Thursday, May 31, 2007


I'm scared.

I have to sing a whole night of songs tomorrow night, and I know I can do it, but I'm worried simply because I haven't done that (sing the whole night) in over a year.

We're gigging as a trio tomorrow night (which means a nice fat payday), and it's downtown on 6th street during the ROT rally (a big biker event this weekend in Austin). It should be an awesome crowd.

It's weird, as much as I know I can do certain things, vocally, I don't want to be overconfident. I realize that most people won't notice an out-of-tune note here and there, but I will, and being the guy I am, I want to be as close to perfect as possible, because it adds weight to demanding that of others.

It should be a great time, though.

We auditioned two more people, both very different. First was a bassist named Luis - he was good, sang pretty well, and won major points from me because his tester riff was "Glamour Boys" by Living Colour. Then we had a singer, Rob - more of a karaoke singer than a musician, but not terrible. Too inexperienced to join the band without other musical skills, though. I won't take anyone fronting the band who can't sing better than me, especially if they don't play an instrument.

That's all for now...come see the show tomorrow night at 10pm at the Iron Cactus - 6th and Trinity. The Musical Schizo comes to life... :)

Monday, May 28, 2007

It's been a little while...

Life is really good at intervening.

Another lesson of making matter how much you want to get stuff done, sometimes life (your responsibilities to yourself and the ones you love) is simply much more important.

Right now I've been working on getting the Roman Holiday demo with me singing together, because, well, we don't know what the future holds, and we might as well have something that will sound like what we sound like (i.e. with me singing lead) for getting new venues.

It's all up in the air as far as auditions are concerned...especially considering last Thursday's auditions were horrifying. First, we had this nice gentleman named Scott. He belonged at the American Idol auditions, because he was completely deluded. The man can't sing. He can barely play guitar. His tone was horrible. Not to mention the fact that he would be a William Hung-esque nightmare fronting a party band.

The second auditioner (Whitney) didn't bother to show up - "oh, I forgot..." Look, girl - show a little goddamn respect. All I know is that if I tell someone I'm interested in being a part of their band, I'm actually interested in the band and I will fucking remember to show up. Truly pathetic.

Well, that's all for now. I'm sure you can tell I've been stressed. More auditions this week...I want this to be over so we can just get back to the band and I can get back to making my own music. As of right now I have to learn our entire songlist, because I don't want to have a music stand with a lyric book on stage if I can help it. I'll probably just put the book on the floor, just in the event of catastrophic brain farts...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I'm a musical arsehole.

The singer for my cover band just quit, and that leaves us in an interesting transitional phase with a lot of options:
-we stick it out as a trio for a little while, pocketing more cash (good, but our sound suffers)
-we find a direct replacement - a singer that doesn't play anything (NO is my answer to that)
-we find another bass player and move me over to lead vocals and occasional guitar (sounds fun to me)
-we find essentially another "me" - a multi-instrumentalist who can sing lead - and split the frontman duties

So far, no replies to our well-worded Craigslist ad, and it leads me to ponder the circumstances of the departure of members of this band over the past five months.

Casey quit because it wasn't fun anymore
Patrick quit because it wasn't fun anymore

I have a theory about that. The problem? Me.

I loom over the others in the bands I inhabit, because to me, part of the fun is getting it as close as you can while still maintaining your personality. I believe in dedicating yourself to improving your performance as much as possible. It isn't just a release for me - it's a job, too, and the crowd deserves the best I can give them. That takes work outside of practice. When people don't do homework, well, there's nothing that pisses me off more, because I see it as disrespectful, even if it's simple laziness.

I view being in the band as a part-time job that demands excellence.

I think that's the fundamental difference that led to their departures. It wasn't musical differences, it was two people who, for whatever reason, didn't want to put in the same amount of work as the other members of the band, because to them, it was more a "okay, now let's go play" situation. No outside-the-shed actual work, just show up and expect to be able to pull it off.

That was fine in the old days of the band, (when, honestly, they sucked ass) but if a band wants to grow and be fairly compensated for their time and effort, there has to actually be some effort. Some dedication to the cause, and respect for the others who really want things to get better.

As much as I procrastinate about things sometimes, I'm anything but lazy if work needs to be done on a song. I feel I owe it to the others who are working as hard or harder to get their parts together to show up knowing more than they do.

