New songs!

My big project for 2024 is underway and going very well. In 2022 I created a ten song album, my first that I released to the world. In 2023 I did it again, but a little bit better. In 2024, I’m slowing down to a five song EP. That way I can dive deeper into both the production, making each song the best I can, while it will also help me with promotion. It’s really hard to promote 10 songs at the same time! That’s why most artists these days release a ton of singles. Releasing a steady stream of songs can keep fans more engaged, most fans anyway (I generally won’t be too excited if one of my favorite artists releases a single, but if they release an album I buy it immediately, even if it’s a presale. I’m probably in the minority on that one 😆

Each year I have kicked off the project with an epic extended 55+ hour studio session (over 5 days). In the two prior years I mostly focused on getting the beats and bones of the 14-15 songs (I eventually cut it to the best 10). This time I got really far along with the 5 songs during the kickoff session. The lyrics were almost done, guitars mostly done, draft vocals went well and I added “scratch” bass and drums. Scratch just means they will get replaced. And OHHH MAN! They have already been replaced by two of the best musicians on the planet!  I don’t feel my guitars and singing are worthy of how awesome they turned out, but it just pushes me to match the awesomeness of the new rhythm section.

The bass player will be familiar to you all, he was on every song on the first two albums. His name is Tim Lefebvre and he really elevates the songs. I don’t have to tell him anything, just send what I’ve got and he sends back the BEST bass tracks I could have imagined. I play bass, but it’s like he IS the bass. He also sends guitar and keyboard tracks back sometimes, and those are so good too! For this project, I asked him if he could play live with a drummer, rather than me getting a drummer first and sending it to him like we did the first two albums. He let me know that Gary Novak was who he usually did that with. The name sounded familiar so I looked him up and heard some of the most amazing jazz drumming ever, and I’ve heard a lot. Awesome! But wait, I’m a pop/rock guy, won’t he be bored as heck to do 4/4 stuff? I did a search for Tim and Gary and “Pop Rock”, I found two really cool songs they had done with other songwriters and knew instantly this would work out for my music. Plus I trust Tim’s judgment and instincts completely after 20 songs, so I was excited to give it a try.

The other day they sent back the tracks and they are REALLY fantastic. Not only that, but Gary did some nice editing of my guitars in a couple places (I asked them to do that if anything got in the way of the groove). I’m so glad he did! The changes definitely make the songs better. I’m going to redo the guitars that were edited, but now I have a great idea of how I should play them in certain parts. I’m super excited to start working on those, but I got really sick this week so have taken several days off. I’m hoping to be back in the swing of things in a few days. The timing was ok as I’m waiting for Tim to send some overdubs, so it might be best to hear what those are first.

Soon I will pick one song to be the first single and will devote all my energy into making it the best it can be before mixing, mastering and releasing. I’m guessing it will be out in May. Then I hope to do the same thing with the next song and release that in July. I’ll probably release 3-4 singles and then release the EP with those songs plus the 1-2 others. I’ve heard this strategy works the best so I’m going to try!

For this EP, I have one old song and four new ones. The old song was released in 2020 under a fake name, very few folks heard it before I took it down. You can hear a bit of it on one of my Instagram reels, it’s called ‘Cold’. The remake is WAY better! My lyrics, singing and guitars are all better, I’ve learned a ton since then. One thing I’ve learned is to not fall in love with any track or moment of a performance. Sometimes you have to let go and try again for the sake of the entire song. I’ve also grown as a singer and am more comfortable with what I can (and can’t) do. Of course the biggest change on the song is having Tim and Gary. I wasn’t sure about this one as it had an awesome drum loop, and I wasn’t sure how Gary would work with it. He let it play at the beginning, then came in booming after the first chorus. I almost fainted upon hearing, it was that good! After that he goes between emulating the beat and accentuating it, it disappears entirely then shows up on the left or right. It is better than I could have ever hoped for! Tim's bass is awesome as always too. Mine was good in a couple spots, but not consistent. He holds down the groove and drives the song. I’ll probably ask my friend Liam to play the lead guitar, he did the original and did it quite well. This will probably be the first single since it’s the closest to done and the most exciting track by far, but then again releasing a song called “Cold” in May seems like bad timing. Hmm…

