News and Musings

The Artist's Way Experiment 

I am working through the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron trying to unlock some captive creativity and I am really enjoying the process. I am on week four and something incredible happened that I've had in the back of my mind for a while as a possibility. The assignment for the week was to not read for leisure or watch TV for the week (no talk radio or audiobooks, youtube, or facebook either). I laughed when I read it and right away I was really intrigued. I knew it was going to be an interesting week but I didn't know if I would like it or if I could even do it. I listen to audiobooks all the time, and pandora comedy is my go-for working around the house. 

Well, I did it, and it was a remarkable week! Here's what I gathered: 

- I look at my phone waaaaay too much, and I often feel just drained and empty at the end of the day. I have felt the two have been related, and after this week I am certain. 

- On day one I wasn't missing it at all. I felt way more into what I was up to that day, I found myself daydreaming hard again and I was able to tackle some smaller tasks around the house when I probably would have been standing and staring at my phone. The music I listened to that day seemed to sound better, and everything seemed to have a bit more color. I know it might sound a bit silly and over-poetic, but that's exactly what it felt like. 

- On the second day I found myself becoming more aware of my surroundings and the people nearby. Everything seemed more intense too. It was getting better and better. 

- by the 3rd day I found myself really heading off some problems and working to get more organized (and not dreading the tasks!). It is so easy for me to push out my problems with a distraction but without it I just handled things. It felt like a new section of my brain had opened up, it was awesome! Super refreshing. 

- The fourth day was great. I realized how much I was seeking out people to talk to again and being able to think faster and be more engaged in the conversations. I was genuinely invested in what was going on and I was just happier overall. I felt like I was thinking on my feet better while I was teaching as well. When I drove home I put in one of my favorite albums and came up with a neat connected story line to the music the entire drive home. I went made a point to go fatbiking with a friend that evening and I went to bed just feeling awesome. 

- Friday was great! I made a phone call on the ride home (something I don't do often) and when I talked to people I didn't feel like I had to run off somewhere and I had to keep it short. I felt comfortable in my own skin again. Looking back at my notes, each day I noted how great things were going and each day I said something about how this needed to happen long-term (maybe mainly with facebook and limited mind-hijacking during the week). I felt awesome. 

-Yesterday I had to work a looooooong day running sound for a dance competition, and I wasn't bored at all. The day went pretty quickly and I just found things to do to occupy the time, and it was great! There was no staring at the clock, no dragging feeling at all, it was just fine. 

-Finally, today was the best of all. I woke up feeling hopeful and energetic (this used to happen during the summers in high school where everything was where it needed to be and I just had everything to look forward to all the time.) It is an exciting feeling, but it doesn't happen very often these days. 

I allowed myself some news reading and youtube and facebook vegging today and now I just feel dense again. 

Conclusion? I'm definitely doing this for another week! I think there is so much gravity to not even having your phone in the same room when you are hanging out with people or sleeping. The Artist's Way always talks about your creative spirit as a child, and I think this week definitely made me feel younger when I was more social and the entire world was a different light. It's starting to make more sense and I'm really excited to see where the next 8 weeks of the book take me. 

Finally, I remember there was a time of my life where I became a different person. I became quite unhappy for a while, things just changed, and for a long time I was a cynical person who had difficulty identifying and working through some character faults. I can pin the start of the change to not long after I joined Facebook. Beforehand life was without a doubt different. Is Facebook the devil? I don't think so, but I always had the inkling that my life would be better if I stayed away from it. That has now been proven to be 100% true.

Fun Stuff and a Lent Experiment 

The last couple months have been pretty interesting overall.  I played some fun gigs, and I have been doing some things at school that have been new and exciting.  This second semester is really getting long, and I am pretty excited to not be a first-year teacher ever again.  I like my job and I like the challenges, and from now on I will have a better idea of what is coming next and how to tackle it. 

On to the experiment!  I have been trying some new things...I've learned about Radical Honesty and I have been trying to incorporate portions of it into my life.  I've read some fascinating Malcolm Gladwell books.  Finally, I decided to give up groove metal and thrash and grind and djent and all that stuff for Lent. 

I found myself listening to an extensive list of bands like Lamb of God, Volumes, Car Bomb, and so on pretty frequently.  On a daily basis, many times a day in fact, I found myself craving this type of music.  Maybe it was an outlet, maybe it just gave me energy, I'm not sure what the draw was.  I had to have it though.  After thinking about the detrimental effects of so many negative things crossing the mind so often, I thought I would try to find out what might happen if I alleviated this music from my life for a while.  I cut out everything that had any type of screaming vocals for Lent.  Here's what I found out.