The mere fact that the two recently-departed members of the band (and I love them both) weren't up for that makes me both sad and angry, not only because I pushed them away from something they found fun, but also because in my view my actions should have inspired them to want to grow instead of just sucking the fun out of it.

Such is the life of the musical asshole...

Monday, May 14, 2007


Sometimes I have a hard time allowing myself to be really naked emotionally when I write. I think many self-conscious songwriters go through this. Some hide behind metaphor, some hide in their characters in songs, and some simply don't have to write songs that are personal.

I've spent the vast majority of my time as a songwriter toeing the fence. I want to write really dark songs about the depths of my psyche, but every time I get in that mode, one of two things happens: 1. I wimp out and the song ends up sucking. 2. I go all the way and scare myself to the point where I don't ever share those songs with anyone.

I started thinking about the emotional connections people have to songs. Some relate to the characters in the narrative, some relate to the simple joy of the melody, some really think that the lyricist managed to express exactly what they have been thinking. This was the case for me on the new Rush tune "Faithless":

I've got my own moral compass to steer by
A guiding star beats a spirit in the sky
And all the preaching voices -
Empty vessels of dreams so loud
As they move among the crowd
Fools and thieves are well disguised
In the temple and market place

Like a stone in the river
Against the floods of spring
I will quietly resist

Like the willows in the wind
Or the cliffs along the ocean
I will quietly resist

I don't have faith in faith
I don't believe in belief
You can call me faithless
I still cling to hope
And I believe in love
And that's faith enough for me

I've got my own spirit level for balance
To tell if my choice is leaning up or down
And all the shouting voices
Try to throw me off my course
Some by sermon, some by force
Fools and thieves are dangerous
In the temple and market place

Like a forest bows to winter
Beneath the deep white silence
I will quietly resist

Like a flower in the desert
That only blooms at night
I will quietly resist

Neil Peart, drummer and über-lyricist, captured the "zeitgeist" of my recent emotions in this piece.

My wife often has a hard time listening to music because it affects her so personally - it really gets inside her and moves her. I've never had that same experience - it might be the more clinical approach to music I've had over the course of my life. My daughter is showing signs of being just like my wife. I just hope it doesn't keep her from wanting to play music. I think both she and the boy will be fantastic musicians, if they want to be.

Either way, emotions about and in music are such an integral part of the experience that I thought I'd muse on them a little bit.

Whatever moves you musically is good - and if it sounds good (to you), it is good (to you).

Strike that balance when you create, and it's a satisfying experience.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Acoustic Guitar

Today I reminded myself how much I adore the sound of a good acoustic guitar.

I hadn't picked up my Larrivée in a few days, and was looking to just plunk a little while I was downloading some stuff, so I grabbed it.

Immediately, I was just strumming a simple G chord just to enjoy the fullness of its sound - then I was ripping off some little bluesy licks and playing my standard "solo with thumb bassline" thing I often do when I'm testing a guitar.

After that, I started to play a few of my songs - even a couple of the more electrified variety - because they work so well on an acoustic. I've heard many songwriters say that that's the test of a good song - if it survives well with just an acoustic guitar. I don't quite agree (Pearl Jam's "Alive" comes to mind), but it is a nice sentiment.

I was listening to some tunes on Rhapsody (I'm a member), and I saw that Green Day re-released their first two albums (the ones from Lookout! Records) on Reprise. It was way cool - especially the bonus tracks on 1,039 Smoothed-Out Slappy Hours. They were from a pre-Kerplunk radio interview on WAAF in Boston. They played a few songs totally acoustic, with just Billie Joe and Mike singing (and Billie Joe also playing guitar, obviously). They sounded great...even in this "way before they were stars" session. I've always wished they'd go back and re-record those first two albums with their current production. They would sound huge.

Jumping back to my acoustic, though, I also was playing some of the chord/tab things I had saved from the "internets" years back, including some Monkees, Soul Asylum, and Turtles songs - and they all sounded just wonderful with just my singing and playing. It got me thinking - I need to just record me singing a ton of songs and playing acoustic. Sort of like Ed Robertson's "Bathroom Sessions", only with covers as well.

Ed plays a Larrivée, too. Or he did. Now I mostly see him with Taylor guitars.

