6 days ago for day 135, with 770 words.

A new band for old songs

Last night I stayed up until about midnight working on the first official video for a music project I am launching on Friday with a new single. The project is called The Sea Changes and it’s the home for my singer-songwriter stuff, which I’ve been describing as folk music with a bluesy, soulful touch.

I used to do a lot of this kind of material, and in the Bay Area it’s what I was mostly known for, but I never really found the exact right sound, or fellow musicians who were quite right on the material. In part because of the constant experimentation, in part because some of these friends were just plain unsuited to anything I would ever want to do with this material. I had a couple versions of the same band doing this stuff for a few years, first as a sort of bluegrass/folk-pop thing, and then as something closer to garage rock, but neither approach really was a good fit. The varied styles followed my listening interests at the time, but both amounted to a pose, and there was a faint lack of authenticity about both that (I now think) diminished the appeal of the project.

Also it was just about impossible to have a serious band in San Francisco. I mean a serious band. The near-necessity of second and even third jobs for anybody who was not lucky enough to have regular employment in the tech industry, meant that nobody could fucking rehearse, not beyond one band practice a week, and that was if you were lucky. That’s not anywhere near even a bare minimum for competency on material, let alone the kind of comfortable mastery that attracts listeners. The once-a-week band practice often turned out to be the only time some of those people even picked up their instruments, and often band members were not only under-rehearsed, but short on sleep, and before a couple hours had passed, drunk or high too. Frequently, all three. It made me absolutely livid, dealing with this situation. I felt like all my ambitions were being blocked by the very people I thought I needed in order to realize them. It’s difficult for me to overstate how angry I would be made by the question “wait, how does this song begin?” — given that the song in question had probably been in rotation for months.

It took a couple years, but I finally had come to understand why most people in the Bay Area who were remotely serious about doing music for a living were lone wolves. The pattern was impossible to miss once you started looking for it. You couldn’t absolutely rely on anybody who wasn’t 100% as serious as yourself, and everybody who was, in fact, that serious had their own vision and didn’t want to collaborate. Where bands did stay together, it was mostly because they treated it as more of a fun thing, and didn’t have particular ambitions for it apart from playing for their friends. I felt like the first several years of my career were absolutely wasted with wrangling people who couldn’t practice enough, either on their own or together, to make it worthwhile working with them in the first place. But at my level of reputation, there was nobody else available to me.

At any rate, I took the hint. I kept working with bands but kept it minimal and regarded my time with them as leisure time. For a couple years I pursued a solo project under my own name — just me and a guitar. But after an excellent Kickstarter campaign which produced an album in this line, and after a couple productive summers of shows, I started to see the outlines of a new sound but I wasn’t clear enough on it yet to really carry through on any project. So last year I mostly set the whole thing aside until my vision for the material did finally crystallize and I recorded some tracks, and I’ve been gearing up to launch the project with this single release on Friday. Down the road I’m going to re-release some stuff I originally put out under my own name too, including that Kickstarter album.

So that’s where I’m at today with my work. I’m excited that this is finally coming back to be a part of my life! I have a bunch of writing prompts that I want to get into soon, but for today this is plenty long enough. Cheers all.

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Full time musician and former pro writer wanting to get back into the practice.

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