As a songwriter, I am naturally inclined to be nostalgic—sometimes, to a fault.—but today is different. Today’s nostalgia comes from a place of pure excitement. You see, exactly a year ago today, I did something that I had dreamt of my entire life up until that point.
On January 14, 2014, I released my very first CD.
It took about two years from start to finish to get “Love is Alive,” out. It was a long process that was both immensely rewarding and terribly frustrating. I knew absolutely nothing about the behind-the-scenes of making a cd when I started this process back in 2012. So, I went through an intense learning curve as I figured out how to fight for what I want, and make sure my voice gets heard. I think that is one of the hardest things to do, especially with your first album. There was a part of me that felt I should simply leave it to the experts who were helping me produce this album, to trust their opinion even if it differed from mine. I guess to some extent, that’s what I did, but of course, I had a larger part of me that knew what I wanted and was determined to get them to listen to my own opinion, even if it differed from theirs.
That need to be heard is what has prompted me to pursue Audio Engineering in college. (I will talk more in depth about that in next week’s blog post.) Today, however, I want to give you guys a list of something I have learned through making my first album, and some general things I want to do for this next one.
1. Don’t be afraid to revise your songs. When I finished writing the songs for my first album, I wasn’t really aware that revising your songs was something that most everyone does. I was lucky enough to work with some wonderful songwriters who helped me to get the best out of my songs, and clean them up a bit. I didn’t really make any major changes to any of the songs. It was simply a matter of looking at each one with fresh eyes, and listening to it as if I had never heard it before, and then making decisions that serve the song. This time around, I think I will spend a little more time revising my songs before I try to head into the studio.
2. Know your songs. Someone somewhere down the line gave me this advise as I was starting the process of creating “Love is Alive.” At the time, and even now, the advice seems obvious. Clearly, I have to know my own songs. How could I not? It goes deeper than that though. Knowing your song means, not just knowing the chords, lyrics and melody, but also knowing why this song makes you feel something today. On numerous occasions, I have played through a song I wrote months ago that once used to bring me to tears, and realized that I’m not crying over it anymore. It’s natural that that would happen, but I have to then figure out what it is about this song that DOES make me feel something at this specific moment in time.
When you go to record your songs, you have to make sure you are able to feel them. (Even if it has been a year since you wrote it, even if you have sung through it four times that day, even if it doesn’t make you feel the same thing it used to.) It has to make you feel SOMETHING. You just have to figure out what that something is.
3. Speak up. If you have ideas, voice them. If you are not sure something is sounding quite right, say something. If you really like the way something is sounding, let the person who is working on it know. It is important to understand the value of your opinion as the artist. However, always remember that anything you do decide to “speak up” about should be done in a professional, honest, and polite way, and you should to be willing to listen to other people's ideas, concerns, or input concerning your music. It isn’t always easy to do that last part, but if is something that could potentially open up a lot of doors for your music. At the end of the day though, you have to feel good about the music you are creating. So, listen, try new things, and be open to different ideas, but also be willing to make the decisions concerning your music that are right for you, even if that means fighting for it.
There is nothing quite like finishing your first album. It is one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. I am looking forward to producing my second album and all the things I will learn from it. Really, I am looking forward to making music for the rest of my life. This is what I love to do, what I have been called to do, and I am so excited that this is what I actually get to do!
Happy 1 year anniversary, "Love is Alive."