Sunday, January 27, 2008

A New TwitterSong!

As you may know, we have a habit of making songs based on posts from our friends on Twitter. A few hours ago, one of our friends, Heather Welliver posted the following comment:

Oh noes my battery is getting low!

Following in the tradition of Just Getting Off The Call With Rob Safuto and Waiting For My Wheat Beer To Arrive, we now present Heather's post in song. Our drummer dubbed it Long Lasting Battereez.

Click here to listen to the new TwitterSong.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Don't Want To Work Today

Well, at least I didn't want to work this past Thursday.

What does one do with all their time once such an intense all-consuming project like The Song Of The Day completes? Start staying out very late two nights in a row during the week, of course. Jam sessions and open mics are a LOT of fun but are starting to leave me more tired than when I was working on hundreds of songs late at night. Almost... But then again, it's worth it to experience performing I Don't Want To Work Today and actually have people in the crowd sing along. VERY cool.

On an unrelated note - if you live in a condo, avoid getting on the board if you can help it. In my case, I couldn't help it. The building is small and needed some managerial attention. Well, let's just say we're dealing with a catastrophic financial situation right now and it's a nightmare. More on this crazy story later...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Crumbling City Infrastructure

Many city dwellers like me know we live amongst dangerously deteriorating infrastructure. Jason was walking upon a prime example of this neglected infrastructure when he composed this week's song which really is The Walkway On The Way To Work. Check out a Google Street View of the walkway to see what we're talking about:

The Walkway On The Way To Work

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Spoontaneous Song

No I didn't miss-spell that or accidentally re-post my entry about writing the song Ants. Every time I see the title of that entry "A Spontaneous Song" I can't help but remember the first song I recorded with Beatnik Turtle which ended up as a Song of The Day. The first verse was written by a UK band called "Spoontaneous Combustion." and the song is called That's Chappy (When He's Got The Flu). The story behind the song is detailed in the song notes:

About two years ago, Beatnik Turtle got an email from a band out of the UK that wanted the chords to a song we wrote called "I Think You Think I Think You Don't Like Me." They wanted to add the song to their setlist. We gave them the chords, but in return, we asked for a song that they wrote. After all, it's only fair that if they were covering one of of ours, we should do something with one of theirs.

What we got back was what became the first verse of this song. It was about one of the band members, Chappy, and how he had the flu. Jason ended up turning the 20 second email idea they had into a full song and this is the result: a song created via a "US-UK Music Exchange Program."

A number of songwriters contributed to The Song Of The Day project during the past couple of years, but none as geographically distant as Spoontaneous Combustion. "That's Chappy" was a fun experiment - one we'd like to try again.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Response

One of the things we didn't have time for last year was upkeep of the blog. During that time, a few comments (and spam, of course) accumulated. Now that I've been getting used to Wordpress, I discovered this "comments in moderation" link and I found a really great comment which was never posted to the blog (until now).

Sometime last year I wrote a blog entry about generating music ideas randomly. A very talented and creative person who worked with us on several songs last year, Andrew Rose-Rankin (Whiskey And Women, Soul Crusher, Monkey See Monkey Do The Opposite) posted a reply to my blog entry that I didn't see until this week. Normally, I'd write a response to the comment on the post itself, but it was so long ago, I thought it warranted a "current" response.

This is what Drew said:
Do you actually believe that writing music ( at least anything that would be close to tonally acceptable by western standards) can be generated at random- if so, you should play the sitar and more 12 chord eastern influenced blah- ah halftones...
Either way, I prefer to write music through understanding of theory, not the five buttons on the Guitar hero controller

Drew is absolutely right - generating an entire song at random would remove all the craft and creativity from the songwriting process. Maybe I didn't state it very well in that post, but I wasn't suggesting that an entire song be randomized. I was trying to say that the deck of cards can get you to a starting point from where you apply your creative process to finish out the song. Randomization is a device that you can use to get yourself out of your default keys, strum patterns, and rhythms. It might get you going in a direction that you never would have gone otherwise.

