10/25/16

OSOM: October – “I Am A Ghost”

I worked at an after-school arts studio for several years where I taught music lessons.  One evening as we were closing up, a student was walking a cement parking block like a tightrope.  I said, “Hey, you’ve got great balance.”  She looked up quickly, her eyes meeting mine with equal parts surprise and annoyance, and replied, “I’m a ghost.  Don’t talk to me.”  Having no idea what I should say next, I obeyed and walked silently to my car.  I knew that was a lyric for a future song of mine, and now finally here it is.

I had the great pleasure of working with the talented John Read for the cover art this month.  All I had was a vague idea, and so I basically just asked him to put a one minute sample of audio into visual form.  Along with some modeling coaching from his wife, I managed to strike a pose, and John’s skills of lighting, composition, and post-production work did the rest.  It is a literal picture perfect counterpart to the song.  The two must go together for the month’s work to be complete, in my opinion.

This was my first month attempting to make alterations and effects to electronic drums.  I also experimented with layered vocals and delay plug-ins.

I hope it haunts you in the best of ways.

09/29/16

OSOM: September – “Brave”

My early high school years were heavily influenced by punk rock music.  I was the bassist and front man for the melodic punk trio Third Fury. (Note: All recordings were lost at sea, in a great fire, or otherwise destroyed for the sake of all parties involved, so just don’t even ask.)  I loved the raw emotion of the genre, and the blurred lines of creative polish and creative chaos.  I still do love it actually.  Even still today I can find my writing influenced by punk rock.  It’s a faint influence, to be sure, but punk rock is more than distortion and mohawks.

For this month, I wanted to give a subtle nod to that part of my journey.  It is tamed and shaped by my current creative aesthetics, but just enough to feel that edge and tonality.  I also got a kick out of writing most of it while sitting at my new corporate desk job – my way of “sticking it to the man” or something, I guess.  Lyrics, chords, melody, drum beats, all of it from my head to paper, and it actually worked (90%ish at least).

I stretched myself technically by using a four mic technique on drums, recorded on location at my church.  Also, I used a couple new electric guitar techniques which gave me good experience in an area I don’t go to much.

So here it is.  Hope you enjoy!

 

08/29/16

OSOM: August “Negative Space”

Kathleen Norris has helped me a great deal in my spiritual life.  While we are not always on the same page, we certainly speak the same language.  In one section of her book, The Cloister Walk, Norris explores what it means to be a person of faith – the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen  (Heb. 11:1).  Her writing and thoughts are beautiful.  I say that because what I happen to be focusing on here are actually two quotes that she uses…but I promise all the stuff around them is great too!

Norris first quotes Anglican bishop John V. Taylor:

Imagination and faith are the same thing, “giving substance to our hopes and reality to the unseen.”  The whole Bible endorses this, and if believers talked about faith in these terms they would be more readily understood.

And perhaps more influential to me, she cites a term by the sculptor Edward Robinson who speaks of certain encounters as having “an unaccountable remainder…2 plus 2 equals 5 experiences.”

I have experienced that.  The kind of relationship or event or prayer or song or community that is greater than the sum of its contents.  And it is this idea that led me to write Negative Space.  It can be a thing that is daunting, frightening, and even quite depressing.  Absence, vacancy, void.  Those are not terms we find great comfort in.

Yet, as a Christian, I profess to be a believer in this constant negative space that hems me in from behind and before.  To be in communion with the Spirit, the “breath” or “wind” of God.  This negative space is somehow much different.  It is a constant unaccountable remainder.  Although, I might argue, it can indeed be accounted for.

Sonically, my hope was to juxtapose an intimate, up front feel in the verses with a wide, spacious feel in the choruses.  I also tried out several new recording and production techniques.  I varied the mics and their positions on two different acoustic guitars, sang farther back from the mic to get more of the room sound, and manipulated some virtual percussion sounds to create the “bass” and “snare/clap” sounds.

Having walked through this months experience, I feel myself almost swimming through the atmosphere around me.  I almost the air having to part itself to allow my body to move.  Space in the form of physical distance, silence, my sin of leaving things undone, are no longer the absence of something.  They are the presence of life happening between the lines.

I’ll leave you with Deuteronomy 30:11-14,

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

 

07/31/16

OSOM: July – “Seldom Safe”

July found me in the midst of transition and change.  There was vocational change, which brings about schedule and routine changes.  There was household change in the form of fostering a beautiful and energetic Australian Shepherd named Rose.  There was spiritual change, growing and learning more what it means that His mercies are new every morning.  And also that provision takes many forms.

Throughout all of this, I was constantly reminded of an exchange between the Pevensie children and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe:

“Is he a man?” asked Lucy.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr Beaver sternly. Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great emperor-beyond-the-sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake” said Mrs Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

What often feels like danger and chaos is really only a matter of perspective.  The Lord is not surprised at any of this.  And what’s even more, He has ordained these things to take place.  And what’s even more, He declares it is both for our good and for His glory.  It is hard to wrap my mind around that…but Tim Keller is quite helpful in that when he says, “God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows.”

It is fitting that this song be raw, honest, and simple, and to be recorded in the midst of steep vocational learning curves and rowdy romping Aussie pups.  Becuase in that way it represents that mustard seed sized faith that I have on the best of days.  It is a sanctuary of peace in the tumultuous gap between past and future.  I hope you find it an honest hymn.  A prayer of the present.


 

06/29/16

Home – June

My wife, Hazel, and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary this month, so naturally I was inspired to write a love song.  I reflected on how we met, the adventures we’ve shared, and what it’s been like to build a home together.

That’s when the idea hit me: home.  It’s what it means to be with her.

I’ve had a number of homes in my life.  I was born in Oklahoma, lived in California five years, then on the eastern side in North Carolina by way of Oklahoma a second time.  Nashville became a home away from home in college as well.  My family has often joked about living our way across I-40.

From the part of my journey I’m in now, it is almost like God was moving us closer and closer to North Carolina, where Hazel has lived all but the first few years of her life.  He moved us all this way, maybe even just so we could meet.  Hence the chorus of the song:

Every new town
Every move that changed my clocks
Every last goodbye
I would do it all again, I would do it all again
Cause it brought me home to you

On the technical side of things this month, it was my goal to record new instruments.  I tried my hand at the mandolin and using brushes on the snare drum.  They both turned out pretty well, but I ended up cutting a lot of the mandolin parts for arrangement reasons.  But still, a valuable learning experience.

The track is below, along with a lyric video.  I’d love for you to take a few minutes to listen, share, and let me know what you think!