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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! 

4-10-14 

My new solo EP Raven Steals the Moon is now up on Bandcamp! This is a very exciting (and nerve-wracking) thing for me! 

This project is an experiment of sorts. I recorded these 4 songs in my home with a modest amount of basic gear. I tried to keep things acoustic, earthy, and raw. 

The goal of this EP is to gauge YOUR interest in my music. All money I make from sales of this music will be put into a "solo career" fund. My goal is to use the money and momentum generated by this EP to put together a small group of musicians, play some gigs, and ultimately end up with a professionally-recorded full-length album. In keeping with the raw, earthy nature of this music, I'd like that album to possibly be a multi-track recording of a live performance. I also think that's a cool way to get an audience involved in an album. I love listening to old jazz records from live shows!

Thank you for your interest in my music! I hope to continue exploring this vein of songwriting and performing.

4-8-14 

Welcome to my official website! My own little 40 acres of bandwidth! Now I suppose I need to put up content and words and stuff. That will be coming up soon...

Upcoming Gigs

Date Event Location
Driveway Thriftdwellers @ Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, Fond du Lac, WI Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, Fond du Lac, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Thriftfest Linneman's Riverwest Inn, Milwaukee, WI Linneman's Riverwest Inn, Milwaukee, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Kyle Rightley Band @ The Frequency The Frequency, Madison, WI The Frequency, Madison, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
The Civil Engineers @ Crystal Corner Bar Crystal Corner Bar, Madison, WI Crystal Corner Bar, Madison, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
The Big Payback @ Rockin' for a Cure Wyndham Hotel, Fitchburg, WI Wyndham Hotel, Fitchburg, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin