Making records.

The creative process can be daunting. One of the most difficult parts is in the decisions, or indecision. I experience this on a regular basis as a songwriter; the instinct to self-edit can be so strong that it blocks creativity completely. You can spend hours circling around an idea, but until you make the decision to commit to it and run with it, the idea remains as it is...just an idea.

This year I have worked on a few projects in the role of engineer/producer. In this role, I've seen the creative process from a different angle. It's been great. One of the most satisfying experiences was with Fred Van Vactor.

Fred has a ton of great songs but until recently he didn't have a record. He tried but could never manage to see a project to completion. This summer, he and I spent a couple of days working on demos of his new tunes. It was extremely fun and he felt a huge surge of inspiration. I did what I could to record the demos well, but it seemed like part of my job was to help him get the ball rolling in a bigger way. He was on the verge of making the decision to start a real album project, he just needed a bit of a push. After making the demos he went to San Diego and knocked out a record with Christopher Hoffee...I've only heard a few of the tunes, but it sounds fantastic and suits him perfectly. And, I think one of our demos made it on the record! Listen to 'A Girl Like You' on his Myspace page.

Another highlight was helping John Shipe finish 'Yellow House'. He had put a ton of hours into the record but it hadn't taken shape. I think he just needed an objective opinion...someone to say "Keep this, axe that..." etc.

This week I'm working with another friend, Mike Last. We're in the thick of it...he's getting more and more comfy with the idea of committing to a final version of his tunes. I really like being the guy who's just around to push buttons and say "that was good but I think you can beat it". I'll post a link to his tunes when they're done!


Snow day

Well, we got four inches of snow here on the valley floor. Not significant compared to many parts of the country, but it's enough to close the schools. Anna and I are gonna trek up to the golf course and go sledding.

I got word from Jenny Queen that she made a video for a song we wrote together last year. She's living in Australia now and her record is being released by a big label there. Pretty cool, I think. I've been tossing around the idea of going there for a work vacation sometime in 09...maybe I'll get to do a little Aussie tour with Jenny. Here's the video:

I'm scheduled to engineer something for the Eugene band Molasses tonight...I was worried that they may take a snow day too and cancel the session, but it looks like we're going to stick to the plan. They're a rootsy, bluegrassy trio and they're very much into the idea of recording the whole thing live. I'm just going to bring a tube mic and have them circle around the way they must have done in the old days. Fun!

Better hit the slopes before the snow melts...


Decisions, decisions

Friday night, and I’m in my cozy little home. Anna and I have been talking for hours about how we should shape the next 6 to 12 months of our life. One of the frontrunner ideas is to pack our dog up and drive around the country for a month or two. As in, go on tour…

It’s been a year and a half since I’ve gone on a proper tour. I’ve left for a week or two, sure, but I haven’t ‘hit the road’ in the same way I used to. It’s really a whole different ballgame. It requires a couple solid months of planning, and the tour itself requires a couple solid months of sheer willpower.

So that’s one option. There are others, each with its own set of challenges and rewards. It got me thinking about the challenge of developing a career in music. The fact is, there are no clearly marked paths. None. Each step forward is preceded and accompanied by a bunch of second-guessing questions. It’s nearly impossible to predict the outcome of an effort.

Who knows. It’s exciting to think about the unlimited possibilities the world has to offer. It’s hard to make a choice.


Patience, patience.

Every once in a while, something comes along that is so well-suited to my personality it feels like it was meant for me. I just have to be patient and wait for them to find me. Examples:

Designer jeans with faux stains. Are you kidding? I've been wearing stained, torn jeans since freshman year of high school. I never dreamed that it would actually become so fashionable that one would have difficulty finding an un-faux-stained pair in the stores. And now that tapered jeans are back I can probably cash in all my old pairs at Buffalo Exchange.

Netflix. No late fees? Really? And I just put the movies back in the mail from whence they came? Without paying late fees? I probably paid hundreds of dollars in late fees over the course of a few years. Netflix was made for me.

Twitter. Social networking made easy. Sure, I'll feel the pressure of being witty in 140 characters or less, but I have a feeling Twitter is going to be right up my alley. See, I do want to let people know what I'm up to. I'd like to keep in touch with friends. But blogging requires more discipline than I can consistently muster. With Twitter, I can get the word out, keep in touch, and spend very little time doing it. Signup is easy as pie...to sign up and 'follow' me go to:




Man…this week has been good.

The Tractor Tavern show in Seattle was great. Reily and The Soft hills both played excellent sets and it was fun to see some old friends. Drew Dresman, former Justin King bandmate, is really great in the Soft Hills. I’ll see Reily again next week when they come to Eugene. I’m helping produce their record at Justin King’s studio Blackberry Hill…great songs, great band!

Anna came along on this trip so we had to go to our favorite Seattle sandwich spot, Salumi. They specialize in cured meats, and the stuff is amazing. Seriously. Best bud Kyle went with us and he had to concede to his meatball sandwich.

The next day Anna and I went back for more. We ate our sandwiches in the sun on a little dock by the ferry terminal.

Bellingham was fun. While on stage I realized that I’d never seen Bellingham in the daylight. That’s one of the funny things about touring; you can go to a city several times without ever finding out what it looks like. As far as I can tell Bellingham has some hills, trees, and water.

The Forest Grove show was tiny but fun. Chicago friend Paula was in the area for family biz so she stopped by with her brother and sis-in-law. It was great to catch up.

Tonight I play at Musichead in Meford. It’s a cool indie music store that puts on shows from time to time.

Tomorrow, I’ll play with John Shipe at his ‘Goodbye Eugene’ show at Sam Bond’s Garage. John has been a friend and mentor for over a decade…he’s taking the opportunity to relocate for a while. He’ll be missed.