What's a producer?
Last night after work, I drove out to Thousand Oaks for another pre-production meeting with Shane Alexander, who will be producing the record.
If you don't work in music, the roles can sound mysterious. Using film as analogy: as songwriter, I'm like the writer of the screenplay. I craft a story in exactly the way I want to tell it, creating structure through the placement of every word and melodic motif.
Since I'm also the artist -- the vocalist who performs and embodies the songs -- I'm like the lead actress, evoking emotion through my enunciation of the words and the timbre, volume, and expression of my voice. The rhythm of my guitar, whether it's strummed or finger-picked, with chords or individual notes, supports my voice and the story.
The producer in a music project -- in this case, Shane -- is analogous to the director of a film. Listening to my vision and my particularness as an artist, Shane's role is to build the sonic world that will support and best showcase each song, my artistry, and the complete album as a whole.
Last night, up at Buddhaland Studios, Shane and I more or less finalized the 7 songs for the album, plus discussed 1 or 2 other songs that might be released as separate bonus "single" tracks. Playing to a metronome, we ballparked the tempos and jotted down notes about Hammond organ, pedal or lap steel, shaker and tambourine, French horn or clarinet. As he said, I have a "rock bone," which is true, but a few of our favorites are definite ballads.
It's a funny thing to stand on the edge of a future with someone who you know will be important in your life. Songwriting, at least the way that I do it, is very personal. It's not just the lyrics of the song or the expression of the melody, but the backstory of what went into the song, the process of carving it into a shape, and the scraps left on the work table when it's done. It's also a lifetime of music rooted in the folk revival of the '60s, with long years of orchestral and renaissance ensemble playing, kirtan music, and puzzling out songs on my guitar.
Shane and I have never before worked together. In our hours together these past two weeks we've been studying each other's artistry and work philosophy. To get to the final product, he and I will be engaged together in every step of the process. We need to know that we can trust each other, that we can communicate, and that aesthetically we're on the same page. I noticed last night that we're beginning to understand each other's language. Eventually, we'll know the shorthand, probably talk in music as much as words.
Did you ever had a dream so bright that, though the path was not blazed, or the road twisted like an M. Night Shyamalan plot, you could follow it like headlights in the dark?
Did you dedicate everything to your dream, as they say you must, with tenacious commitment?
And, did it happen, after years and years, that one day your light blinked out?
Over the past year, after a looooooong hiatus from my singer/songwriter career (during which I recorded 3 albums and toured throughout the northeast and across the U.S.) I've been working on a new collection of songs.
It started last spring with one song about a woman and a question:
"If you were the woman that you wanted to be..." ....?
Every song is a conversation. As I wrote the pre-chorus, I found myself hearing the song not just as the composer, but as the intended audience. In my early 30s, my own brightly-lit dream -- of recording and performing my own songs -- blinked out. Maybe the electricity faltered. Maybe life got stormy. Maybe I was in a marriage that wasn't working. Maybe I felt too young to be stuck there for life. Though my heart still ached to write songs and sing, I found that I couldn't do it anymore. For the first time in my life, I stepped away from music.
I left the East Coast for someone else's dream in California. I practiced yoga. Wrote down stories from the touring days. Composed music for film/TV. Played in several kirtan/world music bands. Made a lot of pies. I got divorced. Fell in love. Grieved over not having children. Married. Became a stepmother. Published essays and poems. Did very little songwriting (though, truth told, not none). Made more pies.
Ten years went by.
The years were tender, hard at times, often quite beautiful. I embarked on a sort of archaeological self-excavation. Then, last year, I built a tiny "she-shed" cabin. I needed a quiet place to write. A room of my own. And -- suddenly -- my dream re-sparked. The light went on.
Was the song about the woman? Or was it about me?
The answer came, solid and strong: I'd be writing songs. I'd be singing. And so I did. I wrote six months' worth of songs, a new one every week. And out of that emerged a new record.
April 23, 2019 is the launch of the Kickstarter campaign for A THOUSAND TINY TORCHES.
Turns out, sometimes a dream is not at all like headlights in the dark. Sometimes it's a long string of sparks, flickering here and there, revealing pieces of the world one blink at a time, like a time-lapse release.
Sometimes it's like A THOUSAND TINY TORCHES illuminating the night.
A THOUSAND TINY TORCHES is an EP collection of some of the songs I've written in the past year. My last album was released over 10 years ago. A THOUSAND TINY TORCHES is the album I didn't realize I've been making ever since.
I dare say, these are the best songs of my life. They come from growing up and growing older. They come from listening to others and examining myself. They come from loss, grief, joy, love. They come from a deep appreciation of the Folk, Americana, Country, and Singer-Songwriter artists who have buoyed my spirit throughout my life.
Will you join me in the making of this album by signing up on my mailing list and, when it goes live, backing and sharing this campaign? Whereas years ago, making a record was a magical effort behind secret doors -- nearly impenetrable to independent artists like me, and completely closed off to you -- times have changed. Now, YOU AND I ARE THE RECORD LABEL.
Will you be a part of this campaign and add your light to A THOUSAND TINY TORCHES?
The house is asleep, but I'm up late writing to you with some exciting news:
After years of working behind the scenes at my day job in the music industry, and after more than a decade since my last singer/songwriter album, I'm about to embark on the next chapter of my music career. This summer, I head into the studio with a bundle of new songs, an incredible producer team, and some AMAZING Los Angeles musicians.
It's a big step and I'm really, as my almost-15-year-old kidlet says, nervocited. Excited about the album... nervous about putting myself "out there" in a vulnerable way and asking you for help.
I know you're in my corner. And community and support are perhaps two of the most beautiful ideas ever.
But it's scary to bare your heart to even one person. It takes a good dose of chutzpah to shout it out publicly. Day by day, I've been mustering my courage to tell you about this. I've been practicing by talking with a friend here, a stranger there, the mirror when no one is around.
Here's the support I need from my community:
On April 23, I will be launching a crowdfunding campaign and inviting my community of family, friends, and fans to gather together to help fund the making of this record.
The campaign will be launched on the Kickstarter platform (I'll send you a link when it's live), and there will be a video (it's cute and a little homemade looking -- I learned iMovie just for this!) telling everything about the project. On Kickstarter, I've set different support levels for backers, so whether you contribute $15 or $1500, there's a special reward with your name on it.
Tell me: What kind of backer rewards would you like to see?
Here's one idea: I designed this graphic around a sketch (of me - obviously!) by Max Forward, a phenomenal storyboard artist here in Los Angeles.
Would you like to see it on a t-shirt? A tote bag? Pins?