Sunday, March 25, 2012

Let the Dream Resume...After A 20 Year Pause

It was all planned out:

1) Tour the world to gain all the skills/contacts/experience needed
2) Record new songs
3) Gig
4) Compose soundtracks
5) Get album released
6) Make a living composing and recording

That list was created in May 1990.

This is 2012.

A lot has happened since then. 98.45% of what has happened has been awesome. I can talk for hours about what adventures these nearly 22 years have brought me (or read my other posts).

But I never realized that dream.

I completed the first 3 steps by 1991. I had the songs and the energy and the contacts to go for it.

Step 4? started in earnest in 1994. Ended up composing soundtracks for live theatre and 2 movies.

While I dabbled in step 5, including a really great christmas album, it was not 'out there for the world to hear'.

In late 2011, something snapped and I decided it was really important to resume the dream...while staying realistic on how much time I can devote to it.

I know, I know, why bring reality into achieving a dream...but there are so many awesome things that are going well I just felt I needed to reboot one of my passion for life September 2011, I decided to tackle #5: release an album for sale on CDbaby, iTunes and Amazon. 

The album I decided to release was a collection of instrumental songs from three soundtracks I composed and create an album called "Ghost In Wonderland". I pulled the songs out, dusted them off, and ran them through my updated processing software to see how good I could make them sound.

The three soundtracks I chose were "Alice in Wonderland", "The Ghost", and "The Crucible". Those three soundtracks I had composed over a 3 month period and I consciously decided to use similar melodies and themes, but orchestrated very differently.

I think the mash-up of those three styles make for a very rich album.

I then decided to release it through "CDbaby", which is an on-line distributor that publishes to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and 30 other digital locations. It also creates physical CDs. I am quite impressed with that site.

Once I got the songs together, I realized I had a lot more work to do! I needed artwork, to get the songs registered at the US copyright office, and get the music released.

I contacted a friend for the artwork. Through several iterations we ended up with a really interesting cover that also works great as the CD label.

I then had to select the appropriate genre. MAN was that difficult! I could have just chosen Rock, but there were a million choices...and knowing how the social-relational "if you like that, listen to this..." works, I had to pick a very specific genre, along with 'famous artists I sound like'.

Well, I chose "Instrumental Rock", "Industrial Rock", and "Soundtrack". For the famous artists? I chose "Hans Zimmer", "Joe Satriani", and "Juno Reactor". I think those fit well and represent the style of music on Ghost In Wonderland. Take a look at my artist section.

I submitted the songs, fretted about which 30 seconds of the 4-9 minute songs I should choose for preview, and pressed "Publish".

The next album was live!

I looked at the genre section, there I was.

I looked at the 'by location' section and there I was...RIGHT NEXT TO MY OLD GUITAR TEACHER!

Turns out Reynold Philipsek, my guitar teacher from 1986, has released many albums and his latest was on CDbaby...on the same day as mine. Crazy world we live in. (FYI: Reynold is fantastic. He was great then and his playing is stunning now....brings back a lot of memories learning the fundamentals of guitar in his house...complete with barking dog, real VOX amp, and an ear that could figure any song out I asked him to. )

And then I waited. 2 days later I got an email that I got a purchase. a week later, someone in Canada purchased 2 songs. (I think this means my next business card can say "Internationally Selling Recording Artist").

CDbaby then told me I was live on iTunes, Amazon, and they'd distribute it out to many other sites.

I later heard from a friend that someone purchased it from iTunes.

So how many have I sold in total?  Not many. (OK. 4 as of March 25, 2012)

But that's OK. It's out there. I've gone through the experience. I'm ready for my next one.

Oh, and the day I decided to publish, I decided to purchase a '3 album bundle' from CDbaby because it was cheaper...

...and because my dream isn't over...

...sometimes it just takes a bit more time to get the next step.

PS: and if you're interested, take a listen to the 'single', and if you like it... leave a review...

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Lately I've been struggling with a burden.

This burden requires to be fed every day. I have to maintain it, care for it, provide a place for it to thrive, and protect it from predators.

It is also my responsibility to shape how it grows. Sometimes it's fun...seeing it respond to my pruning and shaping is very satisfying. Sometimes it's irritating...seeing no reaction no matter what kind of work I put into it. Sometimes it's maddening...seeing an opposite reaction...I try to follow the "care and feeding" books, but mine seems to require unique care so most of time I'm at a loss of what to do.

At times I think my burden is growing fine, and I think I can start focusing on what I want to do. However, just when I start on something I've wanted to get to for a year or so, I glance at my burden and it obviously needs immediate help. Why doesn't it ever just grow like I want it? I feel stuck and don't know what to do.

If I asked you for advice what would you suggest?

