Visual Essays…and other thoughts

I’ve become a bit of a podcast junkie lately due to the fact that I love the amount of information I can have delivered to me by subscribing to podcasts that are centered on topics I’m interested in, and the fact that I’ve always been a huge fan of spoken word formats (like audiobooks…what can I say?  I like being read to).  Well, one of the podcasts that I’ve been subscribed to in recent weeks is the CD Baby DIY Musician podcast.  Now, I’m really not trying to just plug the cast, but if you’re a beginning musician, or even an established musician who’s been doing it the do-it-yourself route, this podcast is completely aimed at you and I highly recommend it.  The sheer amount of useful information presented by CD Baby in this program is kind of overwhelming.  I should know.  I found them around the time episode 52 or 53 was being published and I went back and started listening from episode 1.  I’m this close to being caught up to episode 55, the most recent one.  Listening to this program has changed my view on my entire fledgling music career.

Most importantly, what it has showed me is that I don’t need to be sitting on my hands or just stockpiling acoustic demos while I’m waiting for that all important event of my co-writer and band mate to move to Maui.  As I’ve said before, all of my current collaborators are spread across these great United States, and I’m on isolated Maui in the Hawaiian islands.  There’s very little rock scene here on Maui, so I was a little disappointed at first.  As a friend of mine who’s part of the scene said when I asked him where I could get a good rock show here, “How far can you swim?”  I’m sort of charged up about it for now though, because it means there may be an untapped market.  We could be pioneers.  Another friend I have who gigs around the island regularly told me that there are venues who may be flexible enough to get gigs and build a following from, so I feel it can be done.  But I’ve been waiting for my band mate to get work and move out here so that we could attack it together.  We’ve been writing songs over distance for the time being, and as anyone knows who’s every tried to write collaborative songs over distance…it’s slow arduous work that doesn’t take the greatest advantage of everyone’s talents.   So not much has happened in recent months since I arrived here.

But, enter CD Baby’s podcast.  I’ve been inspired by many of their suggestions to go to shows with no ulterior motive just to get plugged in to the happenings and the community.  I’ve also been persisting in working on new material so that when said drummer arrives we can work on polishing and getting our name out rather than just beginning the writing process.  Simple as they sound, these were major revelations for me in terms of feeling like I’m moving forward with my music.

The other thing I’ve realized is that we don’t have to be lacking in creative motion just because of the distance.  We don’t have to wait for our chance to put ourselves out there just because we’re in different zip codes.  We both bring very different artistic skills to the table.  I am a visual artist, writer, and musician, my band mate is a visual artist, writer, screenwriter, film maker, and musician.  These creative talents (and others that we have) are collecting dust as we wait for our chance to collaborate…but that’s stupid.  There is an artist/musician who calls herself I am Jen who creates her own music at home, creates her own music videos as carriers of her sound, and then designs her own cd cases by hand before she distributes them for orders.  This is amazing to me!  She does all of this by internet from her house…no touring, no shows, just hard work at home.  The Mobius Project could certainly be in full collaborative mode despite our distance if we were truly persistent enough.

So at last I come to the Visual Essays.  We’ve waded through a lot of other thoughts to get here, but we’re here.  We are beginning a project together, with an eye toward possibly being together in Maui by this summer, but if not we shall release it/them anyway.  The idea is something akin to a music video, but a hybrid between that and a short (short-short) film.  The idea is to create a visual essay that is put to music, but the music comes from the deconstruction of the traditional “song” out of it’s verse-chorus-verse-chorus format, possibly dropping and/or changing lyrics and vocal voicings, and having it twist and flow with the video, which was originally inspired by the music.  A symbyotic, back-and-forth relationship in the creation process that will hopefully end in a very cohesive project.  What are the essays going to be on?  That depends on a couple of things including what the original song was about, what we’re thinking at the time, how long it takes one to develop, etc…  It’s still very early in the process, but we’re pretty excited about it.

A focus…a direction…for now

So let me lay this out for you as it is at the moment.  I’m a self-proclaimed musician who currently rests from my travels on one of the islands in the Hawaiian archipelago.  I’m sort of trying to begin my music career (such as it is) from this spot by overcoming some major obstacles.  I have four or five people that I would consider regular collaborators or supporters of this thing I call music, all of them save one are somewhere on the mainland.  And not just on the mainland…most of them are all the way on the east coast.  I have a multi-instrumentalist friend who also does a lot of the mixing consulting/mastering work for me when we can be in contact, a brilliant singer/songwriter with whom I co-write or at least consult on a lot of my stuff on when we manage to be on some sort of similar schedule, and the only real other regular currently involved with the project, who is my co-writer and drummer.  The other person who is sort of semi-regularly involved happens to be a friend of mine who plays the guitar, but I don’t interact with him that much right now.  I have a few other friends whose musical opinion I trust and value, so they usually get a say sometime during the recording process of various material, but I try not to overload them.  It’s a rather collaboration heavy project that I try to be the center of, but not nearly as much as I want it to be mostly because of the distances between us all.  I’ve been writing the bulk of my current material over the past several (read: five-ish) years, but the last two or three have showed me that music is much more fun and successful when it’s a team sport.

You know, I don’t want to be world or even nationally famous.  I just want to play enough to make some cash on the side, record some records, be able to fill my summers up with doing stuff I love (I’m a teacher in my real life so I get those off), and have the connections with people…both those that make music with me and those that (hopefully) like to listen to it.  But I feel the frustration of having tasted the fruit of collaboration and creating music that I actually like to listen to myself with the great cast of characters with whom I’ve come in contact, but now begin all alone again.  I’m still writing, and actually writing music I like, but it’s not as rewarding I think.  My collaborators are in Maine, Maryland, and Tennessee.  Thank God for the internet or I’d never even have had the opportunity to continue collaborations beyond the face to face meetings or time with these people.

This is the topic on my mind right now, and I have the feeling I’m going to be focusing on this in some writings for a while.  It’s soothing.