Saturday, August 27, 2011

when passion is not useful in life.

I've learned a lot from my friend Sara lately.

She is a very wise and smart person, who has helped me understand a lot about myself and the effect I have on other people.

For instance, she is helping me understand the effect my passion has on other people...which is something I have never thought about.

This conversation came to be after I talked with her multiple times about the pseudo-relationship I was in last year. I told Sara how it never made any sense to me. When I was with this girl, who I was in love with, she seemed to emotionally and otherwise echo this feeling. But when I would leave, it was like we were still just friends. It was an awful and unhealthy relationship, and from my talks with Sara I understand why this all came to be.

Let me start off by saying, I am an extraordinarily passionate person. I put my entire heart into my relationships, my music, my work. My heart has never known protection or walls or what it is to be guarded. I am thankful for this (sometimes), because I believe this sort of free-flowing passion is one of the most pure ways someone can express emotion.

The first time I ever hung out with this girl outside of school was to study for our "Bible as Literature" class. The first time I ever hung out with her I knew I could love her like I have never loved anyone else before. Up until this point in my life, I never knew this feeling was possible. The only comparable feeling was when my band and I had an amazing show...but even that is not adequate. She just wanted to be friends, as the story goes, but that did not change how I felt.

So the more we hung out as strictly friends, the more I realized that I wanted to love her, that I did love her. And I let her know this. I let her know this through how I treated her, how happy she made me without even trying, how much joy and passion filled my heart and spilled out of my mouth when we were together. The next thing I knew, one day I was dropping her off after we had breakfast at Bob Evans. She got out of my car, but had yet to shut the door. I called her name. She stuck her head back in the car and asked "What?". I told her "Nothing!" but in my head what happened just then was she kissed me when she stuck her head back in the car. But there was no way I was going to let her know that. She could see right through me "You thought I was just going to kiss you when I stuck my head back in didn't you!" she said absolutely beaming.

And she was right, I did want to kiss her. So much. So, the next thing you know we were kissing in her driveway in broad morning light. There were fireworks and bombs and crowds roaring and angels applauding in my head. The girl who I had been friends with for 2 months before hand. How did this happen? I was confused. Did she feel the same way I did? She had too of...right?

Six months later, this was still going on. We were practically dating, but only when we saw each other. Other times she treated me like an enemy, a brother, a mentor or her mental therapist. And all of this confused me. A lot.

Fast forward to this summer where I have met a few beautiful women. All of them, loving time together, not so much time apart but when we are together everything seems wonderful.

I am sure you have your own, simple and wrong theories as to why this is.

My friend Sara has helped me understand these instances in a different way.

I am a passionate person. People get swept away by passion. Passion is a fast, but peaceful and beautiful river that when you put someone in that with you it's almost as though they are helpless to fight against it. Passion is infectious.

When you hang out with someone who is happy, what do you end up feeling? Happy.
When you hang out with someone who is sad, what do you end up feeling? Sad.
When you are together with someone who is super passionate, what do you end up feeling? The same thing they are.

All the great (albeit terrible sometimes too) leaders of the world were people of great passion. Undoubtedly. That is one of the huge reasons so many people listened and respected them. Because they spoke the convictions of their heart like most people don't. They weren't scared to show their emotion. They opened the flood gates and let the water rush in.

You get swept away by it. I think that's what happened in those failed relationships. These girls never wanted to get invested in me, but because of how passionate I am it just overflowed to them and for a few minutes maybe they felt the same.

Ultimately though, they don't. Passion can never change peoples mind (unless of course that's your intention). And I never want to have to try to win someone over to feel the same way I do.

I can not be with a girl that does not share equal passion. Not just about me, I believe, but about life. I have met too many woman that are easily swept up by passion and it ends up being confusing for them and hurtful for me because up until now I have NEVER realized the effects that passion can have on other people, in particular people that you are romantically interested in.

