Ep. 105: Favorite Music of 2020 – Top Ten Albums

So, as this year wraps up, I’m sharing my favorite albums from 2020. There were a lot of great records that came out, and I honestly had a hard time narrowing it down to just ten but I did, and I’m about to share them. But before I do that, let me share my honorable mentions. These are albums I listened to and enjoyed but for one reason or another, didn’t quite make the top ten album list for me:

Honorable Mentions

    • Andy Shauf – The Neon Skyline
    • Sturgill Simpson – Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1
    • Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
    • Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
    • Deftones – Ohms
    • Jeff Tweedy – Love Is The King
    • Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters
    • Hamilton Leithauser – The Loves of Your Life
    • Idles – Ultra Mono
    • Matt Berninger – Serpentine Prison

So, with that said, let’s jump in and countdown my top ten albums of the year.


10. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Reunions

This is the 7th album by the Nashville-based veteran singer-songwriter and he’s as sharp as ever with his craft. This introspective collection of songs deal with heavy topics like death, torn relationships, racism, and changing times. The production is fairly straight-head rootsy folk-rock from his backing band, the 400 unit, with maybe a little more emphasis on the lead guitar than usual. But it all serves to compliment his echoey, raspy vocals well, giving the whole album a haunted, ghostly feel. It’s great to hear someone keeping up the tradition of creating heartfelt songs in a fresh way. He’s again proven why he’s one of the top songwriters of our generation.

Essential Songs: Dreamsicle, Only Children, St. Peter’s Autograph

Stream: Spotify


9. Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter

Laura is a British singer/songwriter I’ve casually followed for many years. This is her 7th album and a very solid collection of songs. I love the pretty tone of her voice and the great melodies she sings. Her lyrics are very deep and personal, often dealing with heartbreak, strong emotions, and raw storytelling. In many ways, she reminds me of a modern version of Joni Mitchell or occasionally Nick Drake. The production is pretty stripped down; mostly based on acoustic guitar, with bass, drums, subtle lead guitar parts, and occasional strings and piano. But the production doesn’t really need much to it because the songs stand well on their own. It had a real classic rock kind of vibe to it.

Essential Songs: Held Down, Song For Our Daughter, Fortune

Stream: Spotify


8. EOB – Earth

This is the debut solo album of Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien. While most of the members of his main band have done multiple solo albums at this point, it’s finally his turn and the results are great. He typically sings backing vocals so it’s nice to finally hear him in the lead vocalist role. He sounds confident, mixing some of the experimental elements of Radiohead with approachable songwriting and production. This album is many years in the making, partially inspired by a year that he and his family lived in Brazil and experienced the blended music and culture available there. The songs often morph genres, like on “Brasil,” where the first half of the song begins with folk guitar picking, then transitions into a mellow EDM trance with subtle synthesizers. Other songs bring in the rock a bit more. It’s an adventurous record and a fun journey to listen to.

Essential Song: Shangri-La, Brasil, Deep Days

Stream: Spotify


7. Chris Stapleton – Starting Over

This is the fourth album by this Nashville-based singer/songwriter and it’s a very solid release. His sound teeters somewhere between country, blues, roots-rock, and pop, but at the center of it all is his raspy, soulful voice. It’s filled with power and emotion, giving the songs a lot of added weight and depth to them. The production is very slick and crisp; with great punchy drums and full, clear tones with all the instruments. Normally, it would be a little too polished and mainstream sounding for my taste but it really works here. I think I’ve respected his music for a while but this is probably the first time I’ve really connected with it and thoroughly enjoyed listening. 

Essential Songs: Devil Always Made Me Think Twice, Cold, Starting Over

Stream: Spotify


6. Fleet Foxes – Shore

They have been one of my favorite bands for many years and this 4th album was a welcome, refreshing release after being somewhat disappointed by their last one from a few years ago. The songs bring back the strong melodies and optimism of their earlier sound, along with the thick harmonies and textural instrumentation that accompany singer Robin Recknold’s distinct voice. True to the album artwork and title, their music carries an organic quality as if they are providing something of a soundtrack to nature and outdoor adventure. And despite much of the album being recorded during the pandemic, it feels bright and warm, making it a very nice and pleasant listen.

Essential Songs: Can I Believe You, Sunblind, Jara, Thymia

Stream: Spotify


5. Phantogram – Ceremony

This is the 4th album by this electronica duo and they sound as strong and confident as ever. The production is top-notch with solid, interesting beats and plenty of twists and turns with the instrumentation; including fluid bass lines, catchy guitar riffs, atmospheric synths, and punchy brass hits, The songs are very catchy and memorable; occasionally sounding funky and upbeat but other times, carrying a little edge and attitude. In some ways, their sound is occasionally reminiscent of Portishead but maybe sped up twice as fast and less depressing (if that makes any sense?). It’s a great album from start to finish; maybe their best. So, it’s a joy to hear a group like this at the top of their game and making great music.

