Thursday, October 30, 2008

Making Believe

People have been asking about the process involved in making the CD Believe, so I thought I’d give a little background on what goes on behind the scenes of making an album.

On my first couple CDs, I went to the recording studio with all the songs ready. I had played them over and over again, they were thought out, organized, and rehearsed. Lately, particularly on “You Will Soar” and “Believe”, the process was much different.

When I record an album, it is emotionally, physically, and musically taxing. After it is done, I usually don’t write music again for many, many months. There is the rare exception where I’ll be playing the piano and a piece of a song will come to me that seems to click. But even when that happens, it’s always only a small piece of a song. Maybe just a simple melody. At that point, I pull out a little hand-held tape recorder, record that little section, and then I usually just let it sit for a few weeks or even a few months.

For the last couple albums, the different approach I took was to let the songs be less constructed, and more of playing what comes to me in the moment. For “Believe”, I knew which songs I wanted to record, but not how each song was going to be styled. During recording sessions, I work with a song from many directions. I try different keys, and different chords, and different rhythms, and variations on low notes, and variations on high notes. It ends up being a time consuming and challenging experience to see which direction a song will take.

I don’t record the song until I hear something special. I may play a song ten different ways, and then on the eleventh way something clicks. Sometimes the song gives me goose bumps. Sometimes I’ll hear something and say “Where did that come from?” That’s when I know the song is ready to record. It’s kind of like my mind has been storing up creative energy over the many months I take to not do anything, and it all comes spilling out as I prepare the new CD.

The amount of time needed to complete the fourteen songs on Believe was around two months. Once all the piano music was recorded and sounded how I wanted, I sent a CD of the music to Steven Sharp Nelson who has played cello on my last two CDs.

A few weeks later we got together to record his cello parts for each song. I asked him what kind of preparation he goes through to do something like this. I was surprised to hear his response. He said that he like to listen to each song a few times so he is familiar with them. But, he doesn’t like to have every single note planned out. He wants there to be an element of improvisation, identifying where the song is going, and playing what comes to him in the moment. I think that’s why I feel that his playing is such an excellent match for my style of music – we both get a sense of where the music is going and play what comes to our hearts.

This isn’t the end of the process though. Following this, the music goes through phases called mixing and mastering where sound levels are adjusted to make sure that you can hear each instrument, and things like equalization, reverb, loudness, limiters, gates, normalization, balance, compression, delay, and fades are modified. It’s a music nerd’s paradise. These things can easily take a few hours per song. Graphic design is completed, and the whole package is sent to a duplicator who makes the CDs.

During each step of this process, I have one constant thought in the back of my head: I pray that this music touches listeners the way it has touched me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Burger King Makes Me Laugh

I can't help it. Thanks to the technology of DVR, I rewind this commercial a few times every time it comes on TV. I am easily amused. "Ha ha ha."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

World Series Baseball

I promise this will be the last post about baseball. Primarily because I only know around three other people who actually enjoy watching baseball (one of them is a 70 year old sweet lady from work). I know more people that like to eat Spam than like to watch baseball.

For those of you who don't know what you're missing with playoff baseball, there were a few quotes from the World Series game tonight that I thought were cool:

"Next to religion, baseball has furnished a greater impact on American life than any other institution." - President Hoover WHAT!

"Baseball will never heal or solve our problems. When the last out is made, they still remain. But for nine innings, no matter the troubles we face, we are unified, and reminded of all that we as a nation have been through. All that is good...and all that can be." - Fox Sports

I would strongly encourage the person who constructed that last quote to apply for a job as speech writer for the President.

Spending Time With Rocks

I'm nearing completion of a much bigger project in the yard than I expected. Our house was the first built in the neighborhood, and for years we had lots of dirt blow into our rock beds. Who knew removing the rocks, sifting out the dirt, and returning the rocks would be such a big project (apparently everyone but me). Now, after a few weeks, I'm almost done. With my work coming to a close......

I'd like to thank the Academy for giving me this opportunity. I'd like to thank my family for their support and encouragement. I'd like to thank the Dansie's for lending me their three-legged rock sifter, and all the neighbors who would walk by and ask what in the world I was doing. Oh no.....I promised myself I wouldn't cry. I must thank Logan Murphy who lent me his wheelbarrow, and later drove by with his window down and yelled "Just give up!" I'd like to thank my mother-in-law for the use of her leaf blower. Finally, I'd like to thank God for giving me the physical ability to complete this project, and for the fact that the project is almost done.

