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….

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