Essential Songs: In A Spiral, Dear God, Pedestal

Stream: Spotify


4. Nathaniel Rateliff – And It’s Still Alright

Despite Nathaniel having performed for many years and hearing his name mentioned many times, this artist is a new discovery for me this year. I finally gave him a chance and I’m glad I did because this album is fantastic. This marks his 6th album release and his seasoned abilities as a songwriter show. He has a great twangy folk-rock sound with a little bit of old-timey twist, similar in style to Father John Misty or Fleet Foxes.  I love how soulful his voice sounds. It’s moving and even inspirational at times. The songs are equally impactful, with a strong passion behind the melody and lyrics.

Essential Songs: And It’s Still Alright, All Or Nothing, What a Drag, Time Stands 

Stream: Spotify


3. Gorillaz – Song Machine Vol. 1: Strange Timez

This is the 7th album released by this eclectic hip hop project in their 20 plus years of existence. If you’re unacquainted with Gorillaz, they consider themselves a “virtual band,” meaning that the members are portrayed as cartoons in their videos and interviews. You don’t usually see the humans behind the music except when they are performing live, but even then, the cartoons are featured heavily on giant screens. The sole core member of the band is Damon Albarn, who is famous for being the singer of the rock band Blur. Over the years, he has frequently collaborated with other artists to create the songs for Gorillaz, but this time, he’s taken it a step further and made every single song is a collaboration release each month as separate episodes in a web series. Some of them even feature big names like Elton John, Beck, and Robert Smith (from The Cure). This album collects all the songs from the first season of this series. There are a lot of fun tracks in this collection, featuring great eclectic production with somewhat of a funky, 80s dance influence. Great music for a party. But at the core, what really makes it work are the excellent melodies and songwriting.

Essential Songs: The Valley of the Pagans (feat. Beck), Strange Timez, Aries, The Lost Chord

Stream: Spotify


2. Ásgeir – Bury The Moon

This is the 3rd album by this Icelandic singer-songwriter, whose full name is Ásgeir Trausti (but he just goes by his first name as a performer). My friend showed me his music a few years ago and I’ve been a fan since. His style is a blend of folk and electronica with subtle additions of piano, horns, and strings. He often sings in a high, falsetto voice which gives his music a gentle feel, but the music takes plenty of surprising twists and turns. His sound reminds me of a combination of Bon Iver, David Gray, and James Blake. I love the way it all blends together and supports his solid songwriting. The melodies are strong and super catchy. In addition to the English version of this album, he also has a version available where the lyrics are in Icelandic. It’s a great album from start to finish and I found myself coming back to it over and over throughout the year.

Essential Songs: Breath, Eventide, Turn Gold To Sand, Pictures

Stream: Spotify


1. Travis – 10 Songs

Travis is a Scottish band I first discovered when I was in high school and I saw them on tour in the year 2000 when they opened for Oasis in Seattle. They were supporting their album The Man Who, which was starting to gain some traction in the US and helped pave the way for bands like Coldplay. I became an instant fan and that album remains one of my all-time favorites to this day. Over the years, they’ve declined in popularity. They’ve continued to release albums but none of them have quite reached the quality and magic they had with The Man Who. Now here they are, 30 years into their existence as a band, releasing their 9th album, which I think is among their best work. I think they really stepped up their game and tried harder than they have in a long time to make something special. What really makes it shine for me is the songwriting. The melodies are catchy, with nice rises and falls, and repetitions with a few unexpected twists. The lyrics are characteristically melancholy but with a sense of optimism. The songs are concise and get to the point, which I really like. This album is mellow and relaxing for the most part, mostly due to Fran Healy’s smooth voice and fairly straight-ahead production.  It all sounds very effortless, even though I’m sure they labored immensely to hone-in on these well-crafted songs. It’s an album that holds up to repeat listens; I kept coming back to it and enjoying it more and more with each listen.

Essential Songs: A Ghost, A Million Hearts, Waving at the Window, Nina’s Song

Stream: Spotify


Favorite Albums of 2020 – Spotify Playlist


Favorite Songs of 2020

Visit Arches Audio to get my original royalty free music for your podcasts or video projects.

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Ep. 104: Christmas Music 2020

Every year, I have a tradition of recording Christmas music with my family. Some years, we’ve only done one song and other years it’s been as many as five. This year, with launching a new stock music website and our busy family schedules, we haven’t done any new songs as a family yet but I was able to put together two new Christmas songs on my own for you to hear.

