THE YEAR OF SOUND

Home / Album / THE YEAR OF SOUND

Hello!
So…. i made it!
It would be a sin i i didn’t at least try and sum up this whirlwind of a year that i’ve just had, so let me try …

A 365 project is something i’ve been toying with for years and years, probably the whole way back to 2008. I actually even started a 365 project in 2010 but didn’t get very far before life and other complications got in the way. I wasn’t too concerned at that stage because i knew a time would come when everything would align and make it possible… except that time didn’t show any sign of appearing before a serious incident made me forget about waiting for optimal conditions and just start.

At the start of October 2013 i rushed into the Hospital unable to breathe and feeling like i was choking to death. I got progressively worse every 5 minutes to the point it was noticeable and i genuinely thought i was going to die. After a week in the Hospital, being pumped full of steroids and on a drip [as i was even unable to drink water], i was told that what i had was Supraglottitis. This basically means that a ball forms at the base of your throat and eventually blocks your airways and you die. I outright asked my specialist about things and she let me know that had i not come in when i did, i would no longer be here. That’s a very worrying line to be told by someone in the know – it shook me up quite badly. Whilst recovering on my hospital bed, with a damn lot of time to waste, i decided to stop planning things and waiting for things to be absolutely perfect before starting work on various projects. I decided to stop ‘planning’ and just start ‘doing’. I began to think about my next creative ideas and went through the usual plans of considering releasing singles, EP’s, albums, collaborations, poetry.. etc. I almost immediately scribbled out all these ideas and wrote ‘be more creative’ in their place. Later that night i remembered i had purchased the 365sparks.com domain name with a view to doing something creative every day at some point [although my intention was daily photographs or something way more simple] and when introduced to my thoughts earlier that evening; the two collided and i had my next creative vision. I spent the next few days collating all my ideas on that hospital bed and 365 Sparks was truly born there and then.

Once i was dead-set and locked on doing this project, i unfortunately had to cut free something that was taking all my time – Chordblossom.com. It was a music website that i created in late 2011 and had led and worked extremely hard on until this point. As much as i enjoyed being a part of it, it would have simply been impossible to keep it going whilst attempting my 365 project. When i let a few influential know that i was planning to leave Chordblossom, i got a small influx of ££ offers. Oddly, the largest offer was from an Advertisement company that i assumed wanted to divert the traffic to their products/services. However, from the minute i decided i wanted to leave Chordblossom, i knew that i wanted to see it continue without me and i was confident in the knowledge that it could, due to the great bunch of staff on the books. So i sold it on to a prominent current staff member, Robert, who is doing a fine job in my absence. I hope to see what i created continue for a long, long time. Okay so, with Chordblossom sold i was now free to start really dreaming up all my ideas for 365…

As most probably know, i’m one of those people that dream way too big sometimes, always interested in doing the impossible. One thing i noticed in early planning for this project was that the excitement surrounding this huge amount of songs also bled into the other plans very rapidly and it probably got a little silly at the very start. I like to work by writing down every (good) idea i have, no matter if it’s possible or if it’d take a year to do and keep referencing this list throughout the process – it’s amazing how something that wasn’t likely or even possible in January can be done in a singe day in December with the right cogs falling into place – so having a list of great ideas always to hand is very important. I even extend this style of working into my music; i ALWAYS record more music and instruments than will ever make it into the final song. I’ll record absolutely everything good that pops into my head only to mute that channel straight after nailing the take. Why do i do this? I’ve found that when i’m in that creative moment it’s best to get all my ideas on tape there and then rather than try to recreate that initial magic and sentiment at a later stage when i’m not fully immersed in that song. There have been a lot of times that, when mixing, i’ve muted tracks i thought were the keepers and went back and unmuted surplus tracks to steal their place and it’s worked a treat for me. I will argue with anyone that the idea is king and the more of them you have the better the kingdom, right?

This leads us up toward the end of 2013 and i’m just about getting ready to start the journey. I spent these last few months of 2013 exploring logo options, forming a recording schedule, optimizing my studio and computer for recording and trying to clear my entire year schedule of anything non-365. I also made the decision to do this project completely DIY from top to bottom. Ego played absolutely zero part in my decision, it was influenced by trying to nail a completely efficient schedule and routine. A part of me wanted to force my hand into new areas too, so this self-imposed rule was there to help make that happen. I guess common sense prevailed too; i mean, who in their right mind would agree to help me do something 365 times over? Exactly! I am very proud of the fact that all the work is mine simply because i had a really clear vision from the start and it’s been fully realised now – it’s a great feeling to convert thin air into ideas and ideas into tangible creations. So that just about brings us up to the start of 2014 …

——————————-

In January i was like a fish out of water in all honesty. The first few weeks were absolutely draining and everything seemed to go wrong. I had multiple major crashes that corrupted full songs [and all their backups] and nothing sounded ‘good’. I always knew there would be a transitional period, so i was a little prepared, but it was really frustrating. However, i got there in the end and some of my favourite songs came from this period [maybe because i tried to avoid eye contact with my annoying computer and spent more time writing!].