Monday, October 20, 2008

NEW ~ Download Album For FREE!

The new album Believe has finally arrived, both on disc and as a free download at! You'll also find a redesigned site there.

Please send me an email to and let me know what you think. Enjoy!!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Music For FREE

I'm excited to announce some plans for the new album that have been waiting to be unveiled:

The entire new piano CD Believe will be available to download FOR FREE from No strings attached, no requirements to join a mailing list, no obligations to send me a King Size Butterfinger.

I want to emphasize that just because I'm giving it away for free doesn't mean we short-cutted quality. More time, effort, and resources were spent to produce this album than any of my CDs in the past. I'm so pleased with how the music turned out.

Why, you ask, am I taking this direction with Believe? Well, thanks for asking. There are a few reasons to take this approach:

1) Create an opportunity for people to hear my music who hadn't previously.
2) Times are tough. It's harder to come up with $15 to spend on a CD than it used to be.
3) Hopefully allow people, through the music, to feel peace, relaxation, or inspiration. Even if only for a moment.

Keep an eye on this site or over the next week. The music will be available for download on October 24th!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I LOVE October Baseball

Disclaimer: If you think that people who watch a 3 hour baseball game on television have lost their marbles...skip this blog. It will all sound like jibberish anyway.

I LOVE baseball in October when the playoffs start. I am slightly heartbroken that my Cubbies got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. I've been a Chicago Cubs fan since elementary school. I went to some of their spring training games. I collected their baseball cards. I've had the same trusty Cubs hat for around a decade.

Did I mention I LOVE to watch baseball playoffs? I don't care who is playing. I LOVE to see Joe Torre scowling and humbled after his team gets spanked. I LOVE to hear commentators talking about strategy and understand what they're talking about while my wife thinks they're speaking Egyptian. I LOVE seeing Manny Ramirez strike out and then pout like a little school girl. I LOVE how Chip Carrey makes my eyebrows look small. I LOVE to stay up so late at night watching games that I can hardly keep my eyelids opened. I LOVE, LOVE the sound of the home crowd when their team gets a home run. The cheering becomes so loud that the sound coming through the TV turns from cheering to a fuzzy blur. I LOVE the alone-time I get because everyone else in the family would rather eat toenails than watch baseball.

I LOVE October baseball.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kenny G Goes Bowling

I went bowling a few nights ago with my brother-in-law Matt (aka Fifi Bug). I came one point away from beating my all-time high score of 144. Unfortunately I choked big time at the end. Without going into the whole story, I should have scored about 150.

That game will likely haunt me for at least a few weeks. After all, my 144 has stood since probably eighth grade.

One of our favorite things to do at the bowling alley is to make use of their jukebox that hasn't been updated since around the time I was in eighth grade. We dump lots of quarters into the machine, then play the same obnoxious song over and over again.

One time it was Celine Dion (I just dry heaved). Another time was the 7 minute song "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston (over and over). This time we found the music on the absolute top of the list of Songs That Should NEVER EVER Be Heard In A Bowling Alley: smooth, suave, romantic instrumental saxophone tunes from Kenny G.

The puzzled, horrified, disgusted looks from fellow bowlers is simply priceless.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New CD - Believe!

The new album has officially been sent to press at the duplicator! I am really excited about this CD. The songs on the album are:

1) Be Still, My Soul
2) Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing
3) Praise **
4) Sweet Hour Of Prayer
5) A Poor Wayfaring Man Of Grief
6) There Is A Green Hill Far Away
7) I Stand All Amazed
8) Believe **
9) All Creatures Of Our God And King
10) If You Could Hie To Kolob
11) Abide With Me; 'Tis Eventide
12) Celebration Of Life **
13) How Great Thou Art
14) Battle Hymn Of The Republic
** are original songs

The only instrument I added to the piano was cello. I toyed with the idea of adding a few other instruments and some background keyboard bass but anything I tried felt like it took away from the simplicity of what was there. I definitely didn't want anything to distract from Steve's amazing cello work. I think you'll be happy with it too.
Expect the official release in the next few weeks. I'll keep you posted!