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...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Coffee Overload

I used to drink coffee a lot more than I have been over the past couple of years. But this week, I've had more coffee than I've had in a long time in a seven-day period. Except for Saturday and Sunday, I'm pretty sure that I've made a half-pot every day. Starbucks French Roast. (I still can't bring myself to buying the cheap stuff.) And on top of that, I've gone to Starbucks for the past three days in a row. With my plans tomorrow, it will be four.

Like every good American, I often use coffee to help me wake up in the morning. Just out of college, I used the highly-potent combination of a shower and five cups of coffee before beginning music business work for the day. It could have been because of the coffee, or, more likely, because of my age that I was able to stay out until 1 AM and turn around for a full day of concert booking, promotion, and practicing, beginning at 6 AM. Yes, 6 AM. Voluntarily.

Now, before you go nailing me to a cross for keeping Starbucks in business, let me just say a couple of things here:

1. I'm not so much supporting 'Bucks as I am supporting community-building. I don't just go to 'Bucks because I want a drink. I go there because coffeehouses have become America's "second place" of choice. It's a get-away place that isn't home, where you can meet with friends, hang out, and spend a relatively small amount of money.

2. Starbucks, as far as I know, is doing more by way of fair trade, recycling, eco-friendly, other community sensitivities, etc. than Dunkin' Donuts. Besides, the coffee is way better; and, if you ask me, the coffee just plain tastes better at 'Bucks. But that's just me.

Do you have any crazy coffee stories? I'd like to hear them.