In February i started to find a rhythm, a workflow, a pattern, a familiarity and a flow. I started to experiment with sound and not stick to recording rock songs. I announced the project to my friends this month as i have a tendency to follow through with things once i’ve announced them [this guy would completely disagree with me though]. It’s safe to say i had my doubters after i mentioned it, but i also had a new stream of support and that was inspiring. There’s no way i could have kept my work secret for the entire year so i decided not to even try.

In March i started to contact producers of my favourite audio software in the hopes that they’d like what i was doing and be in a position to help me with my project. Amazingly, most of the companies i contacted jumped on board and i was able to use their software to create my music – a match made in heaven! I now was very comfortable with my studio set-up and in the methods that seemed to work for my space, my software, my hardware and me. It’d taken two months of non-stop trying, but it all seemed to click for me this month.

In April i decided to get two tattoos relating to the project because when i give everything to something, it becomes part of my story, and when it’s part of my story, i tend to eventually make it part of my skin. You can see the tattoos here & here. They were done by a very talented friend called Aaron Mitchell. He’s now done about 10 of my tattoos. I’ve never been one to get a tattoo cause it looks cool. My tattoos all are relevant to my life and my journey and for me that’s really important. With these now etched on my skin; there was no turning back!

In May it was pretty much more of the same to be honest. Nothing too eventful happened. I guess it’s worth mentioning that by this stage, i was already trying ‘new’ ways of singing and ‘new’ sounds to try and keep the process fresh to my ears. I was meddling with new compressors and generally working overtime on production techniques using books and videos as my digital teacher. In particular, i was trying to figure out how to get better sounding vocals in terms of recording technique, signal chain and production.

In June i decided to move from being a lifelong windows user and convert to Mac by way of purchasing an iMac. This was due to multiple computer crashes and a computer fan that seemed to try and get it’s backing vocals on every damn track. I needed to do this in order to ensure my project would go a lot smoother, lest i set my city on fire in a rage. The only downside was the slight learning curve and rebuilding all my software back up on a completely different OS, which was very difficult and took a few weeks before i was fully functional again.

in July i had many firsts; the first dancey-style song, the first song i recorded completely live, the first song i wrote vocals for backwards [i wrote and recorded vocals for the last chorus, then the bridge, then the second chorus, etc], the first song i wrote with one chord from start to finish [i eventually did a full series of these], the first song i sung incredibly low for my voice, the first song i used my old faithful telecaster for and the first song i recorded completely on my phone. It was an interesting month it is safe to say!

In August i started to experience my first real nerves about the project. Not in getting it completed, but in the reception it may receive, in not delivering the songs properly, in the lack of attention it may receive. It was a successful month in terms of recordings, but it was immersed in a lot of self-doubt and worry. I guess i should have expected those kinds of feelings at some point. I had more than a few nights listening back to what i had done up until this point and the work seemed to make my worries subside quite a bit. Phew!

In September i started to get my daily resources, checklists and schedule in order for 2015. This involved a lot of editing and refining [and truth be told, i’ll probably refine as i go too]. It’s important to work smart as well as work hard. My goal was to streamline my upcoming dailies as much as possible so that doing the legwork now will save me a lot of daily time in 2015. Even with this optimisation, i’m totally aware i’ll be getting up at 6am every day of the year and working for half the day on each daily song in order to make each an ‘experience’. It’ll be worth it.

In October i released ‘A Taste of 365 Sparks’ – an EP containing five songs from the project that would give listeners a chance to hear what i’ve been working on prior to the actual project start date. The release really has gone down well with most and a lot of opportunities have already come my way as a result of it. Although the songs contained within were recorded months apart, they somehow work together as a cohesive unit and make the EP sound like an intentionally connected batch of songs. I would state, with absolute honesty, that these songs wouldn’t even get into my project top ten at this current time! Which i hope speaks volumes! I also gave up alcohol, for good. Rather than summarise it for you, why don’t you read the entire post here?

In November i started to see good reviews of the EP mentioned above coming in, which was stellar. I also was fortunate enough to be asked down to the BBC to do a radio segment for them [they also played my music on their show, on their podcast and featured me as their ‘track of the day’]. Lot’s of radio stations began rotating my music too, which was great. I began planning how to bring this music live in 2015 and began thinking about the formation of a new band – neither of which i have completely figured out at this point but i am working on it when i’m not recording and i sincerely can’t wait to get back out there playing music that i love and feel close to.

In December i was an absolute headless chicken, perpetually waking at 6am and going to bed at midnight having spent the entire day working on various aspects of the project and ensuring that my websites, graphics, sound files, software, hardware and everything inbetween were ready for what was to come. I also got really bad colds about four times and cursed the temperature and my immune system to hell and back. I also had a lovely Christmas and hope you did too!

