Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Basic Human Struggle

I am learning more and more each day about a particular, and pervasive, universal, human experience: the struggle to do what is right - when it is situationally difficult or just "internally", emotionally, willfully difficult.

Sometimes we face external pressures to do the wrong thing. Most of the time, this is caused by our peers. Sometimes known consequences of doing what's right inhibit us from acting in accordance with our consciences. Though still not acceptable, actions contrary to what is "right" in these cases is atleast understandable. We can relate - or at least put ourselves in the others' shoes.

But other times, we face pressures from within: our wills are strong and, often, stubborn. We often do what's wrong just because the immediate result is a "good feeling". Lying to your parents is easier than telling the truth, in the short-term, because the consequences for what you did wrong are delayed. Fessing up means taking a hit right away - sometimes literally!

But I think for most of us (especially me), we have an obstructed view of the *real* consequences of our behavior. Often times, the punishment for what we do isn't as immediate and visible as we're used to. Some wrongful actions won't reveal their consequences until years later. Other behavior, words or thoughts, deeds or deeds left undone, don't seem to have any apparent effects at all.

Here's something to chew on: nothing in life is free. I don't know if I've ever heard this life motto applied "backwards" to describe that every negative action has a negative consequence. You pay for your choices in life by accepting the repercussions they cause. I do some pretty stupid things sometimes, and I really do wonder if they'll ever catch up to me, or if I will continue to receive "grace upon grace".

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesdays, Fridays are for Recording

Well, last week, I sat down and figured out how much recording time I'm going to need to complete the new album, "Glimmer". I figured around 180 hours for 10 songs, which covers tracking, initial mixing, and working with mixing and mastering engineers. A daunting task, but certainly manageable.

In working towards my goal of release the album in the Spring, I have set aside two, full days each week to record. It was a necessary designation. This past Tuesday (yesterday) was my first, big recording day, and I couldn't be happier with the results! I tracked guitars and bass for my song "Wine and Rose", after Jameson Cunningham layed down drum tracks last month. The song is going to be raw, catchy, and full of energy. Still more guitars to track, though.

Also, there have been a few other major changes on the home front for me: I've asked a good friend of mine and fellow songwriter, Gary Stanton, to co-produce with me on Glimmer. He has great ears, and I'm looking forward to sitting down with him to analyze and tear apart every, single song.

And another big change: I'm still in process on this, but I've begun a search for a side-kick - someone who can help me with booking and promotion, and someone who is as passionate about my music as I am. After reaching out to a friend of mine who works for Warner Bros. Records in Chicago, I think I may have found my (wo-) man. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Greatest Guitarist of Our Generation

I just spent this past weekend listening to John Mayer's new, live album, "Where the Light is", and I am convinced that he is, and will be known as, the quintessential guitarist and songwriter of our age. His lyrics are well crafted and clever, his guitar versatility and command is unmatched, and his live performances demonstrate his increasing control over his voice and his mastery of melody.

When I watch Mayer play (I got the live DVD, too, for my birthday), I'm not inspired to just hone one aspect of my musical "game". I'm left in awe of the depth of his expression - lyrically, melodically, and altogether musically. I don't want to be John Mayer; but man this dude has some serious skills.

In the past six years, no single artist's music has pushed me as hard as John's has - to strive to write a better song than the last, to improve my live performances, and to capture the essence of a song on a great record.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why I Love the Cubs

I've been a Cubs fan all my life. I've been a baseball fan all my life. Never any other sport, really, though there have been teams (in addition to the Cubs) that I've respected, admired, and cheered for. The White Sox, The LA Dodgers, and, more recently, the Red Sox have all been on my "cheer list". Of course, I have always loved the history of the Yankees... (I didn't want to say "Red Sox" and "Yankees" in the same sentence.)

Just as an additional caveat, over the last five or six years, I've started to pay more attention to college football and basketball. Both my brother and sister go/went to the University of Illinois in Champaign, which is probably a major part of the cause...

So why baseball, and why the Cubs?

I think it's pretty simple, don't you? My dad grew up on the North Side. Not figuratively, not almost Chicago, but actually within a mile of Wrigley Field. He grew up in the neighborhood, went to grade school, went to Amundsen High, and went to college at Loyola University.

I grew up playing baseball in the Chicago suburb of Lombard, and I remember the 1988 Dodgers. They and the Cubs were my two, favorite teams at the time. I can't even count the number of games I've gone to, including seeing every California team play at all but one of their stadiums on a trip to Cali, when I was young. The Cubs (and baseball) are a family tradition.

Every month or so we'd drive into the city to visit my grandma in the house where my dad grew up. I loved (and love) the skyline - especially the view driving southbound on the Kennedy.

When it came time for me to pick a college, I decided to stay local. In fact, after talking with my dad and my grandma, they thought it would work out all right for me to stay in one of Oma's four-flat apartments at 1619 W. Balmoral Ave. That started my sophomore year at Columbia College, after a year of pseudo-commuting and crashing in the basement of my grandma's place.

For three solid years, I passed by Wrigley Field two-times a day on the El, at the Addison stop. There were days (including the playoffs in 2003) where, on my way home, I'd hop off the train during games and just watch them from the El platform. You can't see much, but you can see the digital scoreboard on the left field upper deck, the pitcher, and home plate.

And so tonight begins the playoffs. Many people have been waiting a very long time for this. The Cubs have a very tough road ahead of them. They should be able to squeak by the Dodgers and the Phillies or Brewers, but look out for those Angel's, whose 100-win season gives them the best record in the league.

Onward and upward.