January 10th 2020 - Recording Begins  

I began the process of recording my debut album today. Artists like myself seem to be preoccupied with making albums. In an era where a lot more people are streaming music the question of whether or not an album can still serve an important purpose in the fledgling career of a singer-songwriter is one I have pondered extensively. I realise I am trying to navigate my way in a world that prefers singles over albums and streaming over physical products.

I have done a lot of thinking on this issue and if you care to read on I have developed a bit of an unqualified summary of the art of album making. Many years ago long before electricity was around songwriters made money when their songs - lyrics and melodies - were printed on paper. People literally purchased a song as ink on paper. Then as places like America expanded to the west there was a need for pianists to provide ambient music in bars. However, due to the lack of available pianists, one ingenious individual came up with the pianola. The pianola was a hit and publishers rushed to add pianola scrolls to their business model. People literally began buying holes in scrolls. 

Lol. You can see where I am going with this right? 

Then came along the wax cylinder and the phonograph and with it another seismic boom happened in music. For the first time in history people could hear recorded performances of songs performed and captured by artists. People begun buying grooves in wax. 

Manufacturers of phonograph and gramophones also made the records in order to sell their players however they soon realised making records was way too hard so they sold that side of their business. Thus, enters the record company. The primary focus of a record company was to sell plastic. Plastic is plastic, but with recordings etched in them they could sell that plastic for substantially a lot more money. 

Lost your attention yet? Ink on paper .... holes in scrolls ... grooves on plastic ....I haven't even got to bumps and spaces on CDs and zeros and ones of digital downloads! 

I'll skip a few chapters in the recording industry history books before you leave me for funny videos of monkeys doing stuff on YouTube. Songs were sold on smaller 45's, three minutes or so on either side. Eventually, the record companies figured out that they could create a long playing vinyl record that could hold 20 minutes or so a side, perfect for musicals and orchestras. Then some bright spark worked out they could add lots of 3 minute songs to the long playing albums and there you go! Now they could convince listeners to buy more than one song from an artist by buying ten songs or more. Boom! They figured out they could boost sales ten fold simply by making people buy albums instead of single 45's. And thus the era of the album was born. More money for record labels and artists. More money for publishers and songwriters. Despite people feeling ripped off when they bought an album with only a handful of songs they liked the album era flourished. 

Fast forward to the overpriced scalping of the record companies in the CD era - mid 80's to late 90's, the subsequent revolt via file sharing websites like Napster - remember Metallica's Lars Ulrich lol, the rise of Apple and iTunes, which was Steve Job's attempt to reunite the technology and media via iPods and an app etc, and now the streaming era. With streaming we now tend to listen to just songs and playlists. Today, instead of buying songs the bulk of music listeners lease them in the form of zeros and ones streamed to their devices. Artists like myself vainly setting out to produce an album tend to come off looking a tad backward focused. And perhaps rightly so. But there was a few positives to come out of the album era.

One upside with an album is that it gives artists a platform to group a number of songs together in some kind of cohesive, overarching body of work which collectively makes up one singular piece of art. For me an album creates one whole listening experience and in my case it relates to a period of creative output where the songs carry some relationship to each other. I think of it in terms of what would happen if I just got back from a 12 month trip around the world and the only thing I could show for the journey was one meagre image of me standing in front of the Eiffel Tower and perhaps a souvenir bottle opener. It would be disappointing to anyone who wanted to know about my trip.

An album in my mind brings together a variety of stand out observations and discoveries presented in a single listening experience. I prefer listening to whole albums in one sitting. I have a listening space at home. I pour a drink of some kind to chill me out. I put a CD in my player or vinyl record on my record player and I give the artist my full attention. I don't do the vacuuming, dishwashing or a million other things you could do whilst listening. I sit and I listen to the artist tell me a truth. Their truth. Their perspective. The conclusions they've reached on things important to them. I listen to them share their observations and discoveries. 

