I’ve Snapped, But That’s Okay (And Song Previews)

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Image by openglam.org

Week 3, day 5. I think these headphones are officially molded to my head. The only thing taking me out of the house anymore is my part time summer job. I keep telling myself that this isn’t healthy, but I have so much momentum right now that to stop working would be like hitting a brick wall at 100 miles an hour. I didn’t sleep last night. I tried to go to bed at 12:30. Got back up at 2:00 and worked until 4:00 AM trying to get a keyboard part just right. Woke up at noon and started it again. I can’t help it anymore. I bounced the same track (sent it from program to disk) about 7 or 8 times today. Uploaded it for sharing with a few people privately about 3 or 4 times. Each time I upload it takes about about 20 minutes, so there was a lot of waiting. Briefly spoke with Girlfriend and family about vacation plans coming up next week. Was good to get some face time with real people, but all I could think about was finishing what I’m doing right now.

Finally starting to get some relatively decent sounds. Getting over the learning curve a little bit. Things aren’t taking as long. My playing is still a little rusty as I had about 3-6 months of basically not playing at all before starting on this project, but it’s all coming back, and I’m a stronger musician now because of it. I’m playing exactly what I’m thinking with minimal effort. When I have a sound or an idea in mind for a part, I know exactly how to achieve it, and it works. I just want to keep riding this wave. It’s so good to finally have a space to just let the ideas flow.

This project feels like the missing link. Before I had my own space, I just felt like I was losing idea after idea. I had pages and pages of notes during my last album of little tweaks that I wanted to make on each track or things that I wanted to try that would only take a few seconds each time, but I would have to wait for days…if I was lucky. Usually it was weeks or months before I could actually get in the studio and try what I was thinking. Now I can just do it and see if I like it, and it’s glorious. I feel free. I can’t…I just can’t even start…there aren’t words…fingers too slow…

But there’s no real point in going on about that. All I can really say is that having a place to record my musical ideas without having to write down every little thing or notate every little motif in sheet music form has made my life much much easier. Not that I regret having to learn notation. I feel like I’m a far better musician for learning it, but it’s still not the same as getting a feeling, picking up an instrument, and playing what I’m hearing in my head.

But seriously, enough about that. Because you all have been such good readers and because this is music–which is meant to been HEARD–I’ve decided to release some previews just so that you can get an idea of how the process is going. Right now I’m working with some covers as well as songs that I’ve either completely or mostly written so that I can focus more on learning how to record well. It removes a lot of pressure from the process and makes it a lot more fun. Hope you enjoy the work.

Eureka!

Happy Monday! I tried to take the weekend off, but I ended up designing the blog banner for most of it, which was fun and productive, but I need to find a way to pull myself away from the work a little more. I’m finding that this is a second challenge of working from home. I love the work I’m doing, the work is never done, and I’m always around it, so I want to keep doing it all the time. Thankfully I have some friends who dragged me out of the house for a few hours on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. I still ended up working a ton yesterday.

Which brings me to this morning. When I couldn’t wake up until 10:00. Got out of bed at 8:00, dragged myself to the loveseat, sat back, and slept for another two hours. Not trying to brag about my laziness or anything, but considering that I’m 6′ 1″ and the loveseat has maybe 4′ 6″ of sitting space, this is actually kind of impressive. But at long last I got up and got to work.

I think I’ve mostly solved my MIDI issues from last week. Found the drum samples I wanted and a plugin that works, and I think I’ve figured out how to use it. The work flow also feels a lot better. A lot more normal. Started working on some new material today. Just sketching some song ideas. Little pieces of melodies. Trying out new virtual instrument plugins. It’s tricky because I can’t figure out how to get my computer keyboard to work as a MIDI controller. After about 30 minutes to an hour of trying to make that work, I gave up and went to the local music store to see if they had a MIDI to USB cable that I could use to hook up my synthesizer keyboard as a controller. They had only one in stock, but it had been specially ordered by another musician and I had nothing of value to bribe the salesman with other than my friendship and the memory that we’d played in several bands together over the years. Tried those angles, but no dice. This is one of those moments when living in a small town kind of sucks. Luckily I have some friends who have the cable I’m looking for and are willing to loan it to me for a little while.

