Creatively Being Creative

Recording my newest album hit an unexpected snag. All of the songs were written. All of the instruments were recorded, and then, boom. Upper respiratory infection. Vocals were not happening. Like, for awhile. I’ve been shut down for a month and a half. ūüė¶

The good news? I’m getting better. I’m probably going to restart tracking vocals this week. But, what do you do when you can’t be musically creative?

You be creative any way you can.

In the downtime, I’ve started a novel, worked on producing a board game, and started playing with my church’s praise and worship band. These things have helped me to not lose my mind while I have been unable to work on¬†The Lesson of I.

Be creative any way you can.

The Novel

The concept is golden. I can’t divulge much, because you will gradually uncover these things as the book progresses – and I don’t want to ruin that! (Should you actually ever read it, that is.) I have never actually completed a novel, so I am hesitant to promise its release. But, so far, so good. I’ve had a lot of help.

The story of every story

This tutorial from Dan Harmon was incredibly eye opening on how the magic of storytelling is accomplished. Some PG-13 language warning, by the way. I mean, I knew some simple concepts, like all story is conflict. Otherwise, it’s “happily ever after.” But Harmon takes this all a step or two farther. This chart above, he claims, isn’t just how to write a good story. It is the very definition of a story. In other words, without it, it is almost impossible to even recognize something as a story. Fascinating.

All story is conflict, otherwise it’s “happily ever after.”

I’ve also been aided tremendously from the Better Novel Project¬†and YouTube channels, like this one. If writing a novel is an unfulfilled dream of yours, I encourage you to go for it. There has never been more resources readily available to assist you.

The Board Game

Around the year 2000, I designed a medieval era warfare board game named Castle Valley. I repurposed some old Stratego game pieces, gathered a plethora of colored dice and sketched out a game map of a 20×20 grid onto yellow construction paper. I even laminated it! I typed up the rules in Microsoft Word and played several heated games with my wonderful wifey. I know everyone believes their ideas and creations are great, but I truly think this game is amazing and deserves a wider audience. That being said, I put the project on the back burner back then and promised myself eventually I’d seek out a way to publish the game. That hadn’t happened until recently.

Around a month ago, my son Logan discovered the bag of repurposed Stratego pieces and asked me about them. This has evolved into a lengthy father/son odyssey determined to bring Castle Valley back to life. We have: designed 3D pieces for computer games and printing, tweaked gameplay, rewrote the rule book. Logan has even sourced out the materials we need to produce all of the components needed at home.

I’ve never successfully produced a board game, either. But, I am confident this project possesses every possibility for success. As a bonus, it has been a wonderful shared experience with my son. Look for additional news in the future on this, as well!

The Praise and Worship Band

It had been a few years since being on stage in any capacity. It is easy to forget the thrill of interacting with fellow musicians. I had missed it all. The camaraderie and hanging out backstage, the fun of learning new songs, the “live” experience of being “in the arena.” It’s good times.

I had been assisting in the sound booth, where my experience was most needed. However, a sudden lack of church guitarists necessitated at least a temporary change of responsibility.

This is a cropped screengrab from one of the live broadcasts. I am usually much better-looking. ūüėČ

Our church does the Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation stuff – as well as some originals. It’s simplistic, but also a great open canvas you can paint upon. I’ve enjoyed it, for sure!

Don’t Stop Being Creative!

When you hit a stop sign, ignore it.

Whoops.

When you hit a stop sign, ignore it. If you can’t break through, detour into something else! Don’t stop learning and improving yourself. Whether or not you reach your “goal,” or destination, you’re going to have more fun on the journey than the people who opted out!

Happy creating!


I’ve recently hit over 1,200 paid streams on Pandora. Listen to the hottest single right here!

 

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Some Scenes From the First Six Videos

I thought you might like to get an early look at some stills from the upcoming video series detailing the making of The Lesson of I.

As I previously mentioned, this 12-part weekly series will culminate in the release of the new album. As of right now, that is still looking like late summer – which means the video series should begin early summer. In other words, REALLY SOON!

