumentation, the perfection that technology allows, I hear a lack of daring to be different.  Seems these major label artists are using algorithms to make cookie-cutter music.

It could be this happens in every generation.  I'm at the age where people are complaining about the new NBA not holding a candle to the 20 years that featured Dr. J, Bird, Magic, and Michael.  The quality of play and the passion for the game are waning, they say.  I find myself in partial agreement.  Comparisons to basketball aside, maybe the big-band swing and classical fans never warmed up to rock and roll, and maybe the folk revivalists still don't like the bluegrassy Americana of today.  We know they all hated disco and new wave and hair metal, right?

The pop music is definitely cookie-cutter, and so is country, which wasn't cool back in my day at all, but now despite its popularity and it sounding way different than country used to, is even more cookie-cutter than pop.  The songwriting might be better in modern country than pop, but that ain't sayin' much these days.  Thank god for classic rock, one like me may think, but how about some deep track album cuts once in a while instead of playing the same fifty songs over and over again?  I'm sick of that now, too. 

Maybe each generation experiences the same, that's there's been a steady decline in the overall craft of songwriting since their time.  So, luckily the internet is my only salvation, and discovery of old music that was popular before my golden 20 years is my passion now as a music fan.  Hate to admit it, but YouTube is great for this type of discovery.  No videos per say, but people will snap a photo of the 45 label and throw it in there.  The old standards, the old blues, the old folk, dixieland jazz, the early R&B, that's what I love now, and it's a far cry from today's pop.

It's manufactured, it's formulaic, it's even robotic, this pop and country.  It all sounds the same to me.  Even when you discover these little pocket trends of acoustic music, you know the ones where young people in bands try hard to make mandolins and banjos sound hip, they take it way too seriously.  Most of it seems to lack daring, and despite being different enough, stays within the confines of what radio and TV will allow.  No drawing outside the lines for the crayola-wielders of the current popular music scene.

Again, maybe it's always been like this, and I just didn't really take enough notice along the way.  Record companies and songwriters have always followed trends, and now they have computers to do a lot of the heavy lifting for them.  More than ever, businesses are data-driven, and it seems now more than ever, they're afraid to take risks and dare to be different.  They're polluting the air waves with what they think will sell, but to me, it's mostly garbage.

Maybe that's why not using synthesizers, virtual instruments, hit-song prediction software, click tracks, drum loops, auto-tuned vocals, etc. is truly rebellious in the this music climate.  Maybe by not having a bunch of virtuoso instrumentalists who technically play great but don't have good songs is brave.  Maybe having good songs but not playing them all that well is bold.  Maybe using standard acoustic instruments instead of the trendy ones is being different now.  Maybe releasing music with a few imperfections here and there is gutsy.  Maybe having a poor singing voice and using it anyway is daring.  Maybe by not having dance moves and good looks in the music business is wild and crazy today.  Maybe not ever creating a music video is bucking the system.


So, yeah, guess maybe I'm blatantly referring to myself in this previous paragraph, in case you hadn't already noticed.  I'm the "alternative" to today's popular music.  Anti-mainstream.  Real and honest in a time of fake and insincere.  In a world of polluted music, mine might just be a breath of fresh air.

Friday, May 6, 2016

$12.49 for an Album? In 2016? Are You Kidding Me? For Past Releases as Well? What Gives?

In short, you do.  My fans do, that is.  They give in the form of payment of this album price for a reason.  They give in support of music they really appreciate for a variety of good reasons actually.  They feel good about contributing to the sustainability of an artist putting great music out into the world consistently, in a time when such a thing is a challenge.  Read on, and you'll hear about what those good reasons are.

I can't tell you how good it feels to be in the process of getting another album out into the world of music I made.  Releasing songs you wrote and recorded gives you the feeling of release, as if you didn't want to die with the music unreleased.  Although there's more competition than ever in the music business, there's simultaneously different levels of opportunity nowadays. 

