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What We Heard Was Untrue

May was a magical month for my music project. Paul was effectively done by the end of the first week, and then I spent three more weeks listening to it and tweaking it until it was published on May 26th. I’d become comfortable with the relative doneness I was feeling about the May project, and I let it continue through the first two weeks of June.

I woke up on the morning of June 14th, a Sunday, suddenly aware of how little I’d done to get the June project rolling and I carved out the whole day to make something happen. Art and creativity is funny though. You can’t exactly make it happen—you have to chip at it until an idea comes to life.

I spent 7 hours on that Sunday working with melodies, sounds and rhythms. One after the other, I’d nix them and start over. I was becoming frustrated. I didn’t want to post something I wasn’t really happy with again, but I also knew I should’ve started chipping at this month two weeks earlier. I threw up my hands and went to watch TV.

After three or four episodes of The Office, I sat back down and decided to browse through the various snippets of arrangements I’d already put together. All day I’d been working with the same scale. Listening again, one little chord progression stuck out. F Major, C, Csus, C and D. Fully disclosing, I had to reverse lookup those chords so I have no idea if they’re actually right. The point was that 8 bars had finally stuck to my mind-ribs, and unsurprisingly, the other things I’d worked on seemed to find a place in there too.

With some samples acting as a placeholder on my chords, I came up with a simple drum line. I got on the microphone and started nonsensically putting melody to the progression and the beat. From there, as art often does, it kind of wrote itself. I used one of my favorite distorted guitar noises and quickly found something I liked with the chords. From that, I added an organ, steel guitar and upright bass. The track was practically done. Onto my iPhone it went where I listened to it periodically in the car.

I liked what I heard, but foolishly didn’t like how quickly it had come together. “Art isn’t easy” is a stupid thing to believe. Instead of just tweaking and being done with it, I continued production. Rerecorded vocals. Added instruments. Changed instruments. Rearranged notes. I shouldn’t have done any of that—but I did and I wasn’t backtracking.

A friend who listened to the track told me, “You can’t hear your own music anymore”. He was right. I wasn’t going on what my ear could hear, I was going on what I felt like I was supposed to do. The lesson is, when something rises from the creative mind, largely all on its own, sometimes It’s just done, even if there’s all kinds of things left to ‘check off’. In the end, I prodded and packaged and ultimately never realized something I liked as much as what came out naturally.

As all is said and done, I’m happy with the track. But next time my gut says, ‘this is done’, I’m going to listen to it.