The first two weeks were tough.  I cheated a little by listening to instrumental albums, and that was alright.  After a while, though, I wanted more substance.  I started pulling out some of my older favorites from the 00's and a bit earlier.  The first day I did this, it was refreshing.  Then it just took off, like a huge wave!  I was able to listen to things again, pick out small details and appreciate some simplicity.  I didn't have to decipher racing, unintelligible drop-tuned riffs, but I could spend time crafting some scenery in my imagination again. 

I like the singer/songwriter simplicity of certain bands, like Lit and Caroline's Spine and Pushmonkey.  It was cool to look back and realize how much fun a lot of the bands a few years ago seemed to be having all while making something musical.  If they weren't shredders, who cared?  They added some distortion and strummed the electric guitars like acoustic guitars sometimes and just did what they did and it worked.  The drumming wasn't outlandish, it just kept a beat and added some color, and everyone probably went home pleasantly spent at the end of the day. 

I also enjoyed listening to a couple Sevendust songs (sans screaming of course), and it sounded like an interesting transition into the harder music we have today.  I'm sure there were bands that were doing similar things years before Sevendust.  It still grooved and the riffs weren't at all difficult, it was just loud greasy kid stuff.  It reminded me of watching a puppy play tug of war. 

I just reread what I wrote, and I know this sounds like an anthem for the music of yore.  I hope not to evolve into one of those people that refuses to acknowledge new music.  I'm excited to see what comes next.  I'm excited to see what comes next.  I'm excited to see what comes next....

Anyhow, throughout the last six weeks I found myself listening more.  I also feel like I have mellowed out a little (which I was hoping for).  My days have been a little bit more pleasant, and I have found myself taking a step back and being more empathetic rather than dashing to the nearest release on my ipod in the face of a problem.  That has been excellent, and I do hope it continues. 

I found myself missing only Killswitch Engage throughout the whole experiment.  That is one of the few bands that speaks to me on a higher level, and it just happened to be on the 'banned' list.  Does it really count since I interpret Killswitch in a positive manner?  Their lyrics are pretty incredible, and the instrumentation is fantastic I think.  They use dynamics from time to time.  Amazing.

So, to conclude, I noticed the positive effects of not listening to screaming music for Lent.  I mellowed out, I was able to think a bit more clearly, I found other outlets, and I was able to listen critically to music once again.  The last was an interesting discovery, for it was a skill I did not think I lost.  I know that having negativity has a detrimental effect on life.  People who have been bullied a great deal throughout their life have been shown to have shorter lifespans.  I wonder if negativity works that way as a whole in some way.  What if you take negative music but, you're a dork musician like me who listens to the instruments over the lyrics, and is able to utilize it for something good?  People used to get so frustrated with me because I would try to describe a song to them by singing the guitar part!  I'll have to do more reading about the negativity thing, as I am sure there is more out there.  The experiment was interesting though.  Anyhow, a big outlet was getting ready for an intermediate triathlon, which I have never done in any form.  I am stoked for sure, and a bit nervous.  My swimming has been getting better, which I was the most worried about I suppose.  Thanks for reading, and have a great tomorrow!

NPR and my new big boy job 

And everything has been falling into place!  I'll start off with this past weekend, because it was excellent.  The last few weeks have been tough, especially for my wife, so on Saturday we jetted off sporadically to the twin cities to see Prairie Home Companion.  We were able to get front row seats (to a radio show...I know, I know) but it was pretty amazing.  Thank God for too.  Ticketmaster was up to nearly $40 in fees for nosebleed seats, and we got these for $25 less and $5 in fees.  Ticketmaster sucks!  Oh my gosh, they are seriously terrible!  How has no one found a way to put them out of business?  Anyways, we were seated right in front of the sound effects guy, and that was really cool.  The music throughout the program was pretty diverse and really good.  We had some quality guffaws as well.  Also, before each program, they let you write out a dedication card, a shoutout to someone who might be listening.  About halfway through, Garrison Keillor picks a bunch to read on the air, and wouldn't you know he picked both Kristin's card and mine.  It was pretty cool!  I was missing Sparta High School's concert that night, so I shouted out to them as retribution for my absence.  Afterwards, we went to this place called "The Nook", where I was introduced to Honey Bacon fried Cheese Curds.  My right eye has been twitching ever since.  Good stuff.

Musically things have been going well.  People at school are great, and the year is starting to fall into place.  I finally get my new classroom in a week or so, that will be good.  I need to write songs.  I have a couple tiny songs that are nearly finished.  I am off to do more work for the year, but I will hopefully be coming back with new things soon.  Have a lovely evening 

What is this "free time" you all speak of? 

Greetings!!  Things have been bananas as always.  I have been subbing in several local school districts here and there, all while working at a bike shop, and playing music, and playing with other groups, and boy are my arms tired!  Well, you get it.  I just received my educator's license, so I am off and running!  I have also been playing with a local group of guys who put together a pretty slamming rock band, and I'm on the drums once again.  It feels good, I miss playing drums, and I am still getting my chops back, but these guys challenge me, and it's all good stuff. 

