This month marks the beginning of my first-ever solo recording project… I am really excited, to say the least! This album will be different than any other album I have participated in so far because 1) it’s going to be a bunch of traditional fiddle tunes and beloved standards that I’ve been playing forever, and 2) I will be doing my own live looping with my much-cherished Memory Man pedal. I got this pedal from Alan Sparhawk in 2012, but it’s taken me a few years to really get comfortable with layering in front of an audience. Earlier this year I took on a weekly gig specifically to force myself to become more fluent in looping… and now I finally feel like I am ready to lay down tracks.
For the first two recording sessions, it’s simply going to be me and the sound engineer at Sacred Heart Music Center. I want to go in and play as many songs as feels right, with minimal discussion and not too much over-thinking. I know that if I ask for input from friends and family right away, I will get nervous and focus too much on what others think. Their feedback will eventually be invaluable, but I don’t want to veer away from my original vision in the beginning stages.
I ultimately want this album to be a pure expression of who I am – nostalgic, fanciful, spontaneous, melancholic, busy, layered, relatable, winding, beautiful, cheerful, spiritual, and a bit contradictory. I’m hoping to put a twist on well-known melodies, but I am not planning to reinvent the wheel. I want these songs to be familiar and comforting – something you’d listen to on a long car trip, or in the bathtub, or while you’re dusting your living room on a Saturday morning before the kids wake up. I’m hoping to create an intricately woven tapestry of sound using familiar shapes and colors and imagery as my building blocks.
Trusting Your Inner Song
In a society that idolizes fame and success, it can be kind of scary to put out a piece of art or music. There seems to be no value in good enough, or a decent effort. So what if your creation if a flop? What if people trash the finished product, mock the concept, or tear apart your abilities? Unfortunately that kind of stuff happens all the time. Luckily in Duluth, the behavioral code of ethics (Minnesota Nice) generally spares artists from the most terribly-put and downright hurtful criticisms, but an underwhelming reception or a quiet dismissal of one’s work can also sting. Of course, in the face of these dangers, you have to make art anyway.
When faced with moments of self-doubt, it helps me to remember these two things:
- If your art is genuine and your efforts in earnest, someone will appreciate it. A few of the reasons I play music out in public (besides the fact that it is FUN) is to get in touch with the beauty in the world, to brighten up people’s lives, and to help tip the Cosmic Scale ever so slightly further toward the side of goodness. Music brings people together in an almost magical way; each song has the potential to reach the hearts of the individuals who are listening. If just one person is touched or comforted by your song, music has served its purpose as far as I’m concerned. So I guess what I’m saying is that your art doesn’t have to be a resounding success by the world’s standards… if you’re able to connect with people in a genuine way through art, it is ultimately worth it. It’s truly not about fame or popularity. Same goes for recording – release your music into the world and see whose hands it finds. This may surprise you.
- You are your own worst critic. Self-examination can be good up to a point because it provides you with motivation and helps you know what to focus on during practices… But it can also be destructive if left unchecked, morphing into a debilitating fear of mistakes and harmful self-talk. And those two things can suck the joy out of music in a heartbeat! For example, I have long known that I am more likely to hear my own mistakes than the audience (every little note I miss causes me to cringe inwardly)… But one night when I was performing I tuned into my inner dialogue for a moment, and it was appallingly negative! I was telling myself things like “That song was terrible!” or “People are finally going to realize you’re not a good musician after all.” or “Why can’t you ever play in tune?” But the strangest part was that I hadn’t even noticed these hurtful self-judgements… up to that point I had only felt that I was having an “off” night. Well, of course I was – I was mentally throwing rotten tomatoes and booing myself off the stage! This realization about the things we tell ourselves is initially kind of painful, but once we acknowledge that these thoughts are over-inflated and unkind (I wouldn’t say those things to my worst enemy), we can see them for what they are – the inner demon of fear – and begin to release them. Have you ever internally berated yourself for a creative act? If so, extend some compassion to your precious soul by making a point to ignore your inner critic for once.
Anyway, armed with these two grounding thoughts, I will soon be heading into the studio to release what has been bubbling up inside me for nearly a year. I hope I can honor these familiar melodies while infusing them with new life. I pray that this album will bring happiness to others, and that it will be created from a place of compassion and joy.
I will keep you posted as the project unfolds! If you’d like to make a donation to help pay for the creation of this album, please click the link below. As a token of my gratitude, I will send you a complimentary copy of the CD when it’s finished!
Thanks for reading, friends! Until next time…
Love, Peace & Goodwill ~
Gaelynn Lea 🙂