The ability of the average joe musician like me to do this didn't exist a decade ago, and thanks to the evolution of technology, it does.  Inexpensive home recording equipment, plus digital distribution to online web stores has made this possible.  You hear a lot these days about songwriters and music artists not making as much money any more since CDs, MP3s, Napster, and the iPod changed everything, which is absolutely true.  The only advantages are that it is convenient and cheaper for both consumers and home recording hobbyist / independent DIY people like me.  The word "cheaper" being the most important word.

So, when you see I have albums for sale online for $12.49 and single songs for .99 cents, it's arguably shocking and inexplicable at first glance, I'm aware.  Why does an average joe musician like Scott Cooley charge so much, you might wonder, when you can get the new Justin Beiber or Taylor Swift album for $7.00?  That's the big question, and one I fortunately have an answer for!

I see a three-level pricing stucture in place here - Free (Amateurs, DIY'ers),  Mid (Independent labels) and Pro (celebrity musicians), admittedly with some crossover between levels.  When you scour the internet for places where average joe musicians post their music online - at places like YouTube, SoundCloud, or MySpace, etc., you obviously are prone to finding a lower production quality, lower average talent levels, and a more amateur overall experience. 

When you get beyond the free places, you have music that is being offered for sale, and all said factors are higher on average, as you would expect.  I am in the middle here, and although this may be arguable to you, hear me out first.  Then, at the top tier, you have the aforementioned mega-popular major label artists and bands.

Now, I'll quickly explain why I'm firmly in the mid-tier, with some crossover.  I am an amateur do-it-yourselfer, and my sound quality is not bad, particuarly when you consider I don't use virtual instruments or auto-tune trickery.  Although the all-acoustic instruments and recording of them being played live can sound amateur in comparison to fake drums, bass, horns, etc. made with software loops or midi keyboards, it arguably shows more talent that I play all the instruments myself. 

While I don't give much away for free, you're paying for real music recorded live by a person.  I'd like to think fans of my kind of music are willing to pay a little in support of the real thing.  The mid-tier artists signed to established independent labels actually have recording budgets fronted by the record companies, and said money is often spent in real recording studios with session musicians and professional producers and engineers. 

Again, I'd like to think the kind of people my music appeals to would tend to have a higher appreciation for an artist who did not need to hire pro session musicians and engineers to achieve a desired sound because what I do is way more authentic.  Willing to pay a little extra to support that aspect of it as well, I would imagine.  I can arguably come up with fairly well-produced and arranged songs with a fairly good level of sound quality as compared to what the pro facilities and session musicians can deliver.  To toot my horn a bit further, the quality of the songwriting I would argue is up there quite high, and at times, crosses over into the pro realm.  Fans are willing to pay a little for that aspect as well.

Crowdfunding.  You've heard of it, mostly for software startups, or gadget-makers.  The mid-tier musicians who have that top-tier sound these days get it from crowdfunding.  There are a lot of them - PledgeMusic, IndieGoGo, etc.  There's something that doesn't feel right about it...has an Amway multi-level marketing uneasiness to it, and I have no idea if investors get paid back when the goals aren't met or the projects are delayed, or promises not delivered at all. 

Let's face it, we know that if you heard a robot-tuned version of my vocals, with pro Nashville musicians playing the instruments, my albums wouldn't sound like me, and they wouldn't sound like what you like about me as an artist.  I'm not a puppet, not a karaoke guy who will do a dance routine and lip-sync to fake, perfect-sounding backing tracks with my vocals made perfect via technology.  I'm old, and far from being that kind of artist.  Not a looks-first marketing whiz with a lot of videos.  You'll never see that kind of thing from me. 

So, if I emailed all my friends and relatives and asked them to email all their friends and relatives, and social networked my butt off, and basically begged people to donate money to me to pay for my next recording project, you wouldn't want the end result, even if it was possible.  You already like my style and what I produce, so I charge after I've got a product ready to go.  I ask a little more than average, yes, but I don't ask you to ask your parents to fund me first to pay for fake studio stuff.  For 12.49, you get the best I could do - real music from a real person with a real voice playing real instruments.

It could very well be that as technology has contributed to a declining music business, it has at the same time contributed to a decline in music quality.  I'm not talking about the sonic perfection that is achievable with technology, but rather, the fact that it may be a dying art to play the instruments yourself, and write the songs yourself, and record it yourself.  It could also be that the styles and genres my music encompasses is fading from public awareness and appreciation. 

Maybe the type of sound I get and the types of songs I write won't be as prevalent in the future, you never know.  Maybe younger generations won't understand it as compared with the popular music of their day.  Preservation is a part of what you're investing in with that 12.49, from a known quantity who's proven he can continue to deliver.

If you're the type who is willing to pay a little more for something made in Michigan, pay a little more at the local mom & pop business instead of WalMart, buy art from local artists, support your local farmer's market, write a check to NPR, help the homeless, pay a little more for organic, whatever your thing is, you're the type who is prone to support your local songwriter / recording artist. 


If you like the product, why not contribute a little more than what is typical.  Sustainability.  It need not happen via being hounded to fund a recording project before songs are even written.  Better to have that product that exceeds your expectations, be able to try (stream) it for free first, then buy it at 12.49.  It's not for everyone, but that's my rationale behind the price.  By the way, if so desired, almost like a tip for a job well done, at Bandcamp you can actually pay more than 12.49 for my latest album, Rest Assured, if you feel so compelled.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Getting Crafty: Rewriting Never Really A Wasted Effort

My latest experiences with the craft of writing songs have been part of a long, drawn-out process since my last album release in mid-2014.  That process has included starting with the "leftover" songs in my Works In Progress (WIP) folder on my computer, which houses subfolders for lyrics, session files, and individual recorded song tracks.  When you finish an album, there are inevitably some that didn't make the cut, and these are typically left in an uncompleted state. 

So, after taking a break from writing, recording and release-oriented activities, one of the first things to do is clean up the unfinished stuff if you can.  At least, after having time off you revisit and confirm why you weeded them out in the first place, but with a fresh perspective.  So, I did that, and in doing so, added to my notes of what wasn't right. 

Usually in my case, the majority have acceptable music, but the lyrics and/or singing weren't right.  Sometimes it's a tempo thing, in which I'm cramming too many syllables into too little space, and those are easily remedied by re-recording at a slower pace the instrument tracks, which to me always seems like a hassle, but after the break, no problem.  Sometimes it's an issue with the lyrics not being great, so new ones can be written to fit. 

I did that successfully just this year, and it is one of the few times it's worked and not resulted in the music being scrapped.  Other times it's a case of the lyrics, when read aloud without music, naturally calling for a certain type of music, which isn't the kind of music you already had.  These are really tough, because of the do-over hassle psychologically, but again, after a break, not as daunting.  It's usually a situation where sad lyrics are calling for minor chords and a slower tempo, yet you recorded it major and fast, or vice versa. 

I started doing all of the above, and next thing you know, I'm back into the swing of things again and not only have a couple keepers for the next release, but also get the creative juices flowing again and new songs start to happen.  Some get weeded out again, and maybe get rewritten to keeper status two albums later after being left in the WIP folder again (very rare, but yes, it's happened to me), while with others you do indeed conclude they were wasted effort and perhaps delete entirely. 

My whole point here though is that non-keepers are never wasted effort.  You have to fail a lot to have a good keeper ratio.  I'd be willing to bet the same must be true for even the most prolific and celebrated songwriters out there in the world, it must be the case.  When the new songs arrive, It's like magic to me every time. 

