Between 2009 and 2015 I was not very active creatively. This is OK. The family that Haley and I started began to grow, and now that we were both out of school it was time to put some energy into our work. For me it was libraries and in a way my work in libraries took the place of the act of creativity. Looking back I see that my work in libraries was very creative as a result of this shift. I think I did some really neat library related things during that time period. Despite enjoying this work, I still felt a lack of creativity in my life.
My creativity comes out best in the form of songs, and even more specifically songs that are arranged in the sequence of an album. In the days of digital singles and rush releases, I understand that I am way beyond the times and I’m fine with that. One of the things that I have learned about creativity is that you need to open your mind and your heart to it and accept it in any form that it comes. Is it rushing at your faster than you can write it all down? Is the trickle as slow as a leaky faucet? What I have realized is that creativity comes in many forms and with many speeds. You have to accept that in your mind and in your heart and be ready for whatever comes. You also have to accept that your creativity may take different forms. As I said above, for me that form is a set of songs arranged as an album. My wife Haley, who just happens to be one of most creative people I know, excels at making clothes for herself as well as other fabric arts and oddities which have an amazing energy and charm to them.
And that’s what I want to talk about: the energy that your individual creativity puts out into the world. Every creative act that a human being does starts somewhere. I believe they start in a positive part of our mind and our heart. We then interpret these creative urges into a form. We do not need to talk about the form here. The form is what you want it to be. The form that feels most honest and real to you is the form for you. Embrace that form, think about your creative urge, and make that creative urge a reality. Birth your idea and let your idea out into the world.
DO NOT fall into the belief that “no one will listen to or read or look at” your creative act. Instead, think two things about your creative act:
- Your creative act puts out a positive energy into the world, and acts of positive energy are like ripples in a pond. The effects will be felt somewhere along the line.
- Your creative act will be listened to or read or looked at. Someone at some point in time will interact with it and it will have an impact on their life. There are too many people in the world for your creative act to not be seen by at least one person. And one person is more than zero.
My latest creative act is a 10 song album titled SMALL TOWN. I would like to end this post by talking about that creative act. I believe that not only should we share our creative acts but we should also talk about how they came to be and why they came to be. This helps us understand each other, and when we better understand each other we can work together to create a more positive world.
SMALL TOWN begins the album. I wanted to write a song that was just one big loop. I experimented with a 4 chord sequence in 4/4 time. Garageband helped me make the loops, program the drums and bass, and put more onto the song at the end. This is the introduction to a frame of mind I had while writing the album. This is what it can feel like in a small town.
GIVE ME THE ATOM BOMB was started in mid 2017 and went through many different versions until I came to this arrangement. I did not know if I wanted it to be a slow dirge, a synthpop extravaganza, or just a straight ahead song. Jeff Lynne and his use of the acoustic guitar as a rhythm instrument inspired this version. The message is simple: “I AM EVERYTHING, THERE’S NOBODY ELSE AROUND”. Contrasting the feeling of being woke with the feeling of being isolated.
THIS TOWN WILL DESTROY ITSELF was the lingering feeling that everything I moved my family to in 2015 was crumbling. Homes falling apart, buildings falling down, and a rot that set in years ago and continued to fester. I want to go, but I also want to stay. I can’t be fooled by my feelings.
FROZEN PIPES is the tale of Fidelia Hall, student loan debt, and the struggle of this generation in America. I’ve written about how my home is physically falling apart before…frozen pipes, leaking walls, mold, ceilings falling down, falling through the floor, and heating systems failing. Why can’t you just fix it Justin? Well, it’s tough when you have $100K of student loan debt between you and your wife and you only make $35K per year. You just can’t fix things in the moment and you have to plan. You promised that an education would lead to great things and while it has helped expand my mind, it has crippled the expanded mind with a debt that will never cease. The boomers and their complaints. Their lack of vision and understanding. This is the story of a generation. I could write about this for ages but I won’t.
LET’S GO BACK TO SLEEP started in 2001 as an instrumental. I loved the simple melody. I loved the 50’s style chord sequence. The more I thought about this album the more I came to the conclusion that it should not be a 10 song tome on small towns. It had to be more. LET’S GO BACK TO SLEEP starts the dream sequence and the hunt for a new place to live and a possible new job, all of which ties nicely into this blog series I wrote about my job search, A NEW CAREER IN A NEW TOWN
LITTLE PARADISE is a song that has been complete since 2001 but I was never happy with the recording I had. It felt too…..beachy. The song was written around the time where all that I wanted to do was to leave college and travel and live in different places every three months. That was the dream. The song was a nice fit for this album because it dealt with leaving your home to explore and go on an adventure. I am very proud of the bridge.
AEOTEOROA has roots in a cassette demo tape I made in 11th grade during my music class. It was a simple midi piano and not much else with the title JUPITER. It sounded good and it needed more. AEOTEOROA was a place that I had a very big interest in and a place that I could see me and my family living in, so it became the focus…the ultimate adventure…the goal. Everyone’s so neat there. Everything’s so green there. Why don’t we plant roots and soar into the sun?
MUCH TOO LATE also has origins from years ago but it was an idea that sat aside without any development. Striking out on the idea of a move to Aeoteoroa, I wondered to myself if it was much too late to make a new step in our lives. Time is always ticking. Also I just love a good key change into a huge chorus.
ATOM BOMB, as I stated above, had so many different versions and ideas. I couldn’t let go of the idea of the song being constructed with synths and with dirgey instrumentation. This is why we have a reprise! I couldn’t let this vibe go unheard.
Ending an album is difficult. I always want to sum everything up and get the listener to think about their life. I noticed that the phrase “another day” popped up in another song and it reminded me that I had this short idea of a song from years ago. It felt like a good way to end.