Sunday, January 19, 2014

Shows, website, and NEW music: The 2014 411n

Yo
2013 turned out to be even more productive than '12. 'THUS Unplugged' EP has belatedly turned out terrific---the songs are up somewhere but I can't say just yet...
A huge creative burst took place after rerecording I & II. So much so that both THUS III & IV are under way. III is really coming along and I don't doubt you'll be hearing it by late spring. If you're following on Facebook you've seen progress, and recently a tentative track list for it. There's some serious exploration on the new one. IV is shaping up to be a fantastic, balls out, classic THUS record.
Finally, the official page is actually for all intents and purposes functioning, but I've really had a vision for this thing and I want it going live the way I want it. So not much longer.
2014 also sees a slew of live solo performances. I've already booked 3 dates and am booking more. Go visit youtube.com/thusri for all things THUS related and youtube.com/user/michaelscudieri  which is geared towards promoting solo performances. Go check them frequently as I will be maintaining them regularly.
I intend to move THUS forward and turn it into an unstoppable machine this year. Get in the front seat with me and let's go places...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lyric Philosophy (Part 1)

Lyrics   If you're the type of person who 'doesn't listen to lyrics', imagine the songs you listen to without the words. Would you still listen to them? We all listen to lyrics even if we don't focus on them. They are important in popular music because we are accustomed to hearing a dominant melody delivered with words over music. So what makes a good lyric? It's a great question...and a terrible one because as with any art, it's whatever the artist thinks it should be. So all I am discussing is what constitutes quality writing to me. Quality writing is the culmination of several constituents requiring a bit of higher thinking, or mental multitasking to achieve. Getting started Always the hardest part. The following are what I consider catalytic processes of writing.  Hydrate- Yes, caffeine is great. It stimulates mental processes and the delivery methods are usually tasty too. It does not directly dehydrate you, despite common belief. We also know it helps keep you awake. What's bad about that? Nothing...unless you're not hydrated. Coffee, soda, and energy drinks DO NOT enhance the creative process. They simply give your body and mind a purely physical and temporary burst of 'energy'. Why do you seem to 'think better' when youve had caffeine? Probably because you are physically stimulated and are moving around more than usual. Physical movement - not caffeine - jumpstarts the brain. Water on the other hand makes up 90% of your whole body. Your body and brain are essentially a walking, thinking sponge. What happens when a sponge has no water? It dryes up and then starts tightening up or contracting; so does your mind. Writing complects several mental processes simultaneously, which absolutely requires prolonged hydration. This Mental multitasking is referred to as 'higher thinking', when an idea seems to create itself, and you merely feel like the conduit. That's your subconscious higher brain functions at work. Again, caffeine does not stimulate this type of thought. It simply wakes you up - which is not always the best thing for writing either. How many times have you gone to bed, only to turn the light back on and write down a great idea? Utilize your brain as it is. It needs no manmade chemicals to operate as nature intended. Hydrate at least 3 times every day. Caffeine isn't evil. Just balance it with clean water and you will create a dance floor for your higher thinking processes. Openness of mind-  You sit down. You write one line. You read it. You put the pen down and walk away. What happened to that moment of pure inspiration? You gave yourself the chance to second guess your work! Most of us cant stand when someone looks at our work before its done. It hasnt reached its full potential or intent. And we know we are our own worst critic (as it should be)...but the time to criticize your work is NOT while you are beginning to create it. Do not prejudge. Allow yourself to write anything - no matter how honest, bad, corny, offbeat, controversial or just unusable. The true strength of your work is that it is yours, and no one else's mind could generate it. Most of us see this as a negative the moment we come up with something 'bad'. Remember the one constant in ALL music: emotion. Everyone on Earth accepts that emotions make people do funny things, extreme things, and decisive things. That universal assumption gives your words a certain impact when combined with music; The corniest lyric can be transformed into an unexpectedly cool, in your face, laid back, aggressive, or heartfelt line, which will be taken as seriously as you take your own writing. Look at any song you love, forget about the music, and imagine the a newscaster dictating them. Are they still as unreachably