Most of the rest of the day was spent sketching little bits and pieces of songs here and there and doing some stuff with loops and samples, which I used to HATE, but I’ve been coming around recently. Also messed with some EQ on the vocal tracks in the song that was giving me trouble last week. Another friend of mine let me borrow a pair of headphones for mixing. These headphones aren’t great, but they’re better than the Apple earbuds I was using before, and they’re good enough that I can get started on a mix. I’ll have to look into getting a good pair of AudioTechnicas pretty soon. For now, I’m just happy to be moving forward every step of the way.

M-I-DI-ing?: Week 2, Day 5

Yes the title is a MIDI pun, and it’s supposed to read “Am I Dying?” which I admit is both horrible and melodramatic. So let me give you more of the same.

I hate this. I hate working by myself at home. I hate this narrow spare room with its bare bed, bare walls, and large out-of-place desk crammed in the corner. At least I have a separate room where I can record, but I hate how hot it is in here. And I hate having to continually convince myself that what I’m doing isn’t totally stupid. I have an entire summer off, and the fact that I’m able to spend so much time at my computer making music is awesome. I’ve dreamed of doing this for years, I finally have the opportunity to do it, and now it’s taking FOREVER to get something decent recorded because I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.

But let’s try to focus on the positive. The good news is that, for once, I started work almost immediately after rolling out of bed this morning. Well, kind of started work. It might be more accurate to say that I spent most of this morning falling down a rabbit hole. What I hoped would be a productive morning ended up as a search for a good free drum machine plug-in and a long and mostly failed attempt at figuring out how to use the damn thing. Let me explain.

I have one song mostly recorded, and I’m not sure what to do next. I should probably move on and start recording all the parts to my other songs, but part of me wants to finish a whole song from recording all the way to mixing before moving on, just so that I can get to know every single part for process. The problem with this song is that it sounds pretty good, but there’s something about it that’s not quite right. I’m not sure if it’s bad sound, bad performance, overall arrangement, lack of mixing, or lack of drums, but it’s hard to move on when I have this one little nagging issue. It also doesn’t help that right now all I have for monitoring and mixing are Apple earbuds. I know it’s a cardinal sin, but I’m broke and if I wait until I have all the right equipment to start, this will never happen. There are plenty of amazing musicians who have accomplished far greater projects with less equipment. At least I’m not recording with an 8-track, but alas, I digress.

So I’ve been going through my mental checklist, and I’m pretty sure that the sound and the performances are at least decent. My first priority was to get a clean and usable signal with no clipping (i.e. not so loud that it causes unpleasant unfixable distortion), so I maxed out my tracks at 60-80% capacity in order to leave some headroom but also keep things loud enough that I don’t have to turn them way up in the mix. My second priority was to play everything as professionally as I possibly could. The performances aren’t perfect, but they’re good enough to work with. I’m aware that I can use Beat Detective or Timewarp to fix out-of-time playing, but I’m a little bit of a purist. I like the little flaws here and there, and I’m not quite ready to start hacking my tracks into little tiny pieces at this point. Besides, I looked at the tracks and my playing is on-time enough that it shouldn’t be an issue.

I think the arrangement is fine. I have a live recording of a very similar arrangement of the song and it sounds pretty decent, so I’m ruling out arrangement as the issue. I haven’t done much mixing yet because, to be honest, it scares me and I don’t know where to start. So far I’ve done some panning and volume adjustments, added a few basic guitar effects and amp modeling, and put a slapback delay on the vocals. I haven’t equalized or compressed anything because I don’t really know where to start, and I’m kind of getting tired of watching tutorials and then going off on rabbit trails and finding out that before I know this thing I should know that thing and so on and so forth. So if I didn’t want to mix, I was left with trying out drums.

