A Proverb a Day Keeps the Stupid Away

My pastor’s wife asked me an interesting question a few months ago during a small group meeting. She asked me what the ‘guide word’ was for our family. She said her family’s ‘guide word’ was truth. Over the last few years as our families have grown closer, I have been blessed many times to witness that guiding principle at work in their lives. I am sadly a bit more jaded, and perhaps a little too quick to dismiss ‘truth’ as a romantic ideal incapable of being properly held for too long in mere human hands. Truth seems to often exist as a matter of viewpoint and opinion, and not as a universal constant.

That being said, I had never thought about defining my family’s world view in the manner of a one-word term. Nevertheless, I knew immediately what the correct word was for us: wisdom.

From an early age, the story of Solomon inheriting his father’s throne has always intrigued me.

That night God appeared to Solomon. God said, “What do you want from me? Ask.”

8-10 Solomon answered, “…give me wisdom and knowledge…—for who on his own is capable of leading these, your glorious people?”

11-12 God answered Solomon, “This is what has come out of your heart: You didn’t grasp for money, wealth, fame, and the doom of your enemies; you didn’t even ask for a long life. You asked for wisdom and knowledge so you could govern well my people over whom I’ve made you king. Because of this, you get what you asked for—wisdom and knowledge. And I’m presenting you the rest as a bonus—money, wealth, and fame beyond anything the kings before or after you had or will have.”

2 Chronicles 1:7-12

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Solomon administering wise judgment. 1 Kings 3:16-28

As a young man, I saw this story as a wonderful starting place, and began to seek for the secret of life within the God-inspired proverbs of Solomon. Later, I would realize the ‘secret of life’ was actually quite well-covered in another writing by Solomon, Ecclesiastes. However, that is a story for another day.

When I first read Proverbs, I was amazed at the wealth of daily-applicable advice pouring out from the pages. And it’s all right here, screaming out in plain view just waiting for someone to listen. As a matter of fact, this exact idea is introduced in the opening chapter.

20-21 Lady Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts.
    At the town center she makes her speech…

22-24 “…Idiots! How long will you refuse to learn?
    About face! I can revise your life.
Look, I’m ready to pour out my spirit on you;
    I’m ready to tell you all I know…

Even as I grew older, I would revisit the book of Proverbs, often amazed at how many nuggets I had forgotten. One day in 2008, I read a comment from presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee. He said he had read a chapter in Proverbs every day since he was 18-years-old. Now, ignore whatever you think of Governor Huckabee’s politics for a moment and think of the beauty of this idea. There are 31 chapters of Proverbs and a maximum of 31 days in a month. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he believes, but this study approach resonated with me.

Mike Huckabee speaking in Las Vegas (2015)
Mike Huckabee speaking in Las Vegas (2015)

Yes, I am aware some months do not have 31 days. Thank you. Feel free to double up on the 30th, should you wish.

I am not going to tell you I get my chapter in every day, that would be a lie in that rare ‘universal constant’ way. That being said, I am able to grab quite a few each month. Usually, I read through slowly, meditate on the instruction, consider any application I could or should immediately make. After that, I will often have the chapter read to me on my phone while I listen and try to take it all in. I consider this a great daily starting point for prayer, Bible study, and introspection.

Don’t think of this as some sort of tortuous drudgery you have to complete each day to earn your spiritual gold star sticker from God. It is opportunity, possibility, and excitement that you get to freely access. Right now!

Maybe you aren’t very familiar with Proverbs. That’s why I’m going to give you a very small edited sample of what is waiting for you each day when you make the decision to dive in.

DAY 1

Dear friend, if bad companions say—“Let’s go out and raise some hell.
    Let’s beat up some old man, mug some old woman.
Oh, friend, don’t give them a second look;
    They’re racing to a very bad end,

DAY 2

God gives out Wisdom free,
    is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding.
He’s a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well,
    a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere.

DAY 3

You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom,
    when you make friends with Madame Insight.
She’s worth far more than money in the bank;
    her friendship is better than a big salary.

DAY 4

Evil people are restless
    unless they’re making trouble;
They can’t get a good night’s sleep
    unless they’ve made life miserable for somebody.