profound as you always thought? If the reason isnt obvious to you, I'll detail why shortly. Also, most artists detest their work while generating it, so at all costs, remember you have time to edit if you don't get your wording perfect immediately. Usually you won't. The writing process begins with simply capturing concepts related to a theme, not instantly delivering a polished product. Dont expect the world; otherwise you're a record label executive, not a wordsmith. Patience I can't stress this enough. BE PATIENT with your brain. Its like being in a relationship: If you're in the mood but your partner isn't, back off. Ideas are everywhere, all the time, yet they don't tend to strike when you're poised and waiting. Over-anticipation focuses the mind on the feeling it must generate something at some point. This is when art turns to chore. How do you feel when your boss is constantly looking over your shoulder? Thats what you're doing to your inner writer when you are impatient. The ideas will come. I've had times when it takes months. And it sucks...but the more patient I am, the more often the muse visits. Its that same old cliche: if you love something let it go. That absolutely applies here. Patience, patience, patience. Once you've gotten rolling, you can focus on the fundamentals an audience expects from a lyric. These are simply things to keep in mind as you write. I've found it detrimental to focus too heavily on any one of these items, but to simply monitor your writing for them as you go. Again these can be adjusted and enhanced during the editing process anyway. Communicating your meaning You can be as vague or strait-forward as you choose, but it is important to stick to your theme. Even lyrics with little or no meaning have a through line which gets the listener through the song. There's always a concept. You can even start out not knowing what you want to say only to discover it half way through writing. One could even set out to write something which doesn't make sense - and yet there is the concept. What is The Beatles'  'I Am the Walrus' about? Nothing at all...but John Lennon was somewhat a student of the absurd, and was intrigued by the writing of Lewis Carroll. So he wrote lines like 'I am the egg man, they are the egg men, I am the walrus, koo koo ka choo'. So wherever your meaning lies, whether it be portrayed in the actual lyrics, or just a nebulous thematic sketch in words, every line should serve to further communicate your theme. It's easy to side step or veer off course if you are careless.  Rhythm If I haven't firmly established the rhythm of the lines I've written in the early writing process, I go back and edit. I enjoy experimenting with rhythm and won't always avoid stressing odd syllables if it sounds interesting. That said, it's important to me to always keep the line of communication from song to listener as open and intelligible as possible, so if a word feels indecipherable because of a bad syllable, I brainstorm an alternate word or phrasing. Rhyme It's the same as rhythm: if it hasn't made its way into the writing early on, go back and work it out; if it's important to you. Some writers don't see rhyming as necessary, and it isn't always. I look at it as a stylistic choice case by case. Sometimes I rhyme, sometimes not.  I'm not against utilizing a rhyming dictionary when I feel stuck, but I try doing what I can without it. It's a good exercise and the rhyming word or phrase my mind generates usually fits into the theme it's been working with better than a rhyming dictionary, maintaining continuity and belonging, as opposed to sounding like you just wanted to rhyme. Melody Up til now, all the information is useful with poetry, as well as songwriting. But melody is obviously key. In my experience, the great thing about generating lyrics is that I often have the music done already. So having the rhythm of the words and the chords to back it up, a melody usually presents itself almost instantly.  If you don't have music already, that's fine too. I would like to say I am a great melody writer - that I write melodies and subsequently arrange music around them...but I usually don't get so lucky. If on occasion I write rhythmic lyrics without any music in mind though, it's the same as before: the rhythm will suggest a melody, and the lack of prewritten music will be replaced by the mood of the lyric. Your brain is powerful in this way. It will intuitively combine these suggestions into a single melodic output. Give it a try. All these items require specific brain functions. The trick is to get all these departments communicating with one another while you're writing. Again, it's not something you would be wise to focus on, but it's healthy to monitor them while generating ideas. Be patient and let your mind wander and eschew themes and related concepts. Editing is where you visit each department and see how they're operating. Get in there, get your hands dirty on the drawing board, erase, redo, and adjust. Experiment and enjoy the process. If you don't...why bother...?

