I just finished filming a video of questionable quality, but fun nonetheless. It was my submission to NPR's Tiny Desk contest: a rendition of If I Was Your Father from the EP. I haven't played that song, which I wrote in 2000, in years. Enjoy! (Fingers crossed.)
Last week I began work on another musical: Summerhaven. It's the story of an eccentric teacher of an alternative method of education who has a crisis of faith when his school is taken over by the local board of education. I feel good about where it's going so far, even though I'm only just beginning the first very rough draft.
Here's how I started the work: after working out a full sketch of the play using Dramatica, I created an outline. Then I created character sheets for each of the characters.
Now, I have to do lots of research about different kinds of movement-as-healing practices, such as yoga, the Waldorf method's eurythmy, Delacroix's Eurythmics, and others. This is important, because the teacher in my play practices the Lotus Flower method of education, which is an entirely fictional mishmash of such therapeutic methods. It fuses music and movement in a way that nurtures the child's inner spiritual bud as it opens into the beautiful flower that the child will become. It's very woo woo. I'm looking forward to writing about it.
The play opens with Charlotte, a girl of 25, entering a temple in Nepal where her father, Marcus, the play's Main Character, is meditating. They haven't seen each other for 20 years and Charlotte has been searching for him. The two have a confrontation and Marcus explains why he left Charlotte all those years ago. Then the opening number begins. It's hard to describe the opening number, but I'll try in a later post. Right now I'm going to start writing some more. More later!
This past Sunday we had a table read through of Success! Some great actors from the Portland theater community joined me. We had Mike Arsenault, Paige McKinney, David Loftus, David Mitchum-Brown, and Julianne Nelson. Paige, the Davids, and Julianne doubled the parts and Mike read Gregory. I read the part of Nicholas. The cast all did an amazing job. I was pretty floored to be acting and singing with such a talented group of people.
Now I'm working on a shorter draft of the play with narration for inclusion in the Fertile Ground Festival. I'll keep you posted on how that goes!
This is my first blog post in five years. Wow. You would think that I've been doing nothing all this time, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Here's what I've been up to, in a nutshell:
2009 - 2010
I left Portland for Mil(iving)wauk(H)e(ll)e to do a training to be a Montessori teacher. While doing the training I recorded a rough guitar/bass demo and staged a reading for Success!, got a regular gig playing shows at an art gallery, and designed the album cover for Secret Notebook, and released digitally two albums: Secret Notebook and The Ideal Home Music Library, Vol. 2. Milwaukee is a real dump.
After I finished the training for my day job and moved to Germany to work in a small school about 20 minutes outside of Frankfurt. There, on weekends and weeknights, I finished the piano score for Success! I also went to Finland to record the latest Reclinerland album. I worked on the vocal and piano tracks in my apartment, playing on a little piano that a generous man named Herr Reinke loaned me.
While living in Germany I went to Finland in the Spring to record the album. Anthony Georgis and I spent a weekend working with Jarkko Heinio, or Japi, as he's nicknamed, in his home studio. We also walked a lot, ate black licorice ice cream, among other Finnish desert delights. For details, check out the albums page. We finished the album and released it digitally later that year.
I returned to Portland and started writing for musical theater. My first ventures were 10-minute musicals, the first of which was Up On The Orange Moon, which was considered for the 4x4 Musicals show. My friend Rachel Sakry, who staged an amazing musical of her own called Whatever Girl got me in touch with Rich Rubin, who wrote the book for Happy Valley. So I spent this year working on the music and lyrics for Happy Valley while also writing songs for the next Parks & Recreation album.
2013 - 2014
These two years seem like a blur. A lot happened in my personal life, but I continued writing the songs for Happy Valley. We staged a reading of the play in late 2014. I also wrote another 10-minute musical, this one completely through-sung, called You Are Standing at the Mouth of a Cave. It was rejected by the 4x4 Musicals show, but I had a great time writing it. I also wrote about 20 songs for the next Parks & Recreation album, which I worked out and rehearsed with Joe Ballman and Bob Ham. Let's see, Happy Valley got a table reading. Oh, and in 2013 and 2014 I submitted Success! to the National Music Theater Conference, where it made the third round of selections before being roundly rejected.
And now, it's 2015. I've finished the music and lyrics for Happy Valley. Parks & Recreation are going into the studio later this year to record our third (epic) album. I have to get started on the string arrangements. I'm starting a new band with my fiancee called This Is It!. We've already got half the songs for our album written! I've begun work on a new musical play called Summerhaven. I'm putting together a showcase of Success! for the Fertile Ground festival. Whew.
So you see? I haven't been blogging, but I haven't exactly been slacking either.
Well, hello everyone! New year, new post, new album! That's right, I'm taking a break from blogging about the musical to announce that the new Reclinerland album is out now on iTunes and Amazon MP3. I'm particularly excited about this release because it marks a couple of firsts for me.
In the first place, it's the first time I recorded an entire album by myself. I wrote the songs, played all the instruments, mixed, mastered, and released the entire project under my new digital "label" George Recordings. Secondly, it marks the first time I've ever used someone else's lyrics. The songs are based on a collection of short stories by my good friend, the very talented writer Kevin Sampsell. His memoir, A Common Pornography, was written way back in 2002. In 2007 or '08, I was sitting around my apartment in Portland one day reading it, and I just thought it would be really a nice challenge to take his words and make them into songs. So I started working on the album. Coincidentally, sometime during the making of the album, Kevin got a book deal to revamp his book and release it. So it's coming out this year, very soon. You should read it, it's brilliant.
If you've been following the blog, you may have read some previous posts about me working on the songs. If not, well, I'll tell you that it was an eye-opening process. To take someone else's prose and adapt it to verse was a challenge. Some of the lyrics I had to chop up, but others I could just glean right off the page. It's a testament to Kevin's skill as a writer that most of the stories organized themselves naturally into musical structure.
In keeping with the fact that Kevin's stories were short, I kept most of the songs down to under 3 minutes. My mission throughout the collection was to boil each song down to it's most catchy, most repeatable elements and only keep the ideas that were the most melodic, the most hummable. In that sense, this is a collection of songs with only choruses and no verses. I cut out all extraneous ideas from every song. Just like a writer would do: no extra words. No fluff. Just the basic elements. I approached this album like a writer. Simple wins!
In other news, the musical is going great. Only three more songs to record and I'll have the demo finished. Then I'm going to put together a couple of staged readings. I'll be out in Portland, Oregon this summer, before I move to Germany, and I'll probably stage a reading out there. So more news about that later. Okay. Back to work! More later!
Happy New Year!