Thursday, December 30, 2010

One of Top-Ten Most-Depressing Professions

I just read an article from about 10 Careers With High Rates of Depression, and guess what? Artists/Entertainers/Writers made the list! Nice. Well, isn't that odd? These very people have sought to make a living doing the very thing which they are most compelled to do - most would say most inspired to do. Even so, artists strive for creative "success", and once found, they still find something to complain - nay, to be downright depressed - about. How is this?

Rabbit trail: for starters, let me say that there's quite a buzz about this article on the music industry blogs... that is, of course, how I found it myself. Specifically, I read about it HERE. And for the record, I mostly agree with what Chris R. at has said. We differ mostly in our worldviews, which is to say, I think Chris would say that self-help tactics (such as those he has listed) actually work, where as I would say that, ultimately, they do not.

Now to answer the question how...

Let me preface this by saying that I haven't worked out all of the details of my argument here and I'm open to discussion. If I have something wrong, I'd like to hear about it.

I really think it's quite simple. There are two things going on in the minds of artists:

1) Artists channel their feelings to create art. You can't just create excellent art void of any feeling. I don't believe it happens. Art requires emotion.

2) Artists, like those in all other professions as well - all humans! - are on some level discontent with life. I believe that this sense of discontentment is the dominating emotion of our culture - and maybe of every culture that has ever existed. Thus, when channeling emotions to create art, an overwhelming majority of the time, the art produced will represent an aspect of a life of discontentment.

Simple enough logic?

Now, two major questions to tackle on this one:

A) What about love songs? I thought there were more songs about love than anything else.

Yes, you'll often here it said that the most popular song topic is love. But, I, for one, have never seen a study on the subject, so I'm hesitant to agree with [Who do they have answering this junk anyway?] And in any case, I'm going to guess that half of the songs about love are actually songs about heartbreak. And even if that's not the case, underneath the words of many, many a love song is, in fact, a longing to be understood, to belong, to be content.

B) So how do we truly solve this human issue of discontentment?

Artists try to solve it by writing about it. Many non-artists try to solve it by listening to art, by watching art, by looking at it or eating it or consuming it. There are other ways that people try, too. "Love" - whatever that means - is also another way that we try to solve it.

But it never works.

The songwriter always has to write one more song. The investment manager always has to get one more paycheck. The church always just needs one more program. But this is also just a part of life in this world. We need certain things to survive, don't we? Money. Clothing. Shelter. Food. For the man or woman of this world - and for most artists - there is no contentment to be found here.

But I have found contentment somewhere, though many of my closest friends witness my chronic struggle with being discontent week in and week out:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas! Plans for the Week

I hope that everyone has had a wonderful time this week with family and thinking about this unbelievable historical event we call Christmas.

I can say for my own part that this really hasn't felt like the Christmas season at all. Life is messed up. Second only to sleeping, I have spent more time in a hospital this past week than anywhere else, doing any other thing. My dad should be coming home today - doctors think.

Needless to say, I had grand plans for the week leading up to Christmas - all of the things I'd be able to accomplish with more time to work at the studio. Almost none of it happened, but that's life. The last two days, I've been thinking a lot about how I'm going to get everything done this coming week that I need to.

I think the basic answer is just to take everything one day at a time and do what I have to do to make it work. Here are just the main things on my list:

  • Scribble up a promotional plan for Fundamental, my new record, coming out on Jan. 25th
  • Finish up my media contact list for promoting said album
  • Put together my 2011 summer festivals contact list
  • Record pre-production guitars and vocals for Restoration Project #2
  • Write up the recording schedule for ResProj #2

All in all, I think we're probably talking a good, clean 40 hours of work on these things - and I'm about 90% sure I won't be putting that in before next Monday. Again, that's life.

Now, just a quick word to put this all in perspective: I love my family and I love spending time with them. In some ways, I feel blessed to have been able to spend the time with them that I have. Life is a balance. We all always have to hold both ambition and responsibility with an even hand.

Off we go... happy Monday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hospital Beds and Jello Heads

My dad was admitted to the hospital last night because doctors discovered two separate pools of blood in his head - not in his brain, but between the brain and the skull. Scary times. Last night, he had a small procedure to place a filter inside the inferior vena cava (the main artery that feeds blood into the heart), then doctors pumped him with plasma to reverse the effects of the blood thinners he was on. And this morning, he had two holes drilled into his skull to drain the fluid from his head. The procedure was completed around 10:15 AM and I had a chance to talk with him briefly afterward. He's doing okay. He has several days of recovery ahead of him.

I'm still processing this, so I don't really have much more to say except the facts. I'll let you know more as things progress... and as I compute.

Also, the Bears played a great game last night against the Vikings...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thank You All!

I want to just give a quick shout-out to a few people who made my concert this past Friday a lot of fun: Joey and Andrew, behind the bar, Michael and Anne, and my folks! Thanks for hanging out with me at Cuvee Cellars - even if you had to watch me from behind a lathed wall of Christmas decor. Mom and dad, you've been unwavering in your support of this crazy line of work.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Song List for Cuvee Cellars Show (12/17/2010)

- Everything from Fundamental (15 songs)
- Wine and Rose
- Lead Me to Somehow
- Commit
- No One Makes Me Happier
- You Coulda Been
- Heal or Wreck
- I Remain
- Silent Night
- Hark the Herald Angels Sing
- Joy to the World
- The First Noel
- A surprise cover of my favorite Christmas song this year. It's a song that you've probably never heard before, but that doesn't mean it's not about Christmas.

Also, side note: I was listening to an awful Christmas album this afternoon (City on a Hill: It's Christmas Time) and I realized something: most of our culture - even Christians - tend to over-emotionalize the Christmas Event. Christians should be blown away by the idea of Christmas 24-7, 365. If you're not, then something's wrong with you.

What I'm listening to right now:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Push It, Mathes

Man, I'm tired. Over the past few days, I've been spending a ton of time serving my family - to the obvious neglect of my music. On some level, it's a sign of healthy priorities: people over achievement. But on another level, it means that when I finally do get around to working on music - like now - I really don't have any juice left. I just have to do the best I can.

The rest of tonight (2-3 hours) will be spent prepping for my show on Friday night. I just have to push it.

What I'm listening to right now: The Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mailing List Overhaul

So I just spent the last 30 minutes updating my music mailing list. Wow! That was depressing! Basically, I added back in all possible known email addresses for all individuals on the list to find out which ones bounce back as undeliverable. From the undeliverables, I'll know which addresses to trash from the list. In the past, I've kind of ignored the "failure notices", as Gmail calls them, when emails cannot reach a particular recipient (IE: an email address no longer exists).

It wasn't an astronomical number of failure notices - somewhere around 20 or so - but it's still enough to make you do a double-take. The question becomes: am I actually failing at this?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Any Good?

Does any good come from being sick? Some might say yes.

Certainly nothing good happens while you are sick, if you know what I'm saying - unless, of course, you'd rather feel horrible than go to school or work...

The bottom line is that being sick sucks. Taking care of someone who is sick sucks slightly less; but in this case, you hate to see the person suffer through it. The only thing worse is being sick yourself and still having to take care of someone else, who is also sick.

Some would say that being sick reminds you to long for days without any sickness at all. Some would call those days "heaven." I think I've even said it. And quite frankly, I'm sick of being reminded by life to long for a day when everything that's wrong in this world gets fixed. Every problem is solved. No more suffering. No more sickness. No more pain. No more weariness. No more burden of life. No more miscommunication (I upset someone I love this morning, on the phone, by being insensitive and choosing the wrong words). I'm sick of feeling sick. (By the way, I'm not physically sick in the sense of having the flu or anything.)