DAY 5

The lips of a seductive woman are oh so sweet,
    her soft words are oh so smooth.
But it won’t be long before she’s gravel in your mouth,
    a pain in your gut, a wound in your heart.
She’s dancing down the primrose path to Death;
    she’s headed straight for Hell and taking you with her.

DAY 6

You lazy fool, look at an ant.
    Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two.
Nobody has to tell it what to do.
    All summer it stores up food;
    at harvest it stockpiles provisions.
So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing?
    How long before you get out of bed?

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DAY 7

Talk to Wisdom as to a sister.
    Treat Insight as your companion.
They’ll be with you to fend off the Temptress—
    that smooth-talking, honey-tongued Seductress.

DAY 8

“You—I’m talking to all of you,
    everyone out here on the streets!
Don’t miss a word of this—I’m telling you how to live well,
    I’m telling you how to live at your best.

DAY 9

If you reason with an arrogant cynic, you’ll get slapped in the face;
    confront bad behavior and get a kick in the shins.
So don’t waste your time on a scoffer;
    all you’ll get for your pains is abuse.

DAY 10

The more talk, the less truth;
    the wise measure their words.

DAY 11

The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
    the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.

DAY 12

Good people are good to their animals;
    the “good-hearted” bad people kick and abuse them.

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DAY 13

A refusal to correct is a refusal to love;
    love your children by disciplining them.

DAY 14

The person who shuns the bitter moments of friends
    will be an outsider at their celebrations.

DAY 15

The empty-headed treat life as a plaything;
    the perceptive grasp its meaning and make a go of it.

DAY 16

Moderation is better than muscle,
    self-control better than political power.

DAY 17

A wise servant takes charge of an unruly child
    and is honored as one of the family.

DAY 18

Words kill, words give life;
    they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.

DAY 19

Mercy to the needy is a loan to God,
    and God pays back those loans in full.

DAY 20

Switching price tags and padding the expense account
    are two things God hates.

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Sorry, Macklemore, you’re gonna have to pay full price. 🙂

DAY 21

You’re addicted to thrills? What an empty life!
    The pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied.

DAY 22

The poor are always ruled over by the rich,
    so don’t borrow and put yourself under their power.

DAY 23

Don’t stealthily move back the boundary lines
    or cheat orphans out of their property,
For they have a powerful Advocate
    who will go to bat for them.

DAY 24

Don’t laugh when your enemy falls;
    don’t crow over his collapse.
God might see, and become very provoked,
    and then take pity on his plight.

DAY 25

Don’t work yourself into the spotlight;
    don’t push your way into the place of prominence.
It’s better to be promoted to a place of honor
    than face humiliation by being demoted.

DAY 26

You’re only asking for trouble
when you send a message by a fool.

DAY 27

Don’t brashly announce what you’re going to do tomorrow;
    you don’t know the first thing about tomorrow.

DAY 28

God has no use for the prayers
    of the people who won’t listen to him.

DAY 29

If you let people treat you like a doormat,
    you’ll be quite forgotten in the end.

DAY 30

If you’re dumb enough to call attention to yourself
    by offending people and making rude gestures,
Don’t be surprised if someone bloodies your nose.

DAY 31

Leaders can’t afford to make fools of themselves,
    gulping wine and swilling beer,
Lest, hung over, they don’t know right from wrong,
    and the people who depend on them are hurt.

If any of this pulls at your heart the way it did mine, I encourage you to pick up this habit. Wisdom is the key to open many doors.

I wouldn’t get legalistic with it. If you sit down to read a chapter and realize you’ve missed the previous 3 days, don’t feel obliged to go back and catch up. Just start with whatever day of the month it currently is. Don’t give yourself the excuse that you do not have the time. Feeling like you have multiple chapters waiting on you could seem burdensome.

I hope this blesses you the way I feel it has me. Happy reading to all of you. Remember, my family is always recruiting for the wisdom ‘guide word’ team! 🙂


Pre-order your copy of Gregory’s new CD, Almost Alive, on iTunes.

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How a Musician Listens To Music – An Examination of “Heathens” by twenty one pilots

There’s a short story I vaguely remember reading in high school concerning a young man and a old steamboat captain navigating the Mississippi River. The obvious guess would be that it was a Mark Twain tale, although my meager attempts at Googling the exact title for you proved fruitless.