I’m pretty settled on getting someone else to play drums on all of the songs, but it’s really hard for me to tell if the arrangements are working when I can’t hear them with a drummer. It would probably be best to just do what I can and then go back and rerecord or edit anything that may need fixing once I have the drum tracks, but I will probably save the drum session until after I have all the songs basically finished so that the drummer can just come in and do everything in a few sessions. I’m impatient, so I decided that instead of waiting until I can afford to hire a drummer, I could do some MIDI drums myself. Who knows? Maybe they’ll sound good enough that I won’t have to hire a drummer. So that’s where I ended up. And now I have a plug-in that has some pretty decent drum sounds, but I still can’t figure out how to use the damn thing. I have a track pulled up and I’ve figured out which piano keys on the computer correspond to which drum sounds. I have a keyboard that I think I can use as a midi controller, but because I was super smart when I bought my interface months ago, I accidentally bought the version without the MIDI input (or maybe I was trying to save money?). I’m trying to get the keys on my computer to work for playing the track, but what I really want are some pre-made drum loops that I can just drop into the damn song and then mess around with like I used to do when I first started using GarageBand in…2007?. But I can’t find any MIDI drum loops and by this time I’ve eaten up about 3 or 4 hours of work time, and I’m wondering if it’s even worth the effort. That’s where I left it, and then I left my house to do errands because I couldn’t think anymore.

In sum, this week has been better than the last. In spite of the above difficulties and several others, it’s been a really good and productive week. I’m finding my weaknesses and working on them, and that happens with every single album. Sure, I’ve recorded two albums, one of which I’m mostly proud, and that’s saying a lot for me; I’ve spent a lot of time practicing and working on my musicianship; I’ve spent years of my life reading and studying literature and poetry hoping that it would make me a better songwriter; but I’ve also spent a lot of time avoiding the work of sitting behind a virtual soundboard. This project is finally giving me the opportunity to do that myself. The mix may not be exactly what I hoped for, but I’m trying to be happy with this opportunity to learn new things. Now, I guess since this whole MIDI thing isn’t working, it’s on to the compression and EQ tutorials…

Author’s note: today’s blog is brought to you in part by my iPhone from a waiting room, so please excuse any weird typos or autocorrect malfunctions that I may have overlooked. I also apologize for some of the jargon. I tried to keep it in layman’s terms as much as possible, but there were a few spots where I had a hard time working around technical terms. Thanks for reading!

Recording: Week 2, Day 1

imageAs you can guess by the title, I started week 2 of recording today. Last week was a little slow, as first weeks usually are. I’ve been spoiled the last few years. Up until this year, my friend had a studio in town, and he was a sound engineer, so I never had to buy any of my own recording gear or mix my own stuff. Now I have to learn how to set up and use entirely new equipment. Luckily I got things set up well enough that I could record basic song ideas. And then computer problems started popping up. But distractions weren’t all bad. My girlfriend was in town all last week and through the weekend. She was going to leave last night, but between road construction, wildfires, potential traffic, and weekend fatigue, we decided that it would be better for her to wake up early and head out this morning.

We woke up at 5:00 AM and had breakfast together. Smoothies with protein powder. per usual. Coffee. Cream and sugar for me. No sugar for her. Packed up and said our goodbyes.

I had originally planned on going back to bed, but I was feeling unusually energetic, so I headed to Pullman so I could finish up the day job really quick. Still working at the Washington State University greenhouse over the summer to subsidize my income. I get paid through the summer for working at the school district, but it’s not quite enough to live comfortably, and the extra job gives me motivation to get out of bed and a break from recording in the apartment. A little bit of mindless work before picking up the guitar helps to get the creative juices flowing. Came home and had second breakfast of bacon, eggs, cheddar cheese, and toast.

I was off to a good start, and then I ended up spending half of the day trying to figure out how to get my recording program (or DAW as we say “in the biz”) to run on my new computer. Basically stripped the whole system down to brass tacks, and I was still having playback issues. Took it to the computer shop and they tried to talk me into buying a whole NEW computer. They said that laptops are basically no good for recording, which is totally different from what they told me 6 months ago when I was shopping for a computer. At that time they said that most any laptop would run the software easily granted it had the hard drive space and a solid state processor. Needless to say I left in a pretty unhappy state. When I walked out of the mall, there were a few unkempt-looking guys and one girl randomly having a tailgate party in the parking lot. They were smoking cigarettes and asked me if I wanted to buy the girl for $600 an hour. Thinking only of the $150 I may have to spend on upgrading my RAM, I only heard the $600 part. I kept walking replied with “nope!” It was only after I overheard one of the guys say, “Well that was harsh” that I realized what they had propositioned and that they were (probably) joking.

