There have been several game changing points in my time of making music. The first game changer was the release of Little Voice by Sara Bareilles. I happened upon that record when I was looking for another song that I had heard in the video game Thrillville. For a kid, that game had a great soundtrack, and I still listen to many of the songs from the soundtrack to this day.
I heard “Love Song”, the album’s main single, first because it was that day’s free download on iTunes waaay back in late 2008. In hindsight, that was a lucky day because it would eventually change the way I think and write musically. Even though I didn’t find the song I was looking for, “Lovesong” by Annie Stela, I did discover Sara Bareilles, and my life changed forever.
A couple months later, I was in a store called Hastings, which sold all kinds of electronics. This included CDs. My Mimi had a tradition of taking my brother and me to Hastings, where we could buy one item and get one drink from the cafe. It was getting late in the day and we’d already been there for an hour or two and I still hadn’t found anything I wanted. Just as we were about to leave, I scanned the tracklist on an album called Little Voice and saw that it had “Love Song” on it, the song that I had played on repeat for the last few months. I snatched it up and bought it with a gift card.
To say that that album was well loved was an understatement. I only liked the opening few tracks at first, but as time went on, I played the album all the way through at least once a day.
I was baffled by the album, especially when I read through the liner notes and found that Sara had had a hand in writing all of the songs on the album! How was that possible?
I asked my mom that same question, and her answer was that songwriting is poetry set to music. I was still baffled until one day I sat down at my keyboard after playing far too many hours of playing the video game Wii Music and the melody of “Ride of the Valkyries” flowed out from under my fingertips. That really threw me through a loop. How had I done that?
That didn’t stop me. I picked out melodies whenever I could, and a few days later, I achieved what I once thought impossible – I wrote a song. I poured my twelve year old soul into a few notes and composed an ode to my first crush. It was a hit among my classmates, and was actually called “Ode”.
Here is the original recording, recorded onto a Creative Zen MP3 player in 2009. I can’t believe I actually found it.
The next big leap was when I discovered Pandora Internet Radio.
Pandora fueled the writing of an album, two books, and helped me discover music on my own. I was raised with the music of the ’60s though the ’90s, and listening to modern pop music was discouraged by my dad, who preferred to listen to U2, the Police, REM, and the like. My mom listened to a lot of disco, ’80s pop, and ’70s folk. My dad even went as far as to say that he did not marry my mother for her music taste. Even today, my music taste leans more toward my dad’s, but I did inherit my love of ’80s pop from my mom.
Pandora helped me discover my own styles of music, and eventually they influenced my songwriting and poetry. It took several flops and another year for me to compile an album’s worth of music, and I took to my 100-year old piano to record. It took 3 months and take after take to get some semblance of an album. It was never finished, because a producer took over and turned my happy songs into poppy wonders. I don’t consider them my best work, because my songs aren’t happy as a whole. The Mellon Session, my first album-length recording, spare though it may be, is a better representation of my style and body of work than Sweet Pea (the EP we recorded) is. But it was a start.
The EP dropped in November of 2011, and remained on the Internet for a year until we took it down. It was never rereleased.
My dad died in 2016, and that sparked a whole new level of creativity within me. In many ways, it was the final push I needed to record albums 4-8. Add that to the toxic environment of Idaho school, and the albums flowed fairly quickly.
Candy for Trees is a different story, however. I believe it was in this post that I spoke about how CFT was formed. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring helped my instrumental style come together. In many ways, I feel as though I’m coming out of the melancholy that dominated the last eight vocal-and-instrument albums and entering a new era.
My last release, Light Steps, was me exploring the sounds of my keyboard and creating landscapes with it. It was recorded last night.