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Steamboat on the Mississippi River

Nevertheless, the general gist of the story involved the boy beholding the wild wonders of the river for the first time in the company of this seasoned pilot. The boy pointed out various areas of interest, remarking on the beauty and grandeur of the scene. Toward the end of the yarn, the captain explains to the kid what went through his mind while looking at these same wonders. He did not view the river with the same wide-eyed awe of the child. While the kid stood slack-jawed at nature’s visual feast before him, the captain surveyed the various information for actionable intelligence. Where the boy saw “gorgeous white caps atop troubled waves reflecting silver rays of sun,” (Don’t blame Twain for that little bit of poetic diarrhea, remember I couldn’t find the actual text.) the grizzled veteran warned that those ripples were an indication of shallow water which could cause the heavy-laden vessel to run aground.

These types of examples went on-and-on where the knowledgeable captain divined dangers to be avoided and helpful information hidden in plain view within the picturesque natural landscapes.

The story struck me as terribly tragic.

It was easy to imagine that years ago, the experienced pragmatic captain was also the same impressionable young man overwhelmed by the initial magic of the river. Something had inspired him so deeply that he sought to make his living there. The final cost for that fulfilled dream was for the curtain of illusion to be forever pulled back. Any sense of romantic mystery buried within his heart would be completely laid bare. He could never look at the river again the same way as you or I might do so.

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The Mississippi River in the fall

“The deeper your understanding of music, the more magical it will seem.” – Me, a long time ago.

Even as a student, I acknowledged this sullen concept, yet reassured myself, “Don’t worry, Greg. This can not happen to you as a music student. As a matter of fact, the deeper your understanding of music becomes, the more magical it will seem.” Today, I play the part of the weary captain, and I deem that statement as, at best, slightly naive.

For over 25 years I have worked this river of songs. I have produced, written, performed, and taught. I started analyzing music before there was an internet to search, and throughout its infancy when much of the crowd-sourced information was incomplete or incorrect. Decades of prepping songs for students and cover bands have given me a skill set not accessible to the general public or casual armchair musicians.

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Where one might hear a “sick drum beat,” I am probably rummaging through my memories to recall if the percussion sounds come from a sample pack I have worked with in the past. I am listening for the tell-tale signs of midi-programming and quantization. I am identifying the fundamental frequencies of the kick and snare while listening to the balance between the drum and cymbal elements. Unless it is something truly bizarre, I will already know the time signature, tempo and basic beat structure well enough to reproduce it at a later time, should I wish. As a producer, I will hear and identify the levels of compression and time-based effects applied to the track. I could tell you the decade the beat was produced, or at least the decade it was modeled after, if new.

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Is it possible for me to still be emotionally moved by that sick beat?

Certainly, but I can no more ignore those thoughts and insights, than you can look at combinations of letters and not see words. So, it gets…crowded. It is sort of like going to Disney World as an adult. It is still amazing, but you can’t help but realize that it’s really just some kid in the Mickey costume no matter how hard you try to suspend your disbelief.


All right, let’s get to it. The purpose of this is to simply spend about 5-10 minutes listening to a song and then jotting down what jumps out to me about it.

So, my expertise is primarily rock music. Let’s go to today’s Billboard Rock Top 40 chart.

2016-10-22

Looks like “Heathens” by twenty one pilots holds the number 1 spot. I’ve heard of the band, but not any of their songs. This should be fun.

Okay, looks like this is on the soundtrack for the movie Suicide Squad. I’m not a big superhero movie guy. Oh, well. Unimportant.

Disclaimer: these are only my quick thoughts and may be as incomplete and inaccurate as the early internet. 🙂

0:00 INTRO

  • Synth pad fades up with heavy tritone dissonance. Putting out the creepy vibe.
  • Let me grab my guitar… Cool, sounds like a “B” note, with the “F” buried under it.

0:06 VERSE 1 CHORUS 1

EDIT: Assumed this was a verse until getting through more the song.