I want the perfected creation now. Does that phrase make sense? You probably have never heard it before. It pretty much means exactly what it sounds like: every animate and inanimate object in the entire universe functions exactly as it ought to. Everything is "right." That's what it means.

So what can we do about it? Well, I'm still working on an answer to that. At the very least, I think having that sick feeling in your stomach - that longing for the pain to go away - longing for it to go away so badly that it makes you sicker to think about it - is a good place to start.

I think maybe another good place to start might be to make a list. I might do this. I'll right down the things that I see wrong in the world and see if I can find a way to counter it and, ultimately, correct it. I think I will start with my own life.

There are definitely a lot of things that I'd change about myself, if I could. For one thing, I definitely value my career too highly. Career. Ha! Well, I'm going to take some time right now to think about how I can temper how I value my music, and I'll report back - maybe tomorrow - on what I discover...

Photo by: Joel Sage.

Fundamental Release Preparations

Releasing a new record takes a lot of work. Actually recording the songs is probably the smallest part about the whole process, and many would say, it's not even the most important. (I disagree, but that's another story.) Over the next three weeks, I have a lot of preparations to make - I have to finalize my media blitz lists (radio, TV, print, and web), solidify a location for the record release show, put together my festival submission list for next summer (all the festival that I'm interested in performing at start taking submissions next week), and double-check to make sure the album is on its way to manufacture.

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens over the next three months - and not because I think that my effort will yield great success - but because of what others do. So much of what I do - performing, recording, and writing music - has nothing at all to do with me. Almost everything is determined by factors which I can not control. And that's a good thing. Because what it means is that I just have to keep focusing on the areas where I do have control.

To the future!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Legend Dies

I cried this morning.

After I rolled out of bed this morning, I walked in to the kitchen and noticed that a small section of the top sheet of our refrigerator notepad was torn off. I then walked to my laptop, discovering the missing page piece - a note left by my wife.

Maybe it was the note. Maybe it was the fact that I have Copland playing on the iPod dock. Maybe it's the fact that the Cubs probably will not ever win another World Series. Or maybe it's because I'm really more upset with the fact that life is fickle, short, fleeting, passing away - like chaff in the wind.

I'm going to miss Ronnie.

My favorite Santo quote: "Awe, jeez..."

Here's a link to an awesome photo collection of Santo: Ron Santo's Life in Baseball.

Baseball card photo by: Tunguska. Used with permission. Read his blog:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

One Reason Why I Love the Guitar

Yesterday I spent about 45 minutes working on a song I never finished from 2007. Well, back then, I thought the song was done, but when I played through it again yesterday, I knew it was incomplete. What struck me the most was this new outro section that I wrote: simple acoustic guitar, slowly building with drums, steady, rhythmic, then in comes a chorus, singing in unison, music fades out, voices stay strong, then slowly fade. (Photo at left by: Ashley Hodges.)

But again, what got me was the guitar part. The guitar is the most honest instrument in the world. When played skillfully - and usually on an acoustic, no sonic reverberation can say as much as the guitar can in so few notes. Just one chord - or one note - played just the right way, can convey precise emotions which are not nearly as easy to express with words.

I'll try to record the part and post it here sometime for you all to hear just exactly what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Excerpt from "I Asked the Lord" by John Newton

....I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part....

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

"These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Blues

What were you thankful for this year? Were you thankful for all the things you should have been thankful for?

For my own part, I can say that this was just an off year... I found it hard to be thankful. I am thankful, of course, but I definitely didn't show it like I usually do, and I definitely didn't feel thankful like I normally do.

I have been given so many things - stuff that I don't deserve. A good family, a roof over my head, food to eat, access to education, clean drinking water, and lots and lots of "stuff" - material possessions. Very little of this do I actually need. Most of these things are just bells and whistles - to make life easier, more convenient, more entertaining, or whatever.

At the end of the day, we should be thankful for everything, but most thankful for the essentials - the things we can't live without. This year, I have found myself asking for help to want to want to be thankful - mostly for the essentials:

Oh, when I come to die
Oh, when I come to die
Oh, when I come to die
Give me Jesus

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Late Nights Can Kill You

I've been spending so much time at the computer again that my forearms are starting to bother me again. I feel like I already mentioned that in a recent post, some time in the last month. As you can tell by the time of this post, it's because I'm getting in to the groove late at night, after my family has gone to bed. I've found that my most productive "computer work" comes after hours, if you will. It sucks, but it's the only time that I have, really.

But, alas, the time has come to go to bed. Goodnight, computer. I will see you tomorrow evening. Until then, I know that others will caress your pretty back-lit keys, but please don't enjoy it, okay? If you can muster up any sort of passionate desire within your uni-body frame, may it only be for the soft pressing of my very fingertips over all of your buttons.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Official Blog Title Change!

Inspired, once again, by a songwriter that I really respect, Josh Ritter, I decided to change the name of this blog. To be a Josh Ritter copy-cat? No way. Just because I didn't want the name to be something so obvious. The previous title of this blog was "What It's Like" and what could be more obvious than the fact that blogs are about "what it's like to be..." [fill in the blank with whatever it is that you do and why you think people care to hear about what you do every day]...

So there you have it. Boom. New blog name: "Fine Lines and Hidden Spaces".

And you may ask yourself, "Self, where did Jay come up with that name?" Well, without giving it all away, I'm working on a new song with this lyric in it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crying Babies

Today, for the first time in a long time, I have a serious problem with the sound of a crying baby.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Moving to Brooklyn

Manhattan Bridge. Photo by: Daniel Hautamaki (

So, over the past few days, I've been talking to a buddy of mine who lives in Brooklyn with his wife. He is really convincing. He thinks I should move to NYC pronto. We're seriously considering the option. It's a great community with a thriving arts scene, awesome food, at least one, really good church, and a boatload of opportunity - in all sorts of areas: work, culture, spiritual, community. We will see... Only time will tell.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Selling a Piece of Family History

Today I asked my mom if she'd be okay with us selling her father's 1960's Wurlitzer organ, that has been sitting unused and neglected in my parents' basement. Selling the organ is not new news, but the reality of selling it finally hit her when I told her this morning that we might have a prospective buyer.

I understand the sentimental ties to the organ. I feel them, too, even though I was a wee young lad when my grandfather died. I have no memory of him prior to his first stroke. But I also understand that, as life runs its course, all things come to an end; and all things pass on, move on, continue on - life continues as life dies.

And so, to me, the organ is better in the hands of another, as we say goodbye to something that was useful to us at one time, long ago, and brought our family such joy, but has now laid dormant for over a decade. We recognize that to give it to someone else means that the organ actually increases in value - not decreases - as others are allowed to make memories with it and it becomes a part of others' lives.

Saying goodbye to an organ doesn't mean saying goodbye to the memories created by it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Running on a Full Tank of Ambition

Yes, Megan laughed when I said to her this evening, "Baby, I'm running on a full tank of ambition," but do you want to know something? Her laugh didn't bother me too much. Actually, it didn't bother me at all. I feel recharged, renewed, refreshed, and ready to go for it - again...

Over the past couple of days, I have been inspired by reading Josh Ritter's blog on called Making a Life in Music. Here's a link to it:

It's for songwriters who, pretty much, want to do what he does. I guess he does music "full-time" and "for a living", but I've never asked. But he certainly seems popular enough for that to be the case.

Anyway, so Josh's blog has been inspiring, and I've already to put in to practice some of the things that he has recommended to up-and-coming songwriters.

Over the last few years, I have tried a number of record-keeping techniques to help me stay focused and help me continue to move forward. But somewhere along the line, my methods lost their effectiveness, I got out of rhythm, or my circumstances changed and I was no longer able to use whatever system I had developed...

