Archive for November, 2010

Drawing America By Bike

Howdy folks,
Hope everyone’s had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Just wanted to do a quick post about a good friend that is doing something pretty extraordinary with his artistic talent. His name is Eric, and this past September, he set off on an adventure to ride his bike around America and draw it. His website is drawingamericabybike.blogspot.com/, and he’s got a pretty sweet deal where he’ll send you a hand-drawn postcard for a $5 paypal donation to fund the trip. The blog has been fun as heck to read, as he posts fairly regularly on the comings and goings of his trip (over 50 miles a day on bike!) For anyone who is a fan of biking, it’s a great narrative, and for anyone who loves Robert Crumb or Gary Larson cartoons, he’s equally talented and posts new cartoons regularly.
Check it out!


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Hey folks,
The dudes over at cdbaby.com just opened up a forum to find out how songwriters do their diddy. They’re putting together a little Ebook to help out songwriters and here’s what I put as my answers. If you want to put in your two cents, go on over to cdbaby.com

1.What does your songwriting process look like? What are a few of the more common ways in which you compose a song?

Often for me, there’s an initial idea which goes into songwriting, which can come on the subway or walking in the park—usually a phrase or catchy limerick. All it needs is cadence. Then, I try to figure out the two parts of the song—the lyrics and what i’m trying to get across with the song, and the music to accompany the lyrics. The better the two mesh together, the better the song. If you can play the song without singing the lyrics and it still sounds like it’s saying what you meant to say, then the song is well written.
This process can work itself out within a matter of hours or even months or years. Certain songs take longer to ferment, which might be considered a form of “writer’s block” to some people, but I see it as just a part of the writing process. Just like brewing beer, some songs take longer to write than other songs.
Sitting down with other musicians can also help the songwriting process.
2.Think of your favorite songs. What do they do to or for you? What is it about the song (technically, emotionally, thematically) that moves you?
The best songs are songs that you wish you wrote in the first place. They make you move from the hips in rhythm with the music, try to attempt singing it even while knowing you aren’t the true singer. A song can truly move you when it physically moves you. It has this “swing” to it that from the first listen to the thousandth listen, achieves the same goal—to get you up and dancin’.
3.What are your common frustrations with songwriting? What are the ways in which you get stuck?
Songwriting is a tricky beast to get a handle on. In order to progress as a songwriter, you must constantly challenge your emotions, technical ability and have moments of doubt where you want to give up the craft. It’s moments like this that songwriting becomes a chore. This is when you pick up a paintbrush until further notice.
4.4. How do you overcome the frustration? how do you get un-stuck?
The best way to get over the frustration is to stop writing songs until you want to again. No one is putting a gun to your head saying “you need to write songs” instead of using your creativity in other forms. Sometimes you feel like writing a song because you haven’t written one in a while. This is a bad idea. The lyrics will be “yesterday was gray, I had a bad day” and it will suck. Instead, wait for inspiration to strike, or attempt writing a song on a different instrument or with a group of songwriters that can help give you feedback and inspire your writing in a different way.
5. Do you envision an audience or outside listener when you write? If so, how would you describe that audience? What effect does this have on the writing process?
It’s best to write for yourself. Sometimes I write songs for my family, knowing that they will probably be the first to hear it and the most receptive to it.

6.Songwriters are known for loving most of their “babies” equally. This is why artistic coaches have the mantra “Kill Your Babies!” How can you tell when one of your own song is really good? How can you tell when one is bad or misbehaving?

By favoring certain songs or chord progressions or even styles of music, you can end up boxing yourself in and snuffing out the flame of creativity. It’s important to be proud of your songs from a “I was there and I did that” aspect, and give them their due as far as playing them if you get the chance in front of people to get a reaction, but it’s also equally important to push your own limits creatively as well as musically. You can usually tell if a song is “misbehaving” if you don’t like the way it sounds. This can be an easy fix, or you can just drop it from your setlist if it doesn’t feel relevant to you anymore. Case in point: Radiohead stopped playing “Creep” live because it boxed them into a particular “grunge” scene. They wanted to expand their sound, so they stopped playing it for people. A great song, but irrelevant to the band’s performance after 1994.
7.What do you get out of being a songwriter? Do you imagine you’ll write songs forever?
What does a blade of grass get out of having the sun around? I can’t image not having an outlet like songwriting to express myself. Songwriting is a process of filtration, allowing me to take in the world and express myself so that other people can listen and hopefully be inspired as well. Songwriting forever? Forever is a long, long time. I suppose if I have the chance and feel inspired, forever seems like a long enough time to be a songwriter.
8.What roles do “inspiration” and “perspiration” play in your writing process?
Inspiration is the key to writing a song, perspiration is the doorknob that you turn.
9.Imagine the greatest song you’ve haven’t written yet. Describe it.
I like the idea of multiple harmonies going on, with parts for banjo, mandolin, guitar and organ. The lyrics are based in transcendentalism, like a brisk walk in the woods in late November as the last leaves fall in New England.

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They say no news is good news, and in this case, it’s true.
I’ve been hard at work writing new book, which is stranger and more quixotic than I’d ever imagined. I’ve been reading a lotttt of metaphysical books, zen poetry and the like, and it’s turned this new work into some hybrid zen verse/philosophy beast. The main theme, I suppose, is how in the natural world, everything is either eaten or eating. How do we come to terms with this? No mouse is ever particularly worried about being eaten, nor any snake worried about being eaten by some white snow owl. And thus it continues. Nothing ever really is extinguished, but the mouse becomes part of the snake, which then becomes part of the owl, which humans then trade on the black market because of Harry Potter movies.
But I digress.
In other news, I’m still working hard on my more “practical” 2011 Addendum to the Starving Artist’s Guide, which will be free for anyone with a computer and a “right click to download” button on January 1st, 2011. No excuses!
It’ll be about 30-40 pages and I’m having a good old time writing it and checking out new stuff in the city!
The first edition Starving Artist’s Guide book is officially available at Barnes and Noble Union Square! I went there last night and in fact saw it on the 1st level…
To help me out, why not write a peachy review of it here or here?
There’s always that handy-dandy copy and paste button if you’re feeling like it…

And finally, last but not least, I’ve released a few free downloads for anyone who is up for listening to a few songs off of my soon-to-be released full length album, Holograms.
You can check the songs out here.

So that’s my infomercial for today, I promise things will begin to heat up on the site soon enough, with new podcasts and the like when I wind down and finish these things. For anyone who is looking for more traditional starving artist fare, check out the “SAG Podcasts” tab and take a listen to some of the previous episodes! Alot of hard work and great artists came in and did them!
For now, peace!

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