Also, I finally got to move into a house, which means recording won't be a huge project of set up and tear down when the neighbors aren't home, in the garage, in the cold, uphill, both ways.  What else?  Oh, I got a job in the Blair-Taylor school district next year.  I am incredibly lucky and very excited!  The superintendent and his wife made a special trip down to see me and Tom Pfaff perform at the Root Note a couple weeks back.  I was honored, and I feel like I'm going to be in great company.  Yes, most of my time will be spent at school, but I will still be writing here and there. 

I have begun writing what I am calling "Tiny Songs".  I feel like a huge trap I continue to fall in is the attempt to tell my life story with every single song idea I come up with.  Well, that is just exhausting and unproductive, so now I have produced several low-key songs about various areas of my life that I think will be pretty enjoyable.  I'll make a huge fuss once I get them on here.  I've also been considering movies, since I seem to get a ton of ideas when I'm watching something good or moving.  The wife doesn't care too much for the lovey dovey films though, so I must creatively schedule my viewings of "A Walk to Remember", accompanied with a nice steak.  Just kidding!  (or am I?)  I have a legal pad to carry with me at all times, so we'll see if I can't capture anything cool these days.  This song writing is such a fickle thing.

So, that's what I have so far, just going a million miles an hour, as always.  I'm a lucky guy who gets to do a lot of things that I like, and get paid for it, so life is good.  I am out of here on vacation starting next week, which will be a bit of getting used to.  Man, I haven't been on a big trip out of this town in two years, so yeah, I'm jumping out of my seat for this.  Thanks for reading, I shall keep you posted when things get posted.  Have a lovely weekend.  Go eat some fish, you Wisconsinites, you! Let's all hope LeBron gets a tall glass of water and some stretches in.  Or not.  Ciao


Lawrence Lawson and Maplewood! 

Hello all!  I graduated and was lucky enough to get a cool long-term sub gig the next week.  That being said, I have been swamped to say the least, but life is good.  For the time being, I decided to help the students prepare for their upcoming performances by posting their music on my page.  If you go to the music page and hear some tunes that sound like, well, not me, then this is why.  I am also recording the rest of my new demo on my sadly broken macbook pro that refuses to die, so that makes it pretty edgy I suppose.  Anyhow, through the cracks and lines on my screen, I shall bid you adieu for now until I return with further news, soon and very soon!

Crazy New Year 

Greetings!  So I don't know if I could really cram as much into a single month-ish of time ever again.  Within the last 30 or so days, I:

-Got married
-Conducted Sparta High's Christmas Concert
-Spent a week of 14-hour days preparing and performing in Sparta High's Madrigal Dinner
-Graduated from College
-Finished my student teaching portfolio
-Got an offer for a long-term sub once I finish student teaching
-Gained a few pounds from some glorious stress eating

I feel like there was something else, but I must have forgotten because my brain is now completely smooth from anxiety (just kidding, it wasn't really that bad), but I'm out of the thick of things and well on my way to resist becoming a boring adult.  How do I do that?  Finally start writing some music! 

I have two songs in the works, and I am also working on a sweet cover of A-Ha's "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.".  I will someday re-record this whole album, because the songs are stellar but the style is outdated.  I hope to have a little musical surprise in the cover as well.  No, it's not an appearance by William Shatner, sorry to burst your bubble.  Anyhow, I'll make a big stink when I get the tune posted.

I am looking for rehearsal/recording space.  I am also looking for a booking agent.  Speaking of, I posted 15 more gigs here and there running through August.  Anyhow, if you are someone, or if you know of someone who can help me with these two issues, I would be very thankful and probably find a way to deliver a "You're Awesome" cupcake or something of the sort. 

Life is good, there is good music to be heard, and I'm really looking forward to what I can get done here in the next few months.  It's going to be a good year.  Stay tuned for more info, and stay classy, planet earth:)


Happy Thanksgiving! 

Oh my goodness, I am SOOO thankful for this break!  This has been the first break since probably July that has consisted of more than a 3-day weekend, and I didn't have to work or anything.  What a strange feeling!  I slept in until 9:30, because apparently I'm 80 all of a sudden.  I'm stoked that I finally got the website functional, so here it is.  There will be lots of updates coming soon, so check in again soon. 

I was also able to get my hands on a brand new AKG Perception 420 3-direction microphone, and recording has never been so fun before.  I opened the package, and everything smelled like expensive candy, and needless to say, I was hooked.  There shall be some new tunes coming for sure, cuz I can't peel away from this thing. 

So, for the time being, thank you for taking the time to check out the new site, and have an awesome Thanksgiving! 

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