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How to Handle Writer’s Block
OR 
Running from Wolves, I Photographed a Gazelle That Turned Into a Rabbit


People get attached to different mental or environmental aspects of songwriting:
- I can only write songs using THIS guitar (or insert whatever favorite instrument instead of ‘guitar’).
- I can only write songs when I’m inspired.
- I write my best songs at night when I’m half awake.
- I have to start with the lyrics.
- I have to start with the melody.
- I write my best songs when I’m in love.
- I write my best songs when I’m going through a break up.
- I have to jam out new ideas with a band
- I write my best songs alone in my room

I think great songs can be generated from almost anything at anytime. This is why it is important to NOT hold any part of the process of songwriting as ‘the correct way’. Holding a specific part of the songwriting process as sacred will only make you chase THAT specific process or feeling; the feeling you had the last time you wrote or the feeling you had when you wrote what you believe to be your best song. The nature of the artist and the artist’s ideas represent a very specific moment in time and the process itself should change and evolve and flow with and from that moment regardless of tools or time of day; regardless of present mind state or present company. Sometimes the genesis, the beginning, holds an important feeling and makes songs great. Sometimes the initial idea is simply a shell or empty vessel to be added upon, into or atop and the greatness of the piece slowly reveals itself with each new part added or changed.  

I think writer’s block happens when the artist gets caught up looking for a very specific process. The path you’re looking for maybe lost or elusive, but upon further investigation, there are countless other paths to choose from.

-Some songs come like photographs. Your mind just snaps them into existence with perfect composition, perfectly completed.

-Some songs are like sculpting from clay or wood. You have to first start with a large, clumsy block gradually taking off the gross chunks that don’t belong, until you get down to the smallest lines and cuts, in a process of continuous refinement or slow distillation.

-Some songs are like hunting deer or elk. With the initial idea firing from your mind like an arrow into your prey. After the piercing, you have to chase it down relentlessly following as close behind as you can and if you lose it, you scour the area for drops of blood to point you back on the trail.

-Some songs are like hunting lions or bears. If the initial shot from your mind doesn’t take it down, you may be faced with a fight for your life; sometimes having to wrestle the beast on the ground until you reach a them-or-you moment where the idea isn’t coming out easily and there’s a distinct possibility that if it comes out at all, it may kill you.

Some songs can be an epic combination of these:
You’re out in the wilderness. You see what you think is a majestic gazelle. You try and snap a photo on your phone, but when you look at the picture, your hand was shaking and the photo is all blurry. As you look up, the gazelle takes off, so you run after it some. A while into the pursuit, you run into a terrifying wolf. You run away and the wolf chases you for a couple miles or so until you climb up into a tree. While in the tree, you break off a branch and whittle it into a make shift spear you use to fight off the wolf. Exhausted you make your way back through the woods on your way home where you find that perfect gazelle again. This time you slowly, SLOWLY pull out your phone. You snap the picture. You don’t even look at it. You just continue to make your way home. You finally get back home at dawn and go to sleep. You sleep 13 hours straight. In the morning, you pull out your phone to look at 2nd photo you took of the perfect gazelle, when you realize its not a gazelle at all, its actually a really large wild rabbit that is perfect nonetheless.

If you’re having problems with songwriting or writer’s block, always remember this:
It all begins with simply a note or chord.
It all begins with simply a word or phrase.
Nothing begins with simply a note or chord.
Nothing begins with simply a word or phrase.

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The most important thing you can do to make your band successful is both obvious and deceptively simple: Keep your band together.

You and your fellow band members don’t have a lot of control when it comes to who likes your music or which blogs will write about it or if it gets any kind of airplay. What you do have control over is yourselves: how you interact with each other, what your individual and collective goals are, and most importantly how you treat each other.

Its so obvious. I mean if the band isn’t together of course it can’t become successful :) I have a strong belief that if 4 people who hadn’t ever played instruments came together with the same goals, focus, and good communication they would be eventually become a famous band (if that’s what their goals were ;) )

Here are a few ways to get and keep your band together, focused and strong.

1. Everyone in your band should be on the same page.
The best way to do this is with clearly defined goals - especially ones you can break down into numbers. Don’t let people get away with answers like ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I guess, I’ll have to see how it goes’. The more specific you can be the better.
- How many shows do you want to play now - Twice a month; every weekend all weekend?
- Ideally how many shows do you want to play or CAN you play - is a 60 or 90 day tour too much?
- How much is everyone willing to contribute monetarily to the band - how much money can you contribute of your own/month $0? $1000?
- How much personal time is everyone willing to contribute - 10 hours/week; 20? 50?

