Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas...

... 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.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

What I Don't Want for Christmas (And What I Really Want)

If you're close enough to me (in a relational sense) that a gift for me is on your list of things to buy, allow me to ease your holiday stress a bit. Here is a list of things NOT on my Christmas list this year:

* No gigantic red bow
* No luxury automobile to hold up the aforementioned red bow
* Nothing from Kay Jewelers (and DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER "Going to Jared")
* Nothing that has the letters "H" and "D" on it

That's the list. But wait, there's more! If you find yourself with something of a dilemma, wondering if the item you're looking to get for me is something I'm really going to like, I want you to do this:

Don't buy it.

Nope. What I'd really like for Christmas this year is for you to share your lives with me. 

Here's how it works:

1. If you don't know what to get me, get me something YOU like. Your favorite album. Or movie. Or book. Maybe not your favorite blouse or A-line skirt, but you know, something that means something TO YOU. 

2. Or better yet, make me something. A mix CD of songs you love. Write me something. Cook for me your favorite dish... I promise I will eat it. Forget the price of things; free is good, too.

3. Go green by recycling something you don't use anymore. Do you have any old tools? I could probably use them. Or instruments or firewood or whatever. (Maybe not actual recycling, though; I've got enough cardboard and milk cartons to last a while).

4. Or maybe beat the recession by giving me the gift of your time. Let's get lunch; we'll go Dutch. Or coffee. Or let's just get water. Or we'll throw the football (I haven't gotten to do that in years). Maybe we could catch a movie (we could rent one, or go to the theater, or watch whatever Meredith Baxter movie is on Lifetime). Do you play music? Let's do that. We'll record it and laugh about how awful it sounds. Board games are awesome ways to hang out or heck, we could just go for a walk. See where I'm going with this?

Now, I'm not trying to be a Scrooge and discourage you from buying me (or anyone) something if you'd like to do that. We always say that it's better to give than to receive, and I am certainly not about to tell you how to give. But I want you, Person I Care About Deeply, to know that more than anything else, I would like to get to know you a bit better. To receive the gift of a glimpse into your life. To know what's important to you, because you're important to me. 

It might actually be harder to do that than to just buy me a gift card, and you may be more comfortable with the gift card. Do that then; I mean, for crying out loud, we've made this season so stressful. I'm simply (and honestly and deeply) offering you the freedom to give as you see fit. And maybe I'm challenging you a bit, too. As I said in my last post, I'm kind of waging this internal war against the debt-inducing holiday madness, and I've seen that the best things in my life don't need batteries or extended warranties.

So this year, please don't spend hours trying to think of what to get me; just sharing your life with me is worth more than all those blasted luxury car commercials.

SIDENOTE: I just re-read this post, and I'll admit, it sounds kind of silly. Sappy, even. But so be it; I'm dead serious.

And there ain't nothing sappier than those ridiculous Kay ads.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

May It Be To Me As You Say

More than any other year in my memory, this year my entire insides are fighting to put aside all the Black Friday nonsense and arrive at a deeper level of joy and understanding of the birth of Jesus (It's like 1080p, only better because it's real and doesn't become obsolete five seconds out of the box). 

Not to say that buying people things isn't a good thing to do, just that we've turned it into something kind of ridiculous, you know?

At any rate, I want to know the real Jesus, and I want him to change my heart. I don't want to put my faith in the hands of anything (or anyone) else than the actual son of God. I'm not looking for a guru, or a spiritual advisor, or someone to teach me about being a good leader nor am I satisfied with the pasty-white outer glow of all the things people say that he is. I want the real guy or I want nothing at all.

Faith is a hard thing to have and a much harder thing to keep. And I'm more and more convinced that it's not about having some bulletproof attitude that weathers all attacks from all the "heathens" and "pagans," but is more about perseverance, humility, and dedication. There's a story in the Bible where Jacob wrestles an angel... and bests him (sidenote: I can't read that passage anymore without hearing Bono singing "Bullet the Blue Sky" in my head). Now, I've not gone toe-to-toe with any angels, but I wrestle with all kinds of doubts. You can't live an authentic life of faith without some doubts, especially when you live in a culture such as ours where believing in anything supernatural is increasingly seen as small-minded and asinine. But Jacob wrestled with the supernatural, too, so maybe I've got a shot.

All this to say that I'm trying very hard to see the truth with my own eyes. I know the Christmas story by heart because it's been everywhere since I was a kid. But do I really know the story as it is written? And does the story of Jesus' birth hold more for me than what I've known about it my whole life?

I think so, but I guess we'll see.