One thing that Josh recommends is buying a nice notebook and writing down your goals - ten years out, five years out, two years out, one year out, six months out, next week, and tomorrow. The first chance I got I ran down to the local bookstore and bought a Moleskine. (I've never owned one before, but I felt cooler just writing in it the first time.)

One more big thing he mentions about your goals: never show them to anybody else. I'm not sure why that is, exactly, but that was his recommendation, and I guess I can see why - a little. To me, it's probably because they are your own private thoughts and other people might not see the world how you do. They might try to mess with your mind, your aspirations, your emotions, or whatever. And so I'm going to try to take his advice.

So far, I've been most impressed simply by Josh's method for going about "making a life in music". Another one of his basic premises is that a career in music blooms out of a music community. You don't do music in a bubble. You pursue it and succeed with others - musicians, friends, other songwriters...

Onward and upward...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New The City Song Initial Mix Complete

Last night, Gary Stanton and I (The City) completed the initial mix of our song "Broken Well". Read the full blogpost here:

And yes, you would be correct in thinking that this is the same "Broken Well" from my new record, Fundamental. By the way, you can purchase a download of the record or the limited edition/hand-painted version right now from my webstore:


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Working on a New Video

I don't know much about Final Cut Express, but I'm learning. Slowly. Right now, I'm in the middle of doing some "real" editing for the first time, on a new song video that I hope to post this Thursday. With everything going down for Fundamental, I haven't had a chance to post a video in a while. But this one should be good. It's a solid song, for starters, and the video, I hope, will keep it interesting... The song, by the way, is called "Let Us Live".

Sunday, November 7, 2010

15K and Still Alive

Yesterday, my wife and I ran 15 kilometers in the Hot Chocolate 15K Run in Chicago. I am still alive! My knee is killing me, though. Actually, other than my knee, I feel really good. And as far as the knee goes, I have another doctor's appointment this Thursday. I'll let you know how it goes. My gut is that there....

Okay, I've actually just spent the last 15 minutes looking at knee images on Wikipedia. I also just had my wife check out this funky ligament-deal that is doing this weird popping thing, when I straighten and bend my leg. Yikes! Some sort of ligament over the lateral meniscus, or maybe something a bit lower - the lateral collateral ligament, which connects the fibula and the femur. (I only know some of this lingo because I've been staring at it for 25 minutes now...)

Until the middle of this post, I had no idea how complicated the anatomy of the knee was. This is unbelievably complicated stuff! How on earth the human body has been assembled so well is quite unreal, if you ask me. Even the most complicated automotive engine doesn't hold a candle to the intricacies of the human body. It just works. It makes you wonder who built it...

Hopefully this new doc will be able to tell me something I don't already know about my problem knee and help me fix it. No cortisone shots, please.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Website Updates and the Double-Edged Sword

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been doing a bunch of updates to the website (, and finally, I can say that I won't be doing any major updates for a long, long time...

The main updates:
  • Design Fundamental ad on homepage.
  • Music page updates to include songs from Fundamental
  • Extras page has all new stuff
  • Music album pages now have album info, credits
  • Albums now have downloadable artwork - covers and booklets
  • Listen to every song from my three most recent records in new music players
Now, some of this stuff wasn't necessary, but it has been on my to do list for a while. And, I think as we continue to move towards a more online digital media-based society (especially when it comes to music), this extra content really starts to add some significant value to the site.

But there is one, major drawback:

Because I am *capable* of doing all of this updating myself, I do. It takes a lot of time - time away from writing and practicing music. But at least I don't have to pay someone to do it. It's a skill - perhaps necessary. Well, at least at this stage of the game, it's definitely necessary - because I'm doing it. Hence, I am typing this at 12:26 AM...

Time for bed! And let me know what you think of the updates!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tendinitis Coming Back

So, over the past 72 hours, I've put in a lot of time on my music - more time than I've put in in the last three weeks combined. The result? Well, most of them are yet to be determined. Hopefully I'll get a string of shows lined up from it. But what I can say is that my upper forearms are starting to sing to me again... Meaning: they tingle with pain some times and at other times they send two- or three-note staccato soprano notes straight to my brain via my my hyper-active nervous system.

The point: I need to be conscious of my time on the computer, get off of the laptop and back on to a real keyboard and touchpad, and take breaks frequently.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beautiful Letdown

I'm still trying to figure out how any letdown can be beautiful, but I think it's a good exercise to get in to the habit of. I've also just recently discovered that the way we think about shame is all messed up - just like our understanding of being let down. Here's what I've learned:

"No one whose hope is in [God] will ever be put to shame"
- Psalm 25, line 3

What ever could that mean? It means that, at the very least, there was no shame at the cross where Jesus died. People mess that up all the time. I mess it up. The culture of the time messed it up. According to the Romans at the time, it was the absolute, most shameful way to go. But somehow, there was no shame there. How does that relate to my first point?

I can't explain it, but I *think* that letdowns *are* always beautiful. (Switchfoot was right.) When I don't get my way, that event should cause me to think about something that is more meaningful than whatever it was that I wanted - and didn't get. I think about a story I once heard about a man born blind...

So what sparked this conversation in my mind? A good friend of mine, Chris, gave me a lead on an apartment for rent (a condo, really) at an unbelievable price - with all of the amenities that I have been dying to have - namely, a dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, a balcony, and two bedrooms.

I made the first call. I spoke with the owner. It sounded promising. She made sure that I was aware of the rate: $800/mo. + gas, electric, and water. Awesome deal. The owner gave me the name of the person managing the rental, and I gave her a call. She didn't call me back.

Day two. I call the property manager. She answers. Bomb #1: someone else has already submitted an application. Then, she proceeds to inform me that there was some sort of mistake about the rental price. She claimed that the *owner* was confused about how much the property was renting for. Yeah, right. Bomb #2: the property manager was asking for $975/mo. + utilities.

And so there you have it. My beautiful letdown.

Now if I can only come to see how it is beautiful...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Things I Like About Halloween

1. It's also Reformation Day.
2. Baked mostaccioli - our family's traditional Halloween dinner.
3. I look good in the color orange.
4. Spending time with family
5. Any chocolate candies with the name ending in "-eese's".
6. Little kids in cute costumes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Busted Knee

Yesterday, I ran farther than I've ever ran in my life. I don't consider myself a runner, but I run often enough. I probably average running about 2-4 miles a week...

So, about five months ago, I was rock climbing with my friend, Steve, at night, in the dark, at Devil's Lake State Park, in Wisconsin. I peeled off of this boulder, landed on a sloping, rain-soaked slab, and proceeded to tweak my knee. I didn't hear anything pop or tear, but it felt weird. It wasn't sore at all.


I've been in mild discomfort (because of my knee) since about one month after the original injury. I went to an ortho-sports-med guy, who took X-rays and an MRI, and everything looked normal. He said to give the knee about a month or two, but I should fully recover - no problem.

Now to present-day.

I ran 6.4 miles yesterday, on the Illinois Prairie Path, which runs right by my apartment. At about the 4 mile marker, my knee started screaming at me. The pain started to trickle up and down the outside of my leg, radiating from the knee. I told my knee to shut up and continued to run.

So, here I sit with a pretty stiff knee; it's pretty sore. It's not swollen. But, as of this morning, I could only walk on it for about a block before it started to throb.