  • Piano, heavy chamber-like reverb with a long pre-delay. Panned about halfway to the left. Transients seem a bit squashed. Comping pattern is the “rocking” back-and-forth 8th note deal. You hear this everywhere. Time signature is 4/4.
  • Last chord of the progression is non-typical. “Normal” would be for it to be minor, yet it is unmistakably major. Chords are C, Am and E. (bVI – IVm – I) The tonal center seems to fall on the E. If the chord were E minor, it would be easily labeled as an E Aeolian song. The major variant puts the song into the harmonic minor family of modes. This is E Phrygian Dominant. The “G” note of the C Chord would be problematic in a soloing situation, but it would be easily avoided assuming you had half an ear.
  • Melody remains within the E Aeolian structure. It’s almost as if the E chord was made major at a much later time in the writing process. There are disturbing conversational voices panned hard left and right, and a monotone childlike voice droning on the “E” note tightly mirrored to the lead singer.
  • There is a cello-like string pad providing some bass frequency support. The lack of dynamics make me seriously doubt it is a ‘real’ acoustic instrument. Otherwise, it would probably be pushed up more prominently in the mix.
  • “Cricket” sound, “B” note on the 2, “2 &”, 4, and “4 &.” Usually, this same idea is performed with palm-muting a heavily-distorted guitar. This sounds different, however. Perhaps a dirty string sample?
  • Lyrically, rhyming pattern is AABB, with the A’s being perfect rhymes and the B’s being imperfect. Meaning seems fairly straight forward, describing a tough group of people to infiltrate. Knowing the “Suicide Squad” link, this makes sense.

0:28 VERSE 2 CHORUS 2

  • Bass seems devoid of string noise and imperfections. Probably keyboard-based, seems like a near sine-wave. C note is really low. Goes up to the “A,” even though it would be closer to go down. The bass line curiously traces an E minor arpeggio (mimicking the melody, by the way) on the way down to hitting the root of the E major chord. During the 2nd section, the bass skips the third scale degree all together, descending from the octave, to the fifth, to the root.
  • Cello is now pumping out constant 8th notes on E in the mid-range.
  • Kick drum is hitting on the 1 and “3 &.” Snare is thin, but still acoustic, not much reverb – typical of dance beats, falling on the 2 and 4.
  • Section is repeated, so lyrics and melody remain the same. The creepy factor is jumping out, and it is easy to see why. Word choices like “heathens, sudden moves, and abuse,” coupled with the E major chord which “shouldn’t be” based upon the melody makes things feel uncomfortable. – Obviously, this is by design, and effective.

0:49 CHORUS 1 VERSE 1 (part 1)

  • Drum beat remains the same, although the Hi-Hats become syncopated. The rest of the instrumentation, minus the piano, drops out. The piano plays a single chord at the beginning of each measure.
  • Chord progression has now abandoned the Phrygian Dominant key and has regressed to chords from the more natural E Aeolian scale: C  Em  Am  Em (bVI – Im – IVm – Im)
  • Melody has remained within the E Aeolian framework, now the chord structure has aligned.
  • Lyrics become more interesting and metaphorical. (Verses often are.) Again, word pictures are important. “Loved one day, docked away,” can imprint in many ways on its listeners. “Guns, brains, hand grenades,” trigger primal alarms inside of us which demand attention and reaction.

1:00 VERSE 1 (part 2)

  • Chord changes happen more quickly. (C / Am / | Em / / / | C / Am / | B / / / | / / / / |)
  • We have the 2nd appearance of a harmonic minor key when the B (V) chord hits. This time in the key of E.
  • Rhyming pattern is AAABB. Worth noting is the AAA’s are all the same word. Even the same phrase, “sitting next to you.” I think songwriters often avoid this technique, perhaps considering it ‘lazy.’ I disagree, it is very common for speechwriters to hammer the same phrase over and over again to add emphasis. This is the same idea we see here. The 2nd pair is a clever imperfect rhyme, tying the “eh” sound in “said,” with the “eh” syllable at the end of “forget.”
  • The childlike monotone voice that had been droning on E, finally descends to D# for the B chord. The “E” note was the third in the C major chord, the 5th of the A minor chord, and the root of both E major and E minor. The B triad is the first of the song that does not have an “E” note in it.