The first one is an EDM instrumental version of “Once In Royal David’s City.” This is way outside the usual styles of music I normally make but it was super fun to try something new and sharpen my production skills. I kind of imagine it being used for someone’s synchronized Christmas light show.

Here’s a fairly straightforward version of “Carol of the Bells.”

I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays, where ever you are.

If you want to the rest of the songs my family has recorded over the years, visit Haws Family Christmas Songs.

If you want to license any of these songs for your podcast or video project, visit Arches Audio.

Ep. 103: Eric Bay and I Write a Song About the Pandemic

In this episode, I’m joined by Eric Bay, a singer/songwriter from Surrey, England. We talk about his music career and collaborate on a brand new song. We recorded this back in March, so you’ll hear us talk a little bit about the spread of the COVID-19 kind of at the earlier stages when more people were panic buying toilet paper and groceries.

After Eric and I finished writing the song over a video chat, we recorded our parts separately in our own home studios. Eric provided vocals and keyboard tracks along with some synth parts and I recorded backing vocals, guitars, synth, bass, drums and percussion. I did the initial mix, with Eric finishing the final mix. The song mastered by Joe Lonsdale.

I’m really happy with how it turned. I hope it can provide some optimism for people during a difficult time. Enjoy.

Lyrics:

Knocking on the door on a rainy afternoon
Thursdays always seem to come around so soon
I could tell from the look on your face that it’s getting to ya
You wanna be strong but you’re worried about the future

A sunny day is on its way again
The clouds of fear will start to clear, my friend
These are troubled times indeed
But you got everything you need
So hold on for the sunny days ahead

Saw a man I hadn’t seen in years
Wasn’t sure if he still lived ’round here
He said the people in this town have all gone crazy
Human nature never ceases to amaze me

A sunny day is on its way again
The clouds of fear will start to clear, my friend
These are troubled times indeed
But you got everything you need
So hold on for the sunny days ahead

A sunny day is on its way again
The clouds of fear will start to clear, my friend
These are troubled times indeed
But you got everything you need
So hold on for the sunny days ahead

A sunny day is on its way again
The clouds of fear will start to clear, my friend
These are troubled times indeed
But you got everything you need
So hold on for the sunny days ahead

 

Ep. 102: Introducing Arches Audio + Breaking Down A Hip Hop Track


Hey guys, it’s been a while. I hope all of you out there listening have been doing okay with the whole pandemic and political situation. It’s been tough for myself and lot of people but I also recognize things could be lot a worse and I’m incredibly grateful for the people I have in my life. So thank you, you know who you are.

As far as regular episodes, I actually have a new guest collaboration episode I’ll be releasing really soon, like in the next week or two. But I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about a new business I’m launching that has taken up most of my time lately.

It’s called Arches Audio. It’s something my friend Matt Weidauer and I dreamed up and basically, we provide music and audio services for creative projects like podcast, audiobooks, youtube video, ads, tv and film. One of the unique things about us is that the music from our library is 100% for podcasts, we only require attribution in the credits. But if you want to hire us to create a custom theme song, that’s something we can do too.

We also created something called a Podcast Launch Package, which includes the basic equipment you need, like a USB mic and headphones, along with an eBook course which walks you through the technical side and some tips and advice for starting a podcast, and it also includes us designing your cover artwork and producing a intro and outro with music and a voiceover. That packages starts at $499. If you’ve already got a podcast going, we can also edit and mix your episodes for you, starting a $99 an episode. We also provide the same kinds of services for authors who want to record an audiobook. If you want to learn more about that, visit our new website, archesaudio.com.

Having said all that, I thought it would be fun to break down one of the songs I just made specifically for the new business. It’s an instrumental hop hop track called “Simple Math,” which was influenced by the group, Gorillaz.

So, let’s break it down. The structure is actually really simple. There are pretty much three parts:

  1. the beat
  2. the rhythm chords
  3. the bass line

First, the beat. There are two layers. The first layer I programmed from a plugin that comes with Pro Tools called Boom. It’s a pretty basic, swung hip hop beat with the drum kit set to nine-0, which is supposed to imitate that sound of the roland 909, which is a pretty famous drum machine used a lot in rap during the 80s and 90s, and even still today.

I also recently bought some loops played on real drums from a website called circlesdrumsamples.com. I found a pretty similar beat played at the same tempo called Swagger Dog, which was part of the Dead collection.

So, then I layered the two together so that it starts with the drum machine but then I add the real drums to give it some extra punch.