Well, more on the knee later, I suppose. Until I can see the doc again (I have an appointment on 11/11), I guess I'll just have to deal with it - any that Hot Chocolate 15k run I'm signed up to do on 11/6...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Finding Victory in the Everyday Struggles

Okay, so this is a pretty lofty-sounding post title; and, to be honest, I don't really have any good answers to this major life-issue. But just because I don't have *an* answer doesn't mean that I don't think I have a few ideas that might help us out. I'll just share one, though, for now...

Being individual beings, we find it really difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of other individuals; and even if we feel like we're gifted at being sympathetic - or even empathetic - we likely don't maintain a perpetual state of being that is accompanied by a constant burden for others and how they feel or how they would react to our actions. And thus, our principle:

One way that we can find victory over our common, everyday struggles is to remember that we don't "do life" on our own - but in community. Every action affects the whole - no matter how small.

It's a simple enough statement, but it's much harder to practice. One thing that I've been trying to do to help reshape my worldview to reflect more of a communal living-type of attitude is to simply think about what my friends and family are doing while I am washing the dishes, hanging laundry on the clothes line, or playing with my son.

So there you have it. That's one thing I'm working on in my own life; and, by grace, hopefully it's one area that will improve in this 29th year of my life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Life is so Busy!

I can't believe it's already the middle of October! Where has the time gone?

Over the past few months, I have been learning about how short life is; and how, all too often, we allow the things of the now (the present reality) to influence how we live - instead of the future. I have often heard it said that we should "live in light of eternity", and I think that's a trustworthy saying. But how do we do it?

Pretty much the only method I can think of is to try harder to contemplate the things that matter most - as often and as regularly as we can. It's a tough challenge, but a possible one. One idea might be to stop to think about the future every time you eat a meal, or when you're driving to or from work, or whatever.

The point is, the only way to slow down the pace of reality is to think about the future - the very distant future.

For me, present life has a full schedule: promoting the up-coming solo record release (Fundamental, some time in November?), spending time with my family, recording another album with my band, The City, doing pre-production for the next Restoration Project record, practicing music, writing music, rehearsing for up-coming shows, mentoring college students, volunteering at my church, training for the Hot Chocolate 15k Run in Chicago (next month)... Wow. This is a long list of things - and it's not even all of it.

Life is a balancing act, and by focusing no the future, we can curb the anxiety about the present, keep our priorities in check, and, at least graciously stumble through life.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Album Cover for Fundamental

Here it is, friends. The hand-painted, hand-screen-printed album cover for the new record, Fundamental. These hand-made copies are a first-pressing, limited edition, so if you want a copy, you'll have to pick it up quickly, before they run out! More info about the album release date coming soon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Letter from Peter Roskam

I hate politics. I don't "get political". It's not a political issue for me. I don't make my political opinions known. I don't fit in to the party system that consumes America.

Just this afternoon, I got a letter from the Roskam for Congress Committee, with Roskam's signature at the very end. It was a two-page, double-sided smear letter against the democrats. It made me angry. It made me sick. Here is my exact email response to his campaign about the letter:

Dear Committee,

I would appreciate it if you would pass this along to Mr. Roskam himself, as this has very much to do with his political future. Thanks!

Congratulations! You have just lost yourself a vote, Mr. Roskam!

Just this afternoon, I received in the mail a letter paid for by the Roskam for Congress Committee.

For starters, don't address a letter "Dear Friend." It's insulting. I don't know you. And you obviously don't even care enough about knowing your constituents to address them by name. Also, take me off of your mailing lists and call lists. Oh yeah, I've already asked you to do that six different times.

I can't believe you people. You continue to send out letters, run ads, and the like, that just bash people in the democratic party (and the opposite happens, too). It's sickening. It makes me hate our system of government. You're what's wrong with politics in America. I'm not saying that whoever you're demonizing in your campaigns isn't also in the wrong, but it's clear that you somehow think that you can use fear and smear to win an election. And maybe you can.

I'm not in to "politicking", as I call it, and I'm not even in to politics. I'm not a democrat. I'm not a republican. I'm just an ordinary American - like so many - who just want our elected officials to do the right thing.

I promised a long, long time ago - and I have stuck to it - that I will vote against any candidate who uses negative campaign tactics. Many times, that has led me to vote for candidates who, in our current system, don't really stand a chance of winning. But this is changing. More people are starting to think as I do.

For your information, I've posted a statement about your letter on my blog. If you'd care to read it, you may do so here:

I truly hope that, as this country moves forward, Roskam and all of the other politicians get real. It's sickening to see how out of touch you all are with the people whom you represent. Until you learn that you can't expect our country to succeed by looking out for your own interests as a politician (IE: winning an election by running smears), you are not fit to represent me in office.

I now await a better day - one beyond party lines, politicians motivated by self-interest, and, yes, a broken system of government.

Politically Not Yours,

Jay Mathes

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mix Masters Complete

I just got home from Catfish Studio. The mix masters for the new record, Fundamental, are in my hand right now. Exhausted, but it's a good feeling. Check out this studio pic taken by Nick Gray (

Monday, September 13, 2010

Recording Day One

Day one of recording the new album is over. All 15 songs are tracked. All it took was 5.5 hours of nearly continuous singing and playing guitar. I am tired. I am excited. I am proud. I can't wait to mix all of these songs tomorrow.

Special thanks to Wes at Catfish Studio for putting up with me being a schedule Nazi. Special thanks to Nick Gray for his videography and to Ash Hodges for his photography. Nick, I'm sorry you have 16 hours of recording footage to sift through. Ash, thanks for your lighting expertise and for being available on such short notice.

Now, to bed...

Tomorrow we wrap everything up.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Picking Up the Guitar

I don't think my experience today is unique. I think that many guitarists have felt what I did today, when I picked up a guitar I had never played before in my life. I couldn't put it down. I played guitar today for about four hours, and only put it down because my fingers were too sore to continue.

A good friend of mine let me borrow his prized acoustic guitar for this week and for my upcoming recording sessions, on Monday and Tuesday. I restrung it, gave it a quick tune-up, and began to play on an instrument worth over 17 times that of any other guitar that I own. Yes, 17 times. Do the math and let that sink in for a minute. Yep. I have a very, very good friend.

I might as well say it: the only way that a human ever lets another human borrow something like this is if the said owner has a different perspective on what things in life really matter. It's an odd way to think about it; but holding loosely to the things we have is actually more important than keeping what we have in pristine condition.

So, as you can see, today I've done a lot of playing and a lot of contemplating on the example that my friend has set for me - for us all. Thank you, friend. And I promise to do my best to return your guitar to you in as good of condition as when you gave it to me - if not better.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pre-Session Jitters

Booking studio time somehow always makes recording a new album more real. This time around, I especially feel it. Why? Simple: I haven't actually *paid* for studio time since my first record, Leave It All Behind. Commit was recorded for a class at Columbia, Love Said and Glimmer were both recorded on my own gear, in my own studio, on my own time.

So you might be asking yourself right now, "Why would Jay be paying to go in to a studio to record this time around - especially when all of the records he's done in his own studio have just been getting better and better?" Again, simple answer: when you're recording such a delicate type of album - one where the instrumentation is super-simple - every component in the recording process has to be excellent: the instruments themselves, the microphones, the cables, the pre-amps, the A/D converters, the room/environment itself, and the channel effects.

In my case, I lack really nice pre-amps. The price tag on buying a unit that has four of them built in? $2,700. Yeah. I don't think so. I could rent them, but it would still cost a pretty penny. The best bang for the buck is just going in to a quality studio, with a quality engineer, and having somebody else work with you to record it.

In my opinion, going in to the studio is always a better option than recording it on your own, in your own environment - unless, of course, you've already invested the $15,000 needed to get all of the nice stuff you'd need: the microphones, the cables, the pre-amps, the A/D converters, the room/environment itself, and the channel effects.