I wasn’t in a problem-solving state of mind, so I stopped by the recycling center to take my recycling, and that seemed to help. Got home and looked into a few more options. As it turned out, I had installed my audio interface incorrectly. Reinstalling the driver and changing the input settings to ASIO seems to have fixed the problem. Spent the rest of the day working on random parts of songs that I wrote well over a year ago.

Need to start working on songs for the Seattle project, but I want to get my chops back by working on the songs that I’m familiar with first. After that, I should be better. I basically have about 3 more weeks to really get some solid tracks recorded before the family reunion in Florida. After that, the spare room will be taken for a few months. I can still record, but it’ll be a little harder to do it in my own place after my temporary roommate gets here.

On Songwriting and Performance

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Hey all! I’ve been really busy with my new job at Moscow High School. I’m enjoying the work quite a bit. This semester I’ve been working with one student on a project concerning songwriting. It began with the study of Disney songs and kind of turned into a project about the craft of songwriting and the performance of a song. For part of this project, my student decided to interview peer musicians and songwriters as well as myself. I really liked her questions, so I’ve decided to shard the interview. Enjoy!

Do you prefer to work alone or collaborate? Why?
It depends what I’m working on. I tend to work alone, but I prefer to collaborate. The problem I often find with collaboration is that it’s really hard to find artists and projects that I connect with. I am currently soundtracking a play for a friend, and I really like doing that because I feel that the project is well aligned with my aesthetic. The content and message of the play are really great.

What does aesthetic mean?
Aesthetic to me means the image and the message that I want to send to the rest of the world through my music.

I know what you mean, but at the same time, I’m like, okay, that explanation is a little over my head.
It’s like this: everyone has an image of how he or she would like to present herself to the world. Aesthetic is the crystallization of that idea within the artist, and I often judge whether or not I have accomplished the communication of that idea based on the audience’s response.

When/if you collaborate, how do you do it without completely taking over?
I think they best ways to avoid competition are to have clearly defined tasks and to be open to changing your ideas if someone else comes up with something better.

When/if you work alone, how does one person handle all the responsibility?
I think that your fellow student had it right when he talked about patience. It takes a lot of patience to work alone because the process takes SOOO much longer. It also takes love. I made my last album out of love of what I was doing and the belief that it was valuable. That love and belief gave me the patience to push through to the end. It was really hard sometimes because my producer was working on a lot of other projects with people who were better known than me. We’d have to reschedule sessions all the time, and sometimes it felt like he was doing me a favor because we were friends rather than prioritizing me as an artist. I don’t know if that’s true for him, but that’s how I felt. On top of that, I was going to college and working, and my producer was touring with other bands while either doing sound or playing music, and he was recording all these other bands. As a result, I learned to use lists and to do some basic music notation. I would obsessively listen to all of the latest versions of my recordings and come up with each instrumental part piece-by-piece. I needed some way to track all of the ideas I had in my mind, and that’s when I started making lists and doing some notation. I also spent a lot of time listening to albums that I liked and figuring out what kind of studio effects they used. If I heard something I wanted to use for a particular song, I would scribble a note in a journal or on a scrap of paper and then transfer it to my list for the next session. Sometimes it was really hard because I could hear something in my head, but I wouldn’t know how to write it. So, I guess the short answer is love, obsession, persistence, and lots and lots of scratch paper. I probably killed an entire rainforest.

How do you begin to write a song? What is your inspiration for your music?
I think I work in a kind of collage form. I usually either learn something new in music or have kind of a lyrical epiphany. If it’s lyrical I’ll scribble down the basic idea in a journal or something and then let it sit for a bit. Eventually, I’ll have a few lines of lyrics that kind of go together. From that point, I’ll try to find the basic idea of what I’m saying and use that to fill out the rest of a section. Usually, this section becomes the chorus. Once I have a basic theme in the chorus I can form a story for the verses. As I’m doing this, I’m usually going back to my guitar and playing little riffs and chord progressions that I’ve come up with and trying to sing the lyrics over top. If the lyrics feel too awkward, I ditch the musical idea and try using something else. Sometimes I’ll come back to a thing that feels awkward and try it again, and every once in a while it ends up falling into place. Eventually I have a song. I’ve been kind of trying to refine this process, but I think that the key to inspiration is learning new things and interacting with that new knowledge.

