Why I Am Releasing Free Music Online

I’ve begun posting my own music here.  The stuff that I am posting here, so far, is for free, as it is stuff I have recorded at home at no expense.  I would be recording this stuff anyway, whether anyone ever heard it or not.  I’m trying to treat the music I post on a regular basis as something different than my studio work.  These recordings are not as spontaneous and as fleeting as a live show, but they are somewhere between that and the much more deliberate making of a proper record.  I learn as I go, and I also hope to capture that moment when things are new and exciting, though maybe not always fully realized.  Much like my writing here, where I attempt to create an outward looking journal, mistakes will slip through the gates on occasion.  It’s more about capturing the now, than the definitive version of anything.

There are times I will go back and revise these recordings, if I discover a mistake I just can’t live with.  When I write I have long stated that I won’t change what I’ve said.  If I realize I was wrong, I will simply write something else to own up to it.  But sometimes mistakes recording something are more like spelling errors.  You can change something without the intent being lost. I already know some things I want to make better.  But perfection is not only not the end game, but not even the direction.  I’m simply trying to capture a moment, and will stop working on something when I feel like the emotion of the moment is properly communicated.

If you listen to something today and then a week from now, it might be a different mix or vocal take.  Something may never change, or might even be deleted.  I am simply trying to create a space where I can share my creative world with other people.  I also like the idea of music being a living changing thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I like having a definitive recording of something, where a place in time is captured that you can always return to.  But there is no reason one can’t have both.

At some point I might remix things and release these songs as a budget compilation.  But this would really be more of a way of trying to create an alternative revenue stream in the impossible world of the music business.  That is not my reasoning in creating these things.

I believe artists should be paid fairly for their work.  It’s their vocation.  Art means a lot more to me, and many others, than other things that people make a great deal of money off of.  I could survive without a car, but not without songs or books.

With these recordings I am inviting you into my house to look at sketches I am making for a future painting.  Sometimes these might even be sketches that I know are ideas that will never be followed up on.

I also think in releasing some work this way, it can be a way to contextualize other things I’ve done, or to create music that is of the moment.  I can record a cover song that will help to better define the things I am interested in.  I can also put out more political music, that would be outdated by the time I got around to releasing a proper record.

Although I quite often wish we could go back in time and uninvent the internet, there are obviously interesting things that can be done with it, if you view it as a different medium with which to work in.  So if you go to the following link you can hear music of the moment.  Songs that come and go like a leaf on the wind.  This is where they will be, for a little while…

My Music

 

More Thoughts On Blogging

Someone recently, and it has happened way more than once, pointed out a spelling mistake.  Hell, there will probably be one in this article that gets through the gates unnoticed.  I’d like to claim some kind of intelligent reason for this, that I was purposely weaving in mistakes like Native American art, but no; I just fucked up and didn’t notice.

I was recently talking to a friend about how I really enjoyed writing, but every time I hit publish I want to puke.  I often think things like, “Why would anyone care what I have to say?”  “Isn’t the world already drowning in opinions and bullshit?”

I’ve mentioned this before, but part of the reason I am able to even publish anything is that I hit publish when I have that small window of courage to post something, when I still feel fresh off inspiration.  I’ve described blogging as an outward looking journal.  It’s a place to document the feelings of the moment.  It’s a way to lead people towards more permanent forms of expression, not a substitute for them.  It’s a way to make people think.  It’s a starting point, not an final destination.

That doesn’t mean that it is alright to get things wrong.  There is no excuse for purposely misleading people.  I’m quite happy when someone points out a mistake.  I want to get things right.  I want people to get something out of what I write, but I also want to learn from those that read things here.  I think blogging, at its best, is a two way conversation.  It’s a way to communicate with people that don’t live down the street from you.

I also think that half of life is just getting the courage to walk through a door.  There are not only many people that can write better than I can, but also many more that could, but don’t.  One can only get better at something by doing.  For years I didn’t write because I thought, “Why me?”  Another question could be, “Why not you?”