In addition to clearly defined goals with numbers you should all talk about what the ultimate goal for the band is. Is it ‘have fun’? If so, what does ‘have fun’ mean to everyone? Try not to have answers that are open ended - “Dude, I just want to have fun, but if something happens, you know, that’s cool.” Those answers tend to create a lot of problems down the road.

A lot of bands ask this question and answer it with “I would like the band to get to a point where it breaks even money-wise.” Fine. If that’s what you want, write songs in the basement and don’t play shows. No recording budgets. No gas for shows. No merch costs. BAM! You just broke even - goal met! The problem is people want some form of success in addition to ‘breaking even’. They want to record and play shows and have merch. If you really want to have all those things AND have your band  break even, its a good exercise to define some costs so you have a better understanding of how much you should be looking to make in return to break even. For instance call some recording studios and get realistic budgets for how much it is to record. Call merch vendors and find out how much it is to get shirts pressed. If you know your recording will be $1000 and shirts will be $500 and you know how much you plan on charging for shirts and recordings, then you know you have to sell ‘x’ amount of recordings and shirts to break even. Having that ‘x’ number is KEY. It gives you something to shoot toward while you’re trying to ‘spread the word’ (market) yourselves.

2. Be not only cool with one another, but be a family.
Have respect for other members and try to find ways to talk with each other that are not incendiary or cause flare-ups. If someone has a problem with something try to use “I” statements to approach the other person(s). For instance try approaches like “Maybe its just me, but I feel like that part you’re playing is not totally on. Can you show me what you’re doing?” instead of “Dude, you’re totally fucking up that part like ALWAYS! WTF!”

A lot of people just use the latter way and play the “Dude, I’m just being honest!” card, but there are ways of being honest without insulting someone or damaging their ego - and ego damage control is key to communicating with other musicians/artists.

Being a family also means being there for each other no matter how bad things get. In the Nirvana video below (at 2:00), Kurt is having problems with a bouncer. Watch how FAST Dave and Chris throw down their instruments to come to his aid. Amazing solidarity!




3. Sometimes its best to love the one you’re with, not the one you want.
Everyone has their own idea of what they would like the band to sound like. With that sound comes individual styles of play. If you find that you have a member whose personality fits in well with the band, but his playing style is a little different than what you would like, its best to try and modify your vision to match the members you’re playing with. For instance, The Smiths almost didn’t use Mike Joyce, because they thought his drumming was too aggressive at first, but in the end I think the aggressiveness of his style adds something to their sound, they maybe wouldn’t have got with a mellower drummer. Same with Andy Hurley from Falloutboy. Falloutboy would sound totally different if Hurley’s drumming was a more poppy style instead of the hardcore background he came from. Also when people play to their strengths they feel good about what they’re doing because they’re doing something they are confident with.

Being in a band is like having 4 (or more) girlfriends or boyfriends and they’re all different and all have different quirks and personalities. If you can find ways to focus yourselves, communicate better, and appreciate one another for who you are, your chances of survival AND success as a band will be much greater.

- Shane Olivo
The New Loud
Bobby Peru Recording

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Shit Musicians Say!

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The new music video from OK Go, made in partnership with Chevrolet. OK Go set up over 1000 instruments over two miles of desert outside Los Angeles. A Chevy Sonic was outfitted with retractable pneumatic arms designed to play the instruments, and the band recorded this version of Needing/Getting, singing as they played the instrument array with the car. The video took 4 months of preparation and 4 days of shooting and recording. There are no ringers or stand-ins; Damian took stunt driving lessons. Each piano had the lowest octaves tuned to the same note so that they’d play the right note no matter where they were struck. For more information and behind-the-scenes footage, see http://www.LetsDoThis.com and http://www.okgo.net. Many thanks to Chevy for believing in and supporting such an insane and ambitious project, and to Gretsch for providing the guitars and amps.

Director: Brian L. Perkins & Damian Kulash, Jr.
Director of Photography: Yon Thomas
Editor: Doug Walker
Producer: Luke Ricci

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Super intense!! Madonna’s Half Time Show at Super Bowl 46. Audio is a little out of sync but the video is super good :)

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"This is just a test, take it with love and you will pass. You will be rewarded if you do your very best. Nothing ever goes as planned so don’t take anything for granted if you do the world will kick your ass."

- Anthrax by Kimya Dawson
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Auto Tune for guitar. Peavey and Antares team up to create the perfectly intonated guitar with the ability to switch tunings in the push of a button :)

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Pretty excited about the new Nord Drum. As you guys maybe know. I play in the band The New Loud and we do a lot of mixed live drums and live played electronic drums. This new drum brain from Nord seems pretty exciting :)