... from the cutest kids in America.I sincerely hope that you're finding love, peace, and hope this Christmas season! Unto us a child is born (or as my daughter's children's bible says, "Our rescuer has come for us!") See you next year.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Thursday, December 03, 2009
34"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
35The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[c] the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God."
38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
(Luke 1:34-8 NIV)
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
(photo: Parks, John, and yours truly on my couch last night)I'm really thankful to have Parks Carpenter and John Dunn in my life. Parks isn't in my life physically as much as I'd like (living in Wilmington, NC), but I'm ecstatic that John and his wife Tara once again call the Classic City home. Both of these guys are brothers to me.In my undergrad years at Reinhardt College (apparently about to be renamed "Reinhardt University"), I played in a band called Copper John. There were five of us - me, Parks, John, David (from my last post), and Jacob (who'll likely be my next "thankful for" subject) - and while we didn't do much worth writing home about during our tenure as a band, we did do a fair amount of hanging out at Parks' cabin in Jasper, GA. And when I say "cabin" I mean it in the Pioneer sense, as in "no heat or air conditioning." It was awesome. Parks grew up in Papua New Guineau, so his decor was wild.John was my roommate my senior year at Reinhardt. He also owned me at racquetball (seriously, I don't know if I ever beat him, and we played ALOT). John is, without a doubt, one of the most unique people I have ever met. There is no one like John Dunn. NO ONE. If you've ever heard my old "Flavor of the Week" song, "Tae kwon John," you have heard of John Dunn.I can be guilty of being a little too intense, to focused on the difficulties in front of me or on the uncertainties of tomorrow; Parks taught me how to lighten up, how to be naked (in a metaphorical sense, and well, at times, a literal sense). I owe a lot to him.And John taught me a lot about being comfortable in my own skin. I'm not sure whether John thought of himself as I did, but he always seemed to carry himself with a quiet confidence. He also didn't seem to get bogged down by what others thought of him (on a side note, John once wore the same shirt for an entire summer just to see if he could do it. He did. I find this endlessly impressive). A deep, creative thinker, and a really good friend to a lot of people. He is also still learning to break dance.Both of these guys have encouraged me through some of my rougher times, offering wisdom when I needed it and on some occasions, some tough love. Parks also threw John's Hangin' Tough CD out of the window of his Jetta, which was then crushed by a speeding semi. This ALWAYS gets brought up.My life is better because of these two men. Who are you thankful for?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
I remember July 3rd, 2003 pretty well because I was scared to death. Jana and I arrived that afternoon in Corona, California at the Fireproof house that was to be our office and home. Our furniture and other personal items wouldn't arrive for another week or so (after our moving truck drivers took a "small" detour up to Sturgis, South Dakota for bike week), and so we spent our first night there alone in the dark of our living room, eating In-N-Out burger (because that was the only place we knew to get food), and sitting in office chairs because those were the only things we had to sit on. We sat out on the back patio, listened to the neighbors get drunk, and wondered what in the world we had done.
I kind of miss that feeling. It was scary in that we had committed to do something we had no idea how to do, and we'd essentially put ourselves up to be the ridicule of our families if it didn't work out. But I felt so alive, so free. It was a different world then - literally and figuratively. Musically, the Internet hadn't yet helped make buying music passe´ or leveled the playing field for independents, and there was a very real need for Rebuilt to help artists raise money to record quality albums. As you no doubt know, things today are a bit different. Today, artists can use something like Kickstarter to raise money on their own and manage their own careers through free or next-to-free tools available online. It’s a good time to be an artist and a bad time to be a label.
From the beginning, we wanted Rebuilt artists to have the freedom to grow, create, live healthy, balanced lives, and to take whatever time they needed, but this also created a tension for the label. Rebuilt was born on the notion that for most artists, incessant touring and living on the road is not a healthy way to live, but on the other hand, the label needed our artists to sell enough albums to cover our expenses and pay a few bills. What were we to do, push our friends to “work harder” and “sell more?” Were we to take an increasingly popular stance and sign our artists to 360 deals, essentially collecting money we didn’t earn from every stream of income (like door money from shows)? As we move into a world where music is free, artists will need as much income as they can muster to that they can grow and develop their art into something sustainable. Others certainly feel differently, but we felt to do so would be to become exactly the opposite of what we wanted our label to be.