So the second component of the song is the rhythm chords. These are real simple quarter note chords, which is fairly common in hip hop, like on Jay-Z’s song, “Hard Knock Life.” I recorded my part using midi with two different sounds layered. The first sound is the Rhodes piano.

Next is the exact same chords with the sound set to clavicle with a phaser on it. It almost kind of sounds it’s someone talking.

So, now, for the third part of the song, the bass line. There’s 4 different layered sounds that make up the bass line. The first layer that starts the song kind of growly, sawtoothed analog kind of sound, which plays that note with two octaves. The notes kind of bend and glide from note to note and there’s also a little bit a weird, washy sound to it, which I like. Here it is isolated by itself.

So, after the song kicks in part way through, there are three more layers added to the bassline. First, is this funky, warbley sound called plastic toy, which is played an octave higher.

Also played an octave higher is a bright, fuzzy synth sound with a phaser. It kind of adds an interesting texture to the mix.

Last is plain bass sound called subsonic to fill in the lows a little bit.

So, those are all the parts of the song. I thought about adding more to it, but I read this article in pitchfork, which talk about podcast music and how the goal is to create a bed for the talking, and that you don’t want to distract from that very much. Basically less is more. So, I decided for that purpose that the song is done.

I want to mention that for Arches Audio, while all the music is free for podcasts, it usually costs money for video and other uses. But we’re offering  this as the Free Song of the Week for all uses if you download it by July 12 using the promo code “songoftheweek” at checkout. I’ll like to this song in the notes. We’re going to keep this promotion going with a new song each week so sign up on our website or follow us on social media to get notified of the new songs.

Listen to “Simple Math” at Arches Audio.

Ep. 101: Drew Danburry and I Write a Song About Being Parents


For this episode, I meet up with an old friend of mine, Drew Danburry. Drew has been playing music for nearly 20 years as a DIY solo indie folk artist, playing over 800 shows around the world and recording dozens of albums. His latest release is the excellent EP, Pallid Boy & Spindling Girl. Here’s the video for my favorite track called, “Mediocrity.”

Some of Drew’s past releases are side projects, many of which being collaborations with other artists. One project Drew and I worked on together back in 2010 was called “Reliving the 90s,” where musicians from the Provo, Utah area covered songs from the 90s. Drew’s song was a fun take on the Vengaboys classic “Boom Boom Boom.”

My band at the time, Adding Machines, recorded a version of Weezer’s Across the Sea, which Drew sang harmony vocals on. See the rest of the videos on Youtube.

Drew and I later collaborated on a song for his 2014 album “70 Love Songs” as part of his “For all the Girls” project.

This time, Drew and I are collaborating yet again on a song for this podcast. We starting with writing a song about sleep, which sort of morphed into being a song about the joys and pains of being a parent. It’s called “Goldie (for Dave and Cami).”

Here’s the song by itself:

 Lyrics:

Little hands, little cough
What is this love?
So much pain, so much joy
We can avoid

Closed eyes, the darkness rises from the grave
Breath deep the feeling reaches up from the past
Stare straight til it goes away

Boats drifting current strong,
Peace in our minds
Gains balanced, ego crushed
However it falls

Closed eyes, the darkness rises from the grave
Breath deep the feeling reaches up from the past
Stare straight til it goes away

Credits:

Drew Danburry – Vocals, Electric Guitars, Drums, Shaker, Tamborine
Jake Haws – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Synthesizers, Organ

Recorded and Mixed at Jake’s House in Springville, Utah.

Ep. 100: My Musical Journey

This episode marks a special occasion because it’s the 100th episode! I started this podcast at the beginning of 2016 it’s now just past the 4 year anniversary of putting this out. It’s been a blast sharing what I’m working on musically with you and collaborating with guests. It’s been a lot of fun.

So, I thought a lot about what I wanted to do for the 100th episode to make it special so I decided I would talk about my journey as a musician and how creating music has evolved for me over the years. Hopefully it gives some insight into why I do what I do and maybe it will be of some help to you as you travel on your own creative journey, so here goes….

My love for music started as a kid listening to classical music, which probably came out of watching cartoons. My favorite composers were Beethoven and Mozart. I loved all the arrangements and melodies, especially the song Fur Elise. I started taking piano lessons at age 8 and also joined our school orchestra that same year playing violin. After a few years of lessons, I entered a school contest called Reflections, where I submitted my first real fully formed instrumental song on the piano. I was about age 13 or 14. Here’s the recording I submitted. It’s called Turned Away.

Around this time, I started listening to the Beatles a lot. There was a TV special called The Beatles Anthology that got me into them, along with dusting off my parents old records. After being a fan for a few years, I eventually bought a nylon string guitar specifically so I could learn Beatles songs. I went online a read a lot of tutorials on how to play chords and kind of pieced together a basic knowledge of how to play. Eventually, I started to write my own songs with words, which sounded an awful lot like Beatles knock-offs.