I hate this idea, though I believe it to be true. I hate it because it makes me step back from my idea of dating, my idea of just going all in. Because I think when I go all in that is when people get swept away by "the moment" and get confused with how they actually feel.

So the question then is have I ever dated a girl that TRULY liked me for who I am and not because of how passionate I am and how I just put my heart out there? And how do I know the next time if a girl truly is interested in me, or if my joy is just over flowing to her.

I want to be loved because I simply exist, and for the entirely of all the horrible and all of the great things I have done. I want a woman that is strong and does not let herself get swept away by passion until she knows she feels the same, or maybe what would make more sense is a woman who is equally as passionate about being vulnerable and loving as I am.

I want to be loved for my soul, like I love her for her soul and all the beauty and sadness and joy and her doubt.

Until that miracle happens, of God somehow being like "THIS IS IT. THIS IS HER." I have realized I need to keep my joy and passions in check with women. I need to not date, I need to not hang out with a girl unless we both genuinely see each other as friends or family (shout out to Ms. Fouts and Ms. Woods!!!). This seems impossible, to be honest, but I know that this is a step in the right direction for my life.

I don't want to become a less passionate person by any means, I just want to learn how to refine it when I am around a beautiful girl who I'm romantically interested in.

If you are a passionate person, be aware of how your passion affects other people. I am excited to learn more about myself through reflecting with others. I don't think I do that enough.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

10 Records that Continue to Challenge Me As An Artist (in no particular order)

In a recent mini documentary featuring Jay-Z and Kanye West for their collaboration record, West at one point says "I want to make music that is just SO GOOD that it makes other people not want to try to make music anymore."

What a statement to make. That was my first thought.

But then I thought about longer, and I knew exactly what he was talking about. Multiple albums popped in my head, albums that I not only thought were spectacular, but albums that made me think "Man. This is SO GOOD. I can't even begin to imagine writing something that good. I should just take a break."

There are records, for me, that raised the bar SO high for me as a musician and a songwriter that there came certain points where I would stop writing music for weeks to months due to knowing how far out of reach that bar they set was.

Here are some records that have truly challenged me as a musician, records that raised the bar to unthinkable heights that I am still striving, with every song I write, to reach.

1. Florence and the Machine: Lungs

2. Bon Iver: Bon Iver, Bon Iver

3. Matthew Good: Avalanche

4. The Ataris: Welcome the Night

5. 1997: ...A Better View of the Rising Moon

6. Lydia: Illuminate

7. P.O.S.: Never Better

8. Dashboard Confessional: The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most

9. This Will Destroy You: This Will Destroy You

10. The Graduate: Anhedonia

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

exploding hearts: how playing music in front of people with my best friends is the most religious experience i have ever had

Once you feel something that moves you to the point of feeling like your heart is about to explode from all the joy and passion you feel at once, it's so hard to forget about it.

A few days ago I read my friend Abby's latest tumblr where she talked about how much she missed playing music. Abby and I used to be in the same band together for a good year and a half, and have been best friends since. After reading how much she misses playing music, it's the only thing I have been able to think about. How much I miss the joy and passion and energy I felt when I would play music with my band.

I've never felt a feeling that even comes close to the overjoying sense of playing in front of people. But it was never because I wanted to impress people or become popular or look cool, it was because of how alive it made me feel.

If you're in a band, or you play music, and your heart does not feel like it's about to explode from joy and passion--I honestly ask you to take a few steps back and figure out why you play music. Because you "like" it? Would you marry someone because you "like" them? No. You want to be with someone forever because you love them. Because they bring you joy, because they make you feel alive, because they bring out the best in you.