At the end of the day, Rebuilt was an organization that lived and died on the sale of its recordings, and pinning the blame on “downloading” or “the internet” or whatever is completely asinine. Sometimes the world just changes. I imagine there were a lot of angry scribes in the world when Gutenberg rolled out the movable-type printing press and effectively wiped out their “industry” essentially overnight. But in doing so, he also played a major role in ushering in the Renaissance (look it up). In an age where we’re hell-bent on bailing out all kinds of things, I am of the opinion that sometimes old models need to die off to make room for new and more effective ones. In Rebuilt’s case, we saw no way to retrofit an old model into a new world, at least not at the expense of the people we were actually trying to help.
Certainly, the fact that people are choosing to buy less music these days is a large factor in our decision to close Rebuilt's doors, but that's more of a symptom than the real ailment. While I can deal with losing money (understanding that Rebuilt was always a risk), I became aware that I was in pretty bad shape elsewhere. I was bitter at the way things had been, angry that I didn't do a better job, and hopeless that it would turn around. In truth, I had become a slave to this thing I loved so much. Having no foresight to set boundaries (and not even knowing how), I was never able to break my livelihood from its livelihood. Financially speaking, when Rebuilt took a hit, so did my family, and since we operated as a nonprofit, there was no real way to get back any money we put into it. It follows, then, that as our income from album sales dropped, the financial pressure on the company (and on us personally) only continued to intensify.
Over the last few years, I had come to resent Rebuilt for the ways I had allowed it to drain not only my personal finances, but also my joy, my spirit, and my willingness to want to serve and help others. For a while, I tried to push my nose to the grindstone harder, to raise more money and find some folks to help out; but as the expenses mounted and the income slowed, I found that I just had nothing left when I "hit the gas." This was not how I wanted to live. This was not freedom.
And so freedom is what we have granted our artists. Effective August 1st, all master rights will transfer to the artists themselves and all remaining recoupment debt will be canceled. Our artists are free to do what they will with their recordings with no further obligation to Rebuilt Records. We will continue to offer remaining stock for sale via Rebuilt’s online store as a one-stop outlet for the label’s catalogue and to help pay down our outstanding debt on these recordings, but apart from this, our artists will receive 100% of the income derived from the sales of their recordings. This seemed like the right thing to do - our own little “year of jubilation,” if you will.
Six years ago, we sat in that empty house in Corona because we felt God had asked us to, not knowing how or when it would end. It was a wonderful leap of faith that has changed the course of my life forever. Rebuilt continues to teach me about commitment, community, giving, and service.
In looking back on the days since California, there are certainly things I would do differently. This is to be expected, I guess. And depending on the day, I go back and forth on how I view these six years, whether they were success or failure, accomplishment or defeat. But I feel pretty strongly that each one of our artists is better in some way for having been a part of Rebuilt Records, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to float alongside them in their journeys. Even six years ago, we made a promise that we would "ride the wave until it hit the beach," and here we are. Just as we felt God calling us to California, it is clear to my heart that he is asking us to put Rebuilt to rest.
Thank you to so many who gave and gave and gave to the vision of Rebuilt Records – financially and otherwise. Because of you, Rebuilt raised nearly $130,000 that went directly to help make the 14 albums baring the Rebuilt hammer. Through your support, our good friend and artist Paul Reeves built a professional-class studio that will continue as a place to document artists’ work and care for them as they grow and develop. Your support helped to encourage the discouraged, and your emails, letters, phone calls, and attendance made us all feel that what we were doing mattered. I could never say thank you enough.
I’ll end here by raising my glass to Jon Black, Micah Dalton, The Goodfight, Paul Reeves, Natalie Moon, and David Herndon, to our family of dedicated donors, and to all who continue to support independent artists; here’s to finding the next wave. It’s been a pleasure.
Friday, April 10, 2009
I also want to be clear that I am not making an attempt here to tell you how to think, feel, or live. I rarely trust my own opinions, though I do know a few things to be true.
Here's some completely unacademic things I considered while mowing the lawn:
1. The process of crucifixion is an especially heinous way to die. What does this say about a God who would choose to die this way? And what does is say about him that he went through with it? I think he must really hate sin, and he must really have wanted to fix the brokenness. He spared no brutality nor did he spare any part of himself.
2. If I was to truly get what I deserve, my death would surely look like Jesus'. But the power of sin died with him, and if I am to truly believe this, then I am to also believe that I have been forgiven, healed, and restored. So when God looks at me, I am holy and blameless as if I'd never sinned at all. If this is true, why then do I continually strive to wallow in my own guilt, shame, and failure when God himself does not see me so?