Around this time, in addition to playing violin in our school orchestra, I also started playing piano in our junior high school jazz band. It think it was a good move to bridge my knowledge of piano and guitar together. I listened so some of the jazz greats like Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. I learned about scales and improvising, chord structures and progressions. It was a really good foundational knowledge.

I ended up starting a band with some friends I met through jazz band. We were called “Made in the Shade,” and played together for about three years. We were influenced by many of the alternative and emo bands of the time like Sunny Day Real Estate, Hum and Built to Spill. We played dozens of shows all over the Tacoma and Seattle area where I grew up, and recorded a series of demos until eventually self-releasing a full album, followed by an EP. One our songs made it on the regular rotation playlist of a local college radio station. It’s called “Daydream” and here it is.

As is the fate of many high school bands, we broke up after graduation when we all split off to different colleges. I ended up moving to Utah and attending BYU. I quickly put up a post on a bulletin board looking to start a new band. I ended up recruiting a couple guys with similar music tastes and we started “Declaration.” We played a handful shows around Provo for about a year, recorded a demo, then took a break. Like many mormon boys at that age, I put in my papers to serve as a missionary. I ended up getting called to serve for 2 years in New York City and it was one of the best experiences of my life but while I was waiting to go, I ended up recording an acoustic album of songs I had written over the years that didn’t quite fit with a rock band. I think I mostly wanted to leave behind something for my family to listen to while I was gone. Here’s a track from that album called “Ocean.”

So then I left for my mission. I taught people the gospel and did community community service in many hospitals, nursing homes, and food pantries. It was great. I didn’t have a guitar but during my days off, not wanting to let my creativity die,  I went over to the church and played the piano. Over that time period, I wrote several songs – some with words; some were instrumentals.

After coming home from my mission, I got right back to college at BYU and re-formed by band, Declaration. I wrote some new songs, influenced by some of the up and coming indie bands of the time like Death Cab For Cutie and Arcade Fire.

Around the same time of re-starting the band, I also landed an internship at a music venue called Muse Music, which led to becoming manager. I later borrowed some money, bought the business, and became owner. Keep in mind I was still in college double majoring in sound recording and advertising, and also getting married so these were pretty busy times. But all this was super helpful experience. I was able to learn skills and concepts from school and apply it directly to recording music and promoting my business and band. The other huge plus is BYU actually offered scholarships for people who ran there own business so I was able to have my tuition taken care of for a full year.

One of the things I did as business owner was build out a vacant spot in our building to include a recording studio. I ended up recording dozen of artists, who were usually bands who played shows at the venue. Occasionally I was recruited to play drums and other instruments on these recordings. It was very helpful and beneficial experience to brush up my recording and producing chops.

Being the venue owner also allowed my band to get on the same bill of some of the popular local bands at the time, including Neon Trees (who went on to become a well known national act) but also open for some of my favorite indie bands as they came through town, such as the Appleseed Cast, Menomena, and 31 Knots.

Much like my high school band, my time with Declaration ended when band members graduated and moved away. Through our run, we recorded 2 albums and played around 60 shows. It was a blast and I’ll always cherish those memories. Here’s one of my favorite songs from that band called “The Ghost.”

So that last thing I needed to do for college was an internship. I ended up landing an unpaid global marketing internship with Sony Music in New York City, my old stomping grounds from being a missionary. I luckily had some friends lined up to help run the concerts at Muse Music while I was gone.

Interning a Sony was a fun experience. I worked on some campaigns for Alicia Keyes, Pink and The Ting Tings. Unfortunately, it didn’t lead to a full time position like I had hoped. This was at 2008 at the height of a recession and the music industry was hit especially hard. So as the summer ended, I moved back to Utah to figure out my next career move. I wasn’t able to land any jobs in advertising or in music production so I went back to focusing on the music venue and studio and trying to succeed with that.

Creatively, I was itching at have another band so I got together with my old drummer from Declaration and my wife, Melissa and we started Adding Machines. This time, we shifted the musical style a bit to focus on sort of a alt-country, folk rock sound along the lines of Wilco, Fleet Foxes and The Shins. We played dozens of shows and released an EP in 2009 and a full-length album in 2011.

Here’s a song from the album called “Baby Girl.”

Also happening at this time, I realized I better get a “real job” that I could actually raise a family on. I attended the University of Utah and earned an MBA, with an emphasis on marketing. While in school, I was approached by someone interested in buying the music venue so I sold it, which was very bittersweet. I learned a lot from the experience of running a business and it carried fond memories for me but it was time to move on.

