Studio Diary #1

It all started because of an impromptu acoustic tour. I was really getting frustrated in LA, and while I enjoyed various aspects of my other projects, it had been over a year since I’d written a song for myself (anyone who knows me personally would probably find that strange). I was presented with an opportunity to leave for a month… I took it, booked some shows, and left three weeks later, without a real callus on any of my fingers.

To be honest, I don’t really know how I had allowed myself to get so low, to lose my confidence as a writer. Making music has always been something that made me more than just simply happy… I guess there’s just some things you know that you’re supposed to do. Thinking of Resident Hero on tour, they’re the best memories of my life. And now 2 years after RH was done, i’d be touring on my own name, with no new music, for the first time. I didn’t really know what to expect. Now, to be COMPLETELY honest, I kind of went to see if I was still that guy that wrote “Time is Nothing”, or if I was just someone living inside of that shell. Haha… Forgive the darkness in the statement. I was pretty lost.

Within two days I felt like a new man. I had forgotten that I still have people around this country with my words and symbols permanently etched into their skin. And there’s really nothing that builds self-confidence more than strangers singing your words and sharing their homes. I’ve had a soft spot for acoustic music my entire career… Almost every song I’ve ever written has started on an acoustic guitar. The shows came and went, I started to become comfortable again, and then I started having FUN.

Now I’ll tie this together.

Brian “Carrot” Virtue, the producer of Resident Hero’s last (and best) record, came to see a show in Nashville with his wife. A week later, he called and informed me that I should do a solo record. He’d helm it if I could pull off a kickstarter campaign. Naturally I was ecstatic and beyond frightened. I DON’T HAVE ANY NEW SONGS! ohgodohgodohgodohgod. Not to mention, the thought of asking anyone for money made (makes) me ill. I was home about a week later, completely refreshed, inspired and hungry. I guess that’s all I really needed to get the radio in my head to turn back on.

… A quick note on songwriting… I really feel most of the time like an idiot savant with aspergers. The best songs I’ve ever written, across the board, took twice the heart and half the work of everything else. I think I’m an okay songwriter, but I’m much better at capturing little honest fragments of moments in my life. I suppose that’s why the songs came so quickly and violently once they started gracing my brain again. There is no drug or drink in the world that beats the feeling of creating something out of nothing.

I made a mad scientist board in my room. I’m a visual person, so seeing my catalogue, song seeds, lyric strands, all in my line of sight every day kept me focused. The day after i got home, i finished the first one, “Back to Madison”. Then they came pouring. Im sure i was a bit of maniac while I was chasing them, but it was… god. It was just THE BEST. I wrote 15 songs that I’m proud of in that time period, paired them with a few of my favorites from the last year, and started the campaign.

Thanks aren’t enough, by the way, for your involvement in this album. You guys kind of saved my musical soul. I was losing the love inside of all the struggle, and the tour paired with the support given to me during that process really did change the direction I was headed. You can hear that fire in the new music, I think. It’s important for every artist (I imagine) to create as many solid works as possible while we’re here on this earth. I have a feeling one day, years and years from now, this record will still carry a certain emotional weight to me. I’m not even sure which songs will make it, but it’s definitely an unhinged open door into the man that I was then. Okay okay, enough pretentious rambling.

I demoed at my friend and colleague Lillard’s house. He ended up flying out and doing some instrumentation on the record, along with Resident Hero’s first drummer, Jonathan Scott, and Pat Seals from Flyleaf. More on all that later.

I left at the tail end of July, and played a handful of shows along the way to test out the new material. That part can be really scary. Kind of just putting a defibrillator on these new babies and hoping they come to life. There were a few songs I was positive were among the best, that fell dead in the water after a well-worn shiner like heart shivers or almost home. By the time I got to Nashville on the evening of the 9th, I definitely had a clearer picture of what I wanted.

I slept in a Target parking lot the night before the first day of pre-production; it’s not really a big deal though, on the last tour and the tour to come, I slept in many, many rest-stops and walmart parking lots. It’s amazing how much money you can save that way.

Yea. I know. I’m insane.

PRE-PRO

Day one: A whole lotta listenin’ goin’ on

We decided to stick with everything new and fill in holes with my catalogue. I feel like at first i didn’t really understand the assignment, and I believe I sent Virtue around 70 songs total before I got there. Leave me alone. It’s hard to decide between babies!

Here’s what we started with:

Salvation
Finder’s Keepers
Smoking Mirrors
Traveler
Cry Wolf
Back to Madison
Alone Together
Heart Shivers
Castles
5lbs
O Brother
Yessir
Standing Still
SOS
Circles
Euphoria
A Free Shot
Honeysuckle
Options
Passion Rock
Patience
Separate Ways
Who Are You Going to Be
Broken Wings
Home

That’s enough to get you started. I hope my jilted, fragmented thought articulation is readable enough to at least be amusing. Should have another for you guys next week.

Thank you again,

Ryan

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