The mystery can only be explained by saying that by doing the "hard work" tasks involved in rewriting or rerecording, you're putting yourself in the best state of readiness for creative flow again.  Breaks are important, and just as important is the manual labor part.  Granted, this is coming from someone who would rather just write a new song than perfect an existing one, but the annoying do-over tasks have both the real-yet-rare benefit of actually turning a non-keeper into a keeper, combined with the inevitable influx of new material as a result. 

Worth it, for sure, because new song ideas are what you're ultimately after, and if you can also do some recycling and reduce wasted past effort, it's a major bonus.  From this, I conclude that all songwriters should 1) save their songs that didn't make the cut, 2) revisit them after a break, 3) start attempting to rewrite them, and good things will happen.  It should be a part of any songwriting/recording process. 

I've heard it said that all artists have an arc to their career, and that there is an average number of albums they release.  Some are ground-breakers with a short-lived period of creativity (Chuck Berry comes to mind), others have long careers (Paul McCartney), others shorter but very prolific (Prince), and then of course you have the one-hit wonders.  When you mention well-known artists there are so many other factors that contributed to their output to take into consideration, but I see some truth in this arc concept. 

Some blast out of the gate and never live up to their first album (Violent Femmes), others hit their stride well into their careers (Bob Seger), but generally (and I have no stats to back this up) I've observed that for most there is a noticeable decline in quality and/or quantity at some point.  Perhaps it's inevitable for us all, perhaps some need longer breaks than others, but I think when faced with writer's block, following this simple process can keep the craft alive. 


It's a matter of forcing yourself to get back into it that makes for the steadiness and consistency.  Just when you think that maybe you just can't do it any more, a little focused effort on the mundane aspects can remove your doubts and make the magic return, which is pretty cool.

Did I mention that I now have my next full-length album written and recorded ahead of schedule?  For the related news item, see http://www.scottcooley.com/news/recordingcompletedforupcomingalbumrelease

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Scott Cooley Music Subscription Service

music.scottcooley.com
You can now subscribe to me on Bandcamp! For the low annual fee, you not only get the satisfaction of knowing you’re supporting me in a sustainable way, you also receive:
  • All the new music I make, streaming instantly to your mobile device via the Bandcamp app, and also available as a high-quality, DRM-free download. 
  • A free full release from my back catalog, given to you immediately as a bonus when you subscribe. 
  • All tracks I designate as subscriber-only (live recordings, demos of forthcoming tracks, previously unreleased original songs, b-sides, and so on). 
  • The option to purchase any merchandise item I designate as subscriber-only (for first dibs on signed or limited edition items, etc.). 
  • Exclusive access to the Scott Cooley subscriber community, where I will be posting messages and photos, and chatting with just the paying supporters, and more.
What might one have to do to subscribe? Behold:
  
Sign up for Bandcamp to get started.  Already have an artist or fan account? Log in 


or...just go to music.scottcooley.com and click on the subscribe tab.

Things you may be wondering:

Why are you doing this?

You get everything I make, you never miss out on a release because my announcement drowned in your social media fire hose or got buried under a truckload of spam, and you don’t want the hassle of going through a transaction every time I put out something new. You own the music on your terms, your device, whenever or wherever you want it.  It's about convenience for fans, and it's the future of music.

I get a little sustainability at a time, which is quite different than some big crowdfunding campaign in exchange for you getting your name in the album credits or soemthing.  When you have a desire to help an artist you're into, you sustain the artist so they can keep making more great art.

Does it replace other buying options?

No, a subscription is just another option, just like buying the next album on CD or an individual MP3, FLAC or OGG track.

How much does it cost?

The subscription fee is 15.00 / year, and you can subscribe using a credit card.  Your payment goes straight to me, without a bunch of people taking a cut first (only Bandcamp).  It's the new way.

----

But wait, there's more: 

This just in...you can now get a giant discount on the entire catalog...and in time for the holidays, you can send it as a gift...