1:13 CHORUS 3

  • I quit listening…although I noticed an “Ah” Choir type patch adding to the soundscape that wasn’t there in the previous chorus.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • There was much more going on here than I feared I would find when I formulated this article. The reality is, most popular music is stone cold simple. That’s okay. That doesn’t make it bad or not widely enjoyable. It just means there just isn’t much to analyze and discuss.
  • The biggest songwriting technique I observed was the use of the ‘unexpected’ and ‘out-of-place’ major chord to foster a sense of tension and distrust.
  • Word pictures were highly effective in selling the mood.

The biggest majority of those sentiments came to me during my first play through. Grabbing the chord changes were fairly instantaneous once identifying a starting point. Some of the lyrical interpretation was a little more thought out as the study progressed – but can you see how “crowded” it is in my head when I listen to a song? The reverse to this is when there is nothing musically interesting happening. Now, I hate it because I feel as if there is nothing to glean. Truth is, I hate almost all music. Maybe it’s sad to hear a musician say that, but there it is.

This particular song may not enter my regular playlist, but it is fair to say there is something of musical value here. (I’m certain the band with the number 1 track in America will be so relieved to hear I approve of their efforts.) My point is, it isn’t just smoke, mirrors and pretty boy faces at work. This is quality songwriting.


We, as songwriter and performers, need the energy and enthusiasm of a supportive crowd unencumbered by such mental musical baggage.

I am convinced the story of the steamboat captain wasn’t actually about an old man revealing to a sailing novice the things of which he did not yet know. There probably never even was a young man. I postulate it was simply the captain remembering how the river once spiritually affected him when he was just starting out. That’s the river we need to draw from to keep us from growing cold and cynical as we pursue this craft.

You can go to Disney World and have a great time. But, if you want to have a magically enchanted experience, you had better take a kid or three with you and look at that mouse through their eyes.

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My wife, Lora, and our 3 children at Disney World, 2004

Pre-order your copy of Gregory’s new CD, Almost Alive, on iTunes.

My Songwriting Method – 3 Steps That Could Work For You

Every time I sit down to write music, something comes out. And, at the risk of seeming like a braggart, much of it is stuff I am proud of.

Many of you may be tempted to stop reading right there. That isn’t your experience, so how could someone who has never experienced a writing block help those who have? Well, I can’t promise this will turn you into one of Tin Pan Alley’s prolific songwriters, but perhaps I could give you an alternative method which may lend results.

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Many people, when addressing this issue, compare it to assembling a jigsaw puzzle. They describe the process of fitting together the song sections, harmony and melody and so forth until the pieces complete a beautiful portrait. This metaphor is quite lacking, in my opinion. Songs don’t typically come wrapped in a box, just waiting for you to solve, revealing a preconceived composition.

Instead, a more accurate comparison would be to that of a junkyard artist.

 

STEP 1: Find some junk.

You see, you first have to acquisition the junk you start with. Maybe you have a vague overarching vision, or maybe you don’t. Either way, you still need to take that trip to the dump and find some good bones to get started with. This is where I believe I excel. The reason is, I’m just looking for ANYTHING of use. A nice chord progression (I love those!), a clever word combination, a killer guitar riff, a catchy melody, a theme or topic that can be further mined, – just something somewhere I may potentially be able to use. Maybe it’s a verse, a chorus, a bridge, I literally don’t care. Sometimes, I just find a guitar or synth patch that is inspiring, and let it lead me. The point is, you are dumpster diving, and nothing should be beneath you.

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I rarely attempt to complete a song all at once. Perhaps not having that pressure on me helps the ideas to flow. Just look for anything useful. Once it gets out, we move onto step 2.

STEP 2: Catalog the junk.

It doesn’t matter how great that cool song idea you had last week was if you can not remember it today. And, please, spare me the, “If it was a great song, you would never forget it,” routine. For example, while you might possibly be able to recite to me the complete lyrics, melody, and chord progression from your current favorite song, you probably couldn’t have done it a few weeks after hearing it for the first and only time. You can’t even always remember where you put your keys or TV remote. Stuff gets lost. Stuff gets forgotten. Deal with it.

I have a simple method. Write crap down. Record it. Get it digitized into a folder on your computer. Make two sub folders, one with written notes, one with scratch recordings. If there are any unique musical pieces, make sure they get recorded, as well. Possibly transcribed, if you think it is necessary. Make sure it gets backed up to the cloud.

