Ep. 108: Starting Over – Album Listening Party

It’s been a while since I’ve put out a podcast episode. The reason being is that I’ve been busy working on a new album, which I’m pleased to say is now done. It’s called Starting Over and it’s an album about getting through dark times and finding light at the end of the tunnel. I’m gonna talk about each of the songs and play it for you in a minute, but first, let me give you a little background about the album as a whole.

So, between the pandemic and things happening in my personal life, I’ll be honest, it’s been a rough couple years. And after feeling the toll on my mental health, I eventually decided I needed help. So I did a number of things. I started going to therapy and reaching out to friends I trust and opening up about my struggles. And I started going on more walks and connecting with the outdoors, and practicing meditation, and prayer and kind of listening more to my inner voice. And these have all been really helpful things but I’ve also turned to songwriting.

My last album came out December of 2018 and since then, I’ve recorded quite a few instrumental tracks but I hadn’t done much writing complete songs with lyrics. I had a bunch of little song ideas collected on the voice memos app of my phone but I had a hard time putting words to the ideas, so it’s mostly just me singing gibberish phrases over guitar chords.

Around October of last year, I began to feel more of a need to express myself in order to process some of these emotions. So I took my favorites from all these song ideas I had stored up on my phone and started writing lyrics. And once I got going, the songs poured out faster than they have in a long time. I was able to finish writing 11 songs in about a week. I’ve been more personal in my lyrics than I ever have in regards to what I’m going through and how I’m feeling and It’s been a challenge for me to be so vulnerable but it’s been helpful to my soul to be a little more introspective and express myself more openly.

After I was done writing, I immediately started recording and after about 2 weeks, the album was about 80% done. Then it sat that way for several months until eventually I came back to it, and bit by bit added and reworked the arrangements until I was finally satisfied.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Wilco lately, especially their albums Summerteeth and The Whole Love, which definitely had an influence on the sound and the arrangement choices with this album.

My wife, Melissa did the photography and artwork, which I think turned out really cool, so huge thanks to her.

I also want to mention that I was fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Utah Division of Arts & Museums, which allowed me to upgrade my audio equipment and get a better quality recording, so big thanks to them.

I hope sharing these songs will be beneficial to those listening. They’re kind of like little snapshots in time for me and If you’re going through something similar, I hope it will help you feel less alone.

So with that, I want to jump into the songs. In future podcast episodes, I’m going to break down the production of each song and talk about how it was made, so look out for those, but for now, I’m just gonna give more of a brief background about what each song is about.

1. Stand On Your Own – I wrote most of this song in 2019, almost immediately after my last album, Good Grief was released. I was riding off of the energy and momentum of the time and wanted to give myself a “pump up” song about following your dreams and supporting your friends and loved ones in their struggles. I heard a quote a while back that “people don’t care how much you know til they know how much you care” and so a version of that line made its way into the lyrics of the song. It’s an outlier on the album, in the sense that I started writing it        over two years before the other songs, but it’s also the most upbeat track. I felt like it was a good way to kick off the album before diving into darker territory.

2. Figuring This Out – This one is about the feeling of insecurity in a relationship. When things get rocky and not how you plan, it’s easy to start feeling like your life is stuck, in some way. But eventually you get through it and learn to better communicate and compromise. There always seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. This song has not one, but two nods to the Phil Collins song, “In The Air Tonight.” There’s the line about drowning in the verse similar to his and I also slipped in the iconic drum fill to close out the song.

3. Not Easy – This song is about trying to come to terms with your place in the world and getting perspective. Like a lot of people, I have big dreams and ambitions. I used to turn to people like Steve Jobs as a model of accomplishing big things. He was quoted as saying he wanted to “put a dent in the universe.” I’ve certainly had that desire (and by the way, a line about making a dent made it into the lyrics) but now I’m questioning the sentiment. It’s made me feel like if I haven’t accomplished something big, then my life hasn’t been worthwhile. I’ve had to learn to let go of that notion, be okay with where I’m at, and focus on the things I have control over. As one of my friends, Kimberly Knighton wrote in a song, “You don’t have to save the world. Just leave it better than you found it.”

4. Killing Time – This one is a story from the perspective of a teenager struggling to find a purpose in life. They’re watching the world fall apart, the future looks bleak, their parents are constantly yelling at them, and they start feeling like “what’s the point?” They’re never going to be satisfied with life so it feels like they’re just running out the clock, killing time until they kick the bucket.

5. Feeling Like A Ghost – This one is about fearing death. Watching people around me pass away has left me with this sense that life is fragile and that I or anyone I love could be gone anyday. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that we’re all going to die some day. It can be really depressing to think about but it’s also made me want to make the time I have in life count, in terms of keeping my priorities straight.

6. Heaven Help Us – This song stems from a personal story. My family recently went on a hike in southern Utah, where we underestimated our timing and ended up having to walk in the pitch dark for a few hours along steep terrain with just the light from our cell phones. We made it back fine but there was this fear in my head the whole time that we would get lost. I made the situation worse in my head, which led to some intense prayers. And so, the worst-case, “lost in the desert” scenario became the basis for this song. It’s also a religious metaphor for our time on earth and our reliance on God to return home.

7. I’m So Sorry That I Didn’t Understand – This one is about a friend of mine who recently went through a divorce. It’s about looking back at the situation with regret and wishing you had done things differently; wishing that you have communicated more clearly and been more empathetic. The songwriting style is very much a homage to Bob Dylan.

8. End Of My Rope – This one is about feeling intense moments of depression and anxiety. In these dark moments, it feels like everything is collapsing in, that the world is out to get you and there’s no end in sight.     I tried to have some contrasting elements in the arrangement. The simple two-chord progression and steady beat are at odds with the very chaotic, noisy lead guitar parts that duel with each other. The intention is to simulate the intense chaos going on in a person’s head on top of the repetitive monotony of day-to-day life and the breaking points that occur.

9. Someone Else – This one is about feeling stuck in life and longing for things to be different. At times, I just wanted to give up and start over. But while caught in the struggle, you learn to get through the hopeless moments by talking it through with people you trust. In terms of the progression of the album, this opens up the last three songs, which focus on healing and coming to terms with myself.

10. Wait For It – This one is about learning to be patient with your own progress and kind to yourself. Change is a process that takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. As I’ve worked on strengthening the spiritual side of my life, it’s given me peace and helped give perspective to my problems.

11. Coming Around – This one is about my hesitation to be vulnerable. I’ve kept a lot of my problems to myself for a long time because I didn’t want to burden anyone. Over time, it built up and felt like too much to handle. Eventually I realized I needed to get help so I decided it was time to get therapy and start opening up to the people around me. I’ve had to come around to the idea of being vulnerable (hence the title), but that decision has helped set me on a better course. There’s strength to admitting you need help. We’re not meant to do this life alone.

Thanks so much for listening and letting me share this album with you. If you want to hear it again, it’s available on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and all the other streaming services. Please share it with people.

If you are interested in licensing any of these songs for your podcast or video projects, I have instrumental versions of each of the songs available.

We’ll see you next time.