While I was finishing school, I had this idea for a blog and recording project called, “50 Songs in 50 Weeks.” True to it’s name, I recorded a song a week throughout the year of 2012 and posted the songs one at a time, along with a blog post about the writing and recording process. Most of the songs were half-written tunes I had kicking around from over 15 years of making music so I wasn’t having to come up with ideas completely from scratch. But it’s amazing how much recording I was able to get done with this self-imposed deadline. Since I wasn’t necessary trying to make a cohesive album, it freed me up to try out all kinds of styles. There were folk songs, techno songs, rock songs, piano ballads, and everything in between. Here’s a bossa nova style tune from the project called “Lounging Around,” which was song #36.

After my 50 week recording marathon was over, I tried to figure out what I was going to do next. I did still have my band but i00………t was getting harder and harder to keep Adding Machines going with our shrinking audience and personal obligations. So, we played our last show in 2015 called it a day.

I worked in a traditional marketing job, which I was grateful to have because it provided for my family but I ended up playing very little music for a few years. I had done three bands that all sort of had the same story: play a bunch of shows, record a couple CDs, and a break up after 3 or 4 years without really going anywhere. The thought of doing yet another band was really daunting. I felt like a failure.

I ended up attending a few different music seminars that got me thinking about ideas. I did some soul searching and figured out what my next move would be; something that played to my passions and and could fit with my schedule.

So I started the next phase of my creative life, which you could call “music career 2.0” or maybe it’s version 5.0 at this point. Anyways, doesn’t matter. What I came up with is starting two new projects.

The first would be an acoustic Beatles cover duo called, “The Fab Folk.” My friend, Matt Weidauer and I were both huge Beatles fans and we would occasionally jam on a few of their songs for fun. We got to thinking why not try playing some shows at bars and restaurants to make a little side cash. My whole previous approach to playing live was focusing on playing all ages clubs, which relied on us to bring an audience. By playing these gigs where the audience was already there, it took off the pressure of trying to convince our friends and fans to come to shows, not to mention it could make us a more money! This scratched the itch to get out and play live in front of an audience and also filled the void of missing the comradery of playing in a band. Eventually we worked our way to other gigs, like playing community festivals and weddings. We did some fun things with it, like performing the Beatles album “Revolver” in concert start to finish on the occasion of it’s 50th anniversary, and subsequently recording our own studio version of the album.

Eventually, the schedule was a little much for Matt so he stepped down and my wife, Melissa took his place. We’ve also since adjusted our act to include non-Beatles music like Johnny Cash, Jason Mraz, Ed Sheeran and more. We still continue to perform to this day and it’s been a fun project. It’s taken us out of state on a few occasions and the money we make has paid for our vacations. Here’s a recording of Melissa and I performing the Edward Sharpe song, Home.

The second project I started when I was trying to figure out the next phase of my creative life was this very podcast. I started it at the beginning of the year in 2016. I was a fan of several music podcast, particularly Song Exploder, and I wanted to explore that world of what it’s like behind this scenes to make music. It began as way to feature my own music but over time, I started having guests where we would have conversations about music. Some of the episodes ended up becoming collaborations where we would write and record songs together.

Meanwhile, as this is all happening, I was slowly working on a solo album of original material. After about 4 years, it all finally came together when I released “Good Grief” in December of 2018. I played all the instruments myself and recorded everything at my house. It was a ton of work and blood, sweat and tears to cross the finish line but it’s one of the most satisfying projects I’ve ever done. There are individual podcast episodes for each of the songs on that album that you can go back and listen to but here’s one of my favorite songs on the album called “Invisible.” The is a reworked version of that song I wrote while I was a missionary.

So that brings us to today. I have a new venture I’m just starting with my friend called “Arches Audio.” It’s a stock music website for those in the media industries like TV and film. We’ve decided to make our music completely free for podcasters, in exchange for giving us credit, which will hopefully help us with promotion. You can go check it out at archesaudio.com.

So what have I learned through this musical journey of mine?

Pursuing your creative passions can be messy at times. Things don’t always go as planned, in fact, they don’t usually don’t. And I’ve found myself many times starting and stopping and re-starting and pivoting as I navigate the creative life and what it looks like next to everyday life, which includes obligations like paying a mortgage and raising a family. But I wouldn’t trade the path I’ve gone for anything. I love my life and I’m grateful that I get to continue doing what I do. I still continue to set goals and push myself as I work towards building a career in music. It’s not easy but ultimately I’ve found keeping my creative passions alive to be a rewarding pursuit.