I will always remember the feeling of our second to last show at the Clazel Theatre in Bowling Green, Ohio. We were opening for our friends The Phantasmagoria, an absolutely amazing instrumental band also from the area--and more importantly for me, the girl I was in love with was there. She was about to see me do the thing that makes me feel more alive than even being around her did. I remember feeling like my heart was literally about to rip out of my chest because of how happy I was and how much energy and passion was just exploding inside of me. At the same time though, I felt controlled. I felt at peace. I felt the energy of four of my best friends up there with me sharing in that experience. I can't think of any other life experience that can afford you to feel that with people. It was like feeling like you were perfectly in love with four different people--of course you aren't actually--but that's the closest I can describe it. I remember looking at them all as we were going through all set, and seeing the lights and fire in all of their eyes. That this was making them feel alive too.

Being in a band is really hard though, because playing shows is only about 1/6 of it all. Every thing else about shows, selling tickets, finding time to practice, writing music, recording music, finding new members when old members move on, getting along with your band, trying to be on the same page as four other really, really hard work--and sometimes through all of that you forget why you started in the first place. I know I did. After that show more or less quit the band, as I didn't want anything else to do with booking shows, selling tickets, finding time to practice, writing music, recording music, finding new members when old members move on, getting along with your band, trying to be on the same page as four other people. I was tired of it and I just gave up.

I forgot I was doing all that extra stuff (and some of it selling tickets and booking shows) for that 1/6 slice of The Kaleidoscope, Brighter feel alive. To play music. To spend 30 to 40 minutes feeling like my heart is going to explode out of my chest and into the audience because of how happy and alive I feel.

Soon after I gave up playing in the band, Brian our drummer got married and moved to Cleveland, Abby our singer got a job and moved to Nashville--making the chances of us getting together to play music again slim to none. It wasn't until this year though that I realized how much I needed it. How much I needed to feel alive from music. I would try and play as much as I can for my college worship band, because I did feel something there, but it wasn't the same. I tried really hard to make playing in that worship band not about the personal experience I wanted and connecting people with Jesus. Which is great, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't the same.

Clearly, my band was not created to carry on and play music with each other for years to come. And I see and understand that. But that does not make me want it any less. When I think about all of the amazing memories I have from this band, even mountain sized regrets I still carry around about personal regrets, and anger I have towards people that have hurt me, seen like nothing. They don't seem real. They seem insignificant. They seem so small and stupid. Forget the girl that broke my heart and her boyfriend that I hate, forget how much I cheated on my future wife throughout college and how much regret I feel about that...with my four best friends I got to play music. I got to open up for some of my all time favorite bands like Lydia and Eye Alaska...bands that make ME feel a light and fire inside of myself. And I had the opportunity to do that for myself and for other people too. I got to feel alive, and it is so hard to ignore how much I want to feel that again.

Who knows, maybe someday I will. I'm hoping to get a job in Nashville to be closer to Abby, hopefully at the very least her and I can play music together and feel alive again. I don't want what all these stupid kids in their stupid bands want. I don't want to get signed, tour the world, become famous, win anything--I don't want ANY of that.

I just want to feel alive again, the way playing music in front of people used to make me feel. I want to feel like my heart is about to explode out of my chest again. I want to look over and see the lights in my best friends eyes and know that we are sharing this absolutely religious experience together. I want it all back.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Critiquing Nonprofits: How Ungrateful Are We?

So today, as I am sure some of you know, TOMS came out with the next product in their "One for One" line. If you don't know what I'm talking about, watch the video here.

A lot of my friends are critical thinkers, like I am. But I never would have excepted the reaction to the new TOMS campaign to be anything close to what it was. I had friends posting statuses on Facebook like "Wow. Eye Wear?", "The most overpriced sunglasses ever...", and a bunch of the like--and that super bummed me out.

You are not just paying for someone to get eye glasses, you are paying for a whole eye diagnoses, along with possible corrective steps including glasses and maybe even surgery. And who are you to critique an organization that has blessed so many peoples lives? If you think you can do what TOMS does better--then shut up and put up.

I think people critiquing this next step for TOMS the way they are truly speaks to the arrogance and ungratefulness of our generation. Only in America would you find people that can honestly NOT be stoked on an organization that helps others in such an apparent way. Yes, THERE ARE ALWAYS BETTER WAYS TO DO THINGS. But that is not the POINT here. The point is they ARE doing a REALLY REALLY GOOD THING and helping SO many people in need, and I think when we lose sight of that we only rat out how intelligent, and "above" it we think we are.