On the internet, as in life, opinions are like assholes.  Everybody has one.  But how many people try to express themselves in a thorough way, where they are actually accountable for what they say?  Blogging often gets shitted on, and there can be good reason for it.  So many times they are of no value.  But then so much of our culture is meaningless bullshit.  How many businesses are trying to sell you things you don’t need for prices you can’t pay?  On the other hand anything can have worth if the doing is taken seriously.  One can judge something on the effort put into it and the results.  The medium doesn’t really matter all that much.    This is one of the mediums of the moment for expression.

All you can do is try your best, hold yourself accountable, and hope that others do as well.  Walk though that door and hope you don’t get your ass handed to you, but don’t be surprised when you do.  But if you don’t do something, someone else will.  If you think you can bring your best to something, it might as well be you.  I guarantee for every mistake someone catches, I can find more.  I am chasing perfection, well aware that it can never be reached.

I don’t like inspiring claptrap and feel good nonsense.  Writing, like life, is complex and messy.  One can find themselves heading out for new lands with the best intentions and still end up being blown back, crushed upon the shore.  But expressing ourselves is the only thing that separates us from animals.  That and building fast food restaurants where there used to be a beautiful tree.  I know which I’d rather attempt to do.  We are here, this is now, and this is how it feels.  Sooner or later that will no longer be the case.  Try and fail, try and fail, but try…

Andrew Sullivan On Blogging

Andrew Sullivan 2

Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish was, in my humble opinion, the most consistently interesting blog while it operated.  (Sullivan has now retired from blogging.)  I still have yet to see something that rivals it.  I think one reason for this is that Sullivan understood the possibilities of blogging in a way that many did not before him.  I found the following passage tonight, from Sullivan, that hints at what a blog can be and what differentiates it from other forms of writing:

Everything is true, so long as it is not taken to be anything more than it is. And I just want to ask that future readers understand this – so they do not mistake one form of writing for another, so they do not engage in an ignoratio  elenchi.  What I have written here should not be regarded as interchangeable with more considered columns or essays or reviews. Blogging is a different animal. It requires letting go; it demands writing something that you may soon revise or regret or be proud of. It’s more like a performance in a broadcast than a writer in a book or newspaper or magazine (which is why, of course, it can also be so exhausting). I have therefore made mistakes along the way that I may not have made in other, more considered forms of writing; I have hurt the feelings of some people I deeply care about; I have said some things I should never have said, as well as things that gain extra force because they were true in the very moment that they happened. All this is part of life – and blogging comes as close to simply living, with all its errors and joys, misunderstandings and emotions, as writing ever will.

Ta-Nehisi Coates Getting Rave Reviews

Ta-nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates – Between the World and Me

I have been a longtime reader of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blog over at The Atlantic.  Although I occasionally think Coates’s blog is too narrow in scope, there is no doubt Coates is an unusually gifted writer.  (Andrew Sullivan, who wrote alongside Coates at The Atlantic for awhile, was not only able to be an uncompromising advocate for marriage equality, but was also seemingly able to cover an unbelievably wide scope of topics.  I found that having a sense of how Sullivan viewed the wider world actually strengthened his arguments for justice.  Anyway, this is splitting hairs and is a topic for another day.  I would feel amiss if I didn’t say anything, but this is really an argument about format and outcome, and not quality of writing.)  Coates has a curious mind and without a doubt is someone that is always reaching for truth.  Before I found myself reading a lot about the Civil War, Coates own research and exploration of that time period was extremely fascinating.  I am happy to see that his new book, Between the World and Me, is getting rave reviews.  The above piece is not only about the book, but also a look at Coates as a man and writer in general.  It is a well written and interesting piece worth your time.  Also, if you are someone that reads several blogs a day, I would definitely add his blog to your list.