Monday, April 29, 2013

'Unplugged EP' & 'THUS III' Update

In the final weeks of 2012, I began expanding on the idea of including two unplugged bonus tracks with 'THUS 2012 Redux' and the long gestating 'THUS II Standard Edition'. Feeling good about re-imagining the two songs, it felt worthwhile to continue. Now there are a total of 7 tracks which will see release as an 'Unplugged' EP, upon completion of 2 of the tracks.   I've mostly avoided the simple task of regurgitating the songs in their original states on acoustic guitars, instead repurposing the original compositions for different tempos and rhythmic themes, exploring different instrumentation (guitar isn't the only acoustic instrument known to man), and even some melody play. As always, the lyrics and compositions are the central focus. This was a really fun way for me to tinker with my songs and maybe earn them a little street cred- since I'm positive THUS is largely overlooked as inconsequential, local bar room metal...how embarrassing. So be ready for some new experiences (again) with THUS and THUS II. The track listing, in no particular order, is as follows: Clocks (fan requested) Killing the Beautiful Go Away A Brighter Future Don't (fan requested) Surface Depth The Angel    In other news, the next full THUS album is moving ahead full steam. I've been demoing songs since the original release of 'THUS II' in April 2011. Some material which never made it onto 'THUS II' has been in contention for inclusion, but the focus seems to be on moving forward, as fresh ideas are always more exciting. Rest assured, a completely new third album is in the works. No more re-releases, reduxes, standard/unlimited editions, or anything else that could be perceived to stave off new material. (Although I have not released the cleaned up 'THUS II Unlimited Edition' yet, it has been finished since this past December. I'll probably release that to hold you over during the recording of 'THUS III')    One thing I will say about III so far is that it is the total opposite experience from II. The work is fun and healing. I am gratified by the journey instead of reaching the destination.     The lyrics are stronger than ever and I seem to have - for now at least - reached that mental sweet spot where I am able to sit down, and put some higher brain functions to use at almost any time. Lyrics are one of, if not THE central elements of a great song, and must coalesce artistic, semantic, melodic, and rhythmic sensibility. Not to mention that like most people I'm a sucker for a clever line. So this has in recent years been a part of the process I unwillingly put off for a lack of...whatever magic it takes to combine the elements of great writing. Recently I've rested my voice when not recording (no car singing, no dish washing humming, no shower crooning), drank copious amounts of water (excellent for the brain) and cut down on dehydrates like soda, beer, and even my morning coffee (a little bit; I am literally a king by my second mug), stopped listening to music every spare moment, and read a few lyrics here and there. These are the changes I can only assume are responsible for replacing the toil of deliberate 'idea' generation, and flushing the way for effortless congeniality of artistic, rhythmic, melodic, and mental processes which produce great lyrics. This is the healthiest I've been (artistically that is, I've been sick for over a week) in many years. If I maintain, I'll be happy.

Monday, January 14, 2013

'THUS Unplugged' coming 2013

'THUS Unplugged' is for the fans. Let me elaborate: The aim of this release is to shine new light on the original compositions. Serious time and effort has gone into THUS I & II,  and along the way many ideas are left by the wayside. As was apparent between the original release of THUS II and the revamped 2012 version, every song evolves over time until it's final release. Inevitably, there is always trimming, editing, and other difficult decisions to make. 'THUS Unplugged' is my opportunity to not only spotlight the bare essence of the original compositions, but to reintroduce some bits left on the cutting room floor that didn't work in the 'heavier' renditions.  The EP started off as bonus tracks to be included with the 2012 rereleases of the first 2 albums. After recording 2 tracks, it was decided that, since they sounded so great that it was a tease to only release the two. So now it's a full EP...two tracks of which will be selected by YOU, the fans. If you haven't voiced your suggestions yet, listen to as much THUS as you want on the player at the main page above, and cast your vote at either Facebook.com/thusmusic or vote and join the mailing list at the same time at thus.insider@gmail.com . I'm accepting votes for only a couple more days so don't miss out on the opportunity to choose! Thanks~ Mike P.S. Watch for a preview of the EP...

Monday, November 5, 2012

'The Way We Want' From THUS II: Standard Edition

Here is a look at what 'THUS II: Standard Edition' brings to the tabl!  Stellar 100% new studio recordings, perfect clarity, and a standard, non-gapless album format! Listen to THUS II like never before. Enjoy the following sneak peak of these meticulous rerecordings in the new robust version of 'The Way We Want'...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Why a 'THUS II' Rerelease?

