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Blog

The Plan 

The blog might not indicate it, but I've been super busy. Between gigs and recording sessions with the Big Payback, Driveway Thriftdwellers, Charlie Painter and Friends, Five Points, and Beefus, I've had a pretty full schedule. Not to mention teaching, writing, and preparing for an upcoming adventure:


One week from today, I will be leaving to raft the Alsek river in Canada and Alaska. This will be a 2-week journey through a wilderness of glaciers and mountains. I can't quite bring myself to believe that I'll be seeing views like the one above in about a week!

When I return, I will be in writing/recording mode. I plan to have another acoustic EP released in August or September as a follow-up to Raven Steals the Moon. I already have one new song completely written and another well on the way. I'm hoping that some of the grandeur of the Alsek river seeps into my new material as well. 

That's the plan anyway. You'll be hearing more music from me quite soon!

Cheers
Kyle

5-7-14 

Alright, here's a quick update. I just got done with a session on this new jazz tune, and I think it's going to be called "Animal Brain." It's a very spastic piece- sometimes playful, sometimes dangerous. Kind of like the cat that is currently shedding on every piece of clothing and gear I own.

Now I'm off to teach lessons for the day, then it's a rehearsal with Beefus. Today I will also pick up my new reverb pedal, built for me by my friend Ben Johnson (and his son Charlie) from a kit from Build Your Own Clone. I'm very excited to try it out!

It will end up a gloriously neutral gray box, unless I paint something on it. Any ideas?

4-21-14 

It's been a very busy few days!

I've been hard at work on new music. Most of my creative efforts of late have been directed toward a new fusion-y instrumental piece for The Big Payback. We are playing Jazz at 5 in August, so it would be nice if we had some music that was, well, jazz. We do have several jazz and world-inspired tunes, but this is an opportunity to write music even further in that direction. I'd also kind of like to end up with a basic lead sheet so that other groups could play this song. We'll see.
 

This is what jazz musicians look like.


I started this piece by writing a bunch of random 4 and 8-measure phrases in related key areas without giving any thought to how they'd link together. I ended up with a lot of cool but unrelated ideas (and, as usual, a lot of crap too). Now the process is kind of like assembling a musical jigsaw puzzle. A theme and a title suggested themselves today, and now an overall order is becoming clear. It's great when that happens!

I have another R&B-influenced Payback song in the pipeline as well. And a really sad acoustic song presented itself the other day. Like an old man, world-weary kind of sad. I don't know where that came from. Anyhoo, my hope is to get the two Payback songs finished in the next couple months before leaving for vacation in late June. I would also like to have some more solo acoustic material at least started by that time, as I'd really like to record another few songs for digital release.

Oh, and I listened to the new Ulver/ Sun O))) collaboration today. Good stuff. It's great to cleanse your palette with music in a completely different style.

More ramblings soon...






 

Evolution of a song: Raven Steals the Moon 

The title track of my acoustic EP was the most difficult to write. Other songs on this release were written very quickly, with a sort of single-brush-stroke ease. For whatever reason, the method I used to write "Raven Steals the Moon" was much more tedious and involved. I think that this approach was actually necessary for the song's narrative development. Though it was a major headache, I'm glad that I took the time to chisel away it bit by bit until I could see its shape.

"Raven" started life as just an idea. I had watched The Fast Runner, an independent movie made by Inuit filmmakers and actors. The story is a retelling of a Native American legend that seems Shakespearian in its scope and drama. It was a reminder that the land we currently call "home" was taken from people with a whole culture and literature of their own. I wanted to let some of those legends and stories seep into my music. Besides, I had just written "Before Too Long," a very personal song. I wanted to write about someone else, and narrative songs always fascinated me. Not everyone wants to hear about my own life!

I checked out some books of Native American folk tales from the library. Some stories were very simple and straightforward. Some were bizarre and twisted. I realized that there was not one single tale that would make an appropriate song for me, so I combined a few and added my own elements. I leaned toward Trickster tales, as the Trickster figure (sometimes a coyote, raven, snake, or other beast depending on the culture) has always been very interesting to me. A Trickster is sort of like the Joker, Wile E. Coyote, and Glenn Quagmire wrapped into one very cunning but often unfortunate fellow.

The music started with the odd-metered chorus, the first thing you hear in the song. As you can tell from this early scratch track, the tempo was initially slower and the chord progression was more involved.

When writing the verses, it seemed like I would completely throw away the chord progression and melody and start from scratch every single day! I had a rough idea for the lyrics and the story I wanted to tell, but I couldn't seem to find music I was happy with. This early version sounded a bit too much like Dylan's "I Shall be Released" to me.

I had a general idea of the characters and the story, but the exact wording in the lyrics also seemed to change daily. Here's a page from my notebook:

I liked to get a rough recording of myself playing and singing the song at the end of every work session so I could listen to the most current version of the song the next time I worked on it. Even as the tune neared completion, I was still changing things every time I played through it. I captured an "a-ha!" moment in this particular recording.

After a ton of tweaking, I arrived at the final version. I guess some songs write themselves in an hour, and some take weeks. "Raven" was definitely the latter.

4-11-14 

As I launch my new website and solo recordings, I feel squirmy and anxious. Self-promotion is not something that comes naturally to me, and I suspect this is true for many musicians. I have to remind myself that this music is not me. I was the one who birthed it, but now it has a life of its own. It could not have existed without the people and circumstances in my life that enabled its creation.

Speaking of which, this would be a good opportunity to thank some people who helped make Raven Steals the Moon a reality. Every song on the EP features a beautiful antique mandolin that was generously given to me by Roger and Gloria Brinkmeier. That instrument has really shaped the direction of this music. The cover art was made by a Canadian woodworker. He maintains a blog here and graciously let me use his work. Thanks Danny! Members of Driveway Thriftdwellers have been very supportive of my song Before Too Long, and we've recorded a full-band version that will soon be appearing on an upcoming demo. I have drawn a ton of inspiration from David Byrne's fantastic book How Music Works. And of course my wonderful girlfriend Elizabeth Galewski has been an ever-present source of encouragement and advice. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you! 

Upcoming Gigs

Date Event Location
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
Glow Doubt @ High Noon Saloon High Noon Saloon, Madison, WI High Noon Saloon, Madison, WI
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
The Civil Engineers @ PeopleFest Driftless Music Gardens, Hillsboro, WI Driftless Music Gardens, Hillsboro, WI
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
The Big Payback @ RESPECT, a Fundraiser for Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra St. Joseph, MI St. Joseph, MI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Driveway Thriftdwellers @ Shitty Barn Sessions Shitty Barn, Spring Green, WI Shitty Barn, Spring Green, WI
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
The Big Payback @ private event  
Driveway Thriftdwellers @ Minocqua Brewing Co. Minocqua Brewing Co, Minocqua, WI Minocqua Brewing Co, Minocqua, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
Driveway Thriftdwellers @ Tyranena Brewing Tyranena Brewing, Lake Mills, WI Tyranena Brewing, Lake Mills, WI
Driveway Thriftdwellers @ Orton Park Festival Orton Park, Madison, WI Orton Park, Madison, WI