blog

20 Questions

So much has been so serious on my blog so I decided to keep things light today and just answer 20 random questions. Let’s begin.

Q1. Have You Ever Dined and Dashed At A Restaurant?

A1. No, never.

Q2. Would You Rather Have Endless Love or Endless Money?

A2. This one is a close one for me. I think I’ll go endless money and hope I can find enough love to make it by.

Q3. Have You Ever Been In A Car Accident – And It Was Your Fault?

A3. No. I’ve been in accidents as a passenger and a driver, but it was never my fault.

Q4. If You Could Star In A Movie, What Movie Would It Be?

A4. Not sure if this question wants a current movie/ a movie that’s already come out or something new. I’ll answer with something new. I’d like to Star in a Disney Movie. Ideally something from Pixar. Something where I’d be the main character and the main protagonist.

Q5. What Is Your Most Frequently Used Emoji?

A5. 😂

Q6. What Was The Last Thing You Stole Or Shoplifted?

A6. I worked retail back in the day therefore I’m not a fan of stealing. As a kid I’m sure I took a candy bar or something from a store, but I can’t recall honestly.

Q7. Are Platonic Relationships Or Romantic Relationships More Important To You?

A7. Both are very important and as I have aged both are close, but right now I’ll choose love and go with the romantic relationship being more important to me than platonic.

Q8. Even Though The World Has It’s Problems, Was Any Time Period Better Than This One?

A8. I feel this is always impossible to answer so I won’t try to. Every generation is so different and it has its challenges and advantages. So is this the best? Idk maybe? Were other times better? Idk maybe.

Q9. What Was Your Favorite Dinosaur As a Child?

A9. T- Rex hands down.

Q10. If You Had To Choose To Never Use Twitter, Instagram, Or YouTube Again, Which One Would You Let Go?

A10. Tough One! I like to use and consume YouTube content so I can’t let that go. Twitter and Instagram I also like, but I feel like Twitter is more for conversations and I love to communicate on there the most so I’d have to go with keeping Twitter and saying goodbye to Instagram.

Q11. Would You Rather Someone Always Tell The Truth Or Protect Your Feelings?

A11. Tell me the truth, tell me my flaws, help me get better. Stroking my ego helps no one.

Q12. Who Do You Miss More: Ziggy Stardust or Prince?

A12. Prince easily. Never really listened to Ziggy.

Q13. If You Had To Be Trapped On A Desert Island With One Friend, Who Would You Choose?

A13. Albert. My best friend since high school

Q14. If You Could Find Out How You Were Going To Die, Would You Want To Know?

A14. No way. That’s just way too dark for me to want to know.

Q15. If You Could Only Email Or Text People For The Rest Of Your Life, Which One Would You Choose?

A15. Text. I like email for business but I’d much rather text forever than email forever.

Q16. Would You Prefer To Work The Overnight Shift Or Work Alone For Eternity?

A16. I’d much rather work alone for eternity. Overnight shift is tough and having someone talking to me while I try to work from 11pm-7am sounds miserable. Give me working by myself during more humane hours.

Q17. Would You Rather Have a Beyoncé Song Or A Rihanna Song Stuck In Your Head For 24 Hours?

A17. Tough one. I like both, but I think I’ll go with Beyoncé.

Q18. If You Could Start College All Over Again What Would You Do Differently?

A18. If I could start college all over again I’m not sure if I’d even go. Yeah, that’s my answer. Id strongly consider skipping it altogether. I’m not one of those bitter graduates whose not using their degree. Even as a person who uses their degree every day, I wonder if it was really worth it now that I see what it really takes to succeed. It feels like the skills I need to actually be successful as an artist, a lot of that was cultivated by myself after school was done. So if most of what is needed to be successful is based on my self teaching what was the point of paying for college and spending those years there? I’m happy with how my life turned out, but I wonder if it would’ve been better if I skipped the college experience altogether.

Q19. Would You Rather Have Been In The Marching Band Or On The Debate Team in High School?

