Track #3 Always Down For Love

While most of the tracks on this album stray a little bit away from my “typical” traditional country sound, I still love a good foot stomper built around “three chords and the truth” as it’s said. So, of course I had to have a little finger pickin’ country tune on this record. I do have to give a little shout out to my friend Kozy on this one who gave me the idea about living “upcountry” but always being “down for love”. I thought it was a catchy word play so I kept it in my back pocket for the right time.

A catchy play on words a good song it does not make, and as someone who writes from personal experience I needed an event or something to inspire an entire song. And it came to me while I was driving to Kona to deliver a pair of headphone to my (not at the time yet) wife. You see at the time Betsy was doing a yoga certification training in Kona. This required her to stay at an ashram for about 4 to 5 days at a time. So for her yoga training she would be home for the weekend and then go back down to Kona, and if you are not familiar with the geography of the Big Island is not close to Waimea. Well one time on her way down she forgot a few important items, one being her headphones the other being her protein powder, which having to eat a strictly vegetarian diet at the ashram was a crucial component of her weekly packing.

So that night after she had gotten to Kona and settled in after a long day of bending and stretching she called to say she’d forgotten her headphones and her protein powder. And I am happy to say that without hesitation I got in my truck and drove the almost 100 miles round trip to deliver the things she forgot. And it was in that moment (among many, in case she’s reading) that I realized that I am truly “down for love”. That I would really do anything that my woman asks for and to be her support in her times of need.

And I am glad I had that trusty little phrase that Kozy had shared with me some months being about living up country but always being down for love. And so a song was born! The chords came together pretty easily, so from there it was just a matter of putting all the parts together.

When I set out to record the song I though about what kind of instrumentation I wanted added to it. I thought about some traditional country instruments like maybe adding some banjo, fiddle or slide guitar, but knowing my man Colin John would be visiting the island with his recently acquired vintage Fender Esquire guitar I knew that’s what I needed. When he runs that trough his Swart amplifier, it’s country twang at its finest.

Combine all that with the fine mixing magic of Michael Landolt and you have your self a true foot stompin’, twanger of a country song. Trust me this was not an easy song to mix. Colin had added a plethora of twangy fills and trills when recording so there was lot to sort through to see what we wanted to do with all the guitar goodness at our disposal. Michael must have sent me 5 or 6 different mixes of all different styles before we settled on one. And when you listen to the track you’ll hear all types of fun little musical add ons to the main song that makes it a fun one to relisten to. You will always discover something new!

On top of all that Colin adds in a ripping and I must add tasty little guitar solo in the middle. All in all it is a fun up beat country tune about doing anything for the one you love, enjoy! Link to the song here.

Track #2 Why Wait For Tomorrow (When the Sun It Shines Today)

The songwriting style on this song was definitely influenced by country singer Kacey Musgraves. At the time I was listening quite religiously to her album “Pageant Material” and I was consistently impressed by her use of quirky metaphor and double entendre. But actually the origins of this song are much older. Looking through some old journals I came across the bare bones of a song I had started but never really got too deep with that I had titled “Why Wait For Tomorrow (When the Sun It shines Today)”. The theme being centered around not procrastinating and getting out and doing the things that you have always wanted to do.

Some years later looking at this unfinished song I couldn’t but help and laugh at the irony here of having an unfinished song about procrastination, pretty funny! But no biggie, I think all songwriters start lots of songs and don’t necessarily get around to finishing them. Songwriting can be a fickle endeavor. Sometimes things will come quickly, other times ideas come and go, float in the air, and don’t get captured until months, or years later. In this case it was definitely years. And the way I see it I just needed the appropriate life experiences for the song to come to life.

I had fun writing this song and I had a bunch of different ideas on how to express the idea of procrastination. The two strongest ones for me were the ideas of doing homework on Sunday nights and not getting the dreaded spring cleaning done until the following fall. There was something about these two universal burdens that seemed to really sum up the act of procrastination by the temporal identifiers. I mean who hasn’t done their homework late on a Sunday night!

The chorus was the one hold out from the original conception of the song. I do recall when I was first attempting to compose this song I was working a lot in the dirt as I was managing a friend’s small farm and helping to start a home nursery business with them. The idea of getting out and doing the things that needed to get done regardless of the weather seemed to really fit in with the idea of avoiding procrastination. I always look at farmers and the like as being ones who never succumb to the pull of delaying things. It’s one of those jobs where if something has to get done, it just HAS to get done, there’s no way around it.

The final piece to this song was finding a good bridge. When I looked back on my last album I felt I was a little too stuck in the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. There’s nothing wring with that, some of my favorite songs follow this clean and simple structure. And I’m not one who is overly impressed with fancy songwriting structures just for the sake of it. A good song is just a good song no matter what form it comes in. Shoot Bo Diddley write songs that were one chord that blows most songs out of the water!

The reason I really felt this song needed a bridge was I wanted to break the circular repetition of the verse-chorus pattern to symbolize the breaking through the procrastination and getting out a doing something for the sake of breaking through the monotony of life. And so I added a simple little bridge section that also has the function of adding some depth to the character’s experience. Primarily when the person in the song admits that they’d rather end a relationship than work at it to make it better. I use the third person loosely here because this song is definitely all written from my own experiences!