So people can go ahead and critique TOMS and continue fooling themselves into thinking that they could actually do better, but me, I am SO grateful that organizations like TOMS exist--helping people in need and also providing a super awesome product for the buyer.

And if you don't want to buy TOMS shoes or products anymore because a pair of yours eventually ripped (as do a lot of shoes with tons of active wear), you got a pair in the mail that had a snafoo (wrong size, a little hole, wrong style), or what have you (and God forbid that a nonprofit makes mistakes like ANY OTHER COMPANY and you CLEARLY forgot that you were REALLY buying the shoes to give a pair to a little kid half way across the world in need) quit bitching and go ahead and buy your sweatshop made Nike Air Jordans whatever the hell have you. I'm sure the white suits at Nike, Rebok, and all the other like sweatshop shoe companies are still really in need of your money to add to their billion dollar, self-centered empire.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kindest Heart: I Knew You Once, I Loved You Once [Update 1]

This last year of college, I took a music in popular culture class. In that, I learned about this thing called "skiffle rock". "Skiffle rock" was this form of rock in the 1940's that was used to described acoustic music that most anyone could play. It was during the time where a lot of kids started to go out to stores and buy guitars and start bands, in particular in Britain--The Beatles grew out of a former skiffle rock band.

It's hard for me to write simple music. No matter how hard I try, it just comes out weird. But with this record, I am trying to write the most elementary folk songs possible--trying only to use the basic open chords. Between tracking Brian's drums with The Kaleidoscope, Brighter EP we'll be putting out in the fall, studying for finals, studying for my internship, another Sheep Sleep Still record, I have been writing for Kindest Heart: I Knew You Once, I Loved You Once. Yes, it is not under the "Sheep Sleep Still" name...mainly because I thought Kindest Heart was a more fitting title for this project, and skiffle/folk songs.

Currently I am writing between 3 songs, and will be writing plenty more this summer wherever I will be. I am excited to show you something different. I hope you are excited to hear it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

disintegration music

artwork by Crystal Wood

disintegration music

this is my first collection of music that i am releasing that i wrote all by myself.

disintegration music is a compilation of songs that i wrote about one circumstance. all of these tracks have been an extremely cathartic process. when writing these, i never had any intention about putting them into an LP form, let alone sharing them with anyone but who they're about. so please keep in mind that this is a collection of songs put together--it should be approached as you would a "demo, b-sides, rarities, home recordings" type record. i attempted to order the tracks so they would make sense when listening to disintegration music front to back, but please keep in mind these songs and poems were not written to be one cohesive thing. the relation and cohesion that they share with each other is the circumstance that they all discuss.

Again, I recorded all of this myself with just a $250 interface and my macbook pro. So when it doesn't sound leagues close to flawless, and when it sounds messy and unprofessional and what have you--I already told you. I have had no professional training. I have learned what little I know by simply watching and working with Justin Price and Landon Tewers. So please hold comments about that because I already acknowledged the fact. Thanks.

Please know that you might actually hate this. You might hate my voice--I can't sing. You might hate my rap--I can't rap. You might hate my scream--I can't scream. I am already aware of all these so out of courtesy to myself and the fact that I am already aware of these things, you don't not need to point these things I already know out.

In all honestly though, I just encourage you to take about an hour out of your day (if you're interested), pop in a set of headphones, and give disintegration music just one listen through. Because what this record, if nothing else, is genuine, heartbreakingly honest, and a record of a circumstance that almost destroyed me, but did completely changing the direction of my life.