Marching band.

Q20. What’s One Secret You Are Still Keeping From Your Mom?

A20. We don’t talk right now so nothing really.

blog

Kansas 1935: Deep Dive

Today I’d like to take a deep dive into the making of my latest song “Kansas 1935”. I’m going to talk about how it was made, what is what made for, and how I feel it ultimately turned out.

Kansas 1935 was a song I wrote for the Charity EP Jam. The Charity EP Jam is a project where a handful of composers write music based on a theme and the proceeds go to the Charity Able Gamers.

It’s a long road

The theme this year was dust. At first I struggled with how to approach dust. What does dust sound like? What does dust feel like and how can I convey it? I started by looking up dust storms, wind sounds, and even watching some documentaries on the Dust Bowl. That’s when I decided to write the song about Kansas in 1935. I wanted to share what I felt listening to the stories from that dust bowl and try to capture that feeling via music.

Rough Start

I started with an entirely different song and thought it was a solid beginning. After a couple days and some feedback I realized that was not the case. At first I tried to salvage what I had and make something good out of it, but after a while, I realized it was best to throw it all away. Sometimes the best thing you can do is start over so I did. It’s tough to admit something you made isn’t good, but it wasn’t good. Better to realize that and try again then to just have a meh recording.

Take Two

So I went back to the drawing board. This time I went with the instrumentation of piano and guitar. I also went in thinking of having one idea that would turn into different ideas and eventually end on something completely different. This turned out quiet well and I was able to also get my friend to play guitar on it.

Putting Together The Pieces

So the way the song works is we have four parts. At first all four parts are played one after the other. There are two piano parts and two guitar parts. The song is essentially done with new ideas when the piano is done playing at the 1:10 mark. Then there is a dust storm that occurs until 1:35. Once it settles down the music is rearranged and returns in a different order. The new order is 3,1,2,4. This is done to represent how the dust storm rearranged and changed the music. I didn’t choose the order. I actually wrote these numbers representing the different sections down on a sheet of paper, placed them in a jar, and threw them on the floor. I picked them up off the floor in order of the pieces of paper closest to me.

This actually turned out quiet well! I like the new order and I like the fact that the new order is kind of subtle. Many people don’t notice that things don’t come back the way they began until the songs is nearly done. I like having this kind of inside joke or hidden secret in the song that’s available for anyone to notice if they pay close attention. And if they don’t, hopefully they just hear a good song.

Closing Thoughts

I really enjoyed the process of writing this piece. It was hard, required a lot of rewriting, and it really forced me to reflect on my work and brought out my best. I hope in the end I did good work and made great art. If you have the ability to do so I’d love it if you’d make a donation for this album. It would really mean a lot to me and the proceeds all go to Able Gamers.

blog

Dance Again Deep Dive

Today I’d like to a take deep dive into the making of my latest single “Dance Again”. I want to talk about why I made it, how I made it, and what I’ve learned. Let’s begin.

My purpose for making this song was simple. I wanted to make a song to just make it. It’s been years since I have done this. As a professional musician I spend all my musician time working. I’m learning songs for gigs, I’m learning songs for recordings, I’m learning songs for a deeper understanding of a style or genre. While I obviously go for gigs, recordings, and genres I enjoy, you secede some freedom when you are a professional artist. Compromises however small, are made. I try to find things that are not only work, but fun, but even fun work is work.

So when I made Dance Again I went in with the mentality that this was just for fun, just for me. I’m making it to make something. Will I use it for pitching clients? Maybe if it fits, but I’m not trying to use it for that. And I made it with zero intention of doing so. The song came out the way it did because I liked it that way. No agenda, no deeper long term plan, just a fun song I liked.

Another thing you should know is that I use the app Korg Gadget on my Nintendo Switch exclusively to make the song. I’ve dabbled with this app for sometime now and I decided this was a great way to have some fun and challenge myself to go deeper into the app. I feel pretty comfortable with Korg Gadget and using it to make music I thought would be fun. The only sounds that are not native to the app are the voice samples I use. Everything else can be found using just Korg Gadget on the Switch.

