Books · creativity · Music

“You’re only as good as your record collection.” 🎧

The little, square book Show Your Work has changed they way I think about blogging, processing my ideas, and has even helped me appreciate my music playlists.

One idea it introduces is to embrace collecting.

There’s not as big of a difference between collecting and creating as you might think.

Show Your Work

Great musicians, writers, and artists tend to collect and appreciate other people’s work. “The reading feeds the writing, which feeds the reading,” the book says. Hopefully this approach works for me as I dig into music creation.

Or to put it another way:

You’re only as good as your record collection.

DJ Spooky, via Show Your Work

To that end, here is my ever-growing list of new songs I like, built up gradually over the last few years, thanks to Shazam and a few coffee shops and beer gardens with their own great playlists. As of this writing, this playlist is over 49 hours long and could double as its own radio station.

Don’t hoard indeed. 😆

Beyond music, I can collect ideas much quicker than I can get them out to the world.

Just to keep track of things all these ideas, I started using the same system that NASA uses to manage large projects. 😆 Admittedly, this may be overkill, but I do have a reservoir of about 400 blog ideas filed away so far.

I think the challenge will be to identify the 5% of ideas that I can actually give my attention to and let the rest be. We’ll see if Show Your Work as any wisdom for that conundrum.

To many ideas, not enough time!

Sonic inspiration – Sad Moon Above

My friend and I have been working on a song called Sad Moon Above for a while now. It started with just some lyrics (hers), then a few guitar chords (mine), culminating in a very rough outdoors acoustic demo, recorded on my iPhone and featuring a metronome and a barking dog. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Yeah, it was that rough. But it was just a proof of concept.

The was three years ago.

We got a little stuck, so to move things along, I made a really basic “karaoke” version of the song. I even sang even though I’m not a singer.

That was two years ago.

Now I’m trying to get to a fairly “good” version of this song. Or maybe 2-3 good versions. 🤷🏻‍♂️ In my head, I hear a New Wave version, a grunge version, and a dream pop version of this song.

So I just bought a keyboard, even though I’m not a keyboard player.

Aspirations keep us moving forward. Here is a playlist of sounds that I want Sad Moon Above to feel like when it’s eventually done.

I just bought a keyboard. Wish me luck. 🤷🏻‍♂️

“I know the love that I deserve.”

Lucas Nelson has an amazing way of writing a song about one thing and then sneaking in a little mini-anthem about something else right in the middle. The mini-anthem hammers home the original point with an underlying truth.

It’s his jab-jab-jab-uppercut of songwriting. 🥊

On Find Yourself, Lucas rambles for a while about an unsatisfying relationship. Then the tone of the song briefly changes, and the mini-anthem bursts in.

I know the love that I deserve.

That’s the underlying truth to the rest of the song. It’s so beautiful and simple, it almost brings me to tears every time.

This song has some special meaning to me since I first heard it with a small but enthusiastic crowd at Lucy’s Friend Chicken in South Austin. Lucas Nelson sang it from the top of a picnic table as part of an unofficial SXSW performance. It sounded great, even without Lady Gaga. 😉

👉 Bonus: can you find the mini-anthem in Turn Off The News (Build A Garden)?


Stuck in a moment (remake)

I haven’t been a huge fan of modern-day U2. I miss the more inspiring, mysterious, and just classic stuff from the 80’s and 90’s.

Still, some of their later-day songs creep up and get you — especially if someone else performs them. 🤷🏻‍♂️

For instance, Transient has done some really fresh remakes of U2 songs. They finally helped me appreciate the following song from 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, which I originally thought was, uh, pretty boring, but now see the beauty in it.

Thank you, Transient. 🙏

And the lyrics are perfect for someone who needs a little kick in the butt.

I never thought you were a fool
But darling, look at you
You gotta stand up straight, carry your own weight
These tears are going nowhere baby

You’ve got to get yourself together
You’ve got stuck in a moment
And now you can’t get out of it
Don’t say that later will be better
Now you’re stuck in a moment
And you can’t get out of it