  • Full Digital Discography

    Get all 6 Scott Cooley releases available on Bandcamp and save 25%.
    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality downloads of Used To Be Good Looking, Cherchez La Femme, Sense Of Belonging, Drive Time Companion, Lakeside Landing, and Moon Dreams.
    Excludes subscriber-only releases.

  •       

    Saturday, September 12, 2015

    Progressively More Focused Listening Yields Surprising Fruits From The Unconscious Mind

    Listening Is Learning

    One way to learn more about music is to listen more carefully to music you like.  Combine that with a little Googling of what things are called, and you're on to a whole new way to appreciate music.  This can particularly come in handy when you're motivated to try to write your own songs. 

    When you can discern the number of bars in an intro, recognize the song form, recognize the parts and the arrangement, hear the harmony and melody, notice the time signature, etc., then you're more of a discerning listener than you were when you were just a kid who liked a song on the radio.  Knowing what parts of it sound good to you and why they sound good, knowing why you like certain songs by a particular artist, knowing why you don't like others...all these things tell you about your own taste, but they also inform what kinds of songs you yourself are most likely to write.

    The Ape vs. The Fly

    Practicing cover songs by googling the chords and tabs, reading them as you try them out, playing along with the recordings, memorizing them...these are ways to learn more about music you like, but you can also do it silently - that is, to listen without taking action, using only your mind.  You can train yourself to hear all of the parts and their details that make up the whole of the song.  While listening, and after repeated listenings, more details reveal themselves to you. 

    Subsequently, you can take this knowledge of what works and what doesn't and get out your instrument and word processor and make educated guesses at what will work as you create new songs.  There's no doubting if the Beatles never logged so many hours as a cover band, they would never have become such great songwriters.  That said, although there's nothing wrong with enjoying pure imitation (some musicians never get past being ape men and women who perfect their renditions of other people's songs),  it is quite another and arguably more satisfying way to be a musician when you take it all in and then use that knowledge as creative reserve (being a fly on the wall).

    From Consumer To Preparer

    This somewhat subliminal internal processing of information gleaned can happen on an unconscious level in which your mind works on it unbeknownst to you and then makes sense of it through magical manifestation that surprises you when you start to write.  When you least expect it, it's similar to when you're trying to remember a name and then stop trying and later on it pops into your head.  It's cool. 

    Preparing for doing it yourself as you listen is different than just listening for fun, although it can arguably be even more fun.  It's like when you've never given a speech before, and you know in a few months you'll have to give one, and between then and now you have the opportunity to watch others give speeches, you listen to their speeches differently, listen and watch for different things than if you were just an attendee audience member there for entertainment. 

    You have to take it easy at first, and as you start to train your ears, and as your knowledge increases, you start to notice more and more of what you think works well and why.  You are gradually able to identify rhyme schemes, verses, bridges, turnarounds, song forms, tempos, keys, etc.  More than anything, in order to do this, you need to combine your listening with some basic instruction you can find online about song construction.  Take it in little chunks at a comfortable pace, learn some basic music glossary terms, and then slowly you know what things in songs you used to just hear are called.

    Developing Your Inner Critic

    It's like instead of trying to learn from a teacher when you were a student, you instead thought about how you could teach it better while you were being taught.  As we progress as musicians, we may notice a live performance or hear a recording and think to ourselves about how we could've/would've done it a little differently, how we would re-do it to improve it here and there.  It's imposing our creativity and uniqueness on something we're exposed to, critiquing it as we take it in. 

    More than being able to say negative things about other's music, you are listening with your own personal tastes in mind, only armed with deeper knowledge of what you're hearing.  This allows you to better form your own opinions of what aspects of songs are appealing.  All the music you've ever listened to, whether you liked it or not, becomes an influence (and a tool) as you start to craft your own songs. 

    Easy To Teach, Hard To Do

    Just because you can talk the talk, doesn't mean it's easy to walk the walk.  This newfound power you have can rarely manifest itself in you writing a perfect song or a commercial hit, because it's rare even for the best songwriters to fire on all cylinders.  That's not to say that popularity alone makes a song great.  I generally despise and avoid pop music, which in my opinion has been on a slow but steady decline since the late 70s. 