Yes. I already released THUS II in April 2011. There were several reasons for this 2012 rerelease. The album was originally built up from demos which were complicated even in demo form. So the fidelity was somewhat flawed. On top of that I was having difficulty with the entire writing process. 16 tracks, 2 of them acapella, was a hefty workload. Releasing the album and spending some time away from it gave me perspective on what I had accomplished- and what I'd skipped or fallen short of. I'm never happy until the music sounds the way I hear it in my head. So after a couple other music projects throughout 2011, I started 2012 out demoing THUS material for a third album, but realized I was still unhappy with THUS I & II sound-wise, and writing/production-wise respectively. {there's a giant clue as to the Secret Project I've been mentioning all year~}    So what differences are you going to hear in these new, 'cleaned up' recordings? Superior sound quality for one. Every track has received it's own painstaking production overhaul to achieve a professional, noise free, mastered sound. In other words, it sounds like something you'd buy in a store or on iTunes.  So you'll hear nicer sounding guitars, clearer drums, and lots of freshly recorded vocals. But that's only the beginning. The writing itself has been reviewed and streamlined for much more pleasurable listening. So some performances have been tightened up, some sections have received add ons, some areas even have new instruments. A few melodies were improved upon and resung, as my voice went through a bit of a downslope during the initial writing/recording process 2008-2010 when I recorded initial vocal tracks - many of which remained in the 2011 release. So that's all been fixed.  Overall, it's just a better album now. You'll immediately hear a world of difference if you listened to the original to any extent. It's punchier, heavier, more melodic, and I couldn't be more proud to say that it's the journey I intended you to take. So reach out if you want a copy~

Saturday, May 5, 2012

April/May 411

April has been very productive...the secret project goes well...terrific actually. Of course I can't tell you anything about what I've been doing. You'll have to keep an eye out on the FB page for clues...if you figure it out, you'll be getting a copy of it. ;) (there's a clue) Have I been working on THUS music? You'll see...Prepping the website and getting THUS II Standard Edition ready for launch...it's gonna be a good year!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

March/April 2012 411

Yes, I've been somewhat flighty lately. Rest assured, many great things THUS related are in the works. I've been working hard to get THUS II Standard Edition up to par...and I'm working on something ELSE you don't know about, but you'll be very very pleased with. I want to tell you so bad...but I think this surprise is best kept close to the vest for now. I'm in talks with some professional designers/programmers who are making my website dreams come true. (You should see this thing! WOW)
In the mean time, do you know any THUS worthy pro musicians? Ugh. It sucks looking for people who will rock this $hit properly. Anyhow, I'll admit I've taken a little time off this past week with the passing of my beagle :( and being pretty sick on top of it the last week. THUS is getting me through it though. I know things have been quiet for a long time, but if you keep your ears to the ground, there's distant rumbles...there's a lot around the corner. It just takes time...heh heh heh...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

THUS II Standard Edition: near completion

I've just officially pulled an all nighter (again) polishing up THUS II...and I couldn't be happier! The sounds are coming through clearer than ever, vocals nice and clean, guitars much higher fidelity, beautiful bass re-recordings...I'm realizing how awesome these songs actually are for the first time now that I'm going back and pushing my production limits beyond anything I've done before. When I finish production this week, it will at long last be the end of this record. After all the crap I went through for the last 3 1/2 years, I never gave up, never settled and saw this thing through. What YOU will get is the epic standard version of THUS II which plays like a normal album with gaps between the songs...I think this is my preferred version of the record. It's got a different track order than the one released in April 2011, with a new and improved flow. Buy what am I saying?? I still have more than half tge job ahead of me! Wish me luck this week as I kick this thing once and for all. When it's done, you'll know...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

REVIEW 'THUS II'

CALL TO ARMS FOR THUS FANS WITH WRITING CHOPS: Write your full review of 'THUS II' for use on the launch of the official website! Give your thoughts on the albums gapless format, comment on the arch of the material, talk about the lyrics or the music, or any angle of 'THUS II' you feel compelled toassert your opinion on. Please be well acquainted with the whole album! ~ Participants will receive EXCLUSIVE UNRELEASED THUS MATERIAL...send your review to: thus2.reviews@gmail.com...help get this thing viral and involve a friend if you think their writing skills should be recognized. (Of course, be sure they include your name if you refer them so you can receive YOUR exclusive THUS material too!) Go get writing! The cutoff is July 4th! ENTRIES RECIEVED AFTER JULY 4th WILL NOT BE USED FOR THE WEBSITE LAUNCH. GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN~