If you write music with lyrics, do you begin with the music or the lyrics?
Well, I think I’ve answered that already, but the short version of my answer would be that it all happens at the same time. I let the mood of each one influence the other with the intention of creating a cohesive feel. I want the music and the lyrics to communicate the same thing.

What kinds of projects are you working on and what is your process?
Right now I’m working on a collaborative project with a playwright. For that, we just have long conversations about the style, feel, and setting of the play and try to figure out what it’s about, and then I go write. I’m also brainstorming for a cover album and trying to figure out what to do with the songs I’ve written since the release of my last album. Some of them are kind of funny and sarcastic while others are more serious. I’m trying to figure out if I want to release them both on one album or I want to release them on separate albums with different project (band) names. Right now I’m kind of at the beginning stage of my process. I’ve had some pretty radical shifts in my beliefs and worldviews in the last few years, so I’m doing some research and trying to figure out how to communicate my new aesthetic. This research right now involves reading and listening to lots and lots of books. In the last year I think it’s been over 50. I just need to fill up my mind with new ideas all over again so I have something interesting to pour out into my music.

How do you deal with performance anxiety?
That’s a hard question to answer. I don’t often get performance anxiety, so when I do have it, I’m pretty terrible at dealing with it. The best strategy I can come up with is to breathe, calm down, and take a few minutes to be alone. I like to find a quiet spot to center and focus. The bathroom works when nothing else is available. And then I have to remember to get over myself. Yes the performance is important, but no matter what happens, it’s a fleeting moment. Worst case scenario, nobody likes it, I get heckled, and I learn to change what I’m doing or to play to a different audience. Best case scenario, everyone loves it, and I feel amazing.

How do you get ready for a performance?
Practice. I mean it’s easy to get hung up on logistics such as advertising and making sure there’s a good turnout and figuring out whose PA system to use and how to get to the venue, but if you don’t feel comfortable with the material (and the equipment), the show is going to suck. This isn’t an absolute thing though. Sometimes I can get TOO familiar with the material. Sometimes if Imve played a song or a set a million times, it can start to feel dead. I need some newness and freshness. I need a little bit of thrill.

Do you ever feel like giving up?
I always never feel like giving up. And you can quote me on that. I constantly doubt myself and think that everything that I write is a big heaping pile of poop, but it’s that crazy obsession that keeps me going. It’s kind of an addiction. I want to give up sometimes, but I just can’t.

When I practice singing, I warm up first and then start working on my current repertoire. Are there any other practice strategies you would recommend?
I’ve read a lot of stuff about practice routines and taken courses from people who talk about discipline and setting practice times and stuff, but for me, it just starts feeling like a chore if I do it that way. I have to just practice when I feel like it, which is quite often, otherwise I stop liking it. And practice can be any number of things. Since I have basically two main instruments to practice, it’s really hard to give each one the appropriate amount of attention. And right now I’m working two jobs, so the only time I have is on the commute, so I’ll put on a CD with music and a melody that I really like in my range and sing along with that at different volumes. If it’s a singer that I like, I’ll try to figure out what that person is doing to get a certain sound. This doesn’t have to mean direct imitation. For instance, I really like Tom Waits, but I don’t have a gravelly voice, and I don’t really want to smoke a million packs of cigarettes to get the sound that he achieves, but he communicates a lot of emotion through the power muscles. (A lot of people mistake this for the diaphragm, but it’s actually your costal and intercostal muscles. These are, no joke, the same muscles that you use for pooping.) He also uses really loose and bluesy timing. When he repeats melodies, he will often change the phrasing slightly and unpredictably, but it always suits the moment. A few weeks ago, I chose a couple of his songs that had these qualities and just listened to them and sang along while driving. But I should also emphasize that this is just something I did without really thinking about what I was doing. Practice has just become a part of my life. I don’t have the time or the lifestyle to cram it all into a rigid schedule, so I’ve had to learn how to make it a force of habit. Any spare moment I have must be dedicated to making myself a better musician and artist.

What do you think about when you’re performing?
When I’m performing I just try to think about how much I love the music and how much I love what I’m doing. When I’m performing at the top of my game, I’m not even thinking about anything. I’m just letting the music flow out of me. I like it best when playing is feels like the unleashing of some repressed primal instinct. I like to almost lose my sense of consciousness and get lost in the thrill.