3. Society likes a murderer. The crowd chose to set free a killer instead of Jesus. Somewhere in there is a distortion in perception. Would an individual, if given the choice, choose to set free a murderer over someone who had been convicted of nothing? I wouldn't think so generally. But our weird world is such that when a bunch of us get together and people are all shouting things at each other, killing innocent folks seems like a perfectly legit idea.
4. Jesus let a murderer off the hook. Under the penalty of the law, Barrabus deserved death; if Jesus was truly who we say he is (the son of God), then he could have saved his own skin. Instead, he let a killer go free. He gave him his life back and with that, Jesus gave Barrabus a choice of what to do with it. Jesus didn't walk around proclaiming his "rightness," and he didn't push himself on anyone. Does this square with what we do as a church in America (me included)?
5. Truth is truth. While not brow-beating others to accept, follow, or worship him, Jesus did speak a whole lot of truth. And the thing about truth is that you can love it or hate it, but it does not change. If something is true, it is not subject to popular opinion, data, or persuasive bantering. Like death. Love it or hate it - you're going to die. And me, too.
6. So what about our own deaths? We are certainly good at using the word "sin" to do whatever we want it to, and much like the word "love," it has lost its effective meaning. Sin is not a list of "Do Nots;" it is more like a condition, a way of being. It's dying a slow death on the inside without even realizing it. It's having no way out of the hole our lives are born into. It's the outcome of the first bad decision being compounded by every other bad decision everyone else has made for the last gazillion years. To say sin is simply using curse words or drinking alcohol excessively is like saying breast cancer is just an illness. Sin is way broader, deeper, and inside our bones than refraining from harsh speech or excessive drinking can fix.
I've been dying since the day I was born. No one taught me how to lie, to hurt, or to hate. Those options came standard. I don't know why deep down I am so angry; by all accounts, my life has been way easier than a lot of folks'. But these things have always been there, and if Jesus is who he says he is, if he truly took all that deep-seeded crap that has always been there and got punished for it... and if I truly am no longer bound to this broken condition... then I pray to see what's on the other side of his death.
For I am familiar with dying; I'd like to know more about living.
Friday, March 27, 2009
I've been shooting a lot of video lately (look for a Warm Fuzzies video soon), screenprinting the Goodfight's new album packaging; printing, assembling, and mailing pre-release copies to press; and giving what time I can to helping Jon and Micah on their current tour. It's amazing how quickly I allow these good things to take me away from my own artmaking.
On April 3rd at Eddie's Attic, then, I'll be doing something that is becoming more and more rare... I'll be performing. Just me and my acoustic guitar, no Warm Fuzzies this time, "Just Jason." I'm looking forward to it, and at the same time, I am kind of terrified. I'm going to try and bring out some of the new music I wrote for the RPM Challenge back in February for the first time ever. Heck, if the songs suck, it might be the last time.
You can buy tickets online at EddiesAttic.com, and know that I'll be joined by more amazing artists - Paul Reeves, Bethany Dick, Bonnie Bishop, and the aforementioned Goodfight, who'll be celebrating the acoustic side of his new album, Good & Evil.
The other side of the album is more rock and roll, and as you see below, even people from way back are excited about it.
I hope to see you on the 3rd!
Saturday, March 14, 2009
You just never know, you know? We recently played a show with some really great bands, bands we love, and no one really showed to see anyone. It was bizarre. We all thought that show would have been a homerun. Tonight, on the other hand, we didn't expect much; it's the tail end of spring break, it's cold and raining, and the venue is a little off the beaten path. But it was awesome.
Were there a ton of people? There were enough. And I have no idea how it really sounded. But standing there after our set in this tiny room lit only by a spinning disco ball and some Christmas lights while listening to the Spring Tigers, I really felt like I was doing something I've really always longed to do. Good grief, we know there's enough bad shows, so when one of those "special" ones comes along, you have to really record it in your mind to help when things get discouraging.
I've spent a lot of time this week working on social networking sites, uploading label stuff and working towards the Goodfight's new album release. I've spent hours reading blogs by really smart marketers and music business thinkers. I've poured over the words to use in other folks' press releases, bios, and cover letters. I've set up accounts with Twitter, Ping.fm, ArtistData, Spotify, etc. and I'll probably set up an account with whatever comes next. And to be honest, I'm kind of exhausted from all that. Seems a lot like chasing the wind when you feel that what you're putting in doesn't have any effect on what comes out.