I will say that in reading through the first chapter of Luke this morning, I was struck by Mary's response to the angel Gabriel when he tells her that she's going to give birth to the Son of God:

 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)

It's the last part I'm taken by right now. "I am the Lord's servant... may it be to me as you have said." If an angel showed up and told me I was going to do something like give birth to a holy child, I would be terrified (and not just because I'm a man). That's a pretty huge responsibility to drop on someone. I would be filled with all kinds of worry, anxiety, and doubt. What if I messed it up? What does this mean for my future? What the heck is going on?

And I don't know how Mary felt. But I know that her response is to accept it all - all the potential shame she'd face from being an unwed mother, all the worry about her future, all of it - and chose to simply trust that whatever God would have happen to her is the best possible thing for her.

This is not touchy-feely, live-your-best-life-now faith; this is your-life-is-forever-altered-and-it's-going-to-be-incredibly-hard faith. A you-could-die-for-this faith. This is good for me to hear. Sure, I have ideas and plans and things I'd like to do and things I wish I could do and all those kinds of thoughts, but more than that, I want to be like Mary, telling God that if he'd prefer me to be a guy with a bunch of part time jobs and a hard drive full of music fragments that may never be heard by many people, I will accept it. I don't mean to say that I shouldn't want to dream big things, only that I accept that my primary goal in my life is to know this real Jesus, to love others as he loved, and to let all else remain lower than those two on my list of priorities. God is weird; he doesn't make sense in a lot of ways. But maybe the most important thing I'll do in my life will happen at a copy shop where I do typesetting part time, all because I was willing to be where he wanted me to be.

Now, I hope to find a job that I really love. I hope to put out music that means something to someone. And I'd really like to have an old Jeep one day. Maybe I will. But let it be for me as you say, Lord. As you say.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Being Haunted (In A Good Way)

Slowly and surely, I am finding that if given the time to simmer, I may just have some songs left to write. And in the past, I think the best ones have been the ones that haunted me,  the ones that ran on loop in my head throughout the day, when I tried to go to bed at night, and at just about every point in between. I've got a small handful of new songs on a mental playlist currently pummeling my brain nonstop, and I hope that means they're worth hearing.

Now, having these songs bouncing around in my head can be a bit maddening in the context of how I write music. It's a pretty rare feat for me to sit down and knock out a song in a few hours; instead, I've come to accept and embrace that for me writing is an evolutionary process. Lacking a real base of musical theory, I tend to approach the process by playing with sounds and letting my mind run to wherever it goes. This means that I may come across a chorus melody that will bounce around in my head for days, weeks, months, or in some cases, years before I can find where it goes. It's like planting seeds and having to keep watering and waiting until the dang thing flowers. But it also means that I might have a chorus that runs on repeat over and over and over and over and over and over (you get the idea). If someone asks, "When are you putting out something new," I always feel like a loser when I answer, "I'm not sure... hopefully soon," but the answer is honest. It's done when it's done. 

And yes, it does require discipline and effort, but for me the effort and discipline is comes in the form of setting aside time specifically to explore and experiment. But I still have no idea how long it will take.

Still, it's just nice to feel creative again. As I'm moving forward, helping my musical children to grow up, I'm also moving further and further away from what I've done in the past. I would really like to have something to share with people, and if you're reading this, you're probably among those who I want to share my music with most. Thanks for sticking around; you're incredibly patient.

The old aspirations are dying out in my heart, and that's good. On the other side of all the things one is "supposed" to do is a much larger world full of all the things one can do with music. 

For now it's nice to have music haunting me again. Maybe there's still a few bats left in the belfry after all.

In due time, in due time. 

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

People I'm Thankful For, 11.24.09: Parks Carpenter & John Dunn

(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?

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

People I'm Thankful For, Vol. 1: David Herndon

Being the season for giving thanks (historical accounts notwithstanding), I wanted to use this blog to simply give thanks for those folks who have made my life what it is (and hopefully, by doing so, combat the hardness of my own heart).

Today, I'm giving thanks for my friend David Herndon. I actually meant to do this on his birthday a couple of weeks back, but you know how life is....

I can say without exaggeration that David played a huge part in saving my life. He and I met as freshmen at Reinhardt College in 1997, and I can't quite remember how we came to hang out so much, but by the end of Fall quarter, we were making plans to start a band (though "duo" is a more accurate description). It was a great time for me.

But more than hanging out and playing guitar in our dorm rooms, I was drawn to David by his own passionate pursuit of Jesus. And not the stuffy, meek and mild Sunday School Jesus with little lambs and small children - the real, still-doing-stuff Jesus who was much bigger than all my old childhood lessons. Having grown up in church, I knew all those stories, but somehow I had still come to think of God as some sort of spiteful judge waiting to smite me when I screwed up. He seemed to like smiting for some reason.

I don't think that came from my experiences at church growing up, but until college, I had never really considered that Jesus could be someone other than a guilt trip trying to kill my buzz. 

At least until I met David.