More Thoughts On Blogging as a Form

I rarely ever reread my own blog, unless it is for the sake of editing or correcting a mistake.  I have always tried to treat this blog like an outward looking journal.  If I am excited by a certain idea or a piece of art, hopefully that excitement can translate into words and create something that will get the reader to take notice of the same thing.  The idea is to get the reader to want to explore more things on their own, not to create a place that is a definitive take on anything.  I’m not bound to write or cover anything, so what I write about are things that I am generally passionate about.  This doesn’t negate other forms of writing, but only compliments them.  Someone that is paid to understand the science behind global warming, for instance, will have insight and knowledge that I will never have.  However, I might be able to get people interested to where they will find the more substantive article where they previously wouldn’t.  Meanwhile, with more subjective matters like art and music, you should want both the writing of people that get why something is interesting because they are passionate about it and writing that takes a more cold clinical look at a thing’s importance in time and place.  Between the two you can weigh out the subject for yourself.  The only thing I will never write about is something in which I feel I have no grasp at all of the subject matter.  I haven’t written about the crisis in Greece because I feel that I do not understand the complex financial systems in place in anyway.  I can read other writers and get an idea of what is going on, but I feel that I would just be parroting them.  This kind of writing is harmful because it can spread bad ideas without there even being any malicious intent.

But anyway, because I view blogging as a somewhat emotional and in the moment format, I have trouble rereading my own work because, quite frankly, I often find myself embarrassed by it.  It can be like if you were caught on camera jumping up and down at the ball game.  A picture like that might really translate the true feelings of that moment in time, but you certainly don’t want to relive it.  You find yourself looking on and thinking, “Yes, that was exactly how that moment felt, but goddamn I was drunk…”

Soul-Crushing, Mind-Numbing, Work

I can tell it is a slow Friday at work for y’all.  My blog stats are up, despite only having one post up today on account of travel!  Stats are always highest during the work day.  When I used to work an office job I swear some days I thought I found the end of the internet.  I know what goes on out there.  They key is to position your desk in such a way that your boss can’t see what you are doing.  (That is if they can’t monitor you.)  That way you can be playing video games and shit, but you’ll be so quiet that they will think you are a diligent worker.  I once worked somewhere where there was an extremely high turnover rate.  After about a year, except for management, I was the longest serving worker.  Someone remarked that the reason I lasted so long was that I was always at my desk, quiet and hard working.  I was playing Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out when they made that comment!

So if you read my blog while you are at work I understand.  I support it.  There are a lot of soul-crushing, mind-numbing jobs out there.  American is full of jobs that bring zero meaning to one’s life.  As well as working office jobs I was also a janitor for awhile, among other things.  Today on the van ride home I was thinking that at least when you are a janitor and you clean something, or you mow a field, it looks nice.  Even if it doesn’t last you can be proud of it and it increases of the quality of other people’s lives.  Kids can play on a nice newly cut field.  I’m not saying you didn’t do a lot of stupid shit as a janitor, you did, but at least you had tasks where you could take pride in your work some days.  Some of those office jobs were beyond meaningless.  You almost felt that the work you did was so meaningless that you somehow were going back in time creating more work, instead of getting anything accomplished.

Why is it that we value some people’s jobs more than others?  Often that value has no real connection with a job’s value to society.  (Hey it’s Friday afternoon.  I thought it would be a good time to raise these questions.  If you try really hard you can black out enough over the weekend that this blog will be a long distant memory!)  All I’m really trying to get at it that we should not be so quick to judge those who have jobs that we find undesirable.  Society would be pretty bad if the blue collar workers all got up in quit, but the world worked just fine before the internet.

And don’t think I am casting judgment from down on high because for the moment I am making my living as a musician and don’t have to work a day job except for on occasion.  Even if you aren’t willing to hear the argument that being a musician is not as glamorous as you think, there is no guarantee that this lifestyle is going to last.  Second, I’m pretty sure that if the deal goes down, and World War III starts, that playing a guitar will most likely qualify you for cannon fodder!

But its ok.  I am used to non-sympathetic treatment.  I remember one time my brother and I were riding tractors mowing grass on a super hot summer day.  A local denizen, who knew we were both musicians, was jogging by and asked my brother how our day was.  Covered in grass, bitten by flies, and sunburned, my brother replied that our day was pretty shitty.  To which the citizen replied, “Why don’t you sing me a fucking song about it!”