So there you have it. I'm going in to a studio to record my next record. I have the jitters.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Looking for a New Apartment

Megan and I decided a couple of months ago that September might be the month that we move out of our ridiculously small and over-priced apartment. The process of doing so has begun - albeit in a very small way.

Today, I requested a listing of available apartments from the college down the street (Wheaton College) and they were very happy to send me over a very out-dated list of available spaces. Oh well. I guess you have to start somewhere.

By the way, if you were wondering, this is not a picture of my apartment.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Live Show Practice ≠ Perfect

As you all know, I've been working on incorporating live electronic loops into my shows for a while now. I must say, I've been having a heck of a time trying to make that happen. I haven't given up, because I think the results are really going to be a huge asset to my live solo show.

As you probably also know, my next big show is at Glenbard East High School in Lombard, IL, in just a few, short weeks. I'll be ready by then, but it's going to take a heck of a lot of work. I'll be doing a lot of work late in to the evening on the nights leading up to the 25th, and I know I'm going to be tired. But alas, the pay-off.

The goal for the 25th is to utilize electronic loops for half of my set, or nine songs. As of today, I am 90% confident with performing and looping for one song, and know exactly what I want to do for at least four others. I haven't even started on the remaining four songs; and I'm anticipating a total of about 15 hours per song to get everything "performance ready."

Add on top of that the fact that I plan to record a solo-acoustic record this month, and you can see why I might be feeling a little bit under the gun. But it's a good feeling, I assure you. I haven't felt this lit about my music in a long time, and I'm looking for ways to keep stoking the fire.

To that end, can anyone say "shows"??? If you are willing to help me out with booking, I'll make sure to get you a CD copy of the new record when it's complete. Just email me and let me know where you can get me a show: jaymathes {at} jaymathes {dot} com.

Friday, August 20, 2010

New Album? Yes. Coming in October

Yes, it is true. Many details are amorphous right now, but what I can confirm is that I will be releasing an all-acoustic album in October. I'm currently commissioning artwork from a couple of friends of mine, working on the track list, and figuring out how I'm going to make it happen. So here's what I can guarantee:

* All new music
* Huge album jacket
* Eco-friendly production
* Hand-made album cover and disc image

Mailing list members will hear about the track list and pre-order info first, plus they'll get a free track from the record the week of the release. Sign up on my website,

Friday, July 30, 2010

Going Away for a While

I just wanted to let you know that I will be out of town for ten days, beginning on this coming Tuesday. I will be traveling to Wyoming's Wind River Mountain Range, where I will be backpacking, fly fishing, and hiking. I'm taking the trip with a very good friend of mine, and I can't wait for him to teach me how to fly fish. Yes, I've never done it before. Chicago doesn't really have any good places to go fishing; and seeing as I've lived here all my life, I have never experienced a yearning to fly fish. As it is, I barely remember how to cast a line on a "normal" reel.

So off I go in to the great outdoors. This is my first backpacking trip since 2003 (?). Ridiculous, considering that I love doing it. But it's not cheap if you live in Chicago, because you always have to travel pretty far to get anywhere worth going to.

I'll try to post another entry or two before I leave, but if I don't, please forgive me. I have a lot of packing to do, and I still have to bone up on some rudimentary fishing skills - like tying a hook to a line!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wasting Time on Vlad Studios

For starters, let me say "Wow. I can't believe it has been a month since I last posted." I feel like a real slacker, that's for sure. But as I'm sure you're aware, the itch to blog kinda waxes and wanes, if you catch my lunar drift.

So, for the most part, I haven't been slacking off. But today I have been - just a little. Just a few, short hours ago, I finished a complete OS reinstall on my computer. Why? Because I was having some really screwed up issues with the software I use to record most of my music, and I thought it may have been related to something I did with deleting and adding different users in the OS. Okay, so if all of that doesn't interest you at all, just forget the last 45 seconds and continue reading...

This early evening, I spent close to 45 minutes admiring the work of one Vlad Gerasimov. He's a sweet graphic designer and he has this awesome website where people can download his desktop background graphics and photos. Here it is:

My favorite pictures are always the ones that are clever (as well as sharp-looking) - not just your normal sort of concepts (stars in the sky, underwater scene, etc.). One of my favorites has got to be this one: It's of a personified lightbulb, sitting in wonder of the starlit sky. Just a cool concept, if you ask me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

That I-Need-to-Sneeze-But-I-Can't Feeling

I've been sick for the last few days, and for better or worse, it has given me some time to think. Yeah, I know. When is a songwriter not contemplating about life and death and all matters in between. Well, this morning, while I was drinking some Stash chamomile tea, I came up with an interesting metaphor...

All of life is like that feeling you get when you're about to sneeze. Your eyes tear up, your nose starts to tingle with pressure, and yet, the sneeze never comes. It gets stuck somewhere between your throat and your sphenoidal sinus (or somewhere else you've never heard of). In life, we all long and hope for things. We have unfulfilled desires and dreams. We all want what's best - for ourselves, for everyone - yet we often have no idea what "the best" might actually be. We are caught in the space occupied by unrealized potential.

This is what I am now coining as Sneeze Tension. Do you feel it? I feel it every day. Sick or not.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Songwriting Tips: Are You Kidding!?!?

I just uploaded a new video (of a new song) to my YouTube channel, here: (Thanks for checking it out! :)

But seriously, I just watched it to make sure that everything uploaded okay (it didn't, actually. I still can't figure out the whole aspect ratio junk and the videos almost always get squashed in the YouTube player.), and I noticed that many of the videos along the sidebar "related" to mine are songwriting tips. I think I puked up a little in my mouth when I saw them there.

And if that wasn't bad enough, I clicked on a couple and watched these idiots talk about how to write better songs. Are you kidding!?!? These are the kinds of people who prey on stupid American Idol wanna-be's; and even worse, these vloggers have somehow been deluged with the delusion that they have something meaningful and worthwhile to say about songwriting.

Let me say something: songwriting is simple. You either have it or you don't. If you don't have it, by all means, continue watching barf-tastic songwriting tips videos on YouTube, like this one: (Okay, really, don't click that link. It's a waste of your time and you're going to improve its ratings.)

And if you have it, you know you have it. I'm not saying I have it. Nor am I saying that those who have it can't improve their skills and hone their craft. What I'm saying is that good songwriters always were good songwriters. Maybe not every song they wrote was always great; but there were pieces of great songs all along the way - even from the very start of things.

So where is this coming from? Not really sure. But what I can say is that if you *are* a songwriter (by the way, I think that the only *true* songwriters are *great* songwriters, indeed), the best way for you to improve your songwriting is to write more songs. Every minute you spend thinking about how you write a song is another minute that you're not writing one.

Don't waste your life on theory. Get dirty. Make a mess. Do something. Be somebody. Work as hard as you can at something because you love it and can't imagine life without it. Don't give in. Don't let someone tell you what you can achieve. And be prepared to be broken. Beautifully broken.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Not What I Want, but What You Want

These past 11 months, I've had a lot of time to think about the way life works. I pretty much don't have any answers, but I do have a working theory about one thing. It has to do with how we love.

A boy and a girl are playing together outside. The boy says, "I really, really, really want to play in the sandbox" and the girl says, "Well, I want to play in the treehouse." The boy replies, "Okay, I'll do what you want to do." Pretty simple, right? Not so fast.

Even on the most basic of levels, this little boy has not just given in to the request of his friend - he has demonstrated to her selfless love. He *wanted* something else. He did what would make his friend happy. He did what she wanted. (Please, let's leave out the fact that we can never truly know the particular intentions of the boy's heart.)

