Building A House

This week has been a really good week. Coming back from LA, it took a few days to adjust to regular life. I love being in LA so much – in the studio, hanging out with my people, feeling like the artist human I am. Happily, I’m going back again soon.

There are so many things happening right now. I am so happy. So happy that things are happening. So happy that I’m getting the chance to do the what I love to do – sing and make music.

One of those things is that I finished writing songs for my next album. That felt like a gigantic accomplishment. I’ve had two children. I’ve also written a hundred-page senior thesis about the ancient Latin text ‘The Aeneid,’ in translation. The level of accomplishment I felt after writing my new album was on par with those experiences.

With my first album, Indigo, I wrote in dribs and drabs for over a year until I eventually had enough material. There were spurts of productivity but the process was pretty slow.

I wrote my first song for this new album in October. Nine months ago. Nine months. That feels significant. The pace was similar at first to the first time around. There was no rush. A song here, a song there. Little spurts of productivity. I wrote a few songs this way, at a leisurely pace. I also had a few were holdovers from the time shortly after we released ‘Indigo.’ I felt unrushed. Relaxed.

And then. And then there came a deadline. It turns out, I work really well under the threat of a deadline. Dead. Line. It frightens me. I respect the Dead Line. So, I suddenly had a deadline. My deadline was soon. I needed six more songs.

I write at a slow pace probably more out of convenience than anything else. But this deadline was an opportunity to really immerse myself in the writing process. I’ve read about how Bon Iver shut himself in a remote cabin in the woods to write one of his albums. I’ve read about how Grimes sequesters herself with minimal food and rest. I have always admired this kind of dedication into the process. This time, I experienced it.

Here’s what I did – I have a porch. It’s beautiful; set in the woods, screened on all four sides, equipped with a long table, chairs, and an outdoor couch-like thing with fairy lights strung on the ceiling. This was my cabin in the woods. This was my isolation tank.

Every morning (and sometimes every afternoon) I went to the porch. My keyboard was set up there. Our found cat was usually stretched out on a cushion waiting for me. My notebook was laying on the couch with a pencil inside. Rhyming dictionary nearby.

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my porch

My process was this: go into the porch. Write. I did this for about 6 weeks. I wrote for hours every day. I did not read the newspaper. I did not look at Reddit. I did not listen to the radio. I severely limited my exposure to the outside world. I am very empathetic. I am easily distracted. I am easily engaged. I am easily attuned to other people and things. I had to isolate myself so that I was, as much as possible, only hearing my own radio waves. It was exhausting. It was exhilarating. I was immersed. I loved every minute of it.

It was the kind of experience that builds character. That leaves a mark. It was hard work. It was the kind of hard work that you can’t rush. That you can’t shortcut. I went right through the middle of the forest on this one. I took each step with care. And then I built a house. I built it out of locally-sourced wood. I built it all by hand. I made sure that each piece was level. That each joint was even. I sanded the corners where they needed to be blunted. I left some edges sharp for texture. I put in secret rooms and hidden doors. I made a secret passageway. I did each step the right way. If something was sloppy, I tore it down and rebuilt it. I rebuilt tiny sections again and again until they were just right.

I redid entire rooms until their spiritual vibe felt aligned. I installed drawers and cupboards. I designed everything custom. I invented things. I remembered every trim and finish. I kept the colors natural, with maybe an accent pop of color here or there. One room is very dark. That’s on purpose. It’s a serious house. It’s a labor of love. It taught me how to built. I learned as I went. I worked hard. My sweat and blood went into it.

I have not decorated the rooms yet. That’s where the production comes in. But the rooms have character. The house has good bones. It will guide the process. It is alive.

Yesterday, I built the last room. I wrote the last of the songs. I knew it was the last one. It was on the last page of the notebook I’d been using the whole time. And it was a song I was trying to write, a room I was trying to build, the whole time, in different iterations, over and over again. A specific idea. Certain images. A feeling. At the very end, I got it.

So now I have a house with 12 rooms. Twelve songs that I love. I grew as a songwriter immensely during this process. I really pushed myself. These are some of the best songs I’ve ever written. This is the strongest body of work I’ve created, the best house so far. It is completely reflective of where I am in this moment. It’s more experimental than symmetrical, more free-form than rigid. Authentic. Organic. Unique. Different. Me.

I am proud. I am excited. This album, this house, is already very, very special.