Thanks for listening and following along with me on these first 100 episodes of the podcast. As far as the future of the podcast goes, I’m going to continue to release episodes but they may be less frequent as I’m focusing more of my energy on launching Arches Audio. Maybe 1 or 2 episodes every month as time allows.

Visit thefabfolk.com to see videos of my acoustic duo and our schedule of live events.

Until next time….

Ep. 99: Christmas Music 2019 (Winter Wonderland and Up on the Housetop)

My family has a tradition of recording Christmas songs every year. Some years, we’ve done as many as 5 songs and other years we’ve only done one. This year we were pretty busy but we were still able to do two song.

For the first one, my wife and I recorded a jazzy version of Winter Wonderland with 2 vocals, acoustic guitar, bass and drums.

The 2nd features our three kids on an instrumental version of Up on the Housetop with violin, chimes and sleigh bells.

Here’s the entire collection on songs we’ve recorded over the years:

We hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays!

Ep. 98: Favorite Music of 2019 – Top Ten Albums

As this year wraps up, I’m sharing my favorite albums from 2019. There were a lot of great records that came out and I honestly had a hard time narrowing it down to just ten but I did, and here they are. So, Let’s jump right into it.


10. Telekinesis – Effluxion

This is the fifth studio album of the band, which is really the solo project of Michael Benjamin Lerner. In some ways, it feel a bit out of step with what’s happening in music now. It feels like he belongs in the world of late 90’s to early 2000s indie rock with bands like Spoon and The Strokes. That’s not to say it’s bad things because I really miss the sound of that era. He weaves together fuzzy, guitar power-pop, honky-tonk piano, and acoustic indie folk. Somehow, this unique blend all works because the songs are so dang catchy. It’s a fun album, filled with lots of energy. Essential Songs: Cut the Quick, Feel It in Your Bones, Suburban Streetlight Drunk

Stream: Spotify


9. Joy Williams – Front Porch

Joy is perhaps best known for being half of the Grammy winning duo, The Civil Wars. She’s released several solo albums, both before and after her work with the Civil Wars and this is her latest. As the title suggests, these songs are performed in a stripped down fashion; usually with just a voice, an acoustic guitar, and an occasional mandolin or violin, but with no percussion. It works because of the strength of the songwriting and her beautiful, smooth voice. The songs are incredibility relaxing to listen to and come across very sincere and heartfelt. There is little bit of country flavor to it but it really falls more in the Americana genre. It’s a great album from start to finish with some great tunes. Essential Songs: Be with You, When Does a Heart Move On,  Front Porch

Stream: Spotify


8. Big Thief – Two Hands / U.F.O.F.

This is a big, break out year for this Brooklyn based band. They actually released two solid albums and I couldn’t decide which one l liked better so I decided to call it a tie. It’s amazing to me what they are able to accomplish with just a core lineup of guitars, bass and drums. They pay a lot of attention to the tone of the instruments, which sound crystal clear and mixed perfectly. They songs drift seamlessly between whispery folk ballads and bluesy indie-rockers. They songwriting is really strong, with heavy lyrical themes and a sincere and earnest tone and approach. In some ways it’s a homage to classic folk rock like Neil Young but also feels like a passing of the torch from other indie rock bands in the last decade or so who have lost their momentum. Big Thief sounds confident and energized, even if their music can occasionally be gloomy. Essential Song: Not, Two Hands, Cattails, Contact

Stream Two Hands: Spotify

Stream U.F.O.F.: Spotify


7. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

This is fourth album by this St. Louis-based singer/songwriter. She has a real knack for creating atmosphere in her songs. It’s an interesting mix of retro and modern; of dark yet hopeful and accessible tunes. There are thick, heavy sounding string arrangements with layers of reverb. It sounds theatrical and dramatic in some ways.  Other songs have more of a classic rock influence. Overall, I would describe it as a very ambitious record but also hypnotic to listen to. Essential Songs: Spring, What It Is, Chance, Lark

Stream: Spotify


6. Vid Nelson – Beautiful Show

This one is by a local musician who came out of the Provo, Utah music scene where I’m from and has recently relocated to Nashville. This is his fourth album and it’s definitely a step up in terms of production and songwriting. It has a real classic rock sort of vibe with strings, maybe along the lines of John Lennon’s Imagine album or Arcade Fire. His voice is pretty unique and has a real passionate approach with his delivery, especially when he belts it out. There’s also a lot of vocal harmonies and details put into the arrangement. It’s a rewarding listen. Essential Songs: Bon Voyage Ami, Waiting to Find, All The Same