We have to make choices like this every day. Will we lay aside our own desires - our own wants and longings - for the sake of others? Ultimately, to do so is to love.

One word of clarification: I dare say that there is a world of difference between "being willing" to love in this way and actually "doing" love in this way. A willingness will always bear fruit in action. We do what we desire. We pursue what we are passionate about - what interests us. If we are willing to love selflessly, let us show it, for if we do not show it, we prove that the desire was truly never in us.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Selling Stuff on Craigslist

Boy, this can be addicting, let me tell you... Over the past six weeks, I've sold off the parts of my old Macintosh G4 tower computer. It was a single processor 1.25 GHz. Boy, I loved that thing. It has been hard for me to sell - to see the tower go, then the components - one by one. Alas, today I sold off the second to last component - the 17" Apple LCD Studio Monitor - for 70 whoppers.

Over these six weeks, I've found Craigslist to be an essential resource - nay, the only resource - in selling my stuff. I'd check to see what other people are trying to get for their used stuff, think about what I'd be willing to pay for it - a fair price, and create my ad. Magic. Days later I'd end up with a friendly email from a buyer. The person would come and pick it up at my apartment, and that would be the end of that.

So, I have to say, I have really enjoyed listing stuff on CL, negotiating a price, and selling stuff. There are at least three more things now that I'm going to be listing in the next week or so: two, old laptops and a Wurlitzer organ - stuff that my family just has lying around and doesn't use any more.

I think I'm hooked.

Have you ever sold anything on Craigslist?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On a Cooking Kick

I've been on a cooking kick for the last few days. I love to cook, but it's rare for me to do it - and even rarer to do it for three days in a row! Main courses are really what excite me. Here's what was on the menu the last three nights:

Monday: Drunken Steak ala Steve Raichlen (replete with Jim Beam)
Tuesday: Grilled Chicken Fajitas
Wednesday: BBQ Meat Loaf

And here's what's ahead:

Thursday: Baked Chicken Tenders
Friday: Grilled Tilapia
Saturday: (I'm out of town, so I can't cook!)
Sunday: Baked Mostaccioli

I even have some ideas for next week already... chili, turkey balls, beef and broccoli...

Yeah, okay, so this is kinda weird. I'm just sort of spouting out food stuff like this. It almost feels like I'm tweeting (but with a much higher character count). But there is a method to my madness:

Preparing dinner is like writing a song - "preparing" a song, if you will. You need to have all of the right ingredients (inspiration, a pen and paper, an instrument) and you have to add everything together at the proper time and place (time to sit down and write, a quiet place to work).

You can't force a good meal just like you can't force out a good song. When I force a dish, I usually under- or over-cook it. When I force a song, I blunder it - and it ends up in the trash.

And, of course, if any of you are interested in getting recipes from me, I can get them to you...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Busting Buns, No DSL, and Performing at Columbia

The past six days have been awesome. I've worked my butt off, rehearsing for a concert I had yesterday, writing a song for this week's vlog, and practiced several instruments. I can't believe that my last post was two weeks ago! Seriously, unbelievable. I don't know where two weeks went.

This past week, Monday through Thursday, I moved my live show rig into a secret, secluded location, away from the chaos of my small apartment. (Actually, it was my parents' basement. They graciously opened their home to me for the week.) I started my nights at around 4:30 PM, and rehearsed and recorded until about 11:15 PM. They were long nights, but rewarding ones. Plus, I was fed well (although I never expected to be fed at all).

Another big factor in my lack of posting was the fact that, until this afternoon, I haven't had internet service at the apartment since last Saturday - eight days ago. To make a long story short, I screwed up. I canceled Comcast service, then ordered AT&T service, then AT&T screwed up and it took them an extra four days to get us online. Phew! We're good now, though.

My concert at Columbia College, as a part of Manifest, the school's end-of-the-year urban arts festival, was awesome. I met a ton of really cool people, made a few friends, and was able to share - if only a part of - my new, live show, incorporating piano, triggered effects and drums, and my new computer. I'd like to give a special thanks to Cynthia Vargas for inviting me to perform. It was a blast, and I'd love to do it again next year!

I'll be posting pictures from the show some time this week, when I get pictures from a few student photographers who were covering the event.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

When Plans Change

I was supposed to be here this weekend:

Doing this:

Instead, I was here:

Putting these pictures together.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

...On Setting Oil in the Ocean on Fire

Photo courtesy of NASA

Does anybody else think this is a bad idea?

I have another bad idea: let's continue to use oil to power our world.

Question: are oil companies truly seeking the best interests of us all or are they ultimately, simply, just trying to protect their bottom line?

Final question (back to my original topic): If you set the oil on fire, will the fire spread all the way back to the off-shore well, consequently blowing up the offending broken pipe itself, along with the very oil source this company has tapped?

Okay, I lied. One more question: who foots the bill for this clean-up - the oil company or taxpayers?

Good overview article about this thing here:

It turns out that BP owns the well, and they're responsible for the clean-up bill. Hardly enough, if you ask me.

One final comment: I *think* I *barely* remember when this other spill happened, about twenty years ago:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Remembering Music Theory

Today, for the first time in a couple of years, probably, I sat down at the piano with my music advanced music theory book in hand. I opened it. I read. I played a few chords. I can't believe how much has slipped away of these past few years. All composers should never forget - and the best do - that there is a myriad of tools at our disposal.

Today, I needed a refresher on augmented 6th chords. Don't worry if you have no idea what I'm talking about. This is just a group of three chords that composers use to move a piece of music to a new key.

It was awesome. It's the first time in a long time that I've been excited about composing non-popular music (unpopular music?) like orchestral stuff and jazz. Anyway, it made me want to go back to school to study music as a grad student.

I doubt that will happen.

Anyway, if you've been thinking about going back to school, I'd love to hear from you about what you'd like to study and what school you think you'd like to go to.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Poem for 1 AM

Zombie brain started just about an hour ago
That means all decisions are indecisions
Or at least that's what should be so

No man is as productive at 1 AM as at 10
I struggle to think clearly now
Though I swear I'm focused on the task at hand

Just minutes more til I break the omnipotence barrier
We all seem to know more about everything
Temptations become a blare in your ear

Your muscles have stiffened up, you discover
As you adjust in your seat, in front of your monitor
You now feel uncertain, and shudder:

Should I have gone to bed hours ago and chosen sleep over an exam, a paper, my ego, straining for that higher grade - or any grade at all?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blog Migration Pains

Okay, so I think I probably mentioned a few weeks ago that I have to come up with a fix for my website home page, so that I can update news on it. Blogger is discontinuing a feature of their website that I have been using for as long as I can remember - probably since 2006.

No biggie, I thought, three weeks ago. Well, now that I'm starting to get my hands dirty in this process, I'm finding that finding a solution is a much more complicated process than I had originally thought.

I don't care about static or dynamic whatever. What I care about are: 1) being able to update the site whenever I want without using HTML coding and 2) incorporating/allowing user feedback and commenting. My current setup only really allows for #1 of these two things, and, while I'm at it, I'd like to come up with a solution for both.

I'm looking in to Wordpress. Actually, I have it installed right now. But the issue I'm having is getting this new home page WP blog to match the rest of my existing website. From what I've seen, it looks like I'd have to create my own custom theme, which would basically mean designing a whole new website architecture/structure - even to get everything to look exactly as it does now - if I wanted to use WP.

Bottom line there: I'm a freakin' songwriter - not a web designer; and I can say with all certainty that in the past six years, I have spent way too much time working on web design junk...

Am I missing something here, or is it not that easy for me to just migrate to Wordpress, considering that I have primarily used a static HTML FTP publishing system and not a dynamic, DB-driven one?

