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“Oh, my life is changing everyday”
I spent a lot of time in my early twenties dreaming. Dreaming of a career in music. I’d spent my late teens immersed in music — both listening to it and learning to play it. I’d started up a bar band with a few other guys. We played covers of songs that I loved. I sang and played guitar. Between weekly practice and a few gigs a month, it was enough to help my musical and performance chops grow quickly.
I’d started writing my own songs. They weren’t very good, but I had a four-track tape recorder and had figured out how to make rudimentary recordings.
I’d played some of them for people and gotten enough interest from a few musician friends of mine to record them.
The recording process was slow and arduous. We started in a friend’s basement on a giant recording machine that his brother-in-law had let him borrow. We did sessions where the brother-in-law ran the board. And we did sessions where it was just me, alone, laying down vocal tracks. And then the machine crashed. The hard disk was unrecoverable.
We shifted to the basement of another friend, but the story was similar. The recording was slow and fraught with technical issues. Desktop computer recording was still relatively new in the early 2000s. This basement studio consisted of a ProTools rig that was cobbled together with old versions of hardware bought on eBay. It worked sometimes. But most times it took hours to get even small tasks done.
I don’t even remember how much we recorded in that basement before we shifted to our third basement. Yes, it was another basement. And yes, it was another friend. But this friend had his proverbial shit together. His computer worked. He knew how to use it. And we were able to get what we wanted. By virtue of having recorded most of the songs twice already, the third pass went faster.
All told, it took five years to get the first album out. I look back on that time and lament all of the time we wasted. And when it came time to promote the album with gigs, it was nearly impossible to do so. The other members of the band were all professional musicians. They (rightfully) prioritized performances in other bands that paid. Opening at a local indie venue for (inter)national acts was a step on the path towards my dream, but it wasn’t on their path. Their dream was to make a living playing music. Gigs that didn’t pay didn’t matter.
We only played a handful of gigs before that lineup decided to go their separate ways. I stopped trying to book any live gigs and we went back to the same studio to do our second album.
The second album came out three years after the first. It was faster because fewer people were involved. Most of the album is my songs. I stopped working around other people’s schedules. If the other members of the band couldn’t make it to the studio, the producer or myself played the part. I hired a professional drummer to come in and do the drums.
I look back on that second album as a huge learning experience for me. I learned that I needed to do more to make my music happen. I couldn’t be content to depend on others to make it happen.
And I’ve continued with that mentality to this day. I’ve become an avid home recorder. I use my iPad to sketch out and record songs that are full of all sorts of instruments and effects. I work at my own pace, on my own terms. I’ve gone on to release 30+ tracks on my own.
Dreaming is easy. It’s a necessary escape for everything life throws at us.
But it’s much harder to execute on those dreams. It requires work and deliberate effort. It requires failure and recalibration.
As we get older, dreams change. We might go from dreaming of fame and fortune, to dreaming about being able to take a vacation without digging ourselves into debt.
Whatever you do, never stop dreaming.
The Cranberries — “Dreams”
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