Anatomy of a Song Post #1  

I finished recording over 50 cover songs last December 2022. I then took a year or so off from making any music, as I often do. What I really love about songwriting is the waiting. It's like sitting in a doctor's office, waiting to be called in… Wait, let me try that again. It's maybe more like fishing. You cast a line and wait for something to bite. If you're lucky, that line is a chord progression with a hook. You hope the hook can pull in a listener. Does that make you the fish? Never mind. It's leisure, pure leisure. No, not that either. It's more like working 40 hours a week, being a husband, a dad, dealing with emergencies, and living life. There's not much leisure in it at all.

Truthfully, I had my fair share of emergencies in 2023, and they were no fun at all. As I worked through each one, I sat in that waiting room just bracing for the next one until the emergencies subsided, and my family got control of it all. Thank you, loved ones! You know what I'm talking about. Processing emergencies and life events always seem to come with music attached. And working on music is my best method for coping.

This little work in progress is tentatively called “Journey Begins.” Something jumped out of my guitar one day, and the next thing I knew, I was singing along as I always do. Here's the beginning of this little number. We'll have to see where it goes from here. To hear this song snippet click here.

Once again, Chat GPT helped me edit this for grammar and clarity. For your enjoyment, here is what Chat GPT gave me when I asked it to “Make this more personal and storytelling.” (Note: It's really nice to read in the voice of your favorite private investigator)


In the waning days of December 2022, I found myself amidst a symphony of melodies, having just wrapped up recording over 50 cover songs. It was a creative outburst that left my soul fulfilled, but as the calendar flipped its pages, I decided to grant myself a hiatus from the musical realm – a customary pause I often take to let inspiration simmer.

There's something enchanting about the waiting game in songwriting, akin to the anticipation in a quiet doctor's office or the patient hope of a fisherman casting a line into the unknown. You send out a chord progression, baited with a hook, and then, you wait. The hope is that your musical hook will reel in a captive audience. Are they the fish? The analogy gets murky, much like the unpredictable waters of creativity. It's a leisurely pursuit, or at least, that's what I thought.

In reality, songwriting mirrors the relentless rhythm of life - a symphony of roles as a husband, a dad, a working professional clocking in 40 hours weekly, all while navigating unexpected emergencies. It's not a leisurely stroll; it's a chaotic dance with responsibilities and the unpredictable twists life throws your way.

The year 2023 was no exception. Emergencies took center stage, demanding my attention and resilience. Each crisis felt like a relentless wave crashing against the shore, and as I weathered one storm after another, I found solace in the waiting room of life, strumming my guitar and wrestling with chords.

Yet, amidst the chaos, a creative spark emerged. One day, as if by magic, a melody jumped out of my guitar, and before I knew it, I was singing along, pouring my emotions into a song I tentatively titled "Journey Begins." The chords resonated with the ebb and flow of life, each note echoing the highs and lows of my personal journey.

As I embark on this musical expedition, I find refuge in the cathartic process of crafting a song. It becomes my sanctuary, a place where I can make sense of the world around me. The song is a work in progress, a testament to resilience, and a reminder that even in the midst of life's emergencies, music has the power to heal and transform. Here's to the journey ahead, uncertain yet brimming with the promise of discovery.

Time Capsule Post #2 

This year marks the 30th anniversary of recording music at home. Here's a picture I discovered of myself recording in my apartment on Main St. in Pullman, WA, probably around January or February of 1994. I recall having access to a fisheye lens from The Daily Evergreen at W.S.U., where I served as the photo editor. Somehow, I captured this early selfie.

Around the same time, I initiated recording my own songs using a 4-track recorder I received for Christmas. I owe a lot to my buddy Jeff Albertson; he demonstrated that it was possible to conceive ideas and transform them into completed songs, making my living space a recording studio. I still possess his first cassette tape, which I believe was titled “Live From the Launch Pad.”

I recently revisited the apartment, and remarkably, the exterior hasn't changed at all. Of course, my belongings are no longer inside. As I look around, I spot my guitar wall art pieces that I used to cherish, my old G.T. mountain bike, one of Shawn Camp's early works hanging from floor to ceiling, and a small hanging plant. I love thinking about the many musical moments spent there. It wasn't until I relocated to Austin, TX, that I founded Super XX Man, but many of the songs from that first cassette were recorded in this space.

Please note: I'm using Chat GPT for editing my grammar.

Time Capsule Post #1 

Returning to music after a good chunk of time away, both from writing songs and the obligatory social media game, the past year – maybe a tad more – has been a reflective one. Now, gearing up to dive back into my musical journey, there are a few things on my plate.

First up, I plan to sort through and digitize over three decades' worth of memorabilia. You know, all those bits and pieces from releasing albums, hitting the road, spreading flyers, and endless hours spent recording – it's a trip down memory lane for sure. I will share what I feel is fun and informative.

At the same time, I'm itching to reconnect with all of you. There's this old Super XX Man album (Vol. XVIII: Carnation) from back in 2015 that's been gathering dust on the shelf. I plan to share a few songs from it, and who knows, there might be a few other surprises hiding in the recording bin that I've yet to discover.

But what's got me really excited is a new idea – let's call it "Anatomy of a Song" for now. I'm planning to take you behind the scenes of how I create music. Week 1 might be a raw iPhone recording, week 2 a rough draft, and if all goes well, week 3 could be a rough mix. It's for anyone who enjoys my music, makes music themselves, or just finds the creative process fascinating. Look out for posts named "Time Capsule," "Super XX Man Carnation," or "Anatomy of a Song." You'll catch on, I'm sure.

This week, I'm cracking open the "Time Capsule."