Making Music is Hard!

I struggled a lot with the structure of this song. The drum pattern came to me pretty quickly and that was maintained throughout, but how to build themes and motifs around it was a struggle. The app refers to different parts as “scenes” so for a while I had extra scenes I was trying to fit in and certain scenes were longer before I was able to edit them down. For example, near the end I had the second to last breakdown happening for twice as long and I realize that was just way too much so I cut it in half.

This songs structure really came together when I let the words tell the story. Despite the few words, they actually dictate what’s happening on the record. The story goes a friend telling another friend that they should take their date dancing. After dancing the protagonist tells his date “you look really beautiful tonight” she replies “you don’t look so bad yourself mister” then he proceeds to offer her a ride home…

Impact of Sitcoms on My Song

One thing you should know about me is I love sitcoms. I mean I love sitcoms. I’ve watched How I Met Your Mother more times than I can count. Watched Friends at least 3-4 times since it’s aired on Netflix. And I’ve watched Cheers, Seinfeld, and Kings of Queens infinitely. Sitcoms have been there for me when I’m up, when I’m down, when I needed to laugh, and when I needed to cry. So why not use those voices to retell and reimagine the stories they’ve already told me?

Breaking Down The Words

So the first line I’ve used was from Friends where Rachel tells Joey “Oh dancing take her dancing!” In the scene she’s suggesting Joey take a date dancing and the same thing happens in my song. For the song it’s not the Friends characters just one person talking to another making that suggestion.

The second line is from How I Met Your Mother where Ted is telling Stella “You look really beautiful tonight”. Now in the show Ted is just saying that because he was caught staring at Stella. He didn’t really think she looked “beautiful tonight” he was just looking at her face to see what her reaction was to watching Star Wars for the first time. In my track the words were sincere.

Next line I used was from the same episode of How I Met Your Mother where Stella says “You don’t look so bad yourself mister…” in the episode it’s Stella coming on to Ted. In my song the same sentiment can be interpreted.

The final line I use is from Cheers where Sam Malone tells his worker Carla Tortelli he’s taking her home after their shift of work at the bar. In the episode this is a normal event. In my track it implies a pleasant end to a date.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

My focus on this track was just to have fun, make some electronic music using Korg Gadget, and to tell a story using words from my favorite sitcoms. I think I accomplished all of these things. I really love the breakdown that happens at the :54 second mark. In my opinion it’s the highlight of the song. Coming in at a close second is the story developing from 1:11-1:33. I really enjoyed making this and I hope you enjoy listening to it. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback feel free to comment below. Take care and be safe out there!

HOME

Nine For Nine: Christmas Song

Here it is! The final song from the Nine For Nine series. Let’s breakdown why I chose to perform the “Christmas Song” as my last tune for Nine For Nine.

I knew I wanted to record a holiday song for December, but I wasn’t quite sure which one. After talking to my guitarist we decided “Christmas Song” would be a good tune to do.

Initially we wanted to have it be a bit more complex then it turned out. We wanted to add other instruments and to try different styles and sounds. Unfortunately time ran short on us and the best option to ensure it’d be done was solo piano. Luckily I was up for the challenge.

I really enjoyed the entire process of learning and recording this track. It was fun going through dozens of different holiday songs and thinking about how I’d go about recording them and what they could sound like. Perhaps in the future a Christmas album with a tour could be in the works?

This is the final song in my Nine For Nine. I had a blast recording the music and sharing and talking about it with all of you each month. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and maybe gotten to know me better because of it. I’ll be doing another post this week where I’ll discuss talking the entire process of recording Nine For Nine and that’ll wrap up this project entirely. I’ll talk to you all then. Cheers

HOME

Nine For Nine: Stranger Things Theme

Working on the “Stranger Things Theme” helped me connect with the show and the music in a deeper level then I had previously. Like a lot of people I started watching Stranger Things due to the overwhelming buzz about the show. I liked it immediately and thought it was a refreshing show that paid homage to the 80s.