It is at this point where something wonderful happens. You have to name it something. I once considered this a curse, as I often do not know where the little nugget I had just mined is headed. Nevertheless, there is the Windows machine with its incessant blinking cursor just waiting for you to decide.

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So, since you have to name it something, you have to ask yourself, what does this little piece of art bring to mind? What feelings or memories does it provoke? It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. And, you can change it later, should you wish. Again, there is no pressure or judgment here. Being relentlessly critical comes much later, if at all.

Here’s the catch. You have to do this often. Schedule time for it. Don’t dread it. Don’t limit yourself by thinking you can only write about what you know, or have personally experienced. An exciting life may make for a great movie, but a ‘boring’ life is often more enjoyable to live. Just because you’re a housewife doesn’t mean you can only write about changing diapers and making bottles, for example. (Don’t get me wrong, that could be a hit!) You can write about anything. You are permitted to create entire worlds out of thin air, just like a novelist. Working as a producer within self-made limitations can be very freeing and helpful. As a writer, though, these seem to only hinder. Get rid of them. Start things you have no idea how to finish, it’s okay.

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Step 3: Revisit Your Library

At least a few times per month, play through your scratch recordings library on your computer. Refer to the written/digitized notes as you do. Don’t feel any compunction to do anything with it, you owe it nothing. Just let it soak in.

If I had to chart out percentage-wise how often I worked on Step 1, versus Step 3, it would probably be about an 80/20 split. Usually, when I sit down to write, it is to visit the ‘junkyard’ for pieces of interest like I described in Step 1. The other 20% usually happens when I get something in my head throughout the day from my library. When something that ‘soaked in’ starts growing. It is usually at this point that I pull a song out and start working on it some more. Again, I don’t put any requirements on myself to finish it, or complete a certain amount before quitting. Maybe this technique works for you to do the laundry, wash the dishes, or to exercise. What this never does for me, is prod my consciousness into a greater state of creativity.

Many times, these individual pieces will fit together in surprising ways to form a single song. Don’t be afraid to transpose the musical key of the segments around to facilitate this idea. Even though one junkyard find may have been a verse about war, and the next was a chorus about being a bus driver, it doesn’t mean they can’t work together! I never force these “marriages,” but they often occur.

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I suggest a tortoise and hare approach to any creative effort. If you consistently do a fair amount everyday, your catalog and idea library will grow much faster than you could possibly adequately produce it.  Perhaps you could farm out your songs to other talented performers, or group them into themed album releases. Whatever you decide to do, at this point, you are now a functioning songwriter. Congratulations! It happened. Go do something amazing with your abilities!

A Songwriter Is Like A Junkyard Artist

Here’s how:

  • No one is going to tell you when you are done.
  • Lots of people won’t “get it.”
  • You have to put in the time to find what you build with.
  • You need to store what you find until you are ready to assemble.
  • You aren’t required to have a complete vision to start.
  • The skills needed to assemble are improved with practice.
  • It doesn’t have to make sense to be good.
  • You’re making art, that’s good enough.

Pre-order your copy of Gregory’s new CD, Almost Alive, on iTunes.

Hurricane Matthew

On the evening of October 7, 2016 Hurricane Matthew impacted the Savannah, Georgia area bringing 60mph winds and over 17 inches of rain.

Luckily, my family weathered the storm with minimal damage. We even made it through the worst of it maintaining our electric and internet services. The next day, however, we lost power for over 24 hours while presumably repairs were being made. It has remained mostly on since that time.

I assumed the rest of town was spared heavy damage. My first short trip from my home proved this to be false.

 

I listened to emergency radio throughout the storm and its aftermath. I heard so many “Signal 15s,” I lost count. Signal 15s are apparently a security alarm going off. Police had to stop responding, placing them on a lengthy waiting list. Despite a dusk-to-dawn curfew, our friends were among those victimized by these looters. Making the loss of property worse, the family cat ran away when the door was left open. Luckily, the pet was eventually found. Rebuilding and restoring their home will take considerably longer.

