So you may have noticed it’s been a few months since I’ve put an episode out and there’s good reason for that: I’ve been finishing my album! And now the long awaited day has come that I’m sharing it with you. This album is many years in the making and one of the most difficult projects I’ve worked on. I started recording some of the songs back in 2014 and other songs were written and recorded as recently as a few months ago.
There have been many starts and stops stops along at the way as I’ve tried to figured out what I want to say and what this thing should sound like. There’s rock songs, folk songs, piano songs, electronica songs and everything in between. There’s songs about death, grief, disagreement and anxiety, but also hope, patience and love.
As I thought about what it should be called, I came up with the title, “Good Grief,” which references Charlie Brown, a character I’ve come to relate with more and more as time has gone on; someone who wears his heart on his sleeve as he experiences many of the themes I write about. It’s also an inside joke to myself about what someone might say when I tell them it took me 4 years to make an album!
The artwork was done by a local artist, Travis Braun.
Besides the artwork, I did everything on this album myself. I wrote the songs, played all the parts, and recorded and mixed everything in my home studio (which is partly why this took so long).
Most of these songs I’ve already shared on this podcast (at least work-in-progress versions) so I encourage you to go back and listen to those episodes if you want all the details about how each one was made. And also stay tune for future episodes on some of the other songs.
- Eye to Eye – This first track is one of the rockers on the album. I thought it would be good to kick things off with some high energy. It’s about desperately wanting people to see things from your point of view.
- Invisible – This next one is the oldest song on the album. I wrote it back in 2003 when I was a missionary in New York City. We used to volunteer at the VA Hospital and got to know some of the patients who would come in regularly. When one of the patients we became friends with stopped showing up, I learned he had passed away so it inspired the words for this song. I recorded a version of this for my 50 Songs in 50 Weeks series but I thought I could do it better so this is a sort of reworked version with a different arrangement.
- Elephant In The Room – This next one is another rock song. I think it might have my favorite guitar solo I’ve ever done. Even though guitar solos aren’t cool anymore, I love it anyways. It’s about how we sometimes don’t talk about the things that bother us and it turned into passive aggressive anxiety.
- Moving On – This next one I wrote and recorded a few months ago for a music making course that I recently became a part of. We were supposed to write a song from a list of topics and “Moving On” was the one I chose, which became the song title. It’s about keeping a positive attitude, even when the world is dragging you down. I wasn’t originally planning on having it on the album but I felt like it added a nice upbeat, positive vibe, which balances out some of the darker songs.
- Flawed – This next one is a folk rock song. It’s along the lines of what my old band, Adding Machines used to play. There’s mandolin and I even play the saw with a violin bow. It’s kind of low in the mix but see if you can hear it. It’s about sin and reconciliation and coming to terms with your flaws.
- Make It Up To You – This next one’s a piano ballad. It’s the only song on the record without any percussion. I had the basic idea kicking around for a few years but wrote most of the lyrics and finished the song a couple months ago on a weekend when my wife and kids were out of town. We didn’t have a fight or anything but I wrote the song from the perspective of someone who had been in a fight and was waiting in their empty house for their loved one to come home.
- Life Support – This next song is an electronica based song. I entered a contest a couple years ago put on by the podcast Song Exploder and the website Splice, where I was given a series of recorded samples or audio clips and tasked with building a song around it. This is what I came up with. It’s written from the perspective of someone with cancer who is about to die. I wasn’t going to put it on the album originally because the sound is so different from everything else but when I listened to it in sequence with the other songs, I liked having the variety in there so it made the cut.
- Little Bird – This next one is another folk rock song. It’s built on kind of an off beat picking pattern, which is grounded with the kick drum playing constant quarter notes. The lyrics are from the perspective of someone having heavy social anxieties and trying to work through those issues about whether they are good enough and what other people think of them and finding hope.
- Only In Your Head – This next song is built around a piano part I came up with a few years ago. It’s gone through a few different iterations but where I’ve landed, there’s quite a few layers of piano parts and synthesizers, adding lots of texture to the overall sound. It gets pretty dense. It’s written from the perspective of someone wrestling with reality and with the what’s being told to us by the media in all it’s different forms.
- I Get By – This next one is a really old song I wrote back in 2005. My band at the time, Declaration, played it a few times but then it sort of got abandoned. Probably because I couldn’t hit the high notes very well. In 2012, I dusted it off for my 50 Songs in 50 Weeks in project and recorded a soft version with drum loops and synthesizers. When I got to thinking about what songs should belong on this album, I took a stab and making a rock version like the way I used to play it with the band. It’s kind of a dated 90s rock sound but at this point, I don’t really care. I think it’s pretty catchy. It’s about working through your problems and staying optimistic.
- The Last Waltz – This next song is a waltz written in 6/8 time. For this one, I dusted off my old violin I hadn’t played in several years and created a simple string arrangement but I layered so many parts it sounds like a full string orchestra. It’s written about a former classmate of mine who committed suicide. The title is borrowed from The Band’s concert film of their final live performance called, “The Last Waltz.”
- Brand New Life – For this last song, I decided after so many intense songs that I wanted to end the album on a positive, upbeat note. It’s also probably the most recently written song. It’s about being in love and proposing. I wrote a different love song and played it at our wedding about 12 years ago but I didn’t really think it was that great. So, this is my attempt at writing a better wedding song and I think it definitely tops the first one, at least.
Support this podcast through Patreon.
Stay tuned next week where I’ll share my top ten favorite albums of 2018. Bye for now.