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Warts And All EP Track-by-Track: Counting To A Million

The song “Counting To A Million” is the rocker of the EP. It’s also a very personal expression of acceptance and hope. When you’re in a certain place in life, like trying to overcome some obstacle or recover from an illness or addiction, it seems like the struggle will never end. In the song “If I Let It” I wrote a line “some days each minute feels like an endless climb.” “Counting To A Million” is sort of the flip side of that. It’s about learning to embrace the process and not worry so much about results.

Once I figured out the analogy of trying to survive, heal or whatever being like counting to a million, the lyrics came very quickly. The came the melody and chords. After that, it was a matter of arranging everything. I was almost finished with the recording and mixdown before I came up, as an afterthought, with the idea of counting while the song was going.

The bottom line is, this was my way of saying it’s about the process. The Eagles sang about “The Long Run,” but according to economists in the long run we’re all dead. “Counting To A Million” is all about learning to love the process of living, and re-learning that process each day if the day before got messed up. Even if you don’t know how you’ll ‘get there,’ may all your journeys be fun.

Check out this track and the other ones on the EP at my Bandcamp site. (Opens in a new tab/window.)

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Warts And All EP Track-by-Track: Cascades (Instrumental)

Back around 2006 or so, I was fooling around with this old Alvarez folk-classical guitar I used to own and got the idea to write and record some instrumental demos featuring the guitar. I had been working entirely with electronics and keyboards and wanted to change things up a bit.

The first thing I came up with for this little tune was the three-note figure at the beginning. Two notes were harmonics and the third on the fretboard. It’s possible to do that third note as a harmonic up the neck as well, but I was having too much trouble hitting accurately up the neck, so I played it further down on the fretboard. I fit chords with those three notes and then messed around some until I came up with a melody to fit the chords.

To change things up a bit I came up with a key change and a contrasting section to act almost like a chorus. Other than that, the tune has a really simple form: Intro, A, A, B, Repeat intro, A, B. I laid down a rhythm guitar track without a metronome to guide me. It sounded really organic (which is to say I messed up the tempo), but I was able to work around it laying down two more tracks. I put a shaker in there to give it a little more rhythm, and then tracked the lead.

Before I mixed down I put in a little digital delay on the lead. The sound reminded me of the effect of a cascading waterfall and that’s where I got the idea to call it “Cascades.”

I don’t have that guitar anymore. I gave it to my son Alex, who still has it out in Utah. I’m thinking about getting another one though.

Please check out the Warts And All EP, which includes this track, on my Bandcamp site. (Opens in a new window/tab.)

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Warts And All EP Track-by-Track: If I Let It

The song “If I Let It” came about at a very low time in my life several years back. I had gotten into a rut of self-destructive thinking. I wasn’t eating well or getting any exercise. I had forgotten to focus on the things that are under my control: thinking, feeling, behavior and focus. I was trying too hard.

I had to “get it” — to stay within myself and control what I could control. In order to do that, I had to “let it” — to stop worrying about things I couldn’t control. The song expresses that.

As for the lyrics, they came out of where I was living at the time. It was out in the country, and there were a lot of wild animals around. I can recall several times that I came in of an evening and saw foxes out in the yard/field out in front of the house. One very early morning, I woke to the sound of a mourning dove that was so loud I thought it had gotten into my bathroom. It was outside, but so loud the sound resonated in the shower. That experience inspired the verse about the “bird who sings a song.” (Originally it was an owl, but I changed it.)

The first thing that came to me musically was the first few notes of the melody (“in the twilight . . .”). I sort of worked out the lyrics and melody around it and fit harmony (chords) around that.

I did a basic demo of the tune back then, but wanted a more fleshed out arrangement to support the melody. The countermelody that ends up in a harmonica patch on the final version was originally on a piano. There was also a pad underneath in the original demo, but I wanted something that would convey a little more emotion. I’ve always liked the idea of using a string quartet to provide a more intimate feel, so I came up with an arrangement that would give a warm pad as well as some contrapuntal highlights.

You can buy and download “If I Let It” at my Bandcamp site. I hope you’ll check it out. (Link opens in a new tab/window.)

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Warts And All EP Track-by-Track: I Saw Godot

Obviously, this song was inspired by the Samuel Beckett play Waiting For Godot. I’ve never actually seen the play, but I have read the synopsis. It’s about two people who are waiting for someone who is never going to show up. Godot is a classic example of “theater of the absurd.” The phrase itself has worked its way into popular culture as a metaphor for waiting for something that’s never going to happen.

One day several years ago, a thought crossed my mind: what if Godot was waiting too? What if he was in the same spot as the two characters in the play? Better yet, what if someone observed Godot going through the motions of passing the time while hoping for something new to happen? That’s how “I Saw Godot” came about.

Most of the lyrics sort of fell right out as I recall, but I had to go back later and change a line. The second verse originally began “I saw Godot/He was reading the headline news/Every story on his laptop*/Just gave him the headline blues.” When I wrote “All The Super True Believers” years later I liked the line so much I used it again. Oops! So, I had to circle back and change the lyric here. I liked the “every single soul he talked to” line because it kind of indicated that other people had seen Godot, too, and didn’t much care if anyone was waiting on him or not. I thought that added to the farce.

I made a demo in 2013, and the recording you hear on the EP is basically that, but with a few changes. I tweaked the mix a bit and added some effects I didn’t have back then. I also redid the lead vocal since I changed the second verse.

The track is available in full at my Bandcamp site. I hope you’ll check it out and enjoy!

*Did I mention I wrote this several years ago?