    However, I have no trouble admitting I like the bubblegum sound of Sugar, Sugar by the Archies, or I'm A Believer by The Monkees.  I like a good pop ballad too, on occasion.  There are a couple radio songs from the late 90s I've heard that come to mind which are near-perfect:  Shania Twain's You're Still The One, and Savage Garden's I Knew I Loved You.  Not sure who wrote each, but these are examples of commercial pop hits that I wouldn't know how to improve.  I doubt their songwriters have come that close to perfection with any of the other songs they've written.

    A Good Place To Start

    Universal appeal is of course something anyone who aspires to write songs should not totally ignore.  The best resource I've found for this online is this wikipedia page:  List of songs considered the best



    It combines many published best-of lists from reputable sources.  There's no accounting for some people's tastes, and although true, it can't hurt for you to recognize the commonalities, know the rules so to speak, so you can then go out and break them in your own unique way.


    Thursday, August 27, 2015

    Some call it Maize


    I call it corn.  By that I mean what I write and record is what others call music, but I call it doing the best I can with what I've got.  I don't claim to be good, nor do I claim to want to be any better than I'm going to be.  I get a kick out of being the best I can, knowing full well that what I do is make up songs, most of which are not that great, and I'm comfortable with that.  I think what I write are songs, and what I record is music, and it may or may not be called something else by someone else.

    In my last post I wrote about what it means to call yourself a songwriter, and I want to make it clear I don't take it so seriously that I pretend I'm something I'm not.  It's just a word, and whether I ever sell a song or become rich and famous from it, I can feel good calling myself a songwriter.  Even if I never play my music in front of people.  Actually, when in a group setting where people I gave my CDs to decide to play them in my presence, I cringe.  Not sure why.  I like making the recordings, but a part of me doesn't want to hear them played back with others around.

    It's okay to suck and be happy sucking at something.  Others may not like it, and I completely understand that.  They might say I produced something good, or something bad, but it's still sounding close to resembling music.  I know my limitations, I know what doesn't sound right and what can be improved in my recordings, even after I've done the best I could.  It's hard to make people understand that.  Sometimes you lose some magic spirit when you keep doing something over and over again until you get it perfect.  It's better to go with the flow, re-do a few things here and there, get it close to what you envisioned, and call it good.

    Be Happy Being Bad

    I say go ahead and be terrible, know it, own it, and do it anyway because it pleases you.  It's probably rare to be bad at something, yet have a passion for it anyway.  I say there's nothing wrong with that at all.  What you have that more gifted people might not have as much of is that very passion.  Take whatever level of skill you do have and work with it.  It's what makes you unique.  Whether it's your creativity for lyrics or melodies, technical instrument playing, perfect pitch, etc., its not the level you're at, but rather, it's what you decide to do with it. 

    It is entirely possible for you as an intelligent human being to be an appreciator and connoisseur of music - to know what's commonly considered good and popular and what's not.  It's also possible for you to choose to look on the bright side of your own levels as compared with the ideals you understand.  So that when you realize you're quite far apart from that high-set bar as a discerning listener, you do not view it as so much of a negative that you give up trying.  Try hard, and perhaps fail miserably, and recognize it, then rethink how you think about the failure to the point that you only see the good, and the potential for more.

    No Need To Rush Into It

    Everyone has to start somewhere, and not everyone progresses at the same pace.  Take it slow, take it easy, let it come to you, let it flow out of you.  Keep it natural, don't force it.  If you're not feeling it, move on to something else.  Wait until the mood strikes you, and then harness the power of the moment as best you can.  Making something out of nothing ... a song from a blank piece of paper and quietness.  You have certain gifts, certain abilities, certain talents.  You can never be great at everything.  If you're like me, your singing voice is politely called "interesting" by others who've heard it.  Hey, that's something, at least.  Stay positive, and be thankful for what you do have.

