I've been working on a new EP called Adulthood over the past several months. Originally I wanted it to have a live recording feel in the vein of Raw Material (except better because I asked some amazing musicians to come into the studio and join me...shout outs to Genevieve and Brockmann!), but then I listened back to the recordings and something about them didn't feel fully realized. The drums and bass sounded amazing but I wasn't 100% behind my own performance. I started to get into a funk about the whole thing, like, "Aaaarrrggggh I have to do it all over again! I suck! Blah!" But then I remembered that I have a tendency to be fatalistic about things, and I came up with some ideas that we could execute at the home studio of my engineer, Joe Davi, that could help out the songs. On one song in particular, Righteous, I saw that we needed to redo the vocals and guitar completely, so we decided to start with that one. I also asked my friend and fellow singer/songwriter Lachi to come to the studio with me to help me out. Thank god for that woman. Not only did she help me to stop stressing the fuck out and have FUN with the vocals on Righteous, she pushed me to realize that if I redo the guitar and vocals on all of the songs, I will be much happier with the entire thing. Now we're half way through bringing the EP to a place that I'm super proud of and excited about sharing. It will take a little longer than I previously thought, but who cares???
When we finished working on Righteous, I left Joe's studio beaming. When I got back to my apartment, a deep urgency came over me. I wanted to find new music to listen to and fall in love with, and I wanted it immediately! Something about feeling excited about music that I created made me start fiending for the creations of other musicians. And so began my current state of falling in love with a bunch of new music that has initiated an inspiration loop. It started with Courtney Barnett.
In that first burst of happiness after my time in Joe's studio, I decided to go to Metacritic and peruse the critically acclaimed artists of the moment because I figured I should know who the artists currently being buzzed about are, anyway. When I was in my funk-mode about my own music, I was feeling resentful of music as a whole for a couple of months, and I could only listen to albums completely outside of my genre that I already had loved previously, like the Goat Rodeo Sessions or something. But with my new rosy outlook on life, I wanted to listen to other female singer/songwriters in particular! So clicking through the Metacritic top 20 at that moment, I found Courtney Barnett. Fucking great. It felt like fate taking hold when the first song on the album was a sketch of a scene between two people in an elevator: I had just written a song about this horrible experience I recently had in an elevator with a stupid jerk who trapped me in there! (Don't ask...the future EP that that song will be on is tentatively called "Motherfuckers" in my mind...a compilation of songs about various stupid jerks.) Courtney! I love you! Every song has these layered, vivid lyrics that feel like prose. Her singing is so straightforward and clear; she is a storyteller through and through.
In my newfound love-state, googling and googling, I saw that Courtney had been on an episode of All Songs Considered. A connoisseur of both podcasts and NPR, I'm not sure why I wasn't subscribed to that show already so I listened to that particular episode and also subscribed. This led to my next love affair.
Kate Tempest! I love you! Another brilliant lyricist, this time in the hip hop genre. Her episode of All Songs Considered also cut to my core for reasons beyond great music; she spoke about how she's grateful that she's starting to find success in her music career at this point in her life, at 29 years old, because she's in a place where she's ready for it and appreciative of it.
Of course, there are some amazing super young artists out there as well! All Songs Considered also led me to my next love affair: Girlpool.
Cleo and Harmony, I love you! Katie Presley picked the first song from their Tiny Desk concert and the title track of their latest album, Before the World Was Big, as her early choice for her favorite music of 2015 so far. Nostalgia about childhood is one of my main pastimes so this song was everything for me. Yes, yes, yes: "I miss how it felt standing next to you / wearing matching dresses before the world was big."
Meanwhile, back in the studio, Joe, Lachi and I tackled the re-recording of the vocals and guitar for my song Rock After Rock. Then I put some vocal harmonies in, Lachi laid down some lovely background vocals and some understated synth, and Joe added some lead guitar which I am obsessed with. Again, I left the studio with that high-on-life vibe, so stoked about the direction the song had taken. Walking to the L train, Lachi asked me whether I had thought of where I would want to do an EP release show. She suggested Rockwood Music Hall as a good option, so yesterday I started perusing the upcoming show schedule to listen to some of the folks that are slated to play there in the near future. I clicked through a few people at random, then stopped cold on a song that completely grabbed me. Enter my next love, Kevin Garrett, who's playing at Rockwood this Saturday.
This song! Kevin, I love you! I immediately went and downloaded the EP, and googled around to follow him on Twitter. His most recent tweet at that moment led me to the next queen of a human being that I am now fully taken by: Emily King.
Aaaaaah! Amazingness personified! I found a review where the the entire album was available for streaming, and I could not take my headphones off and pull my ears away until I had listened to the whole thing. In the middle of the second song, I opened iTunes and bought the album. In the middle of the third, I bought a ticket to her upcoming show at Bowery Ballroom. She. Is. Everything. Apparently she had a Grammy nominated album back in 2007 so I'm not sure how I missed that, but I'm so grateful to be discovering her right now! Apparently her parents were a singing duo; check out the adorability:
The last song on The Switch is a beautiful ode to her parents and it's a complete tear-jerker. It's such a tasty, lush album from start to finish. I listened to it in its entirety again while riding my bike to a cappella rehearsal, so entranced, so grateful that I still have the ability to feel this way about new music. Emily, I love you! See you on July 27th!
In my more depressed moments, I've been scared that I'll never fall in love with music the way that I was obsessed with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill as an 11-year-old discovering my own musical tastes for the first time. I've worried that I'll never sing every lyric with such gusto as I did when I was a high schooler so taken with all those artists from Saddle Creek Records: Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, The Faint; how they completely took over every car ride and every morning getting ready to go to school. But today I'm realizing the parallel between those obsessions and my current burst. When I was into The Miseducation, that was when I started writing music of my own for the first time. When I was into those Saddle Creek artists, I was finishing my very first album of songs to sell as a project for my Econ class. Then I remembered the song I wrote after I heard Once Again, John Legend's second album (excuse the slightly cringey intro to this 5-year-old video):
Creativity is a feedback loop. Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter have talked about this on their wonderful podcast : to be a writer, first you must be a reader. Apparently one of Sherman Alexie's (hilarious) pet peeves is when writers say that they can't read other people's writing when they're working on their own. Hello, you must be a reader to be a writer! Being a fan is fundamental. This phenomenon spans every creative field of every conceivable type, and it gets to the nature of what art is: Deep communication with other human beings. I am so grateful for this current period of falling in love with and getting excited about other artists, and it's no coincidence that it's happening when I'm feeling so good about my own creativity. Today is my birthday, happy birthday to me: I still have the ability to fall in love.