So, a few days have passed since my first session that will hopefully go into some sort of self-release. After letting the ink dry a bit, here are a few of the things I learned, noticed, or generally feel compelled to comment upon.
First, I have realized just how deficient I am in the mixing/mastering department. Maybe even producing, on some level. That is hard to swallow, but hey. Only one way to get better, right?
Okay, I’ll be done with bellyaching. Overall, the actual material was really good, so I don’t have much to complain about. Second random thought: I approached listening to music really differently this time around, and it really helped. Basically, I did a bunch of stuff to avoid ear-fatigue, and one of the main things was that I pretty much only listened to electronic music and hip-hop the whole time I was recording. That really helped with ear fatigue, because all the electronic stuff worked as a good palate cleanser when I was taking breaks. It also had the advantage of isolating me from a lot of my natural influences, which forced me into a place much more conducive to originality. When you have James Blake and Australian electro-rock stuck in your head, the acoustic folk parts you write tend to be a little more out-of-the-box.
One thing that has been cool is being able to hash out what some of my biggest influences have been. First, there was a lot of Grizzly Bear, which was most helpful in introducing me to Chris Taylor’s views on songwriting and producing. One of the things he’s really big on is going outside of music to find artistic influence. In his view, if you write a song with another song as an inspiration, you’re bound to produce a cheap knock-off. I’ve definitely done my share of that, but I have been conscious of it this summer, which has been infinitely helpful. Another huge influence was the influx of radically different songwriting styles I got when I became enamored with Andrew Bird and Paul Simon (thanks to my friend Madeleine for getting me into both of them, although either Jake or Spencer was the first to introduce me to Andrew Bird if I remember correctly). Both Simon and Bird are incredibly verbose in writing music, and their music challenged me to try some different uses of narrative and absurdity in songwriting. It has definitely shown. I also really got into the melancholy-romantic-drama-usually-ending-in-a-breakup niche of movies, for obvious reasons, and I think that greatly affected the way I tell stories in music. So many of those movies hinge emotionally on moments of silence, on little bits of imagery that communicate the feelings of the characters subtly rather than overtly. I think that use of symbols and abstract imagery has crept into my writing style substantially.
I suppose another thing to comment on is that I really gained a bunch of artistic insight through the first session. I’m starting to get a feel for what some of the more abstract lyrics actually mean (I know it sounds backwards to decode your own lyrics, but here I am. Call me a deconstructionist.), and musically the some of the under-developed material really grew into itself. I’m excited to play some of this stuff live now that it is newly revitalized.
I’m also starting to see where the music could be headed in the next few months. I’ve traveled pretty far down the whole deconstructed-folk road this summer, and I really like where that’s gone, but I think that I’m moving towards a much more stripped-down style. Probably somewhat loop-based, which is scary. We’ll see.
Anyway, I’ve now moved into the realm of straight-up rambling, so I suppose I should shut it down for a while. Bottom line: the first few pieces of this thing have come together really well, but I can’t ride that success. It’s time to get back in the trenches and do more heavy lifting.