But to play a song that you helped write with some of your good friends and to look out and see people nodding and moving along with smiles on their faces... yes and thank you.
Small things mean everything.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 09, 2009
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Well, it's official... looks like I won't be finishing my album for the RPM challenge. With a few songs left to finish, I awoke this morning with a purpose and focus not unlike a tightrope walker hovering hundreds of feet above the ground. Faced with a daunting task, I looked incredulously at myself in the mirror and said to my reflection, "Oh, are we gonna do this?!!" and my reflection nodded, "Yes."
I packed a lunch, walked out the door, and fired up the Mazda. "Bring it, RPM, bring it," I thought to myself.
As it turns out, RPM brought it. Today just wasn't the day I guess. The first road block was that I hadn't been out to our practice space (the site of most of these recordings) since we loaded in our gear after the Warm Fuzzies show Thursday at Tasty World. Seeing as it was 3 am at the time, I didn't really feel like setting up mics and re-routing my cables, so today I spent the first half hour of my afternoon plugging things back in and setting up microphones. Strike one.
Strike two came about an hour later when the band next door decided to show up at their rehearsal space. Now, I should say that I knew that recording at a practice space comes with certain inherent risks, as people are free to come and go and play as loudly as they please. I'd been working around that during this challenge, and most of the time, I've made adjustments so that the sound bleeding in from other rooms is either nonexistent or nonobtrusive on the track. Except when the band next door practices. I don't know if it's some weird proximity affect amplifying bass frequencies when they play or something, but the florescent light fixtures rattle and I cannot hear anything playing back in my headphones. They're swell guys, and I have no problem with them playing loud; heck, it's a practice space. But needless to say, this is not a good time to record vocals. Strike two.
Down but not yet out, I figured a change of venue might do the trick. My office is a decent enough place to do some singing, and no one is there on the weekends, so I hurriedly packed up everything I'd need - mics, computer, cables, hard drive, etc. - and scorched some asphalt all the way over to my building. After circling the block a couple of times, I finally found a parking space close enough and rode the elevator up three floors to my own private vocal oasis. And indeed, it would have been great but for the fact that for some reason my hard drive would not (and still won't) boot up. I swapped cables, checked the power supply, restarted the computer a few thousand times, pushed the "power" button on the back of the drive, and nothing worked. No hard drive means no files to work on. And that was the curve ball that got me swinging on strike three.
And that leaves me here, sitting at the little round table in my office writing this blog instead of recording vocals. I'm not sure what's up with the drive, but I have a sneaking suspicion it will work on March 2nd, the day after the deadline. A couple of weekends ago, my G5 studio computer stopped working for about four days before miraculously coming back to life. This is just how things go sometimes, I guess.
So what I feel at this particular moment is a mixture of defeat, failure, exuberance, relief, frustration, and hunger (haven't eaten in a while). I don't think I could have worked on it much harder than I have, so I can't feel that bad about it. Especially since there is neither a reward nor penalty for completing the challenge. In fact, absolutely nothing is different.
But the larger issue (one that I won't get much into today) is more about where I tend to derive my own feelings of value and worth. I find it hard to fall short of any goal, and it doesn't really matter if doing so even affects my life or anyone in it. Nor does it really matter if anyone even knows I fell short. When I feel I have failed at something, I am quick to feel that by extension I am a failure.
This isn't the truth, of course, and I am learning this. I'll be excited to continue to work on this album, and now I get the chance to put it out as I'd really like to. I decided a little while back to call the record "All Things Subject To Change," and this part is just keeping to form.
Sure would have been nice to finish it, though.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
So I've been recording this album for the last few weeks, and today I've finally posted the first song, a little tune I'm calling, "Seriously, Hartsfield?" This particular title is something I find myself asking repeatedly every time I have to check bags through Atlanta.
I've got a couple of days left to finish the album, and I'm going to be honest - this thing is all over the place. The more I do this, the more I have come to think that in my own artmaking/songwriting, I am more about ideas and concepts than anything else, and it's really showing here. Especially since I don't have time to do the things musicians normally do when recording an album - things like cleaning up the overt influences in my music, re-arranging things to make the whole thing cohesive, etc.
So this little song is kind of a happy pop song with a little Warm Fuzzies guitar thrown in there set to a loop off my little keyboard from RadioShack. It's rough, but I guess that's the point.
I should also note that this song was made possible by these folks:
Mark Tulk, who recorded organ @ Small House Records in Melbourne, Australia.