Sunday, March 13, 2011

'THUS II' Cover Art Sneak Peak & Conceptualization

This is the final image that will grace 'THUS II'. The trifold art (top of the blog) is still being included with the CD, but I wanted to create a single unifying image for the cover that would really encompass the arch of the music, as opposed to choosing one of the three images as an incomplete glimpse into a much larger picture. This image actually incorporates the images of the trifold art...if you look closely. The 'arch' to which I earlier reffered is really simply the lineage of life experiences since my first album. As I mentioned in my previous entry, 'THUS II' involves resonant subjects such as love, friendship & the loss thereof, self image, individuality, success & failure, money problems, etc...basically parameters of most anybody's life. I feel the trifold artwork sums up a lot of this stuff pretty literally, so I took the album cover in kind of the opposite direction, portraying the arch more metaphorically.
I used an image of scope and 'space' as, you guessed it, a metaphor for the mind. 'THUS II' intends to feel like a journey (hopefully a good thing), where the listener has a sensation of traversing a long distance, rather than just listening to a random bunch of songs by some guy. It's supposed to be like a guided tour through 4 years of my experiences with a soulful and hopefully thought provoking commentary on the sites, emotions and characters along the way. The 'orbs' or 'planets' depicted on the cover art represent the three suites as separate locales that the listener will be transported to (direct flight- no stops. :) They're spread out before the viewer as if this is the beginning of the journey they take. There's a little guy at the end...I guess he's me. At first, it just didn't look right without the little guy, and it didn't immediately hit me what he was there for other than looking cool...but when I included him, I thought, 'Oh, that's me at the 'THUS II' finish line, tackling this thing.' So I left him in there. Love that little guy. :*)
Anyhow, I just finished this image and I think it really works as the album cover for my new work. This baby is pretty much ready to be released. A couple minor technical tweaks to the overall thing and I can close the book on this chapter, and get it out to YOU. (>giant sigh of relief<)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

THUS II: A Lesson in the Art of Staying Inspired


Why did this thing take SO frickin long? Let me start from the beginning...
I was working on the first album in 2006 and finished January 12 2007. I was pretty fresh out of my audio engineering degree program, and determined to make that first collection the best I
could. I had access to a highly successful, world renowned producer/audio engineer Toni Maserati (right >>) who's mixed the material of artists from David Bowie to Notorious B.I.G., Christina Aguilera to The Talking Heads...get the picture? I had quite a bit to impress upon him...or so I felt. He'd heard my original THUS demo (QUITE different from the final album, almost completely comprised of a separate set of songs, it was more like the Beatles white album than what it turned out to be. I tried to make a collection that sounded more like someones mix tape than a single artists record) Although his feed back was positive, he advised me to focus stylistically. I took this to heart, looking at my material critically, listening for my strengths, inspecting my favorite elements of what I'd already done and cut away the rest. I kept the songs 'Clocks', 'The Angel', 'Go Away' and 'Don't'. I spent the next several months until January 07 writing/recording almost everyday. Being a transitional period in my life, I had plenty of emotional sediment to dig into. The culmination of my school experience, the possibility of a huge record industry heavy weight taking my work seriously, and my emotional state was a great piece of work; my most complex and complete to that date. The work was an unexpected wrenching catharsis concerning love, death, self image, friendships, family, and individuality. I love the first album. After completing it, I felt it was important to keep working, so I continued for the next two months until I moved into an apartment with my girlfriend, Sarah. Living on very little money (the guy I worked for was, and STILL IS A CHEAP SKATE...I don't work for him anymore) I was at a major disadvantage when her computer could not support my recording needs...I went the following year and a half without recording one note. It was like artistic suicide. I tried to write, but recording had become a part of my writing process...recording the initial idea as soon as I thought of it made a huge difference in how the song came out. When I write, I hear songs in my head, not a bass line, or a guitar lick, or a melody. I hear a finished song. So you can imagine what it was like helplessly hearing great ideas fleeting past me...I'd tried everything. I bought a laptop: incompatible with my software. I tried her laptop: incompatible. I visited countless threads; no info. I called the manufacturer: no clue. Exhausted and becoming somewhat depressed, I pretty much gave up and turned my effort to rehearsals with the band for the first album.
On August 29, 2008 (my 26th birthday) Sarah surprised me with a full Protools setup in our basement. (She's the best by the way) Having had a very long time to ponder what I wanted out of a second album, I became focused on certain musical and lyrical concepts that I wanted to explore. A few of these things included working with different time signatures but keeping the songs palatable, improving my lyrical ability, and enhancing the production (sound quality) overall. On September 7, I went to work. The first thing I recorded was a song called 'Killing the Beautiful' which sounded great. I knew right away it would open the next album. It was one of those songs that wrote itself. But when it was done, I suddenly had this feeling of 'What now?' It was like I had just run out of ideas. But I continued working...I clunked out a few ideas here and there...and hated every one of them. What had happened to all those songs I was hearing in my head? Why was I hating everything I recorded? Why was I becoming increasingly uninspired?? These questions began running through my head at a pretty constant rate. Much as I tried to deal with it healthily by staying proactive and positive, I continued to decline creatively. The band had fallen apart a couple times and had all new members at this point. I decided I needed a deadline. In December 2008 I put up an ad on Myspace declaring 'THUS II coming Summer 2009." Bad idea. Using a deadline to create art is like a victim of constipation
pushing...And that's how I felt. The ad (below) was deleted. I tried bringing my fellow musicians























