Hello everyone! After three solid years of work, I’m happy to finally release my latest Yellowgold album unto the Internet! YES THREE YEARS. Let’s just say I’ve been really busy, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
I thought I’d spend some time over the course of the next week or two pulling back the curtain, so to speak, on the album: Concept and approach of the album, as well as a song by song breakdown because (as you may or may not know) each song has a story! And by that I don’t necessarily mean the story told in the lyrics (although each song has that kind of story too). But I’m sure every musician will probably agree that writing a song usually comes from SOMEWHERE and often its not at all where you might think.
To celebrate the launch of the album, though, I thought that today I’d write about the album concept as a whole, so here goes.
After finishing Ever One in 2013 and receiving such positive feedback from that, I knew that I wanted to go back to the well and hit it again. I also knew I wanted to take a bit of a break. I’ll be honest: The way I write and record can be all consuming. I can go for days or weeks doing absolutely nothing but singing voice memos into Evernote (often on a daily basis… that in itself may sound overwhelming but nowadays, it’s such a part of my routine that I’ve amassed hundreds of song ideas and its growing without effort). And then at some point, I’ll get the urge to sit down at my DAW and start playing around with ideas. If I strike on something that inspires me, it becomes an obsession that I’m chasing and that happens AROUND everything else (Full Time podcast host at TWiT, Full Time dad and husband at home). All this to say that I was a bit burnt out after Ever One, but I knew I wanted to continue working on something at some point, and while I was waiting, I was just basically dropping ideas into Evernote. OK then.
Then we bought a house. This is important for the sound of Fever Dreamer because it messed with my comfort level of production and writing.
At our old rental in Petaluma, I literally had a separate (but tiny) office that I produced in. It had a door that I could close which allowed me to be less concerned about the noise I was making late at night and also let me live in the illusion of being on my own while writing, lowering inhibitions.
Well, the new house that we bought DOES have a studio area… the Den where I have all my equipment, sound panels, and guitars hanging on the walls. I did my best to spruce it up and make it an inspiring environment in which to write late at night. The only problem is that the Den has no door to it. It’s open to the kitchen which is open to the stairs which is open to all three bedrooms. This means that I much more exposed while writing.
So when it came time for me to start constructing ideas for a new album, I knew I would be writing the lions share of the music late at night AROUND everything else I do in life. And writing in an exposed room meant I felt like I needed to be quieter during recording than I was at our previous home. Everything at night would need to be done with headphones and contained within the DAW. Thankfully, audio technology is awesome and allows for that. But what I realize in retrospect is that limitation pushed me towards a sound where much of the vocals on the album are whispery and breathy. Being in headphones also brings your ears a bit closer to the subtle details of a soundscape, so I tended to be a bit more experimental with effects and layering.
The other big component was that I was doing much of this writing late at night which, I’ll be honest, is probably my favorite time of the day to record. Now granted, I’m DEAD TIRED when 9pm rolls around and it would be so much easier for me to just plop down and watch Netflix, or just go to bed (give me a break. I'm what my kids would consider to be "old".) But I really had to motivate myself to turn on my DAW and just strum a few chords, or load up a drum set… anything because if I was able to push myself over that speed bump, I’d be golden and spend 2-3 hours cranking away. Sometimes much more to be honest. (many 2-3 sleep-hour nights)
And I’d say the moral of this particular part of the story is that often limitations unlock new avenues of exploration. It would be easy for me to look at the open studio space, the late at night restrictions, and the fear of waking up my family and say “well, this won’t work.” Instead, I literally set out to see WHAT album I would write within those restrictions. As a result, much of Fever Dreamer is whispy, ethereal, effects laden, and not only that, it’s the sound of the entire album. That restriction enabled me to complete a song that followed a very specific and intentional theme in the way it sounds, a first for me to be honest.
OK I’m rambling. And if it isn’t already obvious: These blog posts won’t be heavily edited. I’ll just dump this stuff out and move on cause I ain’t got time to edit. But I hope it’s informative. I REALLY love to read about how people approach their own creative processes and philosophies so I suppose I’m writing what I love to read. I hope you do to.