The final element that really made this song complete for me was a new addition I used throughout this album and that is my Farmer Foot Drums. You can link to their website here, and I highly suggest you do. I used four different percussive effects on this album, a bass drum, a seed shaker, a tambourine, and an egg shaker. The percussion really works well for this song. The upbeat and playful nature of the tune really calls for some back beat and the foot drums fit the bill well. The nice mixing job by my man Michael Landolt really made for a full sound on this one. And if you listen really close you’ll hear some nice ‘ukulele frills interspersed in this track too.

Along with the first track of the record, the EP starts off with two upbeat tunes that really represented the overall feel of my current musical expression. Soulful, relaxed, expressive and hopeful was how I was feeling and I think it really came through on this track as well as the title track as well. So don’t wait for tomorrow, go out and do something, make it happen, and live your life! Check out the song here.

Track #1 “Change Something”

“There’s only one thing you need to change, everything”, “Cease the fighting”, “Change starts from within”, “Surrender control”…. these are just some of the concepts found in the title song “Change Something”. If you’re just joining me, these blog posts are covering the stories behind the songs on my recently released EP.

The title track has deep significance for me and came about at a deeply transformative time in my life. I was at a point in which I was admittedly lost and not sure of what direction I was to take. I felt sick and tired and in feeling this way and I found myself out of answers. So I just gave up, gave in, and left it all up to God.

The lyrics speak pretty directly to this experience. I transitioned from living life in fear towards stopping to fight everything in my life and surrendering to a greater good. It was through admitting defeat that I was finally able to win, a true paradox!

It’s a simple song built around a repetitive four chord progression. I wanted something that was easy to groove to in order to allow the lyrics to take center stage and tell the story of this important point in my life. I added some catchy ‘ukulele picks to give the song an upbeat feel to it as the song really speaks of the hope and positive effects of moving forward from negative experiences and developing tools to live a life that can inspire and have a positive influence on others.

Overall the song was a big departure from my previous song writing and most definitely my most recent album. My last album was thematically focused on lost love and the trials of difficult relationships. The sound on that project was more yearning with the lonesome wails of a wandering loner. But here on “Change Something” the ‘ukulele and guitar present a confident look towards the future with endless possibilities and hope for new horizons and experiences.

This first track was very liberating to write and record. In listening to this song I feel I got to a point where I was writing honestly from my heart and not trying to create something to please other people. I always wrote from personal experience and about my own individual point of view, but there was something about this song that was just different. Mainly the result of the self-reflection that preceded the writing of the song and the hard work that I had to do to get to a place where I no longer lived in regret about the past, but in a self-assured acceptance that all happens according to God’s plan. That I am just a worker among workers, that my true ambition is to live usefully and humbly.

I hope everyone enjoys the song, you can hear it streaming by clicking here.


Change Something


The second half of 2016 closed with not one post from me! Auwe! Well it is not without good reason, I have been busy cranking away at completing a new recording project and I am happy to say it is completed and available for streaming on Spotify, Bandcamp, for download on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, or as a CD through my website. Now that the album is out for everyone to hear I want to just take some time to share about the meaning behind the songs and the album project as a whole. This will be a multi-part blog post in which I will write about the cover art for the album, each track, and a little about the production of the album. So let’s start with the cover art. Thanks for stopping by to read!

In working on this album I knew that I wanted to have a bird of some sort on the cover as the album art. Birds sing, I sing, it’s a perfect match! Really though, I just was really feeling the imagery of a bird throughout the writing and recording process. I was drawn to the idea of flying free, of jumping from tree to tree, singing to the air, floating through the sky and being lifted up by the lightness of the air. I had been messing around with some different designs but it wasn’t until I came across a beautifully written article in the Hana Hou magazine on a Hawaiian Airlines flight that I came across some photographs that spoke to me in a deep and personal way. The article was about the restoration of the native habitat for the Hawaiian ‘elepaio bird. The story about the survival of the ‘elepaio through all the changes to its environment and its ability to endure through these changes fit so well with the themes found in the music on the album. And one photograph in particular was so powerful with the ‘elepaio looking directly at you its tail in the air. simultaneously relaxing on a branch yet ready to spring into the air at any moment, this bird was so full of personality and movement. The picture jumped off the page looking surreal and animated but at the same time clearly and authentic.

I felt I just had to use this photograph, so I wrote the photographer and asked his permission to use this photograph. After inquiring through email with my request and respectfully asking for permission to use his photograph, the photographer Hayataro Sakitsu quickly responded with a yes and I was on my way! I found a font that felt poetic, classic and had movement and the cover was born. I’d really suggest you go to his Flikr page to see more of his amazing bird photography.

I wanted to keep the design simple as the music of the album is no frills acoustic folk and I wanted the design to match the feel of the album. Cropping the photo down to focus on the powerful image of this ‘elepaio bird allowed for the perfect amount of room on top for my name and the album title and the design came together seamlessly. I am really happy with how it came out and the coloring of the soft yellows and light sky blues really feel like a good aesthetic match to the relaxed feel of the songs.

Finally some other things about the ‘elepaio bird. In addition to being drawn to its strong personality and its character trait of resilience, I also found some other interesting things about it in doing some research. One was in this blog by the American Birding Association in which bird researcher Eric VanderWerf talks about their bold and curious nature as well as their role as the main song birds of the native forests. But also from this Hawaiian Voyaging Traditions website about the ‘elepaio being an incarnation of Lea, the Goddess of the canoe builders. All these factors together really helped secure the choice of using the ‘elepaio as the “mascot” for this album.