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.