Without further ado, here is disintegration music

Click the proper format below to download Sheep Sleep Still: Disintegration Music

iTUNES ------------ non-iTUNES

about the music:

tracks 1, 3-9, 11-13 were recorded via Apogee ONE interface--"in the studio" style

tracks 10, 2 were improvisational songs--i had a heavy heart, picked up my guitar, pressed record, and that's what came out--recorded entirely live (with Apogee ONE interface).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

disintegration music (extended blog)

This project started off as 5 songs (3 melodic, 2 spoken word) I was going to give to this girl in November '10...I think because I thought we would probably still be together then and I wanted to take my time for the project.

We stopped seeing each other (technically) mid to early September, so I didn't feel it was right to finish those songs. However, I kept writing them because of how much hurt I was in after the breakup. Three songs from the original 5 song EP did make it on disintegration music though as the original demo recordings I did for them, which are the 2 spoken words on the album, along with "I Still Love You (Long Conversation)", which at that time had a different title. The funny thing about that song is I wrote it while things were going "good" between her and I, but I still felt like a burden on her because of how much I liked her and how much she would some times like me and then reject me, often within the same day.

I wanted this record to be real, and feel real. I recorded this using the latest Logic Express program, that has some absolutely amazing tools on it--in particular to fix a crappy and off pitch voice. Which, more often than not, mine tends to be if I don't practice a song for a good two months or so before actually recording it. The only song I did use pitch correction/auto-tune was "It's Like You Forget It All", not because my voice sounded partically bad on that, but because that was the bad I was going for. A Kanye West 808s and Heartbreaks vibe.

When I was recording vocals for the debut The Kaleidoscope, Brighter EP, I told our producer, Justin Price, that I had written a fantastic acoustic song that past Monday (it was Sunday) and if we could record it. Hesitant, he said yes. So I laid down the acoustic guitar, and then went to lay down vocals. But I couldn't do it. I sounded horrible. I was totally unable to learn my own song in a weeks time. Ricky though, who has been singing since elementary school, learned the song right there on the spot and I swear sang it pitch perfect and to this day I love the way he sang it and that song is still one of my favorite songs I have written.

I say all that as a personal testament to tell you that I know I don't have a good voice. It takes me a while to learn songs to sing them to a listenable quality. Some of the last songs on the record, "Paul Newman Pt1" and "Robert Redford Pt2" I had a week to learn and sing. Vocally, I loathe how they turned out, but I needed to say some things that the first ten songs of the record didn't say. Those last three songs are sort of like an addition. Originally, it was just going to be those first ten songs on the record. But then things not exponentially worse between her and I, I felt like I would be lying if I put this out and it ended on a happy/hopeful note.

It was a very tedious process for me when it came to writing lyrics about an actual event. Generally, what I do when I write a song, is I write the music first, and then write lyrics based around how the music moves. Sometimes the songs end up being about someone, but it is never a conscious effort to do. Like on the TKB ep that I sang and wrote on, none of those songs were actually written about people or situations I knew of. However, when I finished writing them, I realized that 2/4 were actually about people and circumstances I knew of. But for this, I had to make a conscious effort to write about a specific person, and a specific situation. These are extremely straight forward least for myself, and the person I wrote them about. To everyone else they still may seem poetic and sort of open to interpretation--which they most definitely still are, but to me they are much more frank than anything I've written previously.

Ending this project was almost a hurtful process. Sending her a link to the first blog, and a link to download the record, I am absolutely positive she is not even going to listen to it, let alone actually take the time to read the lyrics, or these blogs or even download it. And that really, really know that, that is how much someone does not give a damn about you. You spending hours upon hours making a record based off of the situation that you were both in, but they won't even bother to listen to it. I think that's part of the reason I decided to release it to everyone else, so I didn't feel like I just spent so much time for absolutely no good reason because no one will ever actually listen to it all the way through.

I didn't write and record this record so that it would be someone's favorite album and they would love it enough to put it on repeat. My hope is that people can over look all the flaws on it, and listen to it just once as a story. As something real, as something that I am finally starting to conquer and work through.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read these blogs and downloading the record, and hopefully listening to it and experiencing it. Your support means the world to me. Honestly.