The 2nd song is a heartfelt funky ballad called ‘Give’. The lyrics are about how you never know when you might change someone’s life by giving them something- maybe it’s advice, or a compliment, or an old instrument, or giving your time to listen, really listen, to someone struggling with something. The beat is kind of slow, with a mellow but funky guitar. Tim and Gary took this one to another level. I’m still working on the vocal melody and delivery, but I’ll get there. I’m hoping that listening to their groove will help. Will be adding more guitars and probably a keyboard to fill it out a bit.

The third song is something else. If there was an award given to a non hip-hop song with the most words per measure this song ‘Passerby’ might win! Seriously though, I’ll tone it down a tiny bit, but I’m thinking it is what makes the song unique. The music was my first attempt at making something in the vein of one of my favorite albums, Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty. It fails terribly to sound anything like that, but what emerged is what I feel is true to my core. I first tried lyrics about two fictional characters that get married young and struggle, in three short related stories. It just didn’t sound like me. I was thinking of dropping the song, but found an old poem I wrote after the passing of my father in law. The poem mentioned him, but was really just a recording of a walk I took that day from downtown San Francisco to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. I used to work downtown and did that walk often for exercise. But this day was different. I was seeing things in a new way and wanting to share. I took this poem and fumbled around until it resembled a song. That’s why it’s so wordy and doesn’t have a lot of typical rhymes (my poems almost never rhyme). I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m liking what Tim and Gary did here too and happy with the overall direction.

Next, I set out to record a song about my son, called ‘Stay Right Here’ (or just ‘Stay’). I liked how it came out, but he did not. It shared too much and he didn’t feel comfortable with that. So, I rewrote the song and made it about my wife instead, keeping the main hooks of the song. I’m still really liking the way it is coming out. It’s basically a promise to never leave. Sounds a bit cheesy to say, but it was very heartfelt and you can hear that in the song. I suspect it may resonate with a lot of folks. The one problem was that it got a little repetitive, so I’ve been reworking it a bit and added some exciting guitars (to me it reminds me of guitars you might hear on a Cure song) after the chorus to liven it up a bit. That is working pretty well I think and of course Tim and Gary really helped with their additions.

I recorded another song about my biggest inspiration, Noah Goldman, who passed away young. It has a lot of potential, but it didn’t make the cut. I will try again though as I really liked some of the lyrics and feel it’s an important story for me to tell. It deserves a better arrangement, I will work on it and try recording it again someday.

The last song was a bit of a surprise, and it’s funny that the name became ‘Mystery’. I had finished recording the five songs that I had drafts/ideas of and had a couple hours left that day. I remembered a cool acoustic guitar loop I recorded recently for an Instagram reel and thought it might be fun to try turning that into a song. I saved it from my loop pedal to my computer and then added bass, a couple more guitars and did some vocal improv. I thought it was fun, but a toss away thing. The next morning I listened to it and found that something was there. I wrote out the words I had sung, tweaked them a bit to make a bit more sense, recorded a second vocal take with those lyrics and had a song. Sometimes songs just come that easy. It’s a song about struggling and trying to move on from past mistakes. On my first listen I cried a little bit. That’s when I know I’m on to something. It's only happened a handful of times, but it’s always ended up being one of my best songs (Ghost in my Head, 20 Years Gone, You Can Come Home, and My Love For You). Tim and Gary absolutely nailed this one! Tim's bass works so well with the drums and also the vocals. I’ll replace the acoustic loop with live acoustic guitar tracks to make those a little more dynamic, but this one is nearly done.

I’m so excited to share these new songs and to continue on this journey of becoming a better songwriter. Thank you for taking the time to read this mini-novel!