What gives you a sense of confidence when performing?
Just the thrill of being in front of people and feeling like they’re getting what I’m doing and what I’m saying. Just enjoying that brief moment when I get to completely expose myself to a crowd of people gives me a sense of confidence. I know that sounds weird, but once you’re comfortable with yourself as a person and you really like yourself, it’s almost more comfortable to be in front of a crowd without a mask.

No, the Girl on the Album Cover Is Not My Girlfriend (Even Though I’d Be Lucky If She Was)

Cover

It’s been about a year since the release of my second record, which is a little depressing because it means that I should probably start thinking about putting out something new sometime soon, and though I’ve got some things in the works, it may be a little longer than I had hoped until my next release. But that’s not the issue I want to address this evening.

In the past couple of years there have been a lot of changes in my personal life, and I’ve written a little bit about them. I don’t plan on telling you all of them because, well, they’re personal. However, I do want to address some of the questions and comments concerning my album cover, and for better or worse, personal is bound to come up at least a little bit. Don’t worry. I’m not going to drag you through any lady drama.

When I first released my record, I was happy to find that many of my close friends, mentors, and family members were so anxious to support me, and it gave me an excuse to get in touch with some people with whom I hadn’t spoken in quite some time. As I handed out albums, people became interested in the music, and more importantly the album cover, and some of them wanted to meet up with me again after they’d had time to “digest.” One of the most important conversations was with my friend M.

M has been a mentor to me for at least six years now. He is just old enough that he could have fathered me at a young but reasonable age, and a he is a respected member of the Moscow community. Those of you who live in Moscow have probably seen him walking to and from the downtown area via Third Street in his suit and tie on the weekdays, or maybe biking around in the evenings and on the weekends in an oversized yellow or neon t-shirt with one of his two dogs in tow. Anyone who knows M would tell you that he has an overwhelmingly positive disposition, which in most cases would make a person seem superficial, but he somehow manages to put off an air of authenticity, and it makes his positivity…well…positively contagious. As cynical as I can be, this man has somehow managed to become one of my closest friends. There are some mysteries that will never be solved.

So, to return to the story, I met with M at some point, possibly to discuss the album, or maybe we just ran into each other, I can’t remember which, but the subject of the music came up, and M told me that when he first saw the cover he thought, “Man, Jeremiah wants a girlfriend so bad.” Now, I love M quite a bit, and I do enjoy having females around because, well, that’s how I’m wired, but when M told me his interpretation of the picture I have to say that beyond feeling pretty embarrassed, I was a little bit disappointed. And he’s not the only one. Coworkers, family members, even the people I’ve worked with at venues have asked me if this girl was my girlfriend, and until now, I’ve just said no and tried to shrug off my disappointment.

Now I could tell you all about Courtney and who she is, but it’s really not that important to the meaning of the picture. All that matters is that she’s a good friend who happens to be a beautiful girl and a wonderful singer. She agreed to pose with me in the picture and do vocals on a couple of tracks. And if you really really really must know, she has a fiance and she lives in California. End of story. I’m not going to tell you what specifically the picture means, but I will tell you that I planned nearly every aspect of that picture from the apple to the location to the framing. I planned it because I thought that it visually communicated the issues that I was trying to address in the record. My decision to leave–might I even go so far as to say divorce?—the church, but to try and do so peaceably after about 15 years of being a Christian was very difficult, and in part, I wrote the album to explain my choice to the people that I care about, and to hopefully give a voice to people who are struggling with similar issues. I also wanted to comment on sexuality because, and here’s where it gets personal, after 15 years of being a “good” celibate Christian boy, it’s really hard to leave the church and figure out sex and relationships all over again. I’m not trying to throw a pity party here, but try being raised as a hippie kid with several female friends only to enter puberty, be transplanted from one end of the country to the other, and be told that suddenly you can’t even touch a girl until you’re married, and then having to reprogram yourself in your mid-twenties. I’ll leave you with those points and let you figure out the rest of the picture’s meaning on your own.

Otherwise, I had one friend accuse me of using my confession of not being a Christian as a “publicity stunt,” which was hurtful, but I get it. In my own defense, I put up the post in April of 2013 and my album came out in November. If it was a publicity stunt, it was poorly timed. After seven months, people tend to forget things like that. Really all I was trying to do with the record was explain myself a little more, and I hope that my music has done that to some extent. Later releases will probably do a better job, although I’m in a very different place now and much more comfortable with myself, so the point of tension or even resolve from which the writing flows will be different. In any case, I’m sorry if I seem to be exploiting my unbelief, but my unbelief is important to me. It’s been a part of me that’s grown over time in spite of two years in Bible college and over a decade of denial.

The final personal critique I’d like to address came up a few years ago before I went public with my beliefs. I was talking with a Christian friend of mine over beers at the Alehouse, our local brewpub. I think it was the spring before the big tour, so that would have been 2012. He was the second or third person I decided to tell about my choice, and when I told him, one of the first things he asked me was if, now that I wasn’t a Christian, I was going to go on tour and have sex with a bunch of girls, and whether or not he meant it, I couldn’t help feeling that by asking he was implying that my reason for leaving the church was so that I could have sex. I can’t deny that sexual desire had an impact on my decision, and if we’re being really honest, sexual desire has an impact on a lot of decisions for most if not all people. Sex is a primal urge. It’s a reflex. Of course it has something to do with decision making. But really my reason for leaving was just that church, religion, spirituality, or whatever you want to call it didn’t make sense to me anymore. I felt like I was a gear in a machine I wasn’t made to be a part of, and the experience was wearing me down. I couldn’t take it anymore, and since I’ve left, it’s been lonely at times, but I’m happier. I’m not going to try and proselytize anyone. All I can do is tell my story as it comes, and that’s what’s important to me.

So thank you all for reading, and thank you all for listening. For those of you who I’ve alienated in the midst of my confusion, I apologize. That was never my intention. As a wise man once said, this shit is hard to figure out. I’m just doing my best. I wish you all love.

What Jesus Couldn’t Save Me From

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Theorem 7:

Every man and every woman has a course, depending partly on the self, and partly on the environment, which is natural and necessary for each. Anyone who is forced from his own course, either through not understanding himself, or through external opposition, comes into conflict with the order of the Universe, and suffers accordingly.

Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice 

Ever since my admittedly haphazard Facebook post 15 months ago in which I revealed that I wasn’t a Christian, my friends and family have been asking me what I think and feel about…well…anything that’s not superficial, and for the most part I haven’t told them because I didn’t know if they could handle it. For a long time I didn’t even know how to put these thoughts into words. But there comes a time in a man’s life when he has to speak openly about his personal philosophy, so here’s a little bit of a look into the mind of Jeremiah.

It’s Monday night. I’m lying restless in bed next to a girl who will never be “mine,” and though I admire and truly care about her, I will never be “hers.” And I’m fine with this because ownership is for inanimate objects and not individuals, but there is something else that’s keeping me awake, and I don’t want to bother my friend with my tossing and turning, so I get up and go to the couch and finish the movie we left playing in the living room. Fifteen minutes later with my head still buzzing, I step outside for some air and think about going home, but I’m too tired to try and navigate my way through Pullman road construction, and I should be sleeping anyway. Just go back to bed. Be still and try to sleep. Don’t wake her.

Maybe it’s guilt. I should be touring. I should be out there booking more shows, but at the end of the day, I’m a songwriter who writes for a band. And though I greatly enjoy performing and entertaining, I am used to working alone. I get frustrated trying to sync up my own schedule with the schedules of other artists as well as venues. And between rehearsals and booking full band shows, I practice this self-defeating statement. And then I just read a book or write a song or practice because ultimately, the songwriting and the skill are the important parts, and as long as I’m stressing myself out about booking and social media, I accomplish nothing. I am fortunate enough these days to have a very generous friend who often allows me access to his studio equipment, so I’ve been learning to use ProTools myself and recording new songs instead of sending e-mail after e-mail to unresponsive venues. The studio is where I thrive, and the more time I spend there, the more I love it. Aside from my single adult responsibilities, this has been my life the past six months: working, coming home, reading, thinking too much, practicing, thinking more, writing, critiquing, and a bit of recording. It’s given me the space I need to reevaluate life. On my own terms.

