Not too long ago, I decided to start working on a new Yellowgold album. Yellowgold has been my solo project for 20+ years. Pretty much any music that I write alone (aside from the electronic music I produced for years as Raygun) falls into that category. Over the years, Yellowgold has encapsulated so many different genres and experiments. During that time, I've played with a long list of approaches, recorded with a wide assortment of gear, and learned a lot about the entire process along the way. This album, as is every album that I do, is a culmination of that previous experience.
About one month into production of my next album, I realized that my approach has never been more dialed in. It involves seeking inspiration in music I listen to, brainstorming ideas for genres I'd like to tackle, playing my guitar and bass enough to regain precious callouses on my fingers, and all in all, simply finding ways to be inspired to write an album's worth of new material. That part is always easier said than done, as being creative at the click of a heel is never an easy feat.
What I'm constantly seeking when I set out for a project like this is the feeling I get when an unwritten song idea jumps into my brain and won't let go. Where every waking moment is consumed by that one song, even though I've yet to play even a single lick of guitar, but knowing full well that once I do, it's going to sound close to what I hear looping in my head.
It's overwhelming. It's like a song on repeat, over and over again, and interspersed throughout playback, it gets more defined and evolves into a complex composition, complete with multiple instrumental parts, multilayered vocal harmonies, and percussive splashes. If you ran into me, you'd never know that everything you say is being layered on top of this rich soundtrack in my mind as I continue to write and develop that song while you're asking me what I had for breakfast. Your only clue might be the faint sound of my teeth clicking softly to the invisible beat in my head.
When this happens, everything in my life gets a bit blurry, simply to make room for the attention given to molding that song into something ultimately tangible; like a pile of clay being shaped into a statue.
I love this process. I live for it. It's a level of inspiration that is impossible to describe, especially in text on a blog page. But it makes my heart beat a little faster than normal and sharpens my senses. It's the kind of thing that, when I'm in the thick of it, reminds me just how important music is to my soul.
In my 20+ years of writing original music, I can honestly say that writing this album has been one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had doing this. My techniques have proven to be more effective than ever, and I've grown a new found love for some new tools that have really enhanced my ability to take a snapshot of those fleeting ideas passing through my brain, and later turn them into fully realized songs.
I'm a guy who loves to play music, has a background in audio technology, and a passion for the process of production. My goal with this blog is to highlight the things that have made my life easier as I approached the idea of going from zero to fully realized album in a matter of months. I'm simply opting to share with you a number of the lessons I've learned and tricks I continue to discover along the way. I'm also going to share with you my own processes, start to finish, on how I write a song. There will be some technical how-to's, but I'll likely focus more on the bigger picture by investigating some philosophies that I've gleaned on the process over the years.
But make no mistake. I do realize that I'm just another guy writing music in a room. Possibly exactly like you. I don't pretend to think that my music is breaking any ground that hasn't been tackled before. But it's music from my heart. Opening up the process like this is quite revealing. In some ways, it's a bit uncomfortable to put myself on a table for everyone to dissect like this. So please understand the following.
Think of this blog as a way to see that you aren't alone in the world of producing music alone in front of the warming glow of your DAW's monitor. There are a lot of us writing music that we care about. I've done enough Googling in moments of frustration to know that I would have loved to find a site devoted to sharing this kind of from-the-trenches experience when I'm stuck and looking for inspiration/ideas/help/distraction. That is what I hope to provide: One perspective out of many. Nothing more, nothing less.
Without further ado, up next: I'll attempt to share with you how I start to conceive of an idea for a song. Where that initial spark comes from. Sometimes, this can be the hardest part of all.