I’m writing this as I wait for bounces to happen in the creation of the final masters for my new Blix Byrd album. It’s a big moment in my life, so I want to do a little live-blogging so I can remember how it feels.
I feel confident at the moment that this album is the best representation of my songwriting up to now. I’ve always made things that are a bit complex given where they’re situated in the world of music (that is, in the pop music realm vs. the art music realm). I think most people who listen to the album will hear this complexity in action. But I LIKE complexity. I like filigree. I like having to listen hard. I like listening to multiple things at the same time. Like, more than two. So that’s how the music I make works.
That said, I’m feeling a clarity of musical purpose in this album that I haven’t felt before. The complexity and intricacy I love so much are present, but to my ears, they don’t distract from the songs. Instead, they’re an integral part of the setting and the meaning of the songs.
The process hasn’t been all roses, though. Once the songwriting and recording processes were over, at every step along the way, I thought, “Wow, I wish I could pass this off to someone else.” This thought kept coming up during mixing, mastering, and album art creation. And even though there are strong arguments to be made for letting experts do those steps, and I could technically afford to hire those things out, I didn’t do it. Why? If I’m 100% honest, I’m not totally sure. I know that I find a sense of satisfaction in there being only one fingerprint on an album, start to finish. (Not withstanding the handful of people who provided feedback along the way and who I appreciate immensely, of course.) I’m not sure this is the right decision, but it’s the one I made.
Wrapping up a big marathon project like this always makes me think about the next thing more than anything else. Finally, I can think new thoughts, give life to new things. Probably like most artists, the “moment of creation” is the best part for me. Defining that moment is tough when you make music like I do, in layers and over long periods of time. It can happen in different spaces, and in different parts of the process. I would define those sublime moments as the ones that tickle that part of my brain that spiritual/religious experiences also activate — the part that makes you feel oneness with the universe, and the sense of connection to something larger than yourself.
I think the part of the process where that creative spirituality takes over the most is during the time when I’m sitting with the guitar or the piano and singing the song for the first time — when it’s actually born. As I said to a therapist once, if I weren’t a songwriter, I’d probably have to get religion, because that feeling is completely necessary for my sense of well-being. So when I’m focusing on finishing, as I have been, I’m missing out on the part that makes me most deeply crave making music in the first place.
When I said there was a strong argument to be made for letting other people do the finishing work, this is really what I meant — if the best part is in the initial creation (mostly the songwriting, and it happens pretty regularly during a creative recording process as well), why not give that piece primacy in my life?
For me, that amazing spiritual songwriting experience isn’t something I can process and appreciate when it happens too often. I go through periods where I write every day, but let’s face it, I’m not 25 anymore. My levels just don’t run as hot as they used to, and I think there’s an advantage to that. For one thing, the ability to run a marathon and finish it with focus and purpose, instead of rushing through the end steps so I can get to the next thing. I appreciate that about my 41-year-old self.
But yeah…the next thing is sounding pretty good about now. 🙂