in on the writing process, but it didn't feel like the music I'd set out to right, and lacked direction. I got rid of the small amount of recording we attempted. Still, I continued working. I sat down and played XBox until an idea struck. Working in a restaurant, I kept a pad and pen in my pocket at all times, poised for any ideas that struck but hated nearly every lyric I jotted down. By spring 2009, I'd disbanded the group for many reasons...not the least of which was to take pressure off of myself to write new material. I kept writing, struggling to finish even a single song. Nothing was happening organically. Finally I fell into a state of almost constantly playing video games, drinking a more than usual, going to karaoke bars to try to 'stay out there' and turning to other art forms when I felt creative. In my life, I was okay. I had work, friends, and of course Sarah was there. But filling my time with other things felt so overwhelmingly counter-productive, I was not doing well internally. From time to time, I returned to my recordings, but they lacked the spark I longed for. I work hard to make my music irresistable...at least to fans of the style I write in. So there was enormous internal pressure with the other goals I set out for myself with the odd time signatures (which I wasn't used to writing in), higher production quality, and better lyrics. These are all acquired skills that take experimentation, and a lot of finesse to execute in a way that satisfy the artist and keep the audience engaged. All this had been steadily going through my head for a year and a half. I thought I was being 'focused'. How can you create when you put up all these walls around yourself? That's the question I should have been asking myself.
By autumn 2009, I took stock in the growing belief that I was no longer a musician. It was devastating having gone so long without artistic release...especially after trying so hard. I seldom found myself working on the material. It made me really sad that I was utterly out of ideas. On top of that, I HATED my job, and never had money to do anything substantially out of the normal. Day in, day out I was disappointed with myself and my total lack of output. Worst period of my artistic life.
Then I was invited to a local open mic run by a friend of my fathers, Don Tassone. He's a RISA member and a fantastic musician. I'd been invited before but hadn't gone so I thought it would be impolite if I didn't show...what a night! The place was small, but with a tall ceiling, so it kind of gave the artists the benefit of the doubt sound wise. Each performance was really a treasure. The artists were truly inspiring. Don somehow got these great local artists, mostly 40's and up, to come out and perform at his Mediator Stage. I'd play my old songs when I went, and I even debuted 'Killing the Beautiful' (acoustically) which went over pretty well. Chris Smolenski, a friend I'd met while auditioning band members in November 2009, encouraged me to keep
writing. Thus hadn't come together by spring 2010 so I entertained Chris's idea of combining forces. We got together sometimes to write, and jam Alice in Chains since we both loved harmonizing. We penned a couple great little tunes together and had a fulfilling collaboration. This got me writing a little bit, knowing I had someone else to fill in gaps where I'd be stuck. Before I knew it I was writing without any help, and finishing some stuff! In May 2010, Don Tassone chose me as one of the artists to feature in it's monthly 'Four Corners' series where 4 artists write and perform songs based on a theme chosen by the audience the previous month. The audience chose for the artists to write 'A song about songwriting' ...needless to say, I had plenty to say.
Over the course of summer 2010, I got to work. I wrote or finished lyrics, edited guitars, drums and bass, and most importantly paced myself and didn't expect instant results. This was obviously not the same process as the first album and I was just learning to learn to adjust...the audience is on their toes observing the art if the artist is on their toes creating it. In August, Don asked if I'd like to feature at the Mediator Stage in October. Feeling confident, I said sure...and in the weeks that followed, I decided it was healthy to challenge myself to finish writing THUS II and get it to a point where I could perform it live, solo, gaplessly...so I hit the acoustic guitar hard. Every day I rehearsed what I had and the songs began to take on a life of their own. It was like watching my children grow. By the mid October, I was rehearsing THUS II with no breaks between songs (nearly an hour of music) twice a day. Representing all the instruments required filling up an awful lot of sonic space for just one voice and one acoustic guitar so I picked up a 12 string guitar and formatted some of the songs accordingly. That really made some of the pieces pop, and helped provide some dimension to the mammoth set. The day of the show came up real fast, but all the prep really paid off. I proved to myself I was still
a musician. I played it to friends, family and fellow musicians. The gig was a big step in rebuilding my self con- fidence. From then on, it was all recording and mixing. Sarah and I moved to a quiet farm
in Massachusetts in November where I set up a studio space in the office. Here, I finished my tracking and went into mixing sessions, bouncing tracks to my iPod everyday to listen to on the way to work. It sounded better each time I listened. Finally, this week on the10th of March, 2011...DONE! As I write, I can't believe the words are being types, and I'm still letting out the sigh of relief!
'THUS II' wasn't as much a lesson in the art of writing music as it was a lesson in the art of staying inspired. Keeping yourself inspired is one of the hardest things about being an artist I think because inspiration comes from external forces that you can't simply fabricate for yourself when you need them. You can put yourself in a position to receive it. Inspiration is the impact of the world on a person who then turns their observations into something tangible...I refuse to create art that lacks substance, but I love to create art - and just because I don't have an important observation one day doesn't mean I don't feel like creating art...that's where that age old quandry that artists have found themselves in called 'writers block' comes from. If this wasn't the fact of nature it is, there'd be a lot more great artists out there...so I think the biggest leaks in my floundering inspiration were these:

1. Relying to heavily on recording as a writing aid. I completely stopped writing during the year and a half when I could not record, even when I was hearing songs run through my head. Don't let opportunity pass you by! I hate to even think about it...

2. Setting up walls around myself right from the get go instead of just tackling one incline at a time. I've learned to ease into odd time signatures when necessary, gradually improve lyrics/melodies with trial and error, and affect more pristine production value by staying informed and being proactive about my researching. You can't just say 'Go!' and simply expecting things of yourself.

3. Harshly and unnecessarily pre-judging my works in progress. Incomplete work needs to be seen through to its conclusion before it can be fairly assessed. Don't judge your book by it's cover...especially if all you've written is the title...
unless the title of your book is 'Snakes on a Plane'...then judge harshly...

4. Over-comparing to my previous work. When I was writing my first album, I had nothing to compare it to...so I had nothing to lose. This time, I was saying 'These songs must be this tall to ride this CD-R'...It's okay to set yourself a standard, but I was sending the kids to medical school before they could walk. 2nd album syndrome. Oy.

I will say that the one thing I consistently did right was not give up hope. Hope is the unconditional belief that something you want to happen will do so. Even when I began succumbing to the notion that I may not be a musician anymore, somewhere in me I knew it was bull. I never gave up hope, even when I gave up the effort. Sometimes you approach a situation from every angle you can and beat yourself over the head until you're forced to throw your hands up in the air and admit 'I'm out of ideas'...and go screaming, tearing clumps of hair out of your skull, and climb a clock tower...or not...but sometimes walking away, even running away from it (the faster the better in some cases) and the feeling of leaving it behind you gives you just the perspective you need to reach the coveted aha moment you sought in the first place. If you love something, let it go. But in order to do that, you have to have hope...even when confidence is nowhere to be found. To have hope is to poise yourself for success, in any endeavor. And having hope, the belief that 'It' can happen, leaves you open to bouts of inspiration. That's one of those universal truths that I firmly believe it is an essential life skill to get acquainted with.
All you artists out there, I hope you learned something from this! I know I did.

THUS II Teaser

Enjoy!