Okay, so I might be talking over your heads right now. I hope that's not the case. Any help on this issue would be super-helpful.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Quick! Say something before it's tomorrow. Why? Because every day that you put it off is another day when fear defeats you. Also, I hate waiting for change. No, John Mayer, I'm not waiting on the world to change. But don't worry, I still like you.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Live Show Retooling Continues

Each week, I continue to set aside time to working on improving my live show. Over the past couple of months, I've been working hard to incorporate my new friend, Mr. iMac. I just recorded a video of me rehearsing my song "For Nothing", using an Apogee Gio pedal, MIDI keyboard, and Apple's Logic Pro software. I'm still working out the kinks, but this should give you a taste of where I'm headed with all of this shenanigans:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Comcast Promo Rates Forever!?!?!

About six months ago, I set up internet service with Comcast. At that time, the sales associate I spoke with said that I would be able to easily extend my promotional rate - an unlimited number of times - by simply calling Comcast the month before my current promotion ended to request an extension. Yes, an extension of my current promo - not a new one. I wasn't really sure about any of this, but I took it in stride...

And so, it has now been five and a half months, and I just called Comcast this evening. A cool girl named Dominique said that she'll have to call me back tomorrow, after she speaks with the sales department, to see about extending my offer. So far, so good. I should get a call tomorrow around 4 PM! We'll see. I have high hopes and low self esteem. (Yeah, I know that that doesn't make any sense.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Special Thank You to The Gap

On Friday night, I took a stroll down to my local Gap store to cash in a few certificates I received from the company for free jeans. Yes, free Gap jeans. It was my payment for driving my but up to Racine, Wisconsin, last summer, to perform for The Gap's Born to Play artist performance series.

Let me say that my experience at The Gap was superb. Thank you so much, Stephanie and Sanja, for letting me hang out with you in the store, after hours, trying on jeans and shirts, to make sure that I got just what I needed for my photoshoot on Saturday. You two were awesome! In fact, you were so awesome that I'd like to give you each a free download of my album, Glimmer. The only issue is, I don't have your email addresses... So, if you're reading this, please send it on over to this email address: email {at} jaymathes {dot} com.

You two are awesome! Thank you so much! I'll post pics from the shoot soon.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Eight Hours, New Vocals

Over the past two days, I have spent eight hours recording vocals and mixing for one of my new songs. It's called "So Far", and it will be up on sometime in the next two weeks.

Maybe it's just me, but I totally feel like I am a biased listener when I listen to my own music. I can play some of my recordings side-by-side with those from major artists and hear the difference, but not know whether the difference is bad or good or just different. Their guitars have slightly different tones, their vocals are just a bit more perfect, and my drums are never "Jimmy drums".

I guess what I'm saying is I'll let you know when I post the song, and I'd love to get your input about it. You can love it or hate it, but feel free to post a little something here...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Recording Vocals

I've never been excited about recording vocals for an album before. This is changing.

For the past two months, I've been training - quite rigorously - using a vocal program called Speech Level Singing, developed by Seth Riggs. I'm not using the *actual* SLS program, because I think it's like over $100, but I am using a book called "Singing for the Stars". You can check it out on All I can say is that it's freakin' fantastic.

Like anything worth anything in life, vocal training takes time; and for the first time ever, I can say that I feel like I'm gaining legitimate confidence in how I sing. (When I was in high school, I was overly-confident in an untrained, ignorant sort of way.)

And although I don't have a "vocal coach" or instructor to walk me through some of this stuff, step-by-step, I do feel like I have a pretty good ear for matching tone quality, and a sense of whether or not something "feels right" as I'm singing it...

All of this to say that I'm actually looking forward to recording lead vocals tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mosquito Fleet's Debut Album and Release Show

Are you a fan of Mute Math, Jars of Clay, Snow Patrol, Pedro the Lion, Death Cab for Cutie? Well if you are, then I know a band that you need to know: Mosquito Fleet.

Just went to their CD release show at Wheaton College. Bought the record, too. Impressive on all fronts. About the album, All Those Who Wander Are Not Lost:

Most memorable track on first listen: God's Not Listening
Most interesting rhythms: Bright Sadness
Best Lyrics: Times Are Changing

One wouldn't think it possible, but Mosquito Fleet sounds almost *identical* in concert as on the record. What exactly does that mean? It means they're polished, they're lead singer (Joel Yoshonis) is actually *a musician* and doesn't need his vocals tweaked [excessively] by auto-tune. It means they're guitarist (Alex Mrakovich) knows his gear and knows how to get exactly the tones that he wants - every time. It means the group plays as a band.

Aspects of the live show need some tweaking, but for a group that has been together for less than two years, they show an uncommon maturity - one that is hard to find in 10-year-0ld bands who have played all of the big venues. I expect that, if Mosquito Fleet wants it enough, they can get there, too. Everything good takes time, dedication, sacrifice. I look forward to years of music ahead as the group continues to hone their pop-alt-rock anthem sound.

I like these guys so much, in fact, that I'm going to try to book a few shows with them. If I had to pick a young band to co-tour with right now, these would be the guys.

Learn more about the band and buy their new record at:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Concert Tonight!

No, not mine! A friend of mine. His name is Alex Mrakovich, and his band, Mosquito Fleet, has a *free* show tonight at Wheaton College. If you're available tonight, you should definitely come on out. They just released their first full-length album, which I haven't heard yet, but I'm sure it's amazing. And if you can't make it, at least check out their MySpace Music page. Check it. I'll hit everybody again and let you all know how the show goes...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Plans for This Summer

It's official! I bought my plane ticket to Denver this morning, for a trip this summer to the Wind River Mountain Range of Wyoming. Ever here of it? If you're an outdoorsy type, you probably have. For a whole week in August, we'll be concerning ourselves with nothing more than backpacking, trout fishing, and day hiking. Well, of course I'll have a guitar. And plenty of time to write, for sure. But I'm afraid that I won't be doing much climbing while I'm there...

Getting outdoors helps me recharge my batteries - mentally, physically, emotionally; and I'm really looking forward to spending some time with good friends, basking in the glory exuded by nature, and remembering again what it's like to live simply. Here's a picture from the USGS of the Cirque of Towers - right where we'll be.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I Can't Wait

I can't wait to see my brother on Sunday. He has been away - pretty much since the beginning of the year - at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana. It will be good to see him and hang out over his Spring Break. At least, I think we'll be able to. (I haven't confirmed with him yet if he already has plans for his time off.)

This is going to be a busy weekend for me again. It pretty much always seems to fall that way. Tomorrow, Saturday, I'm recording all day with my friend Gary, for our band The City. (Learn more about our project on our website: And on Sunday afternoon, I'll be at my brother's glee club concert, which happens to be in the next town over from me.

Are you doing anything special this weekend?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The National Bone Marrow Registry

This afternoon, I requested a bone marrow test kit from, the official, national marrow donor program website. Sometimes, the cost to register is free because of donations the program receives. A friend of mine asked me to sign up (her dad needs a donor), so I took some time to read through the literature, talk with my wife about it, and fill out the paperwork. It's surprisingly easy to do, and the only thing you have to do when you get the kit is take a quick saliva swipe and mail it back.

I'd encourage you all to take just a few minutes to read up on being a donor. I know you've heard it all before, but marrow is one of those things - like air - that we all take for granted. To hear the story of my friend's dad, you can watch the video on his website, here:

Thank you all for your time!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

So Just Who Was Saint Patrick Anyway?

Today being Saint Patrick's Day and all, I decided to learn a bit about the man, and see what all of the fuss was about... I'd like to share with you just a bit of what I discovered...