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I feel like I get a lot better at these things after the first video or so, so hang in there with me once we get rolling. It is, as my wife and kids put it, weirdly hypnotically interesting. Aww yiss, I will draw you in…

Weirdly hypnotically interesting – Important people

I also have some cool stuff cooking for the next 6 videos to really kick it up a notch or two. I’m excited about that, as well. Oh yeah, and did I mention I am somehow actually recording an album in the middle of all of this?

Good times. It feels like you are all there with me this go around, even if you aren’t quite aware of it yet. Your presence has added an excitement to the process which has been new and inspiring¬†for¬†me. I believe that shared synergy will be more than evident in the final recordings.

So, thank you in advance. I don’t want to do this without you – so, don’t miss it!

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 Рgenuinely 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.”

kaboom

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. ūüėČ

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.

The Making of Album Art – Almost Alive

Somewhere in my head, I had the inspiration of a classic rock album which featured 70’s-era handwritten artwork set upon a simple¬†dark¬†background. In my memory, it was simple, yet epic. Just by looking at the artwork, you knew that listening to the album would be an experience you would keep with you forever.¬†It is also apparently,¬†illusive, since a solid hour of frantic Googling produced no results congruent to my recollections. This is disappointing for the purposes of writing this column. (I wanted to show you what I thought I remembered), but of no matter to how the creative process actually played out.

Early on, I realized the double A’s of the title could be something that was mined for a design element. When I happened upon the idea of joining them together,¬†I placed some text into¬†Google SketchUp, extruded, rotated and manipulated, and got something like you see above.

I saw something that reminded me of the old RKO radio antenna. This seemed appropriate. I fooled around with a podium, and embossing the title to the art, but neither felt right.

I wanted the “antenna” to have a grander scale – as if you were standing at its base while its immensity towered over you. I started formulating how to make that happen, and of course, realized that first of all, I’d need the post nearest to us to extend farther down. I made this change, and was about to make an adjustment to the perspective of the top part of the structure, but stopped in my tracks when I saw the cross in the design for the first time.

I’m not going to say the angels sang and the text got back lit like Roma Downey in Touched by an Angel, but it was¬†weird.

I am not going to overstate this. I’m not going to say the angels sang and the text got back lit like Roma Downey in Touched by an Angel, but it was¬†weird. It wasn’t something I had planned. So, “unexpected,” may be the most correct word.

Truth be told, this is not even a very overt Christian album. It was written¬†as a concert for a secular audience. Are there themes and concepts here and there which point to Christ? Yes.¬†I do think it is subtle, though. Much like I believe this cross to be. I don’t know, maybe it’s the first thing you saw!

I initially wanted the background to be solid white. But, it just didn’t seem finished. I thought maybe adding a faux canvas texture could help. Looking through some media generators, I saw a gauze setting. Oh, yes! Gauze fits the¬†Almost Alive theme quite nicely. I tried it out. It gave me the result you see above. Not bad, but it still seemed a tad amateurish. Plus, part of me said it was a shortcut to use a computer-generated background.

I decided to make my own gauze bandage background. Luckily, I had to only reach into my sock basket a few feet away to snag what I was looking for! The stool was nearby, too.¬†It also occurred to me, doing this would give me an additional design element I could use on the other album art panels, as well. A rolled-up bandage can be artsy if the lighting and composition are just right. ūüôā

So, that’s about it. I really wanted to find a spot for my stylized “G,” but nothing I tried worked. Maybe it will make the cut for the next project!

Almost Alive CD Cover
The completed work.

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

New CD is complete

Well, at least a good working draft. There are probably a few tweaks to be made here and there, but it is 99% completely complete. ūüôā

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As you can see, there is also a title, Almost Alive. I will get into the album’s story, and what it is all about in the weeks to come.

There is also an opportunity to get an advanced pre-release copy for people who would be so inclined to help me promote, market and provide feedback about the project. Look for the signup form on the homepage.

Can’t wait to tell you more! You guys are the best, stay tuned!