The energy in my life is starting to shift and it feels like the time is nigh to make a new album. I’ve had two kids. And making an album is really pretty similar to having a kid, in many ways. Of course, in many ways it’s not. But bear with me.
There’s the waiting, the hoping, the loving, the preparations, the waiting, the trying to get every little thing right, the deadlines, the telling friends, the staying kind of secretive, the feeling like you are doing something big that other people don’t know everything about quite yet, the wondering if you can really make the magic happen again, the wondering if it’s going to be as amazing as you think it will be, the eagerness to share it with the world and your close group, the hopes you have, the pride, the satisfaction, the feeling of accomplishment, the feeling of gratitude.
Making albums is a process I love. I love being able to work with Shawn (he produces music), and I love putting my music into the world. I really love every aspect of it, and I am so excited to do it again. As with writing a song, there’s an excited apprehensive wondering about it. Can it happen again? Many artists see the artistic process as kind of mystical. I am among them. It takes hard work to create art. You have to put aside the time, you have to concentrate, you have to delve deep, you have to devote a lot of energy. But there’s also an element that is out of your control.
That’s one of the exhilarating parts of making art. It’s the combination of at once exerting focused energy and, at the same time, knowing you are not completely in charge that feels so divine. It feels like you’re dancing with the universe. And when the song (or whatever else it is) comes out right, it feels like everything is just as it should be. Like all is well. Like a little hug from the universe, almost. A reminder that you are where you need to be. That all is right. That your existence has meaning.
You want your art to go out into the world. You want your art to make a difference. To carry on something of you that will last longer than your mortal life. It is of you and, at the same time, it is not. You want it to take on a life of its own. To be loved. To be cherished by someone else. To thrive.
You try to improve as you go. You take the lessons you learned the first time around and you try to apply them to the next, going forward. You take stock of what you could have done better. Of the things you’re proud of having done. And you keep those lessons in mind.
For my next album, I want to show vulnerability. Honesty. Truth. My lyrics are very confessional, by nature. The reveal a lot about my inner life, my inner spirit, my thoughts. My experiences. On our last album, Indigo, I told my partner Shawn that I wanted a sound that was shiny. Like Taylor Swift. Like Robyn. Like Max Martin. I wanted to make pop anthems. I wanted to go big. I wanted to put some kind of armor on the vulnerable words that were going out into the wild.
We did a version of ‘shiny’ on the production of ‘Indigo.’ The album has an indie rock pop vibe. The sound is big. Shawn does not listen to radio pop as obsessively as I do. His tastes skew toward the underground indie sound. He is always discovering new music. He likes Bright Eyes, The National, Neutral Milk Hotel, Steven Malkus, recently Phoebe Bridgers. He made ‘Indigo’ sound largely the way I wanted. But a lot of his musical influences made their way into it too since he produced it. I was really resistant to that at the time. But I’m thankful for that now.
To be honest, I hated most of Shawn’s favorite music until relatively recently. When we met, I considered his music taste a ‘something to work on’. I liked Blink 182, Abba, Grimes, Basshunter, Tatu, and the radio. I stand by this. I still love all of these things. This kind of music makes me happy. Shawn likes music that makes him sad. My theory is that I am naturally sad so I gravitate towards uplifting music and he is naturally happy so he gravitates towards sad music. But regardless, he listens to music that is sad and raw and emotional. Not what you might call ‘shiny.’
Shawn’s kind of music offended me. I didn’t understand why someone would deliberately want to listen to anything that was such a downer.
In recent months, I have felt a shift inside of me. Maybe the constant forced exposure to ‘raw’ music over the past 8 years has finally infiltrated me. Maybe it’s an age thing. I don’t know. But I really like a lot of vulnerable indie music now. Don’t get me wrong, I would still choose to listen to Abba over The Mountain Goats. That’s just the way I am. But I want to embrace that raw sound for my own music. Because my lyrics are so confessional and honest. I’m ready to be a little more vulnerable. I’m actually really eager to embrace that moving forward.
We only get one dance with the universe. And I want to make it count.