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Warts And All EP Track-by-Track: All The Super True Believers

In the run up to releasing my EP Warts And All, I’m writing a series of blog posts to give a little information about each track in the set. This first post talks about the opening track, “All The Super True Believers.”

Over the last several years, I’ve nosed around into a lot of Eastern philosophy, especially Taoism. In my opinion, Taoist philosophy speaks a lot to the Western classical liberal sensitivity. It does that, though, from an individual viewpoint. “Tao” is the Chinese word for “way.” Everything, from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the whole universe (aka the Great Tao), has its own way. Things that align themselves in accordance with their Tao are better off than if they don’t.

This has meaning when it comes to how we behave and the impacts on our society and our politics. Humans follow their Tao best when they go with the flow of things and treat each other with kindness and mutual respect. (Or as Buck Owens sang. “All I gotta do is act naturally.”) When people lose sight of this natural, spontaneous way of treating each other, society intervenes to impose values of “justice,” “mercy” and “piety.” Eventually, this all breaks down because the “leaders” also lose their way (or Tao). In the end, “loyal” political officials end up running the show.

This is laid out in the eighteenth chapter of the Tao Te Ching, the ancient text written by the Taoist master Lao Tze. I was really taken by a translation made of the final lines of this chapter by the writer and translator Sam Hamill:

When the nation is in crisis

All the patriotic ministers appear

from Tao Te Ching, translation by Sam Hamill

That’s what inspired “All The Super True Believers.”

The song itself is about the clash of “values” that’s going on in America in 2019. It’s a big war between social and political “thought leaders” that just gets on the nerves of folks outside the culture war bubble, who are just trying to get along.

Left or right or red or blue

Either way they think they know what’s best for you

So they tear the world apart

While they swear it’s your best interest in their heart . . .

I was originally going to title the song “All The Patriotic Ministers.” The problem I ran into was that in the rest of the world people understand “minister” to mean a political official. In America, though, the term is more associated with members of the clergy. The point would get lost. So, I came up with “super true believers.” After all, people who “believe” in a certain system of “values” often try to impose that set of beliefs on others — for their own good, of course. So the lines above ended up in the chorus as:

When the nation’s gripped with fear

All the super true believers appear

Chanting slogans, laying blame

Don’t you wish they’d just stop playing that game . . .

Of course. the “game” exists only because people lose sight of their true nature (their Tao).

I hope you found this interesting and that you’ll check out the EP page on this site of at Bandcamp. (Bandcamp page opens in a new tab/window.)

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Warts And All Preview Video

I’ve just uploaded a preview video for my Warts And All EP. The EP has an official release date of November 1, 2019 at Bandcamp.

Check out the album or individual tracks here. (Opens in a new window/tab.)

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Video: “Counting To A Million”

Here’s a video for the single “Counting To A Million” from the upcoming EP Warts And All. Hope you enjoy it!

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Independent Releases Updates

New EP Coming

I’m happy to announce the upcoming release of a new EP, titled Warts And All. This is a departure for me, since it gets into my singer-songwriter side. The plan is for the EP to release exclusively on Bandcamp November 1. In the meantime, I plan to talk a little bit about the material here over the next couple of weeks.

I’ll be uploading a new cover and lyric video of one of the tracks to YouTube later today. Next week, I’ll be uploading a preview of the full EP. I hope you’ll check it out! Click the link to the Warts And All EP page for details.

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Update: October 10, 2019

Last week, I wrapped up production on the passion project that has consumed my attention for the better part of a year: the podcast “Triangles: The Life and Times of an NFL Original Team.” The next to last episode in the series dropped this morning, and the series finale will release next Thursday. Please check it out at https://daytontrianglespodcast.com.

From my perspective, this is good news and bad news. The good news is that I’m very proud of myself for having seen this through to the end. The bad news is that almost nobody listened.

Part of the problem is obviously discovery. Apple Podcasts in particular seems to have dissed me big time. “Triangles” doesn’t even appear when you search for “Dayton Triangles,” nor does it show up when you search for “NFL original team.” By contrast, a search for “Dayton Triangles” on Spotify shows both the podcast and individual episodes.

Beyond that, there just wasn’t very much interest in a podcast documenting the history of one of the first NFL teams. If you Google “dayton triangles podcast” the podcast site shows up right there on the first page. The interest simply was not there.

So, that happened.

Back To Music

Having finished producing the podcast, it’s time for me to pivot back to music. Unfortunately, I have some issues there as well. I started working on some new material, only to find that the Windows 10 Build 1903 update broke the software driver for my Korg Microkey USB keyboard.

Now, this would not normally be a showstopper. I did a search and found where Korg had indeed updated the driver. I downloaded and installed the updated driver, and . . . nothing. I did some more searching and found a YouTube tutorial describing how the Korg driver had a bug that resulted in it not properly writing to the Windows Registry. The tutorial gave steps to write the entries you needed to the registry, which I did. And some of my other stuff broke. So I had to undo what I did so my USB mic would work.

Here’s the thing. Once upon a time, I was quite the IT tinkerer. That was back in the days when Windows installations were much more risky propositions than they are in 2019. But I’m not an IT guy anymore. I’m a musician (of sorts). When it says “plug and play” I want to plug, and play. I shouldn’t have to mess around compensating for someone else’s coding failure.

I am therefore in the market for a new (non-KORG) MIDI keyboard controller. I’ll let you know what I choose in a future update.

Changes coming

In the meantime, I’m prepping a new EP from material I’ve already done. This will be a little different from my other, instrumental music. I’ll be putting on my singer-songwriter hat for this one. There will be five tracks, and I’ll have more details in another post soon.

I also plan to tinker with this site over the next few weeks, so please pardon the dust.