February Declarations, New Albums, and a New Coat of Paint On My Blog

One of the reasons that I started this blog, despite obviously loving the written word, was the far less noble pursuit of earning a living.  The music business, tougher than ever, had me casting about for an alternative income stream.  Luckily, I am one of those musicians that earns almost enough to survive on.  Thankfully, enough of you have also tuned in that I am getting close to generating some revenue from my work here.  In order to do this I have to make some structural changes.  When I started this blog I didn’t know that it was much easier to earn through wordpress.org than it is through wordpress.com.  In fact I knew nothing about the technical and structural side of blogging.  I just followed all of the advice columns that said I should write as much as possible if I wanted to get traffic to my site.

So I am currently transferring this blog over to wordpress.org and making some much needed changes to the overall structure as well.  I have no idea how long this will take me.  I am hoping it is a seamless transition, but I have no idea what I’m in for.  The process has already begun.  If you notice any hiccups, that is the reason behind it.

Although there may be changes to the structure and look of this blog, I plan to keep writing in the same style that I always do.  I have an uneasy relationship with advertising.  While I acknowledge its place in the modern world, so much of modern advertising makes me ill.  I am hoping that my own compass, and the fact that I predominately earn my living as a musician, will keep me honest.  No one wants to buy the records of a sellout with nothing to say, or at least I don’t.  (Come to think about it, a lot of people want to buy records by musicians that are sellouts with nothing to say!  Fuck!!!)

I do believe that musicians, artists, writers, should earn a living from their work.  This whole streaming thing troubles me, because it does not yet seem that it pays anyone anything that they can survive on.  But hey, y’all got a blog out of it.  I might not have ever started this blog had the economics of the music business been different.  I really enjoy working on this though.  Even if the economics changed, I don’t think I would stop now, for any reason.  There is a lot more I want to add about how economics, and people’s support for the arts, directly effects the kind of art that we see.  I am late to start packing for tour right now and that will have to wait for a later date.

I just got a copy of the new Shinyribs record that I play bass on.  Mr. Russell even gracefully allowed me to coauthor one song, which I am extremely excited about.  The record, which has long been in the works for sometime, should be out soon.  As soon as I have a finite date, I will make it known.  The Ted Hawkins tribute record I played on, that I have previously mentioned, is supposed to be out later this year.

I also hope to record a solo record this year.  I don’t like New Year’s resolutions.  A February declaration seems fitting somehow, as February seems like no one’s idea of a time to begin anew.  Why can’t it be?  My goal by the end of the year is to have three records in various stages of completion and to have this blog newly formatted and running clean.

Anyway, I’m off to Louisiana for a tour, as soon as I can stuff enough random things in a suitcase to feel like I tried.  Over and out…

Going On Tour in Louisiana

Shinyribs Tour Dates

The hour is getting late, but I wanted to mention that tomorrow I will be going on tour with Shinyribs in the great state of Louisiana.  The above link is to the Shinyribs tour page featuring dates, venues, etc.

The new Shinyribs album will be out soon.  Tonight I just heard the final version of it for the first time, so I know that it does indeed exist!

I am bringing my computer with me so that I can blog from the road.  Posting has been slightly slow the last few days.  This is partially due to the fact that I am making some structural changes to Windup Wire that I need to make.  I will comment on those  soon enough.

In the future when all’s well…

Jeff

Ta-Nehisi Coates On Andrew Sullivan and Error

Andrew Sullivan and the Importance of Self Criticism

I was checking out Ta-Nehisi Coates blog tonight, I came across the above piece on Andrew Sullivan.  (Coates and Sullivan both used to blog for The Atlantic.  Coates still blogs for them.)  The piece is not only interesting for its views on Sullivan, but because it is also about how error is an essential part of intellectual pursuit.  This is a good read, especially for those of you interested in writing.