I spent today putting the final touches on the third track on my forthcoming solo EP. Growing up I always played in bands, but it wasn’t until university that I really found my musical voice, over countless hours of playing guitar and singing, both alone and with my close friend Joe (with whom I share an affinity for vocal harmonies and finger picking).
Throughout my formative years I invested an incredible amount of energy into learning how to use Logic, Reason, and other music production software packages, studying editing techniques, experimenting with sampling, heavy layering, vocal, guitar and bass effects, and synthesizer, which soon became features of all my musical endeavors. On the contrary throughout university I almost completely stopped recording music, instead focusing my efforts on actually playing my instruments – practicing guitar more seriously than ever before, and sometimes playing upwards of four hours in a single sitting.
Looking back at my previous efforts, they all sound the same: melodically directionless, completely lacking in character, and overproduced – essentially a collection of highly polished turds. Squeezed in between studies, sports, and typical teenage mischief none of my high school bands were particularly serious, writing most songs in an hour or two at a practices, or, worse, writing them literally as we recorded them, and the lack of effort shows. This time, however, I am recording songs that have taken shape over the last few years, worked and re-worked casually, allowed to develop naturally, with no deadlines or rushes.
I have also abandoned technical music engineering in favour of a more natural, acoustic, and lo-fi experience. Over the last few years I have come to value character over polish, and quality songwriting over pretty textures and tones. This EP is being recorded in my garden shed with a single microphone (not direct line-in recordings as I would have once done), my vocals accompanied by my Baby Taylor steel-stringed acoustic guitar alone (and my mum’s old Fender banjo on one of the tracks).
The result so far has been an assortment of the most personally meaningful songs I have ever written, and in my opinion the best I have written to date. It’s funny how sometimes taking everything back to basics can be the best way to move forward. It is also terrifying as any wrong notes or wobbles will no longer be hidden by the sea of other instruments and textures that used to define my music. On the other hand, I believe music is most beautiful when it is an expression of self, and that is as much about one’s quirks and blemishes as it is about one’s perfections.