Well, for starters, Saint Patrick was a *saint*. What's that? To put it simply, Patrick was a Christian (as far as anyone can say today). He was probably not a saint in the Roman Catholic sense that most people tend to think of today. He was, more or less, probably a regular kind of British dude (regular and British in a 5th century sort of way).

Patrick (last name unknown?) lived from around 340 to 500 AD, which was right around the time when Christianity was starting to define itself. Beginning after Constantine I, there were all sorts of meetings held to determine what exactly the Bible taught about God and Jesus. It was a big deal.

From what Wikipedia says, it sounds like Patrick was officially bishopified (yes, I made up a word that means "to become a bishop") around the same time as another, well-known Christian: Saint Augustine of Hippo. (If you haven't heard of this dude, you better check him out.) So if ever there was a doubt in your mind about what *type* of a Christian Patrick *could* have been, just remember that he and Augustine were contemporaries. It was a different type of Christianity back then a much more radical one than we often see today.

The bottom line is, we don't know much about who he was; but we know that he was a missionary to northern Ireland, commissioned (most likely) by the very early Roman Catholic Church. For reasons probably related to the message he brought to the Irish, by the 800's, he became revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

Now about all of the drinking... You have to realize that, in a controlled environment, a feast is a beautiful thing. It's a celebration of a person or event. This is, of course, probably how Saint Patrick's Day began. But references that I found, as early as the mid 18th century, described celebration that had less to do with the saint and more to do with just being Irish. Considering that the Irish probably have some sort of predisposition towards drinking a lot, it isn't too difficult to see why one of the greatest celebration days in Ireland has turned in to a reason to party.

For my own part, this afternoon, I tipped back a cold one to the saint of old, in whose footsteps I now walk. Thank you, Saint Patrick, for loving and serving the Irish.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why Losing is Good

Okay, so losing is *not* good. Losing is not just*bad*; I believe losing is evil. Yes, that's right. Losing, as we Americans define it, I believe, is evil. I'll get to that another time; but for now, I need you to know that just because I believe it is *wrong* to lose, doesn't mean you can't learn something from losing. And that, of course, is why I think that what losing *does to us* is good. Losing isn't good, but its "ends" is. So let's start with the ends:

Losing helps us see that we are all equally flawed. We never perform up to the perfect standard that our sport (or game or activity) demands. By not doing so, we must admit to ourselves that we are imperfect. Furthermore, more likely than not, at the end of a lost game, we will be able to see the flaws in a referee. They aren't perfect either. Nobody is.

Losing causes us to self-examine. As mentioned above, we should easily be able to spot our own flaws. But more than that, losing allows us to see where we can apply ourselves to improve. In a sense, I *am* speaking of self-improvement; but know that I think it only goes so far. And here's how far it goes:

Theodore Roosevelt once said:

"Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty... I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led diffcult lives and led them well."

And so I hold this to be true. Learning an instrument, a sport, a skill, will never, ever be easy to do. That's what makes it so precious and so fulfilling for the person doing it. I think this will even be true after life on earth.

Losing makes us long for victory. In my opinion, this is the most important affect of losing. I believe that, ultimately, we can find victory in life - in all of the junk that we deal with and see. That victory won't come from a win on the court or from beating your best friend in a game of Cranium. This victory is greater than anything that we can do on our own. I believe that it can only come from a life aligned with an eternal purpose.

Have questions about what I'm talking about? Drop me an email, or post a comment on this entry.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

All Good [?] Things Come to an End

Has anyone else received this notice from Blogger?

If you haven't figured it out yet, I use Blogger to update the home page of my website, here: Or should I say "I used to"?

In just a few, short weeks, Google will be discontinuing Blogger's external site publishing feature. Why? Well, it probably has to do with control - controlling content, monitoring content, data-mining that content, and the like.

Am I okay with this change? Heck no. Why am I not okay with this change? Because I'm not a web designer - I'm a songwriter. And now, I have to waste more of my time screwing around with updating code, transferring data to another system, and playing "web designer", which I am not.

Just when I was beginning to get comfortable with the Blogger interface for external publishing via FTP, they take it away... This sucks. But at least Google is giving everybody six weeks notice. That's mighty noble of them, don't you think?

So here's the deal: if anyone would be willing to set up a *new* way to post on to my site - for *FREE* - please send me an email. Please log in to Blogger/Gmail and send me a secure message through Blogger. Or, you can use this address: email {at} jaymathes {dot} com.

Also, I'd be willing to barter with someone (IE: trade services), although I'm fairly limited to writing, performing, and recording music, etc. Oh yeah, I also cook, love coffee, and rock climb, if those things give you any ideas about what services we can swap...

I just had another SQL database set up, if someone is able to transfer my design into, get this functionality through, Wordpress. Or if someone is familiar with, that might work, too.

Just let me know. Thanks, everyone!

Monday, March 8, 2010

How to Waste Your Life in One Step

Step 1: Watch T.V.

There is nothing on the face of this earth that distracts more, that dulls the senses more, that imposes unreality on society more, that kills the individual spirit more than this ridiculous box at the center of everyone's home.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Typing Instead of Strumming

Yes, it has been a whole, five days since I last posted. What happened?!?! Yeah, well, I'm a slacker. Actually, I'm really not... Over the last week, I've been trying a new format/method/tactic for getting music work done at home. Obviously (or maybe not, but now you know), I work out of my apartment: booking phone calls, web and graphic design, fan outreach, blogging, recording, and, don't forget, practicing and writing music. Jeez! Who woulda thunkit? A *songwriter* who *writes* and *practices* music?!?!

Writing music and practicing (guitar, voice, and piano) are the two, most important tasks that I have to do on any given day, and as such, I have to place them at the top of my to do list. So here's my new method (and it seems to be working):

Before I turn on the computer - at all - on M, T, W, R, F, or Saturday, I have to spend *2.5 hours* writing and practicing. I start with guitar practice (45 min), then move to writing (30 min), then on to piano (30 min), and voice (30 min). The extra 15 minutes is eaten up by stretching, bathroom, getting coffee, and other stop-gap putzings.

I must note, however, that in order to write this post, I have violated this new work strategy. I couldn't bear not posting for you for an entire week! As soon as I hit "publish post", I will be putting this computer to sleep to hit those priority tasks.

So why am I being so structured about my time? There are two factors:

1. Gary Stanton (a co-writer friend of mine) and Joe Zimmer (my new manager) and I just recently started meeting every month to talk about how to "up our game". It came to the fore that we had no method for keeping each other accountable for putting in XX hours of music-related work each week. We decided to write out our schedules (something we all have to do this week), post them online, and keep tabs on how much work we're all actually doing.

2. As a result of #1 above, I *did* sit down and analyze my workload. I started out by writing down the amount of time I would *like* to spend on music work during any given week. I then totaled those hours. I was surprised to find that the total was well under what most Americans consider a full-time job (40 hours a week, of course). According to my "ideal" schedule, as I first conceived it, I would only be putting in 29 hours a week! At that point, I just started adding chunks of time to bring the total up to 40. This is, after all, my official full-time job.

So there you have it, friends. I have sought, in my own life, to place the things that I think I do well - the things that I love to do and only I can do for myself - at the top of my priority list each day (well, six days a week). (Just FYI, I also write music on Sundays.) For me, the way to make this happen (and I'm still in process on this) was just to say "no computer until I do A, B, and C."

I hope this sort of a thing can help you out, too, and I'd love to hear from you if either there's something in your life that you'd like to apply this to, or if you apply this and have some good news to report back. Thanks for the comments!

On to practicing...