When I wrote that blog post, the song that emerged from my deck of cards starting point would not be completed and released for another six months (It's Raining In December). The deck of cards only gave me to the basic rhythm in the verse - something I never would have generated on my own. I filled in the rest (choruses, melodies, etc) by combining my knowledge of theory with right-brain musical "feel." When Alex Burke (keyboards), John Owens (drums), Tom Susala (bass), Randy Chertkow (sax), and Scott Besaw (vocal) added their own amazing "stuff" to the song, the original deck of cards "starting point" became just that - a starting point. The cards were the critical spark to the song, but was really only the first few meters of the 26 mile marathon of the entire process. If it were not for that deck of cards, the song would not exist. Personally, it's one of my top favorites of the 365.

Oh yeah - since Drew mentioned it, I have thought of trying to compose something entirely with the Guitar Hero or Rock Band controllers. I don't know if it would work, but it sounds like a fun experiment...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Jigsaw Puzzles

When The Song Of The Day was done, I took a few days off of everything (music, work, email, phone) to recover, rest, catch up on sleep and some movies and TV that I missed over the past two years. One of the things I did during those days off was starting to assemble a jigsaw puzzle. I haven't done that in over 10 years - it's something I used to find to be a zen/meditative experience, so I thought it would be perfect for my few post-SOTD recovery days. And it was.

Right now, I'm assembling another kind of jigsaw puzzle. We've chosen a 47 song collection that we feel is representative of our 365 song accomplishment to become a "best of" package. As with all traditional albums (and now, iTunes playlists), these songs must be put into a sequence that flows well, makes sense, and tells a story. As I am going through these songs taking a stab at a sequence, it's a lot like the jigsaw puzzle I started last week. I find two or three songs that fit together, but finding a spot for them in the whole sequence - not so easy. Right now I have the "edge pieces" in place - the starting and finishing tracks of what will be each of 2 discs. It's the middle part that's still sitting in chunks. Just like the puzzle on my dining room table...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Spontaneous Song

I was at Randy's place Monday night and spotted the guitar he keeps in his living room which reminded me of the night Ted Blegen and I wrote the song Ants.

The Ants Guitar

Randy was hosting a games night in early 2006. His games nights are all about playing board games and enjoying Chicken Pad Thai from Thai Sookdee in Evanston, IL (the best Chicken Pad Thai in the Chicago area).

During a break in the board game action, I grabbed the guitar and started noodling a bit when Ted said "Hey let's write a song." So I started playing the chords that became the song and Ted started his "speech" about Ants. It all happened right there on the spot. Luckily we remembered the entire song and we were able to capture it in the studio the following weekend. It even later became a video:

This story illustrates one of the things that I love about the experiences we had making 365 songs. There's a story behind every one of them - a story about collaborating with highly talented people to create something new. I've occasionally been asked what I got out of The Song Of The Day or if it "paid off." For me, memories such as these are the payoff.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

What is Honest Love?

One of the more amusing things about running is to see the search terms that end up dropping people onto our site. While some arrive there after searching for our band name (usually something like "the beatnick turtles") a lot of them show up because they wrote a phrase from song lyrics, or a song title. For example, as of this blog post, we're on the first page of results in Google for the term Bunsen Burner.

Today, we had someone get to our site after searching "what is honest love" in Google. They arrived at The Honest Love Song. We're in the first page of results for that search as well. Normally, I'd tell people not to take advice from us; but in this case, I'd put our answer against the others on that first page any day.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Fighting Time

Now that we've successfully completed our 365 song project, I've been reflecting on my experience of the past two years. One of the things that stands out for me doing a project where constant creation has a deadline, is how it became a fight against time.