Because I had to do this recording I went back to watch the show to understand the music in context. One thing I discovered is I liked the music and the show less the more I paid attention to it. I started hating the development of certain characters. I felt the music was bland and generically electronic in certain scenes, I started to think maybe covering the Stranger Things Theme was not a good idea, and suddenly I was not excited for season 2.

As time went on and Season 2 came out I gave it a try. I began enjoying the music more, character development was more to my liking, and the second half of the season is some of my favorite television to come out this year. I’d love to talk to the composers one day about how they created the music and figure out why some of it resonates with me and some of it doesn’t. One things for sure, The Stranger Things Theme works. It’s catchy, and immediately recognizable. I’m happy to have covered it and I can’t wait to see what the show will have in store for us next season.

HOME

Nine For Nine: And I love Her 

I recently released a cover of The Beatles classic record “And I Love Her” and today I’d like to share some of my thoughts on this tune. 
I can’t recall the first time I listened to the Beatles or the first time I liked their music. It feels like The Beatles have been with me my whole life. Their impact on music and culture cannot be understated. The landscape of music and society as a whole would be entirely different if The Beatles never existed. 
I choose “And I Love Her” to cover because it’s a beautiful song. It’s one of those Beatles tunes that I neglected early in my life and at some point during college I paid more attention to it and appreciated it more with each listening. I always new I’d do something with the song and I’m glad I was finally able to cover it. 
I hope you enjoy this version of “And I Love Her” it’s the first Beatles song I’ve covered on record, but it certainly won’t be the last. 

HOME

Nine For Nine: Of Dreams To Come

The first time I listened I ever heard of Robert Glasper was from my composition teacher. He was talking about piano voicings and he asked me if I ever heard of Robert Glasper. I told him I didn’t and he recommended I listen to Double Booked. I was blown away. I loved his style, loved his virtuosity, and I loved how he developed melodies within his solos. As time passed I became more of a fan of Glasper. I listened to every release, loved the Black Radio albums, and saw him live.
I MISS THE OLD ROBERT GLASPER 

imgres.jpg
Despite Black Radio 2 being my favorite Glasper album I can’t help but feel that I want the Glasper back. I don’t hear as much of his virtuosity, the burning solos, enough with the auto tune! So I decided to go back and cover one of his classics “Of Dreams to Come” from his album In My Element. I was gonna cover it as a solo piano piece. It didn’t turn out that way.

I started by playing just piano, but the more I played it the more I felt I needed to add to the music. Soon enough I essentially went from a old school Robert Glasper song to one that would fit in with his current style. I guess Glasper was right, it was time to develop a new style. Maybe Glasper went through the same thing I did. He was creating and saw what was lacking in his music and decided to add this new style to his music.

So thank you Robert Glasper. You’re impact on me, jazz, and music as a whole cannot be understated. Keep creating, keep composing, and I’ll keep listening.

HOME

Nine For Nine: Pyramid Song

The first time I listened to Radiohead was life changing. Not because they are the greatest band of all time, not because the album was the best album I’ve ever heard, but because it was my first introduction to rock music as a whole. At the time all I was really exposed to was pop music, rap music, and my Dad’s smooth jazz radio stations. With the help of my friend Albert Amey (who plays guitar on this recording) I was beginning to broaden my musical palate. I told Albert to give me some of the best rock music out there and I’ll listen to it. He gave me Ok Computer.

I still remember those winter days listening to “National Anthem” and being blown away by what I was listening to. By the end of the year I listened to every recording Radiohead had released along with dozens of other rock acts I’ve never heard before. My life has changed forever and for the better.