And it’s a combination of events that have led to me reevaluating my life. Sure, I turned 27 and after four years of studying poetry and music, I’m still not a legendary songwriter, but I always knew that dream was crazy. I’m a relatively sane musician. I have visions of grandeur, I know they are ridiculous, but I can’t rid myself of them, so I keep working at my craft. No, turning 27 is not the sole catalyst. There’s something that happened in me back in March when, for the first time in years, I saw the girl I dated for the first two years of college. Her mother, a close family friend, was in the final stages of moving to Montana. There was a going-away party and a moving party, and I didn’t want to miss my chance to say goodbye. Needless to say, the ex and I ran into each other a couple of times, which was fine, but seeing her reminded me of who I was seven years ago and how much I’d inadvertently hurt her just by being a headstrong and self-righteous person. Now she’s married with two kids. And I looked at those kids and thought, if things had gone just a little differently, this girl and I could have had kids the same age by now. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am too irresponsible and selfish to be a father, let alone a husband. But I’m old enough that I could be both. And I really don’t want that, but should I?

At times like these I start wondering if I’ve even accomplished anything, so I start going through the mental checklist of my accomplishments over the last twelve months. This year I’ve released a second solo album, assembled a band, written the better half of a third album, been embarrassingly love-crazed, been irreconcilable, been heartbroken, and committed innumerable “transgressions.” Transgressions that I didn’t think I was capable of committing seven years ago. Transgressions that I didn’t have the self-esteem to commit seven years ago. And though I have accomplished things I never thought I could, I still suffer from the same insecurities that prevented me from accomplishing my goals at a younger age. And I still feel unsatisfied. But that comes as no surprise to me. I’ve heard every imaginable version of the story of the man built an entire empire for himself and died just as discontent as he was when he started. I may or may not end up with an empire at the end of my life, but I know that however much I accomplish, it will never be enough.

Some of you may say that my discontentment comes from storing treasures here on earth rather than the afterlife. To you I reply that the afterlife is a great unknown. Neither heaven nor hell nor any other future is guaranteed for that which some call the soul. I’ve wrestled with the question of eternity my whole life, and at some point, I just learned to be content with the idea that this life is probably all we get. The only afterlife we have is the hope of leaving behind our legacy and our work. Honestly, this life is all I want. Eternity is too long. I get bored enough as it is. And to get even more honest, spending eternity praising and worshiping some abstract spirit in the sky sounds just as bad as spending eternity with weeping and gnashing of teeth where the worm never dies.

But I can’t hear a worship song without feeling regretful. Regretful that following a difficult, but happy childhood being raised by hippies, single moms, and Montessori school teachers on the Florida beach, I was uprooted at the age of 10 and placed in Smalltown, Idaho. Regretful that my family subsequently converted to hardcore conservatism. Regretful that I spent the better half of my adolescence singing songs in church and watching holy-rollers on the floor laughing and speaking in tongues for at least 15 hours a week–no exaggeration–instead of making friends and learning how to manage affairs with the fairer sex. And then I spent the first three years out of high school trying to figure out the rationale behind maintaining a conservative and morally strict lifestyle without becoming a hypocrite only to come to the conclusion that said lifestyle was making me more and more miserable and lonely. That the so-called God-shaped-hole was an invention of my religion, that my involvement in the church had created the hole, and that my continued involvement was just making the hole bigger. And sure I had my social interactions and I had plenty of my delinquent moments, but not enough to save me from curiosity in adulthood. Not enough to give me the wisdom that I feel I should have at this age.

Yes. I do put pressure on myself. I know I do. I wish I didn’t, but I do, and I’m not sure where it comes from or why. I’m working on it. Every day I tell myself that circumstances were often beyond my control, but I still have my regrets. I can’t help wishing that things would have gone differently. I don’t want to be regretful. I don’t want to live in discontentment. I don’t want to hold on to these things anymore, but I think about them daily, and it hurts my head. My chest and gut cramp up. Wasted time. As hard as I try, I can’t think of any other way to understand it. All that time I spent trying to live righteously for God by immersing myself deeper and deeper into a culture that I never felt was truly accepting of me. Finally coming to a place of self-acceptance, but being so deeply immersed in the culture that I didn’t know how to display the self I had accepted.