Everything needs an origin story. While I could say the origin story for my new album ‘Song for Waimea’ first began when I moved here when I was five years old, it truly started to take shape after a curious creative predicament I found myself in about two summers ago. At that time I had been manifesting in my head an idea for an album of folk-rock tunes that would be somewhere between Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, and Donavon Frankenreiter. And I say that in the way that I had an “idea” that I would create something in the vein if those artists. And I emphasize “idea” because all three of those artists are insanely talented and I was nowhere near the place of actually writing and recording songs that were anywhere close to what they do. But I had an idea.
So I had been writing songs since the release of my EP “Change Something” that were sort of poppy folk rock kinda stuff. My first solo record was primarily traditional country, and the “Change Something” EP started to morph into this pop-rock-acoustic kind of stuff. And so as I started to compose and develop these folk-rock songs I began performing them out and about. They seemed to work OK in public, at times people would comment that they liked the songs. And they were complete songs, with intros, verses, bridges, and choruses and the like. So from there I began mapping out ideas about what the instrumentation would be, what a potential theme of the album would be, and I was feeling pretty good about myself.
So as the summer came to an end and fall started, I set out to actually record an album project out of this collection of songs the I had sent the better part of year creating and composing. I started thinking of album titles, what the cover art would look like, what the thematic elements of the flow of the songs would be. I also began to set up my home recording set up with computer and GarageBand to begin recording some demos so I would have some reference recordings in order to start playing around with guitar and ‘ukulele tracking and get a general idea about the sonic palette of the songs. But in this process something happened.
I started to listen back to the songs I had recorded I realized something. Something very important. All these songs were crap.
And I don’t say that in a self-defacing, “oh I am no good, my songs suck” sort of way. No I literally mean these songs were just shitty songs. I mean I listen to a lot of music from a lot of different styles, so I feel I have a pretty good idea both what makes a decent song. And above all I have one major criteria. Are you saying something? And when I was listening back to these demo recordings I realized that none of the sings made any sense. Yeah sure there were words, and lines, and hooks, and was not, but as a whole the songs didn’t communicate an idea. If you were to ask me what the song was about, or what the point behind the song was, I would’t have been able to answer you.
So at this point I realized I had a problem. But a problem that I felt had a pretty simple solution. I was going to have to abandon this entire project. I had a sudden and clear realization that there was no way I was going to move forward in this process with these songs that I had written. So I trashed all 11 of the songs I had composed
And this over the next month or so I had a minor creative meltdown.
I got really confused as to what I was doing, what was my purpose, who am I as an artist and songwriter? It began to become clear to me that the person I thought I was going to be was very different that person that I really was. And that was scary. The problem here was, I wasn’t really sure who I was.
Then for the next few months or so I went into a deep reflective space. I began asking myself, what am I trying to do here? Why do I like to write songs? What can I offer the musical world? Why does it matter what I have to say? And in doing so I started to look back into my song notes and uncovering different ideas and pieces of songs that I had put together as either rough ideas, or full realized verses, or maybe a chorus or maybe a single thought.
And I began to see that my guiding light, my muse, my inspiration was this place that I call home, Hawai’i. I had songs about Hawaiian cowboys, about walking through lush green hills, about the rainbows kissing my cheek, about the magic of a special beach, about the people around me. I had been searching externally for something to inspire me, but the inspiration was right there in front of me the entire time. So the vision came very clear to me. I would have to manifest these stories as an ode to my island home.
And once I had the inspiration and the space to allow the ideas to flow, the songs began to reveal themselves very easily, the verses began to spill out, the song ideas became clear, the structures started to form like magic. And before I knew it I had an entire album’s worth of songs right there in front of me.
So from there I started sharing the songs, working on the phrasing, getting a feel for what worked, what needed revision, where to add another verse, or take one away. Here did I need to repeat a chorus or go to a bridge. And after a few more months I felt like the sings were done. There is that special feeling when the song says, “that’s it, I am here”.
That process of writing, editing, and revising took from about December to May to really reach a state of completion. So now this long creative journey was finally ready to move forward. It was amazing that almost a year earlier I had a completely different idea of what I thought my next album of songs was going to sound like. But I am so happy that I was sensitive to and open to my creative intuition that told me that the path I was starting to head down wasn’t right. That there was something deeper and more true to myself that needed to come out. And I am glad I took that year to find that voice inside of me because when June rolled around I was ready to record.
You can check out my previous blog post here to read about the meaning behind each individual track. And stay tuned, as my next blog post will cover how I found the right studio to capture these songs and how I made it happen.