One album that I felt was often overlooked was “Amnesiac”. There were some fantastic recordings like “Morning bell/Amnesiac” and “Dollars and Cents”, but one that really resonated with me was “Pyramid Song”. As a piano player it was always a bit odd for me when listening to rock music. It always felt like I couldn’t be a part of it, I always had a reduced role or was completely not included in the music. I mean how many rock keyboardist do you know? How many rock songs have the piano as the lead or as a pivotal role in the music? Some, but not many. The moment I heard the opening chords of “Pyramid Song” I thought, “Yes! A role for me!” The chords really resonated with me, it was a hauntingly beautiful song. At the time, I had nowhere near the chops to play it. I tried to play some of the chords, but it was way too hard since I hadn’t even been playing the piano for a year yet. Still, I never forgot about “Pyramid Song” and I always thought in the back of my head that I would eventually go back to it.

Now I finally have! I’ve rearranged the strings which were performed by two wonderful violinist Windy Indy and Erendira Izguerra. The vocals were performed by Courtney Grace and the guitar solo was taken by Amey Albert, the person who introduced me to all of this wonderful music. I hope you enjoy it. I hope this will be considered a wonderful homage to Radiohead, a band that changed my life. So please, enjoy the recording and be sure to check out what I’m working on next month.

HOME

Nine For Nine: Maiden Voyage 

My latest project Nine For Nine has officially begun! I’m so excited to share all of this new music with you. To be brief, Nine For Nine is a project where I will be releasing a new track every 2nd Monday of the month from now until the end of the year. So by the end of 2017 there will be 9 tracks released in the last 9 months of the year, hence the name Nine for Nine. Today I officially launch the project with a solo piano performance of the jazz standard “Maiden Voyage”. Below I shared some of my thoughts about why I chose this tune and what it means to me.

Herbie Hancock’s influence on me has been tremendous. As a musician from Chicago he has constantly been a source of inspiration and motivation. The first album I ever heard from Hancock was The Best of Herbie Hancock: The Blue Note Years. Immediately songs like “Watermelon Man” and “Maiden Voyage” became the benchmark for what I was aiming to be. After that I purchased An Evening of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, that album was so good I almost quit playing the piano altogether. I remember thinking “They’ve done everything there is to do on the piano, I can never achieve that virtuosity so why keep playing?”

I kept playing. And the more I listened to Hancock the deeper my appreciation for him grew. Whether he was doing straight ahead jazz on albums such as Empyrean Isle, pushing the definition of jazz on Bitches Brew, or playing a pop record with Christian Aguilera. Hancock always made an impact and added his voice to a project. Now I’m channeling Hancock to add my voice and make an impact on this project.
So without further to do, here is my Maiden Voyage (horrible pun intended) the very first tune of the Nine For Nine project, “Maiden Voyage”. Thank you for taking the time to listen to this, and I hope you find as much inspiration from Herbie Hancock as I have.

HOME

Nine For Nine Project Explained

images.png

My first big project of 2017 and my first project post undergrad is titled “Nine for Nine” and officially launches on April 10th 2017. I’m so excited! I’ve been working so hard this year to make sure I have everything in place for this project to be a success. What is “Nine for Nine” you ask? Well, “Nine for Nine” is a project where I will be releasing a new track on my Soundcloud (and YouTube) every 2nd Monday of the month for the rest of the year. By the end of 2017 I should have Nine tracks released in the last Nine months hence the name “Nine for Nine”.

Though I am primarily a Jazz musician this will not be a straight ahead jazz project. There will be a variety of different styles of music, Rock, Hip hop, and maybe even a Pop record or two. The goal is for each month to be a unique and different style of music then the month before. It’s like I put all my favorite music on shuffle and once a month I share what comes up. This project will not be a traditional album. It will probably sound odd if you listen to it from beginning to end. This will be is a fun and exciting project, a way for me to connect with all of you and push myself musically. I’m so nervous and so excited about what the next Nine Months will have in store for us all.

On this website I will be uploading my Soundcloud links and writing a brief description as to why I choose this tune, what it means to me, and maybe a funny story or two about the recording process. The best way to join me on this journey is by checking out my website and signing up for my newsletter. Any questions, comments, or concerns please leave a comment below and I’ll talk to you all April 10th at the latest!