But as some say, "that's neither here nor there..."

For you guys who compose in other ways, grab an acoustic, and take a crack at your tunes. I bet you'll get a kick out of the result.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Clever examples of songwriting, to me...

Here are a few examples of wordplay I enjoy:

From Fountains of Wayne's "Hung Up On You":
And I can't dial the phone just now
Even though I know your number
Can't bring my broken heart to be untrue
Like you did today you'll say
Goodbye the same old way
Ever since you hung up on me
I'm hung up on you

From Sloan's "Autobiography":
I'm writing "young and gifted" in my autobiography
I figured who would know better than me
I'm certainly the former, but I'm not so much the latter
But no one's gonna read it, so I'm sure it doesn't matter

Or how about the Odds' "Someone Who's Cool":
In natural selection
I've avoided all detection
And the - tender bits underneath
All with window dressing
And calculated guessing
And a bark bigger than my teeth

These merely scratch the surface of what I was talking about in the other post. I just wanted to give some props to some bands you may not have heard before.


One of my favorite aspects of songwriting is wordplay.

I almost invariably try to find ways to twist words or come up with clever lines to basically make myself smile.

One of my favorite things to do in a song is a thing you often see in poetry - essentially using the same sounds in alternating lines, but varying the words.

A good example (from "We Really Just Don't Care"):
Nobody sings a little song just to sing
Nobody brings a little wrong just to sting

Or maybe this one (from "Without You With Me Tonight" - written with my brother Rob):
So I know that I'll spend this evening lonely
But I can wait 'cause you are my one and only
'Cause I really think you are the one for me
I would even look past infidelity
My evening just couldn't be right
Without you with me tonight

It's little things like this that make me feel like I'm accomplishing something as a lyricist - telling the story, but doing it in a tuneful and lyrically clever way - not just stringing things together in some sort of weird baroque stream-of-consciousness thing (a la Alanis Morissette - but she's not always like that).

The bottom line is, it doesn't work for every song, but I find it really fun to find new and interesting ways to make words go together and work together both rhythmically and sonically.

I'm sure if I wrote stories my prose would be quite flowery and precious.

More to come...

Monday, May 7, 2007


I find inspiration in the weirdest places - it could be a touching scene from a movie, the look on a child's face, a fruit display in a grocery really doesn't matter.

The challenge I have is taking that inspiration and turning it into something before I destroy myself with self-editing.

Too many songwriters participate in the folly of denying their gift.

Even if what's coming out is crap, you should let it out. There is time later for editing and fixing things - turning them into something great. Let the inspiration take you to a place that allows you to create - don't crap all over an idea before you allow it to come to fruition, or you will end up dazzlingly unsatisfied with your ability to create, and with a healthy helping of writer's block, because you've gotten into a pattern of intentionally blocking inspiration because you're judging it before its job is done.

Being open to everything gives you far more material from which you can create a masterpiece (at least for you - we can't all be Lennon and McCartney or Randy Newman).

Personally, I've been working past my inherent need to self-edit when it comes to songwriting, and it's freed me up a lot. Getting ideas out is much easier when you aren't artistically constipated by your own fears that it "won't be cool enough" or "won't be good enough".

Considering how happy I've been with my wife and family, it's been hard to write things that are emotionally raw, because they feel sort of dishonest (as I'm not really sad) - but we all have things in our lives that drive us to create. And we all have topics that we find easier to write about than others. Heartbreak is an easy and obvious one. Concern and pain for someone you love is another less obvious choice, but that often comes across as preachy. Writing about a subject works well, but only if you're a good storyteller or good at description.

Basically it all comes down to allowing something to move you to the point that it creates musical inspiration, whether it be a cool chord progression (I've always been fond of the motion and tension of C#m-A-E-G#7), some assholes you know (see the song "Miserable Bastard"), certain world leaders, or just your favorite bass or guitar.

Don't kill inspiration before it has a chance to take bloom. That's my songwriting tip of the week.

Sunday, May 6, 2007


I Just wanted to welcome everyone to my new Musical Schizo blog.

In this blog I'll introduce new songs, talk about inspirations for my songwriting, reveal the methods I use for writing and recording my compositions, and share "war stories" about my various gigs around Austin and elsewhere.

I hope you will enjoy it as much as I will creating it!