I'm listening to understand. That's what is happening. Yes, I am loving the sounds and musical interactions between players, the melodies and words, but ultimately I want to be touched, impacted, turned inside out, lifted to a new place, taken somewhere I have never been and hopefully see something I have never seen before. I want to be entertained, but more so I want to be transformed. That's why I am interested in creating an album myself. Not for my ego. Not for prestige. Certainly not for money. Simply just to participate in the same art form my hero's were lucky enough to be part of and where I too can share my own observations and discoveries - my own truth. 

Now why has it taken me so long to produce my debut album?

Self-doubt and disillusion are high on the list of reasons. But also I have wanted to say something meaningful. And I have wanted to be able to say it in a really engaging way. Secondly, albums are not cheap to make. Not good ones anyhow. Not ones that stand the test of time. You need very well crafted songs, the right team, a good studio, a good flow of energy among other things. You do need money as money translates ideas into reality. I have more ideas then I have money.

I also want it to be made with love. A lot of art is made in anger, in haste, in anxiety and in frustration. But, I want this album to be made in love and to have the love of its co-creators oozing out at every moment. Money can make ideas a reality, but it can't buy love. 

I plan on releasing singles along the way via my website and via Spotify. Ultimately, releasing a physical product for distribution. In my next entry I want to share a story about how I came to work with one of my co-creators. A local studio owner, engineer and friend Jeff Springfield who also doubles as my local Mayor where I live and my golfing partner! 

Thanks for jumping in on the journey with me! 

xxSK 

 

January 7th 2020 - Genre 

Bushfires continue to leave their unruly mark on the Australian landscape. Anxiety and anger fill up my Facebook feed as Aussies everywhere start 2020 with a more subdued and sober feeling then in recent years. Charity Op shops are inundated with things, but it is cash that is most needed. Musicians, ever the opportunists, join forces with other musicians of like mind and talent to raise funds - a great way for music lovers and musicians to respond.

I have found myself avoiding the noise, the arguments, the vilification, the animosity, the sheer hatred, the bitter words, and the pointing of blame, all of which seems to spill over every square inch of my screen. 

I have been down this path before on social media. As a musician, more specifically as a song-writer, sometimes I felt obligated to express my opinions in a 500 word Facebook rant. A few years back I removed myself from all social media all together. I found myself venting more and more about my frustrations and failings openly in public. I ranted about all kinds of things. It dawned on me that I had strayed from my primary love. Facebook had become my quick fix for expressing myself. But, I left a trail of confusion along the way. I offended. I hurt. I preached and moralised. I spoke out and I spoke up. But it was all too cheap and easy and totally self-gratifying. I debated and argued. I wasted hours and hours running down all kinds of rabbit holes hoping to be loved and affirmed.

In short I realised I was a very needy person and what I needed to do more then ever was to withdraw. 

The problem was I wasn't actually writing songs. I wasn't channeling all that tension and emotion into the fine and noble art of writing a good song. 

It is easy to go for headlines that grab likes. But, it is harder to transfer that energy into something more constructive. I left social media to find myself and to fall in love with my artistic passions again. I left to gain a better understanding of the real me. Not the digital me I had been crafting. The shy me. The introvert me. The scared me. The insecure me. The guy who can deep sea dive into an abyss of thoughts and emotions for hours and days at an end only to surface with something in my heart to share with anyone interested in listening. I left social media because I was too weak and fragile. I no longer had the bite for the fight. I had made myself vulnerable and I was overexposed. 

I also realised that social media was something I was using as an excuse to procrastinate. All creatives procrastinate. I was looking for ways to not confront the truth. The truth was I was an undisciplined writer. I had become lazy. I wasn't doing the work. I was hoping for everything to just drop out of the sky.  At the same time I also became terribly busy performing gigs that paid well, but that didn't give me the creative licence to do my own songs. I was dying on the vine. Stuck in a rut. Imprisoned by my own poor choices. 