We started 2007 with songs mostly complete through May - 5 months of songs. January 1 was the most comfortable I would be with our song calendar for the entire year. In February, we did the RPM Challenge which resulted in 13 new songs for The Song Of The Day and our new album All In A Day's Work, but the overall SOTD schedule slipped a bit. RPM took a lot out of me and I rested too much afterward and lost a little more ground. In the month of May, I wrapped up production for June - mastering and uploading the entire month in one big batch, which wasn't bad, but it seemed like a close call at the time. At this point, I started to feel like we were fighting the calendar. July was the same story - one big batch upload and still fighting the calendar. By the end of July, only half of August was done and the calendar fight intensified. Once late August hit, I was working week-by-week. Some weeks were touch-and-go, getting songs completed just a day or two before posting, and other weeks were easier - getting done in batches over the weekends. By the time October started, I felt like I was no longer fighting the calendar - I was fighting the clock. This fight intensified as the year wore on and from October through December, it was a race against the clock to the finish. On December 23rd, I uploaded Santa Don't Speak No Spanish at 11:57pm - only 3 minutes to spare. By the end of December I think I actually told someone that I hated clocks and I want to chuck them all out of my house!

This fight against the clock had its side effects. Clean laundry never got put away - it was always a big pile on the floor that I pulled from every day. I ended up paying some bills late - something I NEVER do because those late fees are such a screw. I didn't sleep much - a six hour night was a good night. Visiting friends and family was out of the question (aside from holidays, even though I REALLY could have used those holidays for song production!).

This all sounds really horrible. It wasn't. The experience of the project was the most worthwhile way I've ever spent a large chunk of my time. Would I repeat the experience and do a whole year of songs for a second time? Probably not. If I could go back, would I choose to do that first year again knowing what I know now? Absolutely! Plus, I did get a song out of this. I wrote I'm Fighting Time based on the theme of never having enough time to do all the things you really want. Contrary to what the song is about, somehow I did manage to find the time for this very challenging, extremely tiring, but fantastic project. It was worth every minute.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Open Mic Night

The open mic at Cullen's last night was really mellow, probably due to New Years and very cold weather. It was a 5 song night which is alway fun, though. I managed to play That's What She Said, Two Twenty-Nine, I Don't Want To Work Today, Mason Rocket, and thanks to Simon (open mic regular) for requesting Under The Radar. Under The Radar is always fun to play! Check out the live New Years Day recording of the feed (see previous post) to hear Under The Radar with Jason playing the Casiotone rhythm! I have to get him out to an open mic sometime with that Casiotone...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

An Unusual Gig

We played our first internet show today. Why did we decide to do an internet show? We love to play live. Over the years, we have played traditional live shows in the Chicago area and I'm sure that we will do more in the year ahead. In fact, I play at a (mostly) weekly open mic at Cullen's on Southport Ave on Wednesday nights to exercise my performance chops, hang out, listen to, and support the rest of the open mic performers. It's a great crowd and always a lot of fun. But we decided to try this experiment today for a couple of reasons. First, those of you who listen to our music on a regular basis are highly geographically spread out. We'd love to have all of you come to Chicago to see us play live, but of course that's not the most practical expectation. Second, touring is not in our immediate future. Daily work and family life precludes the possibility of getting everyone in the band to hit the road for a tour. It would be fun - a LOT of fun - but unlikely that we could truly make it happen anytime soon. So, we decided to try and bring a live show to you the same way you get our music on a daily basis - on our site.

Today's show was an experiment to see if the technology would support a live A/V feed from a location like the living room at our Studio North facility in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I have to say the experiment not only proved that the technology worked, but it was also a LOT of fun! After the show today, we decided to do more of these kinds of shows in the year ahead. If you missed the live stream, you can check out the re-run here:

Unfortunately we didn't hit the record button until after the first song (lesson learned!), but most of the show still got captured.

Now I have to figure out what to play at tomorrow's open mic at Cullen's. If you're in Chicago and around the Southport area tomorrow night, stop by to listen and say hello (or if you're a musician, get up and play a couple songs). Cullen's is just north of the Music Box Theater and the open mic starts at 9.