Here's what I found today: The original artwork (made by me - not a person who normally draws) of Super XX Man Vol. VIII It's a Super Double X Man Pizza. You can have a listen here. Just scroll down until you find it. Don't burn the roof of your mouth; it's a hot one, featuring an epic story about my grandpa.

By the way, I'm also experimenting with using Chat GPT to help me streamline the writing process and fix my grammar. I need an editor folks!

50 Songs! 50 Years! 

"I know it's over - still I cling 
I don't know where else I can go 
Oh..."

I can't believe this is over. Maybe I'll start my 100 songs for when I turn 100. Wait, how will that even work? Will I still have an email list? I guess we shall have to wait and see... Actually, forget it. This was challenging enough for one lifetime.

For now, let's just focus on wrapping this up by thanking two people that have really helped me make this happen. Christina Wenger, my love, thank you for editing every single blog post. She will tell you that I don't lack courage, just the comma. Hey, I should have recorded "Comma comma comma comma comma chameleon." Seriously, thank you Christina,, you bad ass editor.

Hey, how 'bout some bad ass mastering... Let me allow you to put a face to a few faders. Warren Gardiner is a great mate of mine from Melbourne, AUS. He recorded a song for Super XX Man ages ago and was just a joy to work with. When I started blog-posting my songs a few years ago, he offered to master everything for me. He is incredibly generous and good at what he does. I'm proud of all this work we have done together. He also mastered this album, which I'm very proud of too. If you or anyone you know is in need of mixing and mastering services, you can email him at gardineraudio@gmail.com.

If you have been following along from the beginning, then you know these songs are not available anywhere else. In case you missed one, you can get them all here. I ended up with a few extras and they are included in this compilation as bonus material. They are, "Ring of Fire," "The River," "Bad Moon Rising," and "Nowhere Man." 

I made a Spotify playlist called "At 50."  It was useful for me and helped me make many tough decisions. It's a fun listen for sure. There are many, many, many more songs that I would have loved to attempt. The playlist grew to be 214 songs in total.

By the way, this post has not been edited or mastered or very well thought out so if it sounds funny or reads all wrong, please forgive me. My experts have been dismissed. You my friends have not. You deserve my heartfelt thanks as well so here it is: BIG HEARTFELT THANKS!!! I love you all and appreciate you.

So, is it over?

"...I don't know where else I can go  
Over and over and over and over  
Over and over..."

Yes, it is over indeed, but I would love it if you shared this collection with your friends and family. I would also love to hear from you. What did you think of this project? Any favorite songs? Any artists you've never heard of before? Let me know...

 

 

Lyrics at the start and end of this post are from the Smith's classic, "I Know It's Over" 

 

Song 50: "A Million Years Or So"  

I give you cover song number fifty. It's been a journey, everybody. Thanks for being with me. My birthday is next week and I'm hoping to look as happy as my dad does in this polaroid from 1986.

My dad and Roger Miller were both born on January 2, 1936. My dad passed away in 2008. Before he left this earth, he introduced me to a lot of great music, including Roger Miller. The first Roger Miller record I ever heard was Walking In the Sunshine, which featured "A Million Years Or So." I believe it was a pre-loved copy from my parents' collection. This last one's for you dad! I will miss you in a million years or so...

Song 49: "Powerful Man"  

At family week with my mom at WSU (photo: Wendy Trigsted)

During my last semester at WSU, the station manager at KZUU was going through CDs to be added to rotation and cataloged. I asked, "What about this one?" She said, "Oh not that one." It was East River Pipe's 1995 release, Poor Fricky. I took it home and immediately embraced the drum machine, synths, and guitar work of F.M. Cornog, the mastermind behind East River Pipe. I was intrigued for sure. The lyrics, melodies, complete album quality of tracks -- done by one person on a Tascam 388 Portastudio.

When I was living in Austin, I sent Mr. Cornog my first two Super XX Man cassettes, one of which had a cover of an E.R.P song. He wrote back, clear that he had listened. I was thrilled. I no longer have the letter, but I do remember his last line before signing off: "Keep on walking and I will too."

 

Song 48: "Stockholm Syndrome"  

Here in my house there's a saying, "You can listen to anything you want as long as it's Yo La Tengo." Just kidding it's actually, "If there can be only one band in this world, please let it be Yo La Tengo." At least get them to play at my 50th!

I learned about them while DJing at WSU's KZUU in the spring of 1992. At the time, their latest album was Painful, but the station only had New Wave Hotdogs and Ride the Tiger, both which were wildly different than Painful. I was thinking, What? Who is this band? It can't be the same band! But of course it was Yo La Tengo, a band that can be any damn thing it wants to be.

"Stockholm Syndrome" is from their brilliant 1997 album, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One.

Song 46: "Mother of God"  

Hendy Woods (Oct. 2022) - photo by Christina Wenger

Patty Griffin is a Texas-based songwriter whose music brought me much comfort while learning to be a music therapist between 2002 - 2004. It was an uncertain time for me, and listening to her beautiful voice was a huge hug. I had a little Nissan pickup truck with a cassette deck. I rattled down the road, unsure of the destination and eventually found my way to a beautiful place. I wouldn't trade a single bump.

Song 45: "Here"  

"Here" is where the magic happens

Pavement's album, Slanted and Enchanted, defined the summer of 1993 for me. I was living in my first apartment, attending classes at Washington State University, playing hacky sack (don't ask), and moving away from skateboarding in favor of music as a full-time obsession. A cassette tape of this album lived in my Walkman full time. The melodies, the abrasive sounds, and those classic Stephen Malkmus lyrics entertained my brain as I walked to and from my photography classes. My professor asked me what I was listening to one day. He put my headphones on and said to me, "Oh this reminds me of the Velvet Underground."