——————————-

The year has honestly just flown by. I listen back to some songs occasionally and then check the date they were recorded on and it often stuns me. I tried to avoid number watching in terms of song count all year because there’s nothing more deflating that working all day long on a new song and seeing the song count barely rise – so i tried to check it out every few weeks to monitor my progress. It was important for me to work month by month and to keep my focus on that day’s song and absolutely nothing else. It genuinely made me dizzy on the occasions i realized how much work i still had to do – i genuinely felt faint and dizzy, so i quickly made it a thing never to revisit those thoughts and to keep my focus on that day’s song and finishing that months folder worth of songs.

I’ve always believed it to be true, but i’m now convinced that writing songs is totally in my blood. It has always come incredibly naturally to me once i got started and i’ve always been able to write a song from absolutely nowhere that is to a decent standard. When i first tried to write songs i was absolutely awful and the songs were absolutely embarrassing, but… they got better every day, week, month, year. I have never stopped writing since i started trying to express myself through music when i was 16 – a whole 13 years ago. It’s a skill that no-one ever fully masters because it changes with the landscape and because there are no hard and fast rules to follow or ignore. You definitely don’t get into this industry to make a buck, because it’s near impossible to become financially wealthy within music anymore – you get into it because it’s your absolute passion. Music has been my major passion since i became a teenager and its the only thing i’ve ever wanted to do as a ‘job’ – i’m slowly making strides toward making that dream a reality.

If i had any advice to give from my experience it’d be to never give up. As cliched as that sounds. I had a fair amount of days where i was sick and my voice was raspy and i needed sleep, but i battled through it. At the end of those nights, after much doubt, i had a new song i was proud of and i told myself ‘Look, you always get there in the end, stop the doubt’. Whenever i doubted myself i always remembered the many other times when i did and how i always wound up with a great song by not giving into the easy route of ordering a pizza and jumping into bed to watch a movie and feel sorry for myself. I treated this project like i would a job, and as such, i didn’t knock off until i had the work done and dusted. I am a self-taught guitarist, songwriter and singer. I learnt everything i know about recording from trying, reading and watching videos. I learnt everything i know about websites and graphics from trying, reading and watching videos. Trust me when i say it; if i was able to do a hugely ambitious project such as this; anyone can!

365 Sparks is really only half-done as far as i’m concerned, as i have hours and hours of daily work from now until the end of 2015 in order to showcase these songs. This will involve mixing and mastering the songs, designing their artwork and store artwork, handwriting and scanning the lyrics, creating typed lyric PDF’s, creating daily youtube videos, writing a little about each song, compiling subscriber packages and more. I view this part of proceedings as important as recording all the music and i’m definitely not about to start slacking now! I know i could upload all the music tomorrow and simply post a link to the soundcloud file on a daily basis but I really want each song to be an ‘experience’, not just another soundcloud embed. I don’t mind that it’ll take a lot more work as i want to look back on this project years from now, knowing that i gave absolutely everything i could. Stage one over, Stage two begin.

As for whether i’d do a ‘365’ ever again? I totally would, but wouldn’t do it again as a strict song-only project though; i would diversify the content and do something different each week – music for a week, poetry for a week, drawings for a week, photographs for a week, short stories for a week, videos for a week etc. That would keep it really interesting for me from start to finish. I’ve even considered trying to round up other folks willing to try a 365 in 2016 to create a kind-of creation feed made up of these different peoples creations. I think that could be incredibly interesting as not only would the work differ from person to person, but from type of art to art. I know 2016 is a long way off, but i always do things in advance, so if you’d be interested in creating something for 365 days and willing to publish them daily, get in touch with me! Let’s make it happen.

As i’ve alluded to a few times above, it’s my mission to create a band to help me bring this music live in 2015. It’s very important to me to find the right chemistry and balance so although i’d love to be playing a show tomorrow, this process will have to take as long as it has to takes. I’ll be posting a lot more about this specific plan really soon but i’m totally open to hearing from musicians interested already. I would be initially interested in a drummer, bassist and lead guitarist.

Finally, as of now, i have three projects to get my creative teeth into for 2015 [excluding the new project i just gave myself above] – all completely different in nature – however, as any musician/songwriter will tell you… when you are in a ‘moment’, it’s best to just keep on going. That’s what i’m going to do. I’m going to keep on recording for another few months at the very least. In a weird way, i feel like i’ve just started to get a real fluid rhythm for recording and it’d be a shock to my system to stop now. I have no idea what these future songs will be used for, but it just feels like the absolute right thing to do. They may wind up as demos for the new band or i may release them on a smaller schedule next year [as in one per week or so]. I’ll keep y’all updated on the fate of these songs.

Thank you for all the support and well-wishing this year – it certainly has gone a long way to helping me stay focused and to constantly re-remember why i am doing this in the first place. Extra special thank you to all my sponsors and endorsers that both helped make me make this project happen and that will help me transition the music onto the stage. I’ll be posting about them all individually throughout the year, so we’ll go a bit more in-depth about them shortly.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION!

DISCUSS THIS POST VIA FACEBOOK / WORDPRESS & GOOGLE+

Send this to friend