This Companion Stories Series features essays which look at my album The Work and each of its songs in detail, going behind the scenes to de-mystify what artists too often try to keep mysterious.
Listen on Spotify here.
If I were to write the entire journey of creating my album The Work, it would be the length of a book. It’s even hard to know where to begin here, as all this music connects back to an experience which connects back to a thought, then back to an idea, then a relationship, then a certain time in my life and so on.
So I’ll give you the short version, and maybe we can video chat about the long version later :D
I’ve always wanted to be an artist, but for various reasons, I didn’t think I was allowed. I even went to music school but it was hard on me, and I never felt quite accepted there, musically speaking. There was a world of what I thought music was supposed to be, and then there was me, and those two things didn’t seem compatible.
After graduating, I moved to New Orleans. There was music everywhere: literally parading down the streets and spilling out of houses, rolling down the river and seeping out of secret coves in the park, every day and night. It was pure delight and absolute torture. I wanted to be making music, too, but I was caught up in the “mythology of artists” that I’d inherited somewhere. I couldn’t make music like them because:
- I didn’t really have artists in my family
- I wasn’t all that great at music theory
- I didn’t have an overwhelming desire to practice 8 hours a day
- I didn’t start writing piano sonatas the minute I emerged from the womb
- I didn’t think about music all the time
- I didn’t drink or do (very many) drugs
- I wasn’t “messy” and “disorganized”
- I didn’t want to be broke
- I wasn’t super traumatized or angry at the world
- There were other things I was good at
And the list goes on for a while. Add to that a particular musical experience where I was humiliated in front of a – very – large amount of people and almost broken (that one’s for the video chat ), and it didn’t feel like I could ever make music again.
Then a few things happened. One was simply feeling the rock bottom after that humiliating experience (if anyone has ever hit that place, you know what a gift it can be knowing that you can’t possibly fuck it up more than you already have; seriously it takes loads of pressure off). Another was randomly meeting a famous musical inspiration of mine at a bar and realizing that I was a person and he was a person, not a mystical god-being who lived on a mountaintop. And a big one was a friend who said to me, “I feel like I need to say this to you: Have you ever done The Artist’s Way?” And working through The Artist’s Way workbook changed my entire outlook on creativity and my relationship with the world. If you’re having thoughts like I listed above, I’d highly recommend it.
Lastly, I met a man. Doesn’t it always go that way? But this one and I clicked in that way there are no words for. And he taught me the concept of The Work; of going deeper into yourself than you’re comfortable doing, every day, because it’s the only way to get your shit together enough to stop hurting yourself and other people, because it’s the only way to get done what you need to in this world.
So it was simply time for me to do The Work. And a big part of that was doing music again, no matter how many times I’d failed or what other people said or what I said to myself. I was tired of being frail when I knew inside I wasn’t. I finally realized that music would be with me whether I accepted it or not, and it was going to be a lot easier to live with myself if I accepted it.
Plus, I moved to Ireland, which ironically made me think a lot about America and the concept of home psychosomatically and home physically. I read a lot and wrote a lot, and I composed a gaggle of songs (like, composed pop songs on a free notation software – not at all how you’re supposed to do it. You’re supposed to be cool and do it on a DAW. Oops.). As life would have it, I met a producer at a bar – bars are great for this kind of thing – and we worked on this album for the next two years. I did it while working a full-time job, which financed the whole thing but also meant we had to take it painfully slow at times. I put all the work I’d done on myself into the album; the album was The Work.
I met other incredible collaborators, too, some of whom you’ll read about on future installments. I was scared to collaborate, because having my music in front of people was still terrifying. And it is today when I think about having to perform these songs live. But I now know it’s all part of the work. I will get to and through that milestone someday, and it won’t be perfect, but I will have done it.
I can’t tell you how good it feels to have given myself the gift of perspective and of a creative product that, unbelievably, came from my little brain and is now out in the world! That’s the beauty of it for me. I sincerely hope you enjoy it, and I hope tons of people hear it, but I’ve already got what I needed from it. I’m so happy to be here right now.
Look out for Companion Stories Series: Installment 2 coming next Friday. I’ll be talking about my song (and video!) The Void and its journey into existence. See you there.
Words are the backbone of my music. They often reference powerful ideas that strike me in my readings or develop from my life experiences. The creative expression of these ideas sometimes begs for musical form, and other times it comes out on the page. Here is a selection of my lyrics, poems, essays and other writings.