Stream: Spotify


5. Takenobu – Conclusion

This is the project of Japanese-American cellist/vocalist Nick Ogawa and more recently violinist/vocalist Kathryn Koch, who is now his fiance. I recently saw them perform and absolutely loved it. When they play live, they incorporate loop pedals to create multi-layered sounds. For instance, they might use their string instruments to make percussion sounds and then add multiple string parts on top of it until it practically sounds like a full orchestra. The album lives up to the live performance, in my opinion. It’s so interesting to hear what they are able to do with just a few instruments. They exist somewhere in their own world between classical music and indie.  I also think it holds up because the songwriting is so great. It’s refreshing to hear something so unique that no one else is really doing, but still done in an accessible way, that is a joy to listen to. Essential Songs: Glorious Harmonious, Nobody Said, Dark in the City

Stream: Spotify


4. Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

This has been huge, breakthrough year for this artist. After a series of singles and EPs, she’s released her debut full-length album, which was highly acclaimed by critics and went number 1, and she’s just barely turned 18! Yet more impressive, Billie and her brother, Finneas O’Connell, wrote the songs and recorded the entire album themselves in their bedroom studio. The production sounds fresh. Nobody out there I’ve listened to lately is really incorporating all these styles in quite the same way. Her jazzy vocals weave in and out of a variety of blended genres from hip hop to alternative rock to folk to even a really pretty a capella choral track. With all the hype that surrounds Billie Eilish, it would be really easy to dismiss her and write her off as a fluke but she has the skills and great songs to back it up. She truly breaks the rules and treads her own path. I’m excited to follow her career and see what she does next. Essential Songs: 8, Bad Guy, You Should See Me in a Crown

Stream: Spotify


3. David Gray – Gold in a Brass Age

I first heard David Gray back in 1998 when his breakthrough album, White Ladder became popular, which is one of my all-time favorites. Now over 20 years later, he remains a consistently solid singer-songwriter. With this album, I feel like he upped his production game. He incorporates electronic elements with traditional folk songwriting, much like he did with White Ladder, but he sounds more updated and fresh with his approach. There are layers of subtle sounds and experimental flourishes sprinkled throughout. The beats are really interesting and fun and he sounds energized and confident. It’s like he took note of some of the things James Blake is doing and speed it up to fit his own style. The songwriting is really strong on this album. It’s a great listen. Essential Songs: Gold in a Brass Age, The Sapling, Ridiculous Heart, If 8 Were 9

Stream: Spotify


2. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

This is their 4th album and it represents something of a new phase for them. It’s been 6 years since their last record and since then, one of their key members, Rostam Batmanglij, has left the band. The remaining members took the opportunity to rethink their sound and try some new approaches. This time around, they’ve incorporated more acoustic guitars and maybe more jammy instrumentation and sounds then before. The songs feel looser and more fun than their past albums. It’s kind of a good album for vacations or maybe road trips. They’re joined by Danielle Haim (of the band Haim) as a guest vocalist on several of the songs, which also helps distinguish the sound of this record and give it some cohesiveness. Ezra Koenig’s signature singing and songwriting style is as strong as ever. While this is their longest album, clocking in at just under an hour, they throw in enough twists and turns to keep it interesting and a fun, enjoyable listen. Essential Songs: Harmony Hall, This Life, Sunflower

Stream: Spotify


1. Kishi Bashi – Omoiyari

Kishi Bashi is a classically trained Japanese-American violinist who used to play in the band Of Montreal (among other projects). This is his 4th proper solo album. His debut album, 151a came out in 2012 and instantly became one of my album time favorites. I didn’t feel like his 2nd and 3rd albums were quite as strong but he brought me back in with this album and it might be my favorite of his now. The songwriting is really strong with the pretty melodies and poetic lyrics. It’s something of a concept album about the experiences of Japanese-Americans placed in internment camps during World War II. The production takes a more organic, folky approach with beautiful violin and string arrangements, much like his debut. If you’re a fan of the Shins, you’d probably dig it. My wife and I saw him perform this year with his band and he put on one of the most amazing live shows I’ve ever seen. It was over the top fun and joyous and it made me appreciate the songs from the album even more. Essential Songs: Penny Rabbit and Summer Bear, A Song for You, Song of ’42

Stream: Spotify


Favorite Albums of 2019 – Spotify Playlist


Favorite Songs of 2019

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Ep. 97: Jack Mergist and I Write a Sequel Song to Weezer’s “Only In Dreams”

For this episode, I meet up with Jack Mergist. We talk about how he balances his music and film projects and we challenge ourselves to write a sequel song to the Weezer classic, “Only In Dreams.”

Here’s a song from Jack’s band, The Lunatic:

Here’s a tune Jack recorded for the Song Club project:

A poster from a concert Jack and I played together back in 2007.

The “Big Muff” distortion pedal and it’s accompanying wooden box:

 

 

Links