Songlife: My Fragmented Songwriting Process

Posted by on Sep 22, 2014

I believe the art of songwriting is a mixture of control and mystery. Control the things you can, and embrace the mystery of the things you can’t. This is my creative process. Step 1: Capture Fragments Very few of my songs show up in one bolt of inspiration. Most of the time they are fragments. Why do these fragments show up in my mind? I don’t know. That’s the mysterious part of songwriting. The part I can control is capturing them. I record them on my phone in voice notes or SoundCloud, on a Tascam dr40 field recorder, or in a Pro Tools or GarageBand session if I happen to be in the studio or on the way. If I don’t record them, they’re gone forever. It’s like being in one of those machines where dollar bills are flying around and you have to grab them before the wind stops blowing. When lyrics show up, I have to record them. If I stop to write down verse one and I’m holding two verses in my mind, the second verse will vanish. Places Where Fragments Find Me In the van when I am driving alone for long distances (anything over 30 min on an open road). In the morning before 10am anywhere. In the studio when I have been there all day and have forgotten about everything else. In a quiet place when I’m reading fiction. When another writer says something I’ve heard a million times in a new way, it makes me want to think of new ways to say other familiar things. Step 2: Forget Fragments I keep recording fragments and transferring them from the phone to the computer every month. They live in a folder called MUSIC. No, I am not worried about my computer crashing. Step 3: Review Fragments Good ideas a month ago are often crappy ideas a month later. If they survive the first month, then there might be a song in them. I pick one or two favorites and the rest remain in the MUSIC folder. Sometimes I capture a fragment, and it continues to show up after I’ve forgotten about it. Those fragments move to the front of the line. Step 4: Which came first, the lyrics, the beat, or the melody? A fragment can be any of these. My favorite fragment is a strong lyric with a melody. I like having a strong message...

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My Awesome Friend Chris Longwood

Posted by on Apr 17, 2014

Watching artists get better over time is something I really enjoy. Today I’d like to write about Audio Engineer Chris Longwood. I first met Chris in 2009 when Runaway Sun won an 8-hour block of recording time at SugarHill Studios in a raffle. This was the first time we had ever recorded in a big studio. Fast forward to 2014, and this week Chris is the Mastering Engineer for the new AndyRoo and the AndyRooniverse album, my sixth major release and the first album I have recorded and mixed by myself without entering a big studio. It feels like graduation. Chris has not only gone from being an Audio Engineer to also a top notch Mastering Engineer, he also teaches aspiring Audio Engineers the courses he used to take, and he has worked with George Clinton, Jandek, Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson, Mariachi Vargas, Bobby Lyle and The Autumn Defense. He has also recorded bands (and gigged!) in Japan. Follow me down memory lane for a minute, before all this happened five short years ago. It has been quite a half-decade working together: In 2009 Runaway Sun showed up prepared for that free recording session at SugarHill, and so did Chris, and we tracked the whole 10-song album The Bridge in that eight hours. Chris mixed that album in the following months, and I sat there and watched him work, trying to learn everything I could. It was really fascinating. In 2010 I returned to SugarHill to record my Film Noir solo album. We tracked close to twenty songs over several days and kept thirteen for the album. He was there for the first time I ever worked with session musicians, and in one day we recorded banjo, mandolin, violin, and pedal steel with time to spare. We also recorded cello at my friend’s house, this really cool place that Clark Gable used to live in. This was the first time I had ever done any kind of location recording. Chris borrowed a really nice Mojave mic from Dan Workman at SugarHill, and a neighborhood cat wandered in and watched while we worked. It was a great time. Chris mixed that album at SugarHill, and there I was once again, trying to learn what I could. In 2011 we teamed up again at SugarHill. This time we were recording the first AndyRoo and the AndyRooniverse album. It was the first time I...

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Teachers Who Make a Difference

Posted by on Oct 10, 2013

Teachers Who Make a Difference

On my last day of ninth grade, as I was walking out of the auditorium, my Theater teacher Mr. Bustilloz pulled me aside. “What do you want to do with your life, Karnavas?” I told him I thought I wanted to be a scientist or a doctor but I wasn’t really sure. Then he said something that I’ll never forget. “You were meant for the stage. Whatever you do with your life, I hope you make time to be onstage.” That was about fifteen years ago. The picture is from a couple weeks ago, the first time we had seen each other or talked since then. What a tremendous moment. I was so excited to tell him that I had never forgotten his advice and that I was spending as much time as I could performing onstage.  In fact, earlier that day I had performed onstage as AndyRoo and the AndyRooniverse at my elementary school (post/video coming soon). My music career surprised him because he knew me before I started singing, which began two years later and in a different state. One of the things we talked about was tracing back to the moments in your life that ultimately led to the choices you made that got you to where you are today. I’ve thought about this some more over the past couple weeks, and here is what I have come up with for my music/live performance journey: Part One: Interest in music/sound 1)My earliest music memory is playing with the upright piano in our house, specifically pulling up the front swinging panel and playing the strings, or hitting the keys and watching the hammers move. But I never learned to play piano. I also remember recording Beatles songs off of the radio and onto cassettes. I would fall asleep with the recorder in my hand. 2)I wanted to play violin when I was 12 or 13, but my parents didn’t buy me one. I think that was because my older sisters had played in school band (alto sax and bassoon) but quickly abandoned the instruments, and I was playing a lot of soccer with no time for school band. So I invited a bunch of friends over for my birthday, they each gave me $10, and the next day I bought an acoustic guitar for $300 cash because I thought violins were really expensive since (A) my parents...

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