In David I saw someone who was searching for the truth of who Jesus was, beyond all the stories, all the anecdotes, all the information and misinformation. Though firm in his convictions, he was not trying to push a theology or dogma or anything like that on anyone. He was simply trying to figure out as best he could what his life would look like if he knew more and more deeply the real Jesus.

And somewhere deep in my own core, I wanted the same thing. High school was an especially weird time for me, and I felt angry for most it. I'm still not sure what about. But it made things hard at home, and when you factor in my own air of knowing it all - as 17 and 18 year olds can be prone to developing - I was a rain cloud always hovering around somewhere. I wasn't content - not with myself or my life.

Because of David's search for Jesus, I too began looking for him. I began to ask some real questions, things like, "Do I believe all this stuff because I've been brainwashed as a child, or is this for real?" Questions I think we all need to ask of ourselves. 

And as I sought answers to these questions,I began to let go of the ideas I had set forth for my life - what it would look like, all the things I wanted to have, etc. And in large part because of those experiences, I started a record label hoping to help artists make some sort of positive impact on our culture. Ultimately, I gave my life over to this man, this conundrum, this Jesus, who I had begun to see and know in my own life. 

After our first summer of college, I followed David down to work at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island as a camp counselor, partly because it seemed fun, but mostly because hanging out with David all summer sounded better to me than going back to Eatonton and doing, um, something, I guess. 

And that's the summer I met the lovely Jana Dalelio, who I would marry four years later. Who would then bear my two children. You get the drift.

David has been my among my greatest cheerleaders, offering me the kind of unconditional support and encouragement that I needed during the Rebuilt years. He is much smarter than me, which helps, and I have never hung out with him and not been challenged in some way to deepen my own faith. His songwriting is probably my greatest musical influence, and his last Rebuilt record, Into Danger/Out of Rescue, is to me a masterpiece. He has never tried to use his gifts to make himself famous or rich or whatever but has always been an example to me of someone who sought to become the greatest he could be by trying to serve others. 

I know this is kind of a gushy, rambling discourse, but David Herndon is someone whose fingerprints are indelibly pressed upon my life. And he wasn't trying to do all these things through our friendship - he was simply trying his best to see the truth of who Jesus said he is, and by doing so, the very direction of my life was changed forever. 

I don't get to see David nearly enough anymore, but those years we spent traveling around south Georgia in his Civic hatchback are like gold to me. 

I am thankful for David Herndon. Who are you thankful for?

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

It is what it is, it was what it was

This past weekend, we celebrated Independence Day, our country's birthday, on the 4th of July. This comes one day after July 3rd (of course), which is a much less significant birthday - that of Rebuilt Records. I spent much of my time this past weekend away from the world, and most of my thoughts revolved around freedom, independence, and that pursuit of happiness our forefathers declared to be an inalienable right. At some point in the six years since Rebuilt became my full-time activity, I feel like I misplaced these things. And so it is a bit poetic perhaps that here is where we end Rebuilt Records.

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

Some Unacademic Thoughts On Good Friday

I cut my grass this morning (last neighbor on the street to do so... sorry, neighbors), which always gives me some uninterrupted time to think. Being Good Friday in the Christian faith, I thought a lot about death - my own, of course, since I'm a self-centered American - but also that of Jesus'.

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

People From Way Back Are Excited...

What a hectic few days! March is just like that, I think. The weather is inconsistent at best (we had 5 inches of snow one weekend and then 75 degree sun the next), the college community is in full spring break mode, and the music community loses about three weeks around SXSW (one before, one during, and one to recouperate).

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, 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

Waxing and Waning...

It's getting on towards 2am, and I just got home from the Warm Fuzzies show here in Athens with the really wonderful Spring Tigers. I'm really too tired to write a whole lot (for once), but I know that if I wait until tomorrow it won't be the same.

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,, 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

The new camera is in the mail, so it's time to execute some Warm Fuzzies music videos...
As a musician, is it wrong to want some sort of mild physical harm to come to the guy playing the flute every afternoon below my office?
How does one deal with inertia? It's easier if the climb is downhill.

Monday, March 09, 2009

finished getting posters sent for the "All the Lads & A Lady" tour w/@whoisjonblack, @MCDalton, @ryanhornemusic, and others...
Ah, spring break in Athens... when the adults take back the city for week!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

And so it ends...

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

New Song Posted, RPM Update, etc.

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.
 - jason

Thursday, January 29, 2009

February is short on days, long on heart

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

The Rentals' "Songs About Time" project

It's no secret that I've been spending the bulk of my music creation time with The Warm Fuzzies, and it's no surprise that a large sonic influence on what we've done to this point has been the music of The Rentals.

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.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's got to go somewhere, right?

I've been trying really hard in this election season to remember the things the internet has taught us: 1. Don't read the comments...