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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hello Again...

Todd here. I wanted to approach this post differently than the usual 1)...  2)...  3)...  route I've been using over the last several months. I wanted to treat this one more like a conversation or the proverbial 'stream of consciousness' method. And rather than tell everyone 'how busy we've been' or 'how practice went this week...yada yada'. I simply feel like focusing on my creative thought process for some upcoming material.

Take the title of one of our new songs that we've just recently finished writing. It's simply called 'Again...' and yes those three periods are part of the title. It's a partial statement/question thing that points to something bigger and something much deeper. I'm forever fascinated with the art of saying something without actually saying it directly. The-lost-art-of-reading-between-the-lines. There's always a great risk of being misunderstood when talking to someone in this way, but then again it can also help people understand what you are 'really trying to say' to an even greater degree than simply spelling it all out. Of course it partly depends on how someone is listening. But for the most part people usually 'get it' and I tend to write lyrics in that way...and oftentimes the music itself helps to fill in the blanks in peoples' minds.

Deep thoughts with Todd.  :-)

Something else I feel like talking about...my musical influences. Of late, I've especially been drawing inspiration from childhood heroes that held my interest long before I ever decided to play guitar. More specifically I've been leaning towards specific songs and memories of songs from my formative years. I can remember being 4 years old and really noticing certain elements of radio tunes. Specifically Top40 radio tunes that my mom would be listening to while she worked around the house or spent her afternoon tanning in the back yard on her yellow chaise lounge. Forgive me for not always knowing the words or titles of the songs...those things usually didn't grab my interest. But I can easily remember the bass lines, drum beats, trumpet or sax solos, guitar or piano parts, etc.. And nobody ever taught me to pay attention to those things...I just did. And I still do. To this day I still hear music in my head, be it something I've heard somewhere or else some idea for a new song that I'm writing. And as I get older (and wiser) I've learned that sometimes I just need to focus on one thing at a time (say just a guitar part or a basic vocal melody) versus everything else all playing together at the same time (like a fully recorded song). I can fly either way but sometimes my tendencies to hear 'all things all of the time' can keep me from working out the finer details or spending enough time just practicing my parts by themselves...which is a much needed discipline that I shrug off more than I should...

So in the case of the new song 'Again...' that I was talking about earlier, I can hear (in my head) how I want my guitar solo to go along, and for me it seems like the sum of a bunch of my childhood influences: the guitar solos from Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule the World"....or Don Henley's "Boys of Summer"....or the obscure "Angel Eyes" (from the American Anthem movie soundtrack) by Duran Duran's guitar player Andy Taylor. (Dang....that last one was especially '80's sounding.) And a few other guitar solos that come to mind would be: Prince's "When Doves Cry"....Level 42's "Something About You"...."Charlie Sexton's "Pictures For Pleasure"....and pretty much any other guitar solo from 80's Pop era that was lyrical and melodic. The style of the music wasn't what grabbed me as a young kid so much as simply the pure musical context of whatever was being played. I'm guessing that I could've been born in any time period and would still have the same attraction to lyrical instrumentation. It just makes sense to me and sticks in my head. So in a roundabout way, I still try to emulate those early influences in my playing...not in the style or 'sound' but rather in how I try to point towards the song's melody or message with my guitar playing. It isn't always easy to do, but often 'less is more' and the simple ideas usually win out for me. And even though I can clearly remember those early influences, I rarely sit around listening to that stuff. The occasional 'revisit' is usually good enough to suffice when nostalgia sneaks up on me. Otherwise I keep moving forward and find new influences...but again I am mostly attracted to lyrical instrumentation.

So there's all of that stuff to ponder.

And then how about something even more revealing and vulnerable? For starters, I am fairly insecure about my singing in general. Whenever I go up to the mic I tend to feel nervous and awkward. Singing isn't easy. Nor is it easy to look 'at ease' while singing. Funny that. But as there are no guitar frets or piano keys that can safely be landed on when singing, it can be quite scary at times. And if the music is loud enough to make it hard for me to hear myself singing....well that just sucks. To me it almost feels like flying through a mountain range while in thick cloud cover. There's only a few ways to get things right and a million ways to do it wrong. And when things go wrong, things can get pretty ugly. Fast.

In all truthfulness I doubt I'll ever be completely happy with my vocal abilities. But then my only other option would be to ignore the music I hear in my head, thereby stifling my creativity in the process. Nada. I'd rather try harder to get things right and face my own fears (like the fear of rejection from others or getting boo'd off stage or to see a lousy performance of myself on YouTube) than bury my head in the sand and call it quits. Just like my guitar playing...I'm a good player. Certainly not the world's greatest player, but a good player all the same. But I still have 'bad guitar days' even after almost 30 years of playing. Sometimes I even have 'bad guitar weeks' or entire 'bad guitar months' but again my options are always the same: keep trying harder and move forward...or else quit and give up. And honestly I still get frustrated and fed-up with myself that I still feel like quitting...even nowadays. Nobody wants to hear that...but that's the truth. Sometimes I think some people put me up on a pedestal or think that I'm something more than what I actually am. Fact of the matter is that I still have major insecurities and self-doubts and days where I hate my best efforts and where I can slip into delusions or even depression. And those times can sneak up on me if I'm not careful. No fun...but it happens. 

So why am I writing all of this? Am I looking for affirmation or encouragement from readers or fans? Nope. I know the ropes and I know that for me it is always the same battles, the same inner struggles, the same tendencies, the same solutions. I simply move forward. And I often don't 'feel' like moving forward, but ironically life isn't always about letting 'feelings' dictate what we do or say or where we go or who we are. And yet at the same time, from a music and lyrics standpoint, I try to allow those feelings to shine through. They aren't always pleasant or comfortable feelings, but knowing how to convey those 'hidden' things in a song, be it something that is said directly or else tucked inside allegory and metaphor...that is what I am shooting for. And as more songs come down the FP pike, I hope people can honestly get the gist of what we're doing. It won't be about image or fame or money or even respect from the world of music. It's simply about transparency in all of its beauty and ugliness. I hope it never devolves into anything other than that for us as a band or for our audience as listeners. There's certainly enough noise and chatter out in the world without us adding to it. But hopefully my words and music will outlast me and will speak loudly even when I no longer can. That to me is something worth chasing after, and chase after it I will.... 

~ Todd