What a terrible place to be. On top of that I was grieving. Grieving for friends I had lost. Grieving for dreams I felt were dying. Grieving missed opportunities.

Now where is the positive I hear you say.

Well, through a series of events, chance encounters, lots of love from friends and family members who walked with me, I slowly began to recover.

My point of this entry is to remind myself that I have come a long way. My new songs speak of this journey. They don't actually explicitly speak about me. In fact, you won't find any direct reference to me. But, they come from me and my DNA is all over them and the words and phrases and melodies come from the broken me. 

They are songs that penetrate the heart with the reality of life. 

I believe all songs speak to our human anxieties. Our hang ups. Our fears. Our losses and our fear of loosing things and people we love. My songs are no different in that regard. It is just that they speak of my particular hang ups, fears, anxieties, and what my losses have been. Again, you won't even see my life in these songs. But, it's there. Neatly disguised and enfolded among all the textures and colours and word play. 

The title of this diary entry is Genre. In preparing for my debut album I have settled with the specifics of the album's genre. Language can be used to divide and unite, to include and exclude, as does music and music genres. I find my writing lends itself to the use of country, Americana, and blues as a means for me to communicate. I love all kinds of music and would love to incorporate other genres as I go, but I have realised I am particularly suited to writing in this area of music - subtle country, a splash of Americana, and of course an undercurrent of blues.

I realise it's reach will be limited by the genre I have chosen. I understand it might exclude and isolate many. But, as stated in my bio I am confident they will find a home in the hearts of those who need to be encouraged and enriched by them. 

Ok. That's todays little post. I hope it explains why I am not wanting to engage on social media with the current tensions going on. 

Good news is I meet with my engineer on Friday to plan out the first track off the album. I'll tell you more about it tomorrow. 

xx SK

 

 

 

January 5th 2020 - Panic Attack 

Well this is it. I started the year off with a panic attack. True. I had accepted the invitation to be the first artist to launch the newly opened Jimmy Hornet, a live music venue in Richmond that my dear friend Anthea Palmer has opened. But, the fear of not selling it out got the better of me. I haven't done an all originals show in some time and if I were honest, I have wrestled with what it means to be a singer-songwriter type in this day and age. I mean, it isn't the easiest of roads and there are times your mind conspires against you. Anyway, the first show did sell out, albeit it is only a 50 seat room, but nonetheless I could breath a sigh of relief knowing there are supporters around me who want to see me go to the next level. 

Anthea and her partner Graham ran a very important venue in Melbourne some years ago called The Chandelier Room. It became a home to a lot of singer-songwriter types and also a lot of music lovers and early adopters. By early adopter I refer to that particular music lover who wants to be where the action is when a new emerging talent arises out of no where. They are the ones who keep everything afloat in the singer-songwriter world. They buy the tickets and the CD's, purchase T-shirts and drink and food and offer encouragement and support. These are the people that artists like myself cut their teeth performing in front of hoping for some small affirmation that you are on the right track. They know their music, have strong opinions, and are looking for something different, and usually something raw and authentic. 

Anthea and Graham relocated to China where Anthea created the Jimmy Hornet brand and where Graham worked as a very high up executive for one of the worlds largest music manufacturers. After several years in China, Anthea has returned to set up Jimmy Hornet in Richmond. Graham, continues to work two thirds of his month from Hong Kong commuting back one third to Melbourne. He is in high demand but is very central to the strategy behind Jimmy Hornet. 

So, with this invitation to perform at this cool new venue I realised putting off my debut album was pointless. I have this wonderful batch of songs that have come out of my life journey this past five years. I have procrastinated and let fear of producing something sub-standard rule my life. But, I get it now. It is in the doing that things happen. It is in the going that obstacles are met and overcome. I need to get on with this task I have set before me. I want these songs to find a home in hearts all around the world. 

I will post images, videos, and music as I go right here. 

The highs, the lows, and everything in between. 

Jump on the journey with me. You are most welcome! 

 

SK