Kyle Heimann from the duo Popple, who recorded harmonica & ukele at his home studio in California.
Meg Abbott (who works in Artist Services here at Rebuilt) on the cowbell and tambourine
And of course, there's Mattox Shuler (formerly of the Warm Fuzzies, currently of the Bride), who thew down some serious glockenspiel.
More to come - hope you enjoy.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
February is a big month to be so short, particularly this year. On February 2nd, news reporters give groundhogs like Punxsutawney Phil in PA and General Beauregard Lee down here in the Atlanta area their annual fifteen seconds of fame while I become officially one year older. Sharing a birthday with large weather-predicting rodents isn't the worst thing, I guess, but I'd like to go ahead and say that if you're planning on asking me whether I saw my shadow or not, just know that you are MOST DEFINITELY NOT THE FIRST PERSON TO USE THAT JOKE. Okay, moving on...
This year is especially marquee in that this will be my 30th birthday, which is certainly a milestone. No longer bound by all the things you're "supposed to do" in your twenties, I will finally breathe a sigh of relief and experience the freedom of doing the things I need to do, or dare I say it, the things I want to do. Things like driving a minivan or admitting that I don't particularly like going to large music festivals with crowds of drunk people. Yeah, I'll be more honest and possibly more "old man-like" with my straight talk and black socks, but I'll also just still be the same old guy I've been for the previous 29 years. And I'll really only be one day older...
Maybe the anticipation of all this freedom is setting me up for disaster. A big fall. Embarrassment. Ridicule. Well, that wouldn't be all that different than my previous 29 years, either, would it? At any rate, I've decided to mark this milestone by recording an entire album during the month of February as part of the RPM Challenge. It's pretty simple - 10 songs or 35 minutes just for the sake of doing it. Yeah, this sounds exactly like what I imagine 30 year old me will be like - living on the edge and all.
So here's the deal, though; it's possible that I could do this on my own, but I imagine the 30 year old version of me is going to want some other folks involved. And that's (possibly) where you come in. This project is an excuse to put writing and recording music first for a month, but I'd also like to use it as an excuse to spend time with people that I really care about. People I may not get to see as much as I'd like. So if that's you - and you can make it to Athens sometime in February - I'd love to get you involved. I'm sure we'll find lots of places for handclaps and foot stomps and kazoo ensembles. And cowbell.
See, the process of recording can be too inclusive, too "mystical" and "magical," and though I kind of like the idea of treating the studio as a place where special things happen, recording is really more about the "magic" inside the folks making the sounds. Sure, the right environment can get set the right vibe, but it's up to the musicians to make something exciting. I certainly overuse this analogy, but recording is a lot like Punxsutawney Phil - you can predict the weather, but you can't make it rain. In other words, the conditions can be right, but it's up to the performers to make something happen.
And odds are, if you're going to record 10 songs from start to finish in a month on zero cash in the Warm Fuzzies' rehearsal space, the album is going to have some rough edges. Especially if I'm the one engineering it. But in honor my 30th birthday, I want to share something I care deeply about - making and recording music - with the people I care most about. And I hope we capture some real magic, if for no other reason than because I'm getting older and all seasons eventually come to an end.
Here is my overall outline of the project, something I'm currently calling "J. Harwell & the Alltogethernow:"
1. Satisfy the official requirement of recording 10 songs/35 minutes during the month of February.
2. To make the process of recording inclusive, and to share this process with people in my life who may or may not have recording experience.
3. To capture the process on video, and to update social media as I embark on the process
4. Return to the process of creating/capturing music in my own life and to improve in both areas.
5. To make music fun again.
1. I will utilize our Warm Fuzzies rehearsal space as my primary base of operations for this project. This allows me the freedom to leave instruments prepped to record and an unlimited amount of time/volume.
2. The rig will need also to be mobile, though, in the event that I need to record in spaces other than Pigpen due to geographical, noise level, or other reasons.
3. Songs must be completed between February 1st and February 28th
4. Nothing new will be purchased - I must use the instruments/sounds I have currently available.
We'll see how it goes...
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Though I never would have thought that Matt Sharp would have been the one from Weezer to do something really artful and creative, their new photography/film/music project called Songs About Time is simply amazing. Great concept, great execution.
Simply put, they're documenting a year's time by posting a photo each day, a short film each week, and four EPs throughout the year. It's all black and white and visually amazing.
It's the kind of good that makes you mad that you weren't the one to pull it off.
check it out here.