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Being distracted from the world because of Hurricane Matthew has made us miss the latest Donald Trump gaffe, a weekend of College football, and our Sunday church services; but it has allowed us to spend time bonding as a family. We have played chess, card games, and have spent more time talking than we are usually afforded. My oldest, Virginia, spent her 19th birthday without power. She was a trooper and never complained about being stuck inside without any fun thing to do. Lora and I have pretty great kids.

13658918_10208913304142712_7599023338523438870_nI am very thankful we emerged with our health and property intact. Many were not as lucky as we were. Please be in prayer, and consider donating to a charity that could help those adversely affected.

God bless!


Pre-order your copy of Gregory’s new CD, Almost Alive, on iTunes.

Doing Promotion With Production

I’m not great at promoting. I do try to take advantage of any great idea I stumble across, however. For example, I ran into a bunch of artists like myself who had an idea to all follow each other on Spotify. This worked great. At least, statistically speaking. I got to nearly 300 followers, saw a modest bump in plays, and made contact with some bands I never would have known otherwise.

The only drawback, if you would call it that, is that I get emails from Spotify anytime any of these 300 other artists release anything. Maybe some of the other people were smart enough to use throwaway accounts, but not me. Anyways, no big deal really. These are easily ignored. Except for one thing. It seemed as if one out of every three emails I received was from the same band. It wasn’t difficult to remember their name, because it was a bit crude. Their song titles weren’t exactly PG, either.

Now, for comparison, I released my first album, 40 Acres, in 2008. Number 2, Just What the World Is Looking For, came out in 2013. Almost Alive will be released New Year’s Day 2017. So, who are these guys releasing 3-4 tracks per week and how are they doing this??? Curiosity got the better of me, so I clicked on one of the many emails I received featuring their new music. I didn’t see their faces, but the artwork reminded me of early Motley Crue.

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“These guys really have something happening here.” – What I said in my head

These guys succeeded in doing something none of the other 300 artists had accomplished – genuinely making me interested enough to want to listen to their music. And the way they acheived this was by constantly producing product.

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Al Franken as Stuart Smalley on SNL

I may be good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people may actually like me, but I had to take a long, cold look in the mirror and realize, at least on this issue, I am clearly failing.

Later, I complained to my wife during one of our daily coffee sessions about the drudgery of promotion. I even quoted scripture!

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.
– Proverbs 27:2 (ESV)

She agreed, “If it were me, I’d release the album, say, ‘BOOM, there it is,’ and move on to the next one.”

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I chuckled and played it off as wishful thinking. I mean, turn on your television at any hour of the day and you will see an endless parade of celebrities doing promotion for whatever God-awful movie they were just in. Hollywood certainly takes promotion seriously. I doubt I know something they don’t regarding the issue. Diving deeper gave me an alternate viewpoint, however.

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If Hollywood could only get their “star” in front of a few hundred people, instead of the potential millions available to them on Jimmy Fallon, they would probably prefer they spend that day making another less God-awful film.

Now, I’ll admit, it’s easy for me to accept excuses to promote less, and produce more. I mean, I didn’t start writing songs so that one day, I could become my own amateur public relations firm. Talking to strangers about how great you are isn’t as fun as it may sound, as true as it may be. 😉

I didn’t start writing songs so I could become my own amateur public relations firm.

I had ‘written off’ the final months of 2016 as being a bit of a dead zone. Oh, I would find time to write and maybe perform, but I had no plans on actually producing meaningful content. Realizing that, Yes, I can! And it is actually not shirking off my promotional duties in any way, is incredibly liberating and freeing to me. I should have realized this sooner. Having a 4-5 year lull between albums puts me in a hole that is difficult to repeatedly climb out.

So, momentum is my new keyword. Heck, that may actually make a great album title! Promotion is great, but momentum is better. It had been so long since my last release, many media contacts I had worked with previously have moved on to other things. Despite having 2 moderately successful albums under my belt, I currently have no cultivated contacts in the radio, blog or podcast world. Lack of production has hindered my capability for promotion.

God used a donkey to speak to Balaam. (Numbers 22:21-39) Maybe He used a band (whose name I can’t even mention in good company) to teach me something about music promotion, and life in general. And, now, hopefully this will help you, too. Stay busy about that which God has tasked you, and let strangers promote you with their own lips.

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Pre-order your copy of Gregory’s new CD, Almost Alive, on iTunes.