The life of the solo musician. It isn’t easy and it isn’t something everyone wants to pursue. I know that I didn’t really ever think I’d produce an entire album and be the only one writing the music for it, let alone preforming, recording and mixing. So what lead me to this? In this multi-part segment I will delve into the world of the solo musician.
When I first learned to play guitar I always envisioned myself as the next member of a world famous rock band. I wanted to be the next Edge or Jimmy Page. I would play for hours when I got home from school and weekends jamming to my stereo. I played so much that I wound up frying the circuits on my parents stereo system one hot summer day; what was I playing? Led Zeppelin of course! (it was Zep III if my memory serves me correctly, odd given the acoustical nature of the album)
It was around a year into playing that I found I was gravitating towards recording any song ideas I had. We had an old reel to reel recorder, I believe it was a 4 track, but of course one of the heads didn’t work so really it was a 2 – 3 track recorder. Nevertheless, that first experience hooked me into the recording process and trying to understand how music was made.
I eventually got a A/D converter from Tascam that was bundled with a version of Cubase. I immediately plugged everything I had in my mind into that software. It was crude but I still have those recordings and they, given the novice level of knowledge, really standout to me. Later on I wound up grabbing an Art tube preamp to help warm up the recordings. I had that setup for quite a while until the first Apogee Duet came out (by this point I had moved over to an iMac and an upgrade version of Cubase Artist 4).
Thankfully both of my parents were also musicians and promoted my search for musical expression. When I was much younger I also wanted to learn how to play the drums; my parents then went out and bought me a kit to learn on. Oddly enough, my interest faded a bit there and they wound up giving the kit to the drummer for a band that would later become Three Days Grace.
Looking back over more than a decade of playing I find it extremely amusing to see how far along my musical knowledge has come. I can remember that my pedal board once consisted of a Fuzz Face, Distortion+ and a DigiDelay. Aside from the fuzz and distortion I had zero idea on how to properly use a delay pedal. Anyway, getting sidetracked…
There were times during high school that I experimented with singing (Neil Young became a big influence) and playing, but I never really enjoyed the process as much as just playing the guitar. I actually wound up losing a talent show in Grade 11, though from what I found out later it was a little more political than just performance based. Though looking back I think that killed some of my confidence. I also found it a little difficult to remain in the presence of inspiration when I had to be concerned with remembering lyrics. To this day I believe I still have those feelings somewhere deep inside.
University was really the moment I started to experiment more with folk music (thanks to a special lady), and therefore singing. I delved into the world of American folk artist Ellis Paul. At the request of my partner, I began learning songs I could sing and play. Even though I was doing this I still felt the need to drop the singing within a live performance. I believe my partner was the only person who knew I could even sing! (aside from my parents)
While I was in second year University I began to think about the writing process and how songs where structured. It was around this time I wrote “Open”. It was the first time I had written what I would call a complete song. Oddly enough, the progression I will gladly admit, came naturally and almost as if I had channeled the notes. “Open” in essence, opened the doors I would later walk through to becoming a solo musician.
Over the course of many years, I still wound up hold onto the notion of playing over singing. I have countless hours of material with no lyrical inspiration stored away on a few HD’s. I found I was expressing more in the musical overtones then the lyrics. That’s not to say I didn’t sit and write something that could be called lyrics, but they never really spurred on the creation. I can recall sitting and listening to “Speed of Sound” by Coldplay and thinking “where did those lyrics come from?” I could never really wrap my head around the verbal process. So what did I do? I still recorded songs with lyrics but in my heart I was just practicing, and waiting for the moment I could step away from singing and instead step into the lead guitarist position.
End of Part 1