    Why Not Continue When You Can Amaze Yourself

    Making music is fun for me.  Why would I stop?  No reason.  If you are able and feel the urge, do what you can, when you can.  Find time, make time, do it, make it happen.  It is magic, this thing we call music.  I am amazed by it.  What others would call noise that I make, I call it magic.  It's astounding to me sometimes to come up with what I do.  It's beyond physical.  It's spiritual for me, and it's gathering up invisible forces that exist in the world and working with them to your advantage.  Taking particles and rearranging them with unexplainable power...that's what music making is to me.

    Amazing Others May Never Happen

    If you're like me, a few people close to you in your life who know you well have given you positive feedback about your music, and you actually trust them.  If they liked something you did too about your music, isn't that a huge momentum-building bonus?  It must be.  It might be jokingly what you refer to as not being so great, but it is also you admitting to shortcomings and imperfections, but liking the overall result - the collective good parts that make the thing you created pleasant to hear.  Even when they didn't interpret it as you did, if others liked the parts or aspects that you yourself also liked, then you've got something important.  You've made something someone else enjoyed.  You've made their lives better because of it, however small a contribution.

    Studio Dreams

    The method of delivering songs to people for me is making recordings and letting people choose to discover and listen to them.  All of my songs can be streamed free, and if you want to purchase them, you can.  This seems to be the modern model.  Everyone and their brother has a home computer-based recording studio nowadays, and I am proud to say I was among the first wave of people to do such a thing.  It's where I can be alone and make things up.  It's also where I can take the time to get it right - that is, to get it sounding slightly better than how it would sound if I played it for you live and in person.  A big factor with this is I'm able to record multiple tracks with multiple vocals and instruments (all my own), and blend them to my liking.  This I couldn't do as a solo performer or even with a band, it wouldn't necessarily come out sounding how I envisioned it.  Would the recordings be any better if I practiced them live and solo in front of people a hundred times first?  Due to unlimited "takes" available in multitrack digital recording studios, I agrue no.

    To Perform Or Not To Perform

    Seasoned performers advocate performing to songwriters who are not.  By that I mean that in my life I've run across many different circles of songwriters most of whom cut their teeth and paid their dues playing covers in live settings for many years prior to writing their own songs.  They think their path was one all songwriters should take.  Although I was at one time in my life a live cover song performer on and off for a few short years, I gave it up a long time ago, and other songwriters don't understand why, and when I remind them I'm a terrible singer, they say I shouldn't care and should get back out there anyway, due to the value of audience feedback.  I would argue that many of the best and most beloved Beatles songs came after they decided to stop playing live and focus on songwriting.  Like anything, I advocate for doing it to be better, as in "do songwriting to get better at songwriting."  I'm more like the late career Beatles in that way...I decided long ago to hunker down in my home studio and write and record songs.

    No Yearning To Be Heard, Just A Slight Hope


    Having people appreciate your music is a great thing when you're a songwriter, but it doesn't need to come from being a live performer.  There's no need for people to take it so seriously that they believe you can't call yourself a songwriter unless you become well known, or have popularity in one way or another.  It's a craft, and a hobby, and it's fun.  To me, I have fun with it, and I call it what I call it - writing and recording songs.  That's what I do.  If regular performers want to call what I do something different than that, I don't have a problem with it.  I call it what I want.  I do only what I want.  It's a creative outlet and I like the parts of it I like.  It's my free time.  I don't feel this burning desire to get polite applause and kind compliments from playing my songs in a bar or coffee place in front of people.  Wanting it bad is something that comes from within.  I don't need people to hear my music badly enough to make time for getting gigs or showing up to open mic nights anymore.  I'm happy enough writing and recording songs the best I can and putting them out there and hoping they'll be discovered and liked, while realistically knowing not much of that will happen.  I'm cool with that.