I'm guessing it would depend on what exactly this burden is.

What if I told you my burden is my bonsai trees (I've had some for nearly 20 years)?

I'm guessing you would say to just give them away...or throw them away. Some might suggest a Vader-esque 'goodbye' ceremony, complete with 15' funeral pyre.  After all, if I'm that burdened and it's affecting my whole life, a few mini-trees are not worth it.

What if I told you my burden is my 5 acre land?

I'm guessing you would say one of two things: 1) Hire out the maintenance of it so you have time to do the things you want. Or, 2) move. I would probably react defensively to both, but in the end, either would make sense. Again, even though one requires more money, and the second requires a drastic change of location...if my burden is affecting my life that much, either option would be worth it.

What if I told you my burden is my kids?

I'm guessing you would say I'm an unappreciative, selfish jerk who doesn't know how good I've got it...that I forgot that all kids are a gift from God and I should cherish every moment with them...that my primary purpose in life is to raise these kids the best I can so that when they're grown they'll follow their path to a Godly life...and that once they're gone I'm going to regret not soaking in every moment.

I agree.

I wish I didn't feel this now.

I wish I could adjust the aperture of the lens I'm looking through right now...see the bigger picture...the rich colors surrounding me from these wonderful humans I'm living life with.

I wish I could tell myself to just need to "grow a pair" and accept the responsibility given to me.

But to be honest, all I want to do right now is put my wife in the passenger seat of our imaginary Nissan 350z roadster (that we'd purchase with no gymnastics training to pay for), drive to our get-a-way in Puerto PeƱasco Mexico (that sleeps 2), mix a large jug of margarita, play all day in the Sea of Cortez, have a beach campfire, make mexican s'mores, sing to RCPM music, work on our new platinum-selling album, and sleep under the stars to end the day.

Monday, March 5, 2012

2012-03-04: Shaun Groves

03-04-2012: Shaun Groves
Where: Crosswinds Church, Rochester MN
Went with: Wife
Times: 1st

Last night I went to see Shaun Groves.

I was quite impressed.

I didn't know many of his songs, but with just him and his guitar (and occasional piano), he created a great show that was mesmerizing, funny, and thought provoking. His guitar tuning (open C I learned) was fantastic and enabled his songs to fill the stage with just guitar and vocal. His banter and stories in between songs were funny, heart-felt, and even at times a bit sarcastic...which I loved! At one point he directly insulted the audience's ability to clap...(I think we learned to NOT insult your not-yet-paying audience on day 2 of performance school) ...but he pulled it off and it broke down another barrier so later when he had something serious to say, he had our full attention.

As a sign of great songwriting, he played a few of his new songs, and then on the way home we popped his new CD into the car and could instantly recognize the songs and even hum the melodies.

Very impressive and inspiring!

But when it was all done, I still left feeling sad.


Because throughout most of the show I was thinking, "I could have totally done this. What if I would have focused 100% on music all those years ago? This could totally have been my path...making a living at doing something that I completely love doing. Instead, it's merely a hobby and the majority of my time and effort is focused on working my 'day job' to fulfill my responsibilities to my family, mortgage, occupation."

What if I had just put all my effort into music...

...and then Shaun spoke of Compassion...and how he's traveled the world for God.

And I got even sadder...

...because my dream of 'making it' as a musician, while filled with some sort of faith-topic'd songs, did not involve trusting God for everything...even my thoughts above talked of 'my' focus...not depending on God for everything...for contacts, for 'breaks', for my daily bread. There was always some business plan involved, an action-item list, and a 'backup' plan in case it didn't work out...which is what I ended up with.

...and realizing I may be living my 'backup plan' for my life? even sadder.

...and realizing that when I travel it's not to further God's kingdom nor to learn from others about their huge faith in hopes to spread those inspiring stories through music like Shaun...but instead solely to make $$$ for a corporation?  Yikes.

Turns out that what Shaun does I could not even remotely come close to.

Songwriting? yes.

Performing? sure.

Encouraging an audience to "Simplify your life so others can simply live"? Not a least not in my default mind-set.


At this point I'm tempted to list the logic that my brain is screaming to sooth my heart. The logic is solid and probably biblical...

...that I have an amazing wife and four awesome kids
...that raising these 4 young people into men and women who follow Jesus has got to be one of the most important jobs in the world
...that my 'day job' enables me to be the financial engine for others on the front line
...that through moving to this city for my 'day job' enabled me to put my musical skills to use at a local church for the past 14 years, which has (I hope) been fruitful for God.
...that I have no regrets...pulling one thread out can unravel the entire tapestry of my life (thanks Jean-Luc)


...but the thoughts of 'what if' still makes me sad.

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