This post marks the final installment of my blog series about the EP. I wanted to write about my experience of putting my first recording together, the release, all of the release I experienced after it had been shared, and what I anticipate for the future.
This post is definitely the most daunting of the series. It is difficult to capture in so few words such a pivotal season of my life — and I know I could very well look back on this post and call myself ignorant (this is how I feel most of the time).
The truth is, I had no idea what I was doing. Everything that happened felt improvisational. I’m fairly organized, but all the lists in the world cannot replace experience. If I could give any advice to first time recording artists, it would be: think out your project fully before you begin. It helped to have a vision and a standard from the beginning to give me direction when I had no idea what to do next. Because of this, I made the exact record I wanted to make and I have no regrets. I wanted the EP to be honest and authentic, and so each element had to reflect that standard. For example, I didn’t want to use auto-tune on my voice. I wanted all of the arrangements and mixes to complement the song. And I wanted to be able to play guitar well (unfortunately, I could never will this particular ideal into being).
Another piece of advice, learn to be open to the ideas and contributions of others. Not nearly enough people know this, but my violist / backup vocalist, Katherine, was the one who suggested I jump the octave in the second verse of “Quitter.” The song may have never reached its potential without her input. Thanks Kat.
I’ve been doing this singer-songwriter thing since high school, but it wasn’t until this past year I knew it was time to get into the studio and record my work. In 2010 I had the opportunity to talk with Joy Williams, and one of the biggest things I learned from that conversation is to look for demand before you supply. The Civil Wars gave their live record away for free on Noisetrade for two years before they released their first record, Barton Hollow. Did I mention they shot to the top of the charts immediately?
I wrote this song called “Quitter" and it scored me a place in Belmont University’s Fall Follies — a slot that I had dreamed of since my freshman year. The performance and the video were a shocking success and I found myself with a demand for recordings. My amazing booking assistant, Teisha, (who came into my life after Follies) encouraged me to actually do this thing. Thanks T for believing in me from the beginning when I had no idea what I was doing! We started drafting up ideas for the EP and “In the Year of Letting Go" was born!
I already knew who I wanted to play on the record. My amazing band that formed for Follies was made up of
Two months ago (May 1st), I released my first recording project “In the Year of Letting Go.” My dream for the longest time has been to make music and share it with others and I can proudly say it has been such a joy. I’ve been meaning to write a massive blog for the past two months to share the story behind this project, and I am the worst procrastinator. I always procrastinate on the things that matter to me most and as you will soon read, it is a miracle the project was created at all.
In an effort to make this story writable and readable, it will be in several frequent posts throughout the next month. I’ll tweet/FB each post so you wont miss a word! Also, feel free to follow my fun tumblr blog. I sometimes write little things here that end up in songs, and post things that inspire me or make me smile.
Things to look forward to:
A month ago I created this link post anticipating the start of creating my first EP. One month in and I have learned so much with the rest of the project scheduled to finish tracking at the end of March. It has been a whirlwind so far of syncing the schedules of everyone involved, having a little faith, and a lot of late hours. But most of all, it has been one of the best times of my life. I’m creating music with my best friends.
The link post above has this quote by Jack White: "You’re doing your best when you let God in the room and allow the natural things that occur when people collaborate."
For the majority of my singer-songwriter career I’ve flown solo. I’m from Indiana, and at an early age, I was under the impression that you could not be from Indiana and do music with your life. So when I embraced my passion, I thought I had to do it all myself because no one else around me was going to get me there. So this notion, combined with my innate independent nature made for a challenging habit to break.
Until last fall, I didn’t have a band. I accompanied myself, wrote songs that I could play, and found my sound in that simplicity. Stripped acoustic folk is still a huge part of my sound, but now, so are my amazingly talented friends, and their abilities have taken my music where I never could.
I’ve been meditating over the arrangements for this EP for a few months now, and I thought I had to come to rehearsal with every element nailed down — false. I created a solid chart so my band could follow my crazy tunings and format, but I’ve left a lot of space for my band to contribute to what the song becomes.
My opening track for the EP (Get the teaser for FREE here.) has become a complete and incredible arrangement with an element I could not have created without the help of my cajon and bass player.
Allow space for your creations to become something greater than your imagination.
Even as an arranger, you have to step outside of yourself as a writer and look at your work from a separate perspective.
If you’re like me, you have trouble with letting go and letting the song become more than you thought it could be. How fitting that this EP is entitled “In the Year of Letting Go.”
So collaborate. Need others. Give. Communicate. Be. This is what making music is about!