I thought I’d share how I made sure urgency would win against overthinking and procrastination on my latest musical project. Sometimes the key to efficient creativity is limitations. When you limit your options your decision making process becomes streamlined. You have a better criteria to evaluate results. Here are the boundaries I set for myself over the last few weeks while writing and recording these songs
1. I will write songs that are simple and direct. Choose non-fiction over fiction, prose over poetry. Choose "from the heart" over "from the mind". Choose clarity over ambiguity.
2. Pleasant melodies over dissonance. Anything can be celebrated beautifully. Even the bad times. Just because you are serious or sad doesn't mean it can't be hummable or melodious. Emotional themes combined with melody can remind people that there is hope and beauty everywhere, despite life throwing us some curveballs.
3. Employ minimal instrumentation. Drums, bass and guitar. No more, no less. (ok maybe a keyboard or two)
4. I will keep the sounds minimal. The drum kit has two drums and two cymbals. I will use one acoustic and one electric guitar. I'll limit the engineering to a simple workflow using Apple Garageband. One microphone to capture everything. Keep it simple.
5. I will avoid perfectionism. Do no more than three takes of any track. “It’s good enough, now move on.” became my mantra. If I couldn't please myself in three takes it didn't make it on the final song. I will defer to the energy and emotion of the moment.
6. I will write the song and then record it, quickly. Record the song within 24 hours of writing it. Don’t edit, don’t rethink and don't rewrite. If it was real to me in the moment it is good enough for later. This also had an interesting way of revealing the weaker contenders in the group.
7. I will ask for help. Inviting others in to contribute musical parts to the songs made them not only better but it gave me the confidence to put them out. If my musician friends liked the songs then maybe others will too. Everyone needs validation. I also asked somebody else to mix the record. I do not have the patience or skill to make the mixes shine. Know your limits and trust others.
8. I will be brave. In a creative situation, wearing my heart on my sleeve is never easy for me. In fact I have gone out of my way creatively to not show my emotions so directly through my work. This time it was all I had to say. It was the point. It felt sincere. I leaned on a few friends to listen and get their feedback. I soaked up every bit of criticism and encouragement. These discussions gave me energy to keep going and get it all wrapped up.
9. Real not professional. By not employing a fancy audio set up I saved a lot of time. I also realized that I couldn’t lean on the audio quality to make the songs work. It isn’t that I wanted them to sound bad. But I did not want production and sonic polish to distract from rawness of the project. I wanted it to feel more like a train wreck than a perfect lunar landing.
10. Know when you are finished. At sixteen songs I think I could have continued writing music. But I think I had made my point. And frankly it was all a bit too intense. I needed a break and I needed to get the project done. I put my pencils down two weeks ago. And I am already excited about